What’s going on…and what’s next…

Oscar Outside Door

“What’s going on in there?” Oscar asks from the other side of my office doors. He might also be wondering about the explosion of boxes and activity and energy that’s filled the house, and my mind and soul, over the past few weeks. Truth be told, I’m almost as stunned by it all as he!

No, we’re not moving. But things are moving…clutter, blocked energy, preconceived concepts, old ideas about myself and my creativity. “Hindsight is 20/20” and I can look back now over the past couple years and see the subtle awakenings and shiftings in myself; the emerging longterm effects of living in a politically-ravaged nation…a fire-ravaged community…an expectation-ravaged creative soul; and the chance encounters with people and places that weren’t chance at all but the Universe nudging me a new direction. And when I look back as far as hindsight will allow, I see my husband standing in the kitchen saying to me, “Maybe you’re not the writer you think you are.”

Those words sound harsh, and they were, but not for the reasons you might think. He had been sharing with me the surprises of his own creative journey. He had suddenly realized after so many years of thinking he was one type of musician–that played a certain type of music on a certain type of guitar and equipment but with little creative fulfillment–that he was really a different type of musician altogether. By abandoning these preconceived notions and allowing himself to gravitate toward what felt good and got him excited, he’d found joy and fulfillment where he would never have expected. So, in that moment in the kitchen, as I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to write, to finish current projects or move forward on new ones, that creativity felt like an anchor rather than a sail, he said, “Maybe it’s the same for you, thinking you’re one thing when really, if you give yourself the freedom to just experiment, you’ll find you’re really something else. After all,” he ended, “it shouldn’t feel like work.”

It took two more years of creative anemia and frustration to let that idea sink in…to be fairly considered and processed. Because the realization, that what you’ve painstakingly shaped yourself into isn’t necessarily who you really are, is painful. Now, don’t feel sorry for me! This soul-searching and journey has been such a blessing. Because what I’ve realized is that while I love mysteries and I loved writing one, I don’t necessarily want to write another one. At least not right now. And I don’t want my creativity so narrowly defined. For some time there have been other projects and other types of writing that have lived in my heart and imagination, but I’ve pushed them away because they didn’t fit into the mold I’d squeezed my creative self into. I’ve finally realized that not only is it okay for me to pursue them…I’m supposed to!

So what does this all mean? It means, I’ve burst from a box I didn’t realize I’d been confined to…a box I’m not trashing, but lovingly setting aside for awhile. It means that I’m finally giving attention to the fights and passions that get me energized and speaking and creating rather than pushing them away. It means I’m walking forward…with baby steps and fewer expectations and more joy. And in the most concrete terms, it means I’m working on a new website and project to be launched on Earth Day! Don’t fear…this site, shelleymasini.com, and its blog will remain active as my author’s website and voice, though it will also be revamped to be more inline with these realizations and new path.

And that, dear Oscar and dear friends, is what’s going on in here! Stay tuned with me.

 

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A sign of a good friendship…

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I don’t know precisely how the saying goes or if it is even really a “saying,” but the gist of it is: A sign of a good friendship is that no matter how much time passes between seeing each other you can pick up as if no time has passed at all.

Well, time has in fact passed since the Keys…a small group of would-be writers bonded over creative decisions and discussