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What I’ve Learned from Being Quiet and Not Posting My Birthday on Facebook (Part 2)

It has been a few weeks since I posted the first part of this series, but I think that’s a good thing. Introverts like me are usually pretty deliberate in what they do, and I don’t want to rush my thoughts on this topic! Here are a few more highlights from Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. And don’t worry, I’ll get to the birthday Facebook mention later on down below.

A PREFERENCE FOR STIMULATION

“There’s a host of evidence that introverts are more sensitive than extroverts to various kinds of stimulation, from coffee to a loud bang to the dull roar of a networking event — and that introverts and extroverts often need very different levels of stimulation to function well.”

I covered this already in the last part of my first post, but I’m taking it a little further here. I think the most fascinating thing I’ve learned so far is that introverts highly dislike loud, highly stimulating environments because their brains don’t process stimulation the same as an extrovert. Babies, for instance, who are mild and calm tend to grow up to be extroverts. Why? Well, think about it. They’re mild and calm. They’re taking a lot of stimulation in as they awaken to the world and much of it doesn’t bother them in negative ways. One baby might wail in confusion and fear if someone jumps in front of them and does peek-a-boo, while another might calmly smile and laugh. The one who wails in confusion and fear? That’s the natural-born introvert. Of course, this is a high generalization. I gave birth to a daughter who was an extremely sensitive infant, but she’s clearly an extrovert.

“Extroverts, in other words, often find themselves in an emotional state we might call a “buzz” — a rush of energized, enthusiastic feelings … They are characterized by their tendency to seek rewards, from top dog status to sexual highs to cold cash … even their sociability is a function of reward-sensitivity, according to this view — extroverts socialize because human connection is inherently gratifying.”

In highly generic terms, all of this means:

INTROVERTS = don’t need as much stimulation because their brains already get enough from everything, even small things. Drop an introvert into a party and the loud music and constant chatting can feel like a wave of noise and confusion.

EXTROVERTS = need more stimulation because their brains don’t get enough from everyday living. Drop an extrovert into a party and they’re in heaven, feeding off all that stimulation to keep them at a comfortable level.

Here’s where I really come into play in this section — I’m not only sensitive and an introvert, I’m HIGHLY SENSITIVE and an introvert. I wrote an entire post on this subject, which I continue to get emails from random people on the Internet who run across it, surprised to have found something that answers so many questions for them. Needless to say, I was very pleased to find that the woman, Elaine Aron, who has coined the term “HSP” or the “Highly Sensitive Person”, was featured in this Quiet book. In fact, Susan Cain (the author of Quiet) even went to a HSP conferences hosted by Elaine Aron herself just to find out more about the whole HSP thing. The interesting thing is that Aron has found only about 70 percent of highly sensitive people are introverts. The other 30 percent are extroverts, like my daughter.

So what does all this mean? It simply means that if you’re an introvert, you’re most likely sensitive to all sorts of stimulation, and that if you’re sensitive, you could possibly be highly sensitive (HSP), as well, meaning you’ve got even more to deal with when it comes to interacting with the rest of the world and all that stimulation. Knowing this, however, is definitely powerful. It means you can not only stop blaming yourself for being shy and embarrassed and anxious and frustrated all the time and you can start making more informed decisions such as planning ahead:

1. Stake out a party/social event when — or even better, before — you get there and decide where you can retreat when it all gets to be too much. You’ll have the confidence that a twenty-minute break might give you an hour or two more of socializing without killing yourself. Or you can leave early without apologies to yourself or anyone else.

2. When someone invites you to another party that same week, you can explain to others that while you’d like to go, you’re booked up already. What are you booked up with? YOURSELF, because if you need to recharge, you need to recharge. That should always come first for an introvert — WITH NO GUILT. It’s not a selfish thing, by any means, which many extroverts may not understand in the least — so don’t explain it if you don’t need to. Everyone has personal needs they’re not obligated to explain, so don’t.

3. If you do end up panicking in a social situation, you don’t have to add guilt on top of all those feelings. Simply excuse yourself and find a quiet place where your brain can get the least amount of stimulation possible until you can get yourself together again. A dark, quiet, non-confining room is what works for me. Sometimes that’s not possible, so I’ll find whatever I can.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM NOT POSTING MY BIRTHDAY ON FACEBOOOK

This might sound off-topic, but it’s not. For anyone not on Facebook, let me explain. On your profile, you have the choice to mark your birthday as public or private or only visible to friends. If you mark public or visible to friends, you usually get a wave of HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!! posts on your wall on the day of your birthday — from everyone and anyone. Most people, I’ve seen, seem to enjoy this. It’s special to receive anywhere from 15 – 150+ posts from people wishing you a happy birthday, right? It’s nice to know so many people are thinking of you! For most people not like me, yes, it’s awesome. For me, however, I’ve found it overwhelming. It’s like walking into a room and having fifty people surround me all at once to tell me nice things about myself — and feeling pressured to answer every single person with a “thank you, you’re so kind” remark … because I really am thankful and touched by all that thoughtfulness. But to have that happen all at once makes me want to run away.

This year, since I had read this Quiet book and was starting to understand myself a little better, I decided to mark my birthday as private only to me on Facebook, meaning nobody would get notifications that it was my birthday. I wanted to see how I would feel at the end of the day, if anyone would even remember on their own if it was my birthday, and if I’d be crushed if they didn’t.

Result? One person posted on my wall about my birthday. I thanked her and went on my merry way. It turns out that on my birthday I was also sick and had to go to the doctor and have some pretty horrible, painful stuff done on my tonsils. It turns out that if I had received a slew of Happy Birthdays on my wall, I might have totally lost it that day — more than I had already because of the doctor visit. In truth, I did feel bad for myself that hardly anyone wished me a happy birthday, but then I realized it was okay and better that way.

I think introverts often feel the need and desire to act like extroverts, even when we don’t want to. I think introverts can often crave the ego-boosting attention extroverts naturally get from just being extroverts, but if we do get it somehow, it can set us back in ways we didn’t expect. Turning off my birthday on Facebook taught me something valuable — I may want that sort of attention, but as soon as that time passes where I could have received it, I’m usually happy I didn’t seek it out. If it comes along anyway, great, I’ll deal with it and be grateful for it in my own introverted ways, but seeking it out is usually never a good thing for me.

It’s not that I don’t want to be wished a happy birthday. I do! It’s just that Facebook can feel like an almost too impersonal and overwhelming place to do it … for me, anyway. Awhile ago I might have thought I was crazy or weird or stupid for feeling this way, but now I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one like this out there. How about you?

**all quotes belong to Susan Cain or people she has quoted within her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.**

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, Books, 15 comments

What I’ve Learned from Being Quiet — A Look Into the Book “Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain (Part 1)

I finally got around to reading a book many, many people have recommended to me. Why I didn’t listen to these people and read the book earlier, I have no idea, but now that I’ve been expanding my reading genres it has made it a lot easier to pick up something nonfiction. I’m now on a nonfiction streak, which is a good change of pace.

The book I put off for so long is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I think one of the reasons I put off this book was because I secretly thought it would just be one huge Validation Party for introverts. And even though I am an introvert, I didn’t feel extremely comfortable with forcing validation upon myself for being the way I am. Boy, was I wrong. While Quiet does give introverts much validation for being the way they are, it is not in the way I thought it would be. Instead, Susan Cain carefully, deliberately, and modestly presents her founded opinions and scientifically-backed information about both introverts and extroverts — and why both types of people desperately need each other in this increasingly extroverted world.

Below are some highlights of the book that I found especially helpful for me. I firmly recommend that both introverts and extroverts consider reading the book for themselves.

THE CORE OF WHO WE ARE

“Introversion — along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness — is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”

The wonderful thing I’ve realized is that as an introvert I do not have to change the core of who I am. In fact, it is impossible to change the core of who I am. But, just as extroverts should be a little more understanding of introverts, introverts should also be more tolerant of extroverts. At the moment, in the world I’m living in anyway, this simply isn’t happening, and as Susan Cain says, many of us are living under the Extrovert Ideal and feeling as if there is something terribly wrong with us. Some of us turn to medication. Some of us even turn to suicide. Some of us simply learn how to pretend we’re extroverts. It’s sad, really.

THE EXTROVERT IDEAL IS FAIRLY NEW

“The word personality didn’t exist in English until the eighteenth century, and the idea of ‘having a good personality’ was not widespread until the twentieth.'”

This is seriously fascinating to me because I can’t even imagine living in a world where I didn’t feel pressured to develop a charming personality in order to be truly successful and liked. But it’s everywhere we turn — from the workplace to schools to religion. If you are quiet, shy, or extremely sensitive, there is something wrong with you and you’d better snap out of it or you’re not going to get anywhere.

“Well-meaning parents of the midcentury agreed that quiet was unacceptable and gregariousness ideal for both girls and boys. Some discouraged their children from solitary and serious hobbies, like classical music, that could make them unpopular. They sent their kids to school at increasingly young ages, where the main assignment was learning to socialize. Introverted children were often singled out as problem cases (a situation familiar to anyone with an introverted child today). 

NOBODY IS 100% INTROVERTED OR EXTROVERTED

“Extroversion is in our DNA — literally, according to some psychologists. The trait has been found to be less prevalent in Asia and Africa than in Europe and America, whose populations descend largely from the migrants of the world. It makes sense, say these researchers, that world travelers were more extroverted than those who stayed home — and that they passed on their traits to their children and their children’s children.”

I know I have some extrovert traits, absolutely. I think everyone does to some degree. You can’t put people in boxes and just say HE’S AN INTROVERT or SHE’S AN EXTROVERT and then make judgments based on that. The most important thing is to get to know people and understand that if they lean more toward one trait than the other, it’s okay. Studies show that people in general do lean more toward being introverted or extroverted. It’s just natural, but we are all our own personalities too. So don’t put people in boxes — especially yourself.

INTROVERTS VALUE SOLITARY TIME, BUT EXTROVERTS SHOULD TOO

“What’s so magical about solitude? In many fields, Ericsson told me, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement. When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach. … Only when you’re alone … can you ‘go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve what you’re doing you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class — you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”

And that quote goes for both introverts and extroverts. This is why I have an issue with how the education system is set up these days. I walk into public schools and they are centered around groups. The desks are in groups. The schedules are organized around group learning and thinking. The social structures and practices are group centered. Probably the only thing that truly happens in a solitary way is homework (maybe, since many times group study is encouraged) and test taking. I am sure there are exceptions. I hope there are, especially since I have a child in the public school system, even though she happens to be an extrovert. And don’t get me started on church organizations. The good thing about the religion to which I belong is that solitary worship is encouraged, to a degree, but there is also a horrifying amount of “group thinking” going on, as well. To an introvert like me, it’s discouraging and intimidating. Even if I do hold deep beliefs in my religion, the societal end can almost be too much if I’m not careful about how I approach it.

WHY INTROVERTS COME ALIVE ONLINE

“…[W]e’re so impressed by the power of online collaboration that we’ve come to overvalue all group work at the expense of solo thought. We fail to realize that participating in an online working group is a form of solitude all its own. Instead we assume that the success of online collaborations will be replicated in the face-to-face world.”

Wow, does that ring true. I honestly think it’s why more and more people are writing novels now — it’s so much more accessible to write and feel connected to other writers at the same time. I also think it’s why FB took off. I also think it’s why there are so many more problems with being online than we realize. Being online allows you to be solitary, yet participatory. But it’s a false sense of participation, at times, and I think that can lead to issues, especially with extroverts who may realize over time that being online is not nearly as satisfying to them as actually being with people. An introvert may blossom and open up through online interaction, so don’t be surprised if you meet someone face-to-face whom you previously got to know online and they are suddenly a lot more quiet and closed-off than you though they’d be. 

And like the quote says — online collaboration is NOT the same as group face-to-face interaction. Not. Even. Close. They are both so very, very different. Oftentimes you’ll find introverts are much more likely to participate and get busy with a project if meetings and collaboration are handled through online interaction rather than actual group meetings, of which I totally loathe *shudder*.

WHY INTROVERTS ARE SO BORED BY SMALL TALK … AT THE BEGINNING

“It’s not that there’s no small talk. … It’s that it comes not at the beginning of conversations but at the end. In most settings, people use small talk as a way of relaxing into a new relationship, and only once they’re comfortable do they connect more seriously. Sensitive people seem to do the reverse.”

Oy, is that true! Seriously, if you try to “small talk” me to get to know me, you’re in trouble. I will close off like a clam. I want a deep, meaningful conversation and then I’ll small talk with you. I never, ever understood why this was until I read the Quiet book. Now I understand it beautifully. However, it is quite a complicated process to get to the root of why this is, and for the sake of time I’ll boil it down to the roots.

There are two types of people (for the most part): high-reactive and low-reactive. High-reactive people are not extroverts. They are high reactive because they are, by nature, more sensitive to, well, everything. Not just people. Everything. Sound, smell, emotion, all of it. And some people are even more sensitive than that. They are the HSPs, or Highly Sensitive People, like me, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish. Low-reactives usually turn out to be the extroverts. It’s also good to note that these two types are evident from birth and stay with a person the rest of their life. Of course, there are no boxes here. This is all generalization, but still great to know. Example: My daughter happens to be high-reactive — even more on the end of HSP, like me, BUT she is an extrovert. She is one big ball of sensitive energy. It’s pretty overwhelming to her introverted, sensitive mother. She definitely does not fit into a box!

So the high-reactive people? Usually introverts, yes. This means they process everything differently than an extrovert. High-reactive people, or introverts, or sensitive people — whatever you wish to call them — tend to think in great complexity, probably because they are so observant of their surroundings because they are so sensitive to those surroundings.

“Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments — both physical and emotional — unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss — another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly. … [This] may also explain why [sensitive people] are so bored by small talk. ‘If you’re thinking in more complicated ways … then talking about the weather or where you went for the holidays is not quite as interesting as talking about values or morality.'”

I think this is a good place for me to stop today. I have so much more to explore, but this is already getting so long. I do hope the information I have provided has helped you see into the world of introverts and extroverts a little more. I’ll be back later with even more. If you’re hooked, go check out the book Quiet itself. Trust me, there is WAY much more in that book than I’ve touched on here.

FIND PART 2 HERE

**all quotes belong to Susan Cain or people she has quoted within her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.**

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, Books, 15 comments

Your Hero Sucks

ed

I met Ed online awhile ago, and was excited when he announced that his thriller novel, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, was going to be published by Black Opal Books. I’ve already got the book on my TBR list because if anyone knows me at all, they know I love a good thriller with some depth to it — especially depth that has to do with family relationships. And that’s exactly what Ed’s book sounds like. But Ed says his hero might suck, so read on to find out more of what he’s talking about. Maybe your hero sucks too? Somehow, I have a feeling this might not be the worst thing ever.

E.A. Aymar studied creative writing, earned a Masters degree in Literature and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers and SinC. He and his wife live with a relatively benign animal menagerie just outside of Washington, D.C.

I have a problem with my hero, the protagonist of my debut thriller I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. He’s not very heroic. After his wife is murdered, he decides to seek revenge, and in doing so he places revenge over the importance of raising his daughter. This troubled me when I published the novel and, although the reviews have been largely cheerful, a few readers took issue with that aspect of his character. I understand their concern, even though it seems to me that any number of characters in literature and television choose duty (or perceived duty) over family. Still, though, I thought the critiques were valid, and considered them constructive – maybe the choice he made could have been presented differently, and that’s on me.

But it also touches another topic – heroes, and how they should be depicted. I wrote a thriller and, as a hopeful entrant to that genre, I had to take a long look at the typical hero of these books and what they tend to embody. The following excerpted review of the film Jack Reacher, based on Lee Child’s celebrated series, highlights some of the same issues I have with my genre’s typical protagonists. Note that I don’t share all of the author’s views; these are like my opinions, but on crack: 

Jack Reacher is the embodiment of a certain kind of narrow alpha fantasy. He is the best at all the things: the smartest detective, the best driver, the greatest fighter.… His mind works faster than anyone else’s; he sees patterns no one else sees. He is Batman without the silly costume. He is the entire A-Team rolled up in one, such that he can disappear like a ghost (though he somehow pulls his military pension each month), but will still walk into a room at the most dramatic moment, just after someone has said, “You don’t find this guy unless he wants to be found.

Naturally, being so exceptional isolates him in his noble loneliness…. In particular, he has no time for women, who only exist in his world as victims to save or to manfully mourn. For those who buy into the extremity of his excellence — for those whose suspension of disbelief rivals the suspension system of the Golden Gate Bridge — he’s a potent fantasy. But for everyone else, it can be tiring listening to subsidiary characters go on and on about him, or watching him stand three steps ahead of everyone else, waiting with annoyance for them to catch up.”

Like I said, I don’t agree with everything the author wrote, but she makes some good points. Genre writers rightfully bristle at the notion that their work isn’t comparable to literary fiction, especially with the assumption that plot twists and timing are more valued in thrillers than characterization and prose, but the archetype depicted above, when realized, doesn’t help. Still, though, it’s a bit of a quandary. We like James Bond movies, and find Bond fun, but the character depicted in the movie is decidedly not a complex person. And writing about a character without complexity is describing a corpse.

Happily, there are a number of writers in my field who create great protagonists: Meg Abbott, Chris F. Holm, Lawrence Block, Michael Sears, Lou Berney, Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, and many more. And they don’t sacrifice prose or good storytelling to do it. If you want to learn how to write a good thriller or mystery, check out their work.

In the end, you want to make someone complex and believable without disappointing fans of your chosen genre. And you want to create someone compelling to you. The choices your character makes may trouble you, give you a sleepless night or two, and some readers or reviewers might find their actions disheartening. The trick is to keep the reader invested when that doubt surfaces, to keep them turning pages even faster when their devotion shakes. You know you won’t satisfy every reader, but that’s okay. You want to be a good writer. You want to create a good character. You want readers to believe.

ISWYD cover

Tom Starks has spent the three years since his wife’s murder struggling to single-handedly raise their daughter, Julie, while haunted by memories of his dead spouse. When he learns that the man accused of her murder, Chris Taylor, has been released from prison, Tom hires a pair of hit men to get his revenge. But when the hit men botch the assassination of Chris Taylor, Tom is inadvertently pulled into their violent world. 

And now those hit men are after him and his daughter.

Add I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead to your Goodreads shelf.

E.A. Aymar’s debut thriller, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, was just published by Black Opal Books. To learn more about I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, and to watch the animated trailer, visit www.eaymar.com/novel

Purchase I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead on Amazon, B&N, or Black Opal Books.

Find E.A. on eaymar.comFacebook, and Twitter.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Guest Posts, Writing Process, 6 comments

My Affair with Canada Does Not Stop With the Music

Sherryl Cas Side Low res

I’m so excited to welcome Sheryll Caulfield to my blog today! I met Sherryl online just a short while ago, but I’m already impressed with her sweet, caring and attentive personality and her professionalism and enthusiasm for everything writing and publishing. Please welcome her today as she talks about country music and all things Canada (which is awesome because she lives in Australia), including her new novel that is just out.

Sherryl Caulfield is an Australian-born marketer, traveller and writer. After twenty years working for some of the world’s leading technology companies and a stint with Outward Bound, she longed to write about the human experience and the redemptive qualities of nature. Her first novel, Seldom Come By, Book 1 of The Iceberg Trilogy, will be released in December 2013.

Michelle is right. Everybody does love country music – even if they don’t admit it. I thought I wasn’t a fan. But you know I grew up listening to a British-born, Australian songstress singing about a river in America, “The Banks of the Old Ohio”. My mother would hum Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy”, my brother would sing Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” under his breath while I personally favoured “Canadian Dan Hill” and his “Sometimes when we Touch”.

Then came the other Canadians:

Cowboy Junkies (how country is that name?)

Shania Twain Jane Arden and her Insensitive anthem And the incomparable

k.d. lang who covers practically every genre there is

Love, love the music, but like Michelle’s Maggie from Out of Tune, can’t sing to save myself.

My affair with Canada does not stop with the music though. I’m a fan of Canadian literature as well. When I was twenty I read No Fixed Address, An Amorous Journey about a young, sexually-liberated, travelling lingerie salewoman who drove a Black Mercedes. I became enthralled with Arachne and Canada. And then came the idiosyncratic The Shipping News, followed by the Novia Scotian drama, Fall on Your Knees, leading up my recent fascination with the novels of Joseph Boyden.

Yes, I am truly, madly, deeply in love with Canada. I’ve travelled to many parts and still have many more to visit. But it was on my first trip to Canada that I came across a single woman whose image followed me home and into the pages of a series I’ve called The Iceberg Trilogy – epic adventurous love stories about three irrepressible Canadian women and their remarkable men.

They’re epic because each woman has a disastrous experience that defines their life; each one has a breathtaking, heartbreaking hard-won romance that is the love of their life; and each one celebrates the frail mysteries of families in all their beautiful twisted forms. The Icebook Trilogy also takes you across the stunning land and seascapes of Canada with cinematic, signature moments that you will never forget.

My first book, Seldom Come By (Book 1 of The Iceberg Trilogy) is a about teenage girl, called Rebecca, who feels trapped by her surroundings.

This soon-to-be fifteen-year-old lives on a remote Newfoundland island overlooking Iceberg Alley, which to her is the only redeeming feature about the place. Icebergs are the most exciting spectacle in the months of monotony and mediocrity that mark her year. If it weren’t for icebergs Rebecca doesn’t know what she would have to look forward to. Just the thought of climbing on board one of those frozen forms and seeing where it might take her is magnetic.

To Rebecca icebergs represent something magical; a sign of lightness in darkness, a sign of hope and endless possibilities.

And then one spring, this young woman who lives and breathes longing, is looking out to sea, yearning for an iceberg, multiple icebergs, when she discovers a shipwrecked sailor and her world is never the same again.

Nineteen year old Samuel, near death, with his blonde straggly hair and his out-of-this-world Samuel smile and his far-flung experiences and talk of nude sculptures and the teal waters of the Carribean, is like no one Rebecca has ever imagined, let alone met.

One look at her sister, Rachel, and Rebecca knows they both are in the same boat: Samuel’s boat. The summer Samuel stays with them, recovering from his misadventure at sea, ignoring requests from his brother to come home, is the most exciting summer of Rebecca’s life.

And then one day she casually asks him, ‘Have you ever been up close to an iceberg?’

‘No,’ he tells her, ‘but you know it would be something, to be able to get up close and have a look at one, don’t you think?’

‘Yes,’ she sighs, in a way that is more an inhalation than an exhalation.

Seldom Come By

Seldom Come By, named after an actual place in Newfoundland, is Rebecca Crowe’s coming of age story and Samuel and Rebecca’s soaring and unforgettable love story. It’s out on now! Come, meet Samuel and Rebecca and the iceberg that started it all. Visit. www.theicebergtrilogy.com. Oh, did I mention, it’s set in 1914? Don’t let that stop you 😉

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Guest Posts, 1 comment

Bonded Book Club Visit

Bonded; Three Fairy Tales, One BondOn Wednesday night, I went to a book club run by my friend Ilima Todd. It was her month to choose the book, so she chose Bonded, which makes me feel all sorts of special. Thanks, Ilima!

I’ve done a few book club visits now. I think this was my fifth visit, but the first one I’ve done for Bonded. I was a little worried about how it all might work with three different books. Would it be too much to discuss all of those? Turns out several readers didn’t have the chance to finish all three books, but it was still easy to have a great discussion. Everyone was so kind, even when we discussed things not everyone particularly liked. Mostly, the discussion revolved around questions everyone had about the characters or the plot. What I find most interesting is that these questions are ones I’ve heard time and time again (especially when Cinders was first published). It’s fascinating because readers seem to gravitate toward the same issues every single time. At first, I worried this is because I’ve done something wrong in my writing. Did I not spend enough time on certain aspects? Did I leave a few things too vague? Did I do it all WRONG? (That’s like my greatest fear, ever, mind you).

I’ve realized over time, though, that I haven’t written anything wrong. As I’ve discussed before, there are no right answers. Everyone brings different things to a novel when they read it, but that’s why it is so interesting how different readers ask me the same questions over and over. To me, that means I did something right. The story I’ve written obviously begs different questions and different themes that make a large group of readers stop and think about those same things in a critical way. It’s more than entertainment, and that’s something pretty great.

I think attending book groups is one of my favorite things to do as author. It’s not because attention is focused on me and my book. It’s because I get an insight, in person, how my book has affects readers. I’ve heard the highest praise in these book groups and the harshest criticism. I’ve grown a lot because of it. Wouldn’t trade any of it for anything! Book clubs are awesome. I don’t belong to one, but someday I might. Do you belong to one?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books, 7 comments

Bonded Launch Party at The King’s English Bookstore

First, a suspenseful story.

I live about 40 minutes away from the bookstore that hosted me for my launch party. There’s a stretch of freeway between me and Salt Lake City, which means I was looking forward to a nice drive with three friends. Forty minutes of talk-time isn’t anything I’ll ever complain about! Unless, of course, I almost hit a deer on the freeway while we’re talking. It was rolling across the road, apparently just having been hit by a car. I was barreling along at about 68 mph, when my friend in the front seat pointed out that something wasn’t right up ahead (note, “up ahead” means, like, a split second up ahead). Since about six years earlier, I ran over (it was lying in the road, just hit) an entire elk on a backroad on my way to work (in a sports car, mind you), I had that flash through my head as my brain recognized the deer flopping across the road ahead of us. I swerved because I was thinking there is no way I’m running over a huge freaking deer again. I think my brain registered there wasn’t a car next to me, otherwise, I would have caused a nasty accident. Later, we learned the deer did cause a four-car pileup. Probably the people right behind us. I am very lucky to have missed the deer and not hit another car at the same time. Very lucky.

So that out of the way, we made it to my launch party right at the starting time, thank goodness! We could have all been in the hospital, but for the next three months, I’m thanking God in my prayers for keeping me and my friends safe.

The launch party itself was a fantastic, super, amazingly wonderful success! I wasn’t too nervous, I had fun reading my excerpt, and two of my good friends came dressed up as characters from the book. My six-year-old was well-behaved, and even asked a cute question during the Q&A section. There were a lot of people in the signing line (I consider it a total success if at least one book sells!), and I had so many friends and family show up, I went home with tears of gratitude in my eyes.

I want to thank every single person who came, and a huge thank you to The Kings English for hosting me! A launch party is a celebration, and that is exactly what this felt like.

Thank you to Janci Patterson and Lisa Shafer for most of these pics!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Bonded, Books

The Post-Revision Antsy Blues

So I’m not really into post-revision on Pieces yet since I’m waiting for two more readers to get me feedback, but after getting feedback from my other readers, and doing major slit-my-wrist revisions on the book, I’m sitting here staring at my computer and wondering what the heck to do with myself. I’m antsy. I’m nervous. I’m hungry, but I don’t want to eat. My brain feels like it was a rubberband all stretched out and then somebody let go. Now I’m lying on the floor, helpless. I’d watch a movie, but I’m too antsy. I’d read a book, but I’m so tired of reading after reading through my book like five times, forward and backward and up and down. The worst thing of all is that I’m exhausted. I’ve been exhausted for a long time now because when I do revisions, I DO REVISIONS. I don’t do anything else. I don’t do laundry. I don’t cook (much). I don’t clean (much). I don’t sleep (much). I just revise until I make myself sick, which I’ve done.

Does anyone else get like this?

Also, let me clarify what revisions are. Jennifer Hubbard did a great post about what revisions are for her. She sums it up better than I can.

As Jane Lebak notes, this is about more than fixing commas. This is about deleting entire scenes, moving chapters around, writing new scenes. Bringing in new characters, or getting rid of old ones, or merging two characters who have too-similar reasons for being in the story. Changing the plot: changing what happens or when or in what order. Chopping unnecessary pages from the beginning, or the end, or even the middle. Introducing new subplots. Jane Lebak discusses the most thorough kind of revision: the rewrite that starts from a blank page. Sometimes it does come down to that.

And, yeah, I’ve done the rewrite that starts from a blank page before. More than once. Thankfully, this book does not need that extensive of revisions. I’ve restructured and rewritten and added and deleted and shuffled stuff around. Now I’m onto the line stuff, and then a final read-through for copyedits. Then it all goes to my editor and I get to do all of the edits she sends to me. Then more copyedits.

I guess all I’m saying is when people ask me how hard it is write a book, I honestly don’t even know where to start. It’s definitely a job that goes beyond the mind. It’s physical too. Revisions, for me, are the equivalent of running a marathon. I’m pretty sure I end up burning as many calories.

The post-revision antsy blues get me every time. Like my friend Becca said to me, last time this happened to her, she sat in her office chair in the middle of the room and just spun around forever. Sometimes that’s all your mind can handle! I really just don’t know what to do with myself while my brain gets back to normal. Yoga. Maybe some yoga.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Books, Pieces, 16 comments

Daily Dish Utah | My First Experience on TV

As I spoke about earlier, I was invited to interview on Utah’s Daily Dish show, hosted by Good Things Utah. Nicea and Brianne were wonderful hosts, and I felt at home and comfortable. Let me just say that I wasn’t so nervous to actually talk on television as I was about everything surrounding it. First of all, I was only given two days’ notice, and second, it’s in my nature to worry about little details when it’s something new. I worried about directions and driving and parking and getting into the right place. I worried about what to wear, how to do my hair, which jewelry to pick out, which shoes to put on, how I would answer the questions, etc. On and on. I honestly don’t know how news people do this every day! But then again, it’s not in my blood to just do this sort of thing as a career. But I suppose being an author, you have to have to have some level of comfort-zone with being in the public eye.

My dear friend, Alicia, offered to drive me to Salt Lake City to the news station building, and another friend offered to watch my daughter all morning. So a huge thanks to these two! My poor hubby had to work. I wish he could have been there.

All in all, this was an amazing experience and a wonderful opportunity not to pass up. I had the chance to talk about my work in a professional time and space, and I am honored to have done so. I don’t know if doing this will garner more sales, but that certainly isn’t why this was such a wonderful opportunity. I realized something important today during this interview—in the end, it does not matter what kind of “level” I see myself at in the publishing world, because I often see myself as inferior for so many reasons. But all that really matters was the two lovely hosts interviewing me were genuinely excited about my book and the story it tells.

My friend Alicia took me to a lovely bakery in downtown Salt Lake. I bought some cannolis, my favorite pastry. And we had some breakfast since I was not able to eat before the interview (I was too nervous!) It was an exciting morning and then a relaxing breakfast.

A huge thank you to ABC-4 and the hosts at The Daily Dish for interviewing me today!

To watch the interview, CLICK HERE.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Books, The Breakaway, 0 comments

How to Stand Out in a World Crammed With Books

Color me surprised. Overall, The Breakaway did so much better than my other books in the first few selling weeks. I think it’s a combination of factors – the first being that the book hits an apparently huge niche market for young adult and adult readers who love kidnapping/captive/Stockholm Syndrome books. I had no idea such a market was out there for this genre, but it’s big. And it’s also picky, I’m finding. This specific niche market loves a certain type of ending, I think, and The Breakaway messes with that type of ending. So I’m really not sure how well it will keep doing. I have no idea. The other reason I think The Breakaway did so well (and will hopefully keep doing well) might have to do with the marketing tactics my publisher took – several that they did not do with Monarch because they hadn’t explored those avenues yet. But Monarch is also adult and a thriller and not really a true thriller, at that. Other reasons for The Breakaway’s success might also have had to do with the fact that it is young adult, the cover people seem to love, marketing tactics I took, or, well, sheer dumb luck.

So all of this one-book-doing-better-than-another thing has me thinking about a lot of publishing points. I have asked myself if I would be as jazzed about publishing more books if The Breakaway’s sales had been the same as Monarch and Cinders in their first few weeks. I worry that I question too many things. I worry that the sheer dumb luck I mentioned above is a bigger factor in all of this than I’m willing to admit. Because, honestly, that’s what it seems like at this point. I did less marketing for The Breakaway than any of my other work. I cared less. Maybe that was important. Or maybe it’s because I have other books out and I’ve built more of a readership. Maybe it’s because I’ve focused more on marketing to readers than writers. Who. The. Heck. Knows.

And I walk into a bookstore and realize that all the books on the shelves are like .0000001% of the books out in the world, and I get short of breath and realize that my books are only a tiny speck in the huge cosmos of stories out there. How … I ask myself … how in the world will I ever make it? How will I ever stand out in a world crammed with books?

My answer to that is: I already do … in certain people’s worlds. And that’s what matters.

But … I don’t write to take over the world in general (hahaha, if only), and I don’t write to stand out everywhere, and I don’t write to be on every shelf in every bookstore, and I don’t write to please everyone, and I don’t write just to make money and sales. I write because I write and want to keep writing. And the small, beautiful success I’ve seen with The Breakaway is a happy perk and something special I treasure right now. But quite honestly, while all those sales will always be awesome, they do not feel as poignant as that first sale I made on my little self-published book, Cinders, when I felt even smaller than I do now. And that’s what makes me stop and think. I look at the authors I love and wonder how small they feel, even if they are big in the publishing world. I wonder if I will always feel insignificant standing in a bookstore or sifting through hundreds of books online.

And I sit here and fret and worry about my next full-length book, Bonded, and how it will fare compared to The Breakaway in its first few weeks. So far, each book I have put out has done better than the last, but I am not sure I can top The Breakaway, and that scares me because beyond hundreds-of-thousands of dollars I don’t have to spend on marketing, there’s not much me and my publisher can do beyond what we have done for my other books. At least so far. I am sure my publisher will keep surprising me with their brilliance in marketing! And I know it’s not always about “the first few weeks” … it’s often how your books do overall over a long period of time, but still, the beginning can say a lot.

Everyone says Bonded will do amazing, but I have my doubts. Bonded is completely different, and it’s a collection and fantasy/fairy-tale based. Is that market as big as the market for The Breakaway? The first novella in Bonded has a controversial ending. The second novella, Thirds, is happy, but will people keep reading after Cinders and all the punches I pull in there? Perhaps not. The third novella, Scales, is far from a happy ending, and it’s my very favorite, like a piece of dark chocolate I think should be savored. Some people hate dark chocolate.

I guess this is enough rambling about all my worries and fears. It all reminds me of a post I wrote last year right before Monarch came out. I had cold feet, but I came to a conclusion I need to remember now. I need to staple it to my forehead: So bring on the cold feet. I know I’ll still worry and fret as the release date grows closer, but for me, the best part of the book has already happened – the fact that I finished and got it to a place where I’m 100% happy with it. Nothing will erase that. Ever. Remember, published or unpublished, you are a writer, an author, and a creative person who strives for the ultimate goal of creating something you’re proud of. Don’t ever let the little publication tag get in your way (and I need to add here that sales numbers should not get in your way either), because it doesn’t change anything in the end. It only overshadows the best part.

In the end, the only thing to do is write your next book, and at the end of the day, I’m pretty happy with that. So I’m going to go work on my next book and stop worrying.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Books, The Breakaway, 0 comments

A Sequel for The Breakaway?

michelle-d-argyle-the-breakaway-coverEver since I first wrote The Breakaway years and years ago, I have had friends and family interested in knowing more about how it might end beyond the conclusion I gave it. If you haven’t read the book, the ending is bittersweet and not what you might expect, so I think a lot of readers get very attached to the characters and want some more wrap-up with them at the end. For me, the ending does wrap everything up, but there is definitely more that could happen.

Since The Breakaway’s release, I’ve received dozens of emails and tweets and FB messages asking about a sequel for the book. At first I was a little defensive because I kept thinking that maybe my ending wasn’t enough for people. They were disappointed or it wasn’t written well. That may be the case for some readers, I imagine, but the more I’ve thought about it and talked to my publisher, I’m seeing that it’s more because readers enjoyed the story enough to want more.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there are very few sequels I enjoy, and so far in my writing career, I have had no desire to write a sequel to any of my stories. But with The Breakaway, I have always had in mind what happens to Naomi and Jesse  beyond the ending I give them in the novel … I’ve just never really shared that with many people, and honestly, over the years I’ve altered what has happened in my head. First it was a tragic ending, then very happy, then bittersweet again. The fun thing about writing is that while you have control over the story and your characters, it’s not always as much control as you want to admit. I’m the kind of writer who allows the story to control itself and guide me, the writer, to where it needs to go. The Breakaway has definitely taken its own course.

Because I’ve always had in mind how The Breakaway expands beyond its current borders, I am quite open to sharing that expansion with others. The question is how do I want to share it? The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m comfortable with writing a long short story or novella and sharing it with fans. At the moment, my publisher is open to this idea as well, although the idea may not be cost-effective for them. In that case, other options for publication are available.

Now that I’ve rambled long enough, if you are a fan of The Breakaway and are interested in a somewhat unconventional alternative to a “sequel”, make sure you sign up for my newsletter so you’ll be updated when and if this short story will be released. I’ll be open right now and say that it will probably not be available until 2013 because I have to finish my current novel before I can begin anything else. Good things are worth waiting for, right?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Books, Pieces, The Breakaway, 0 comments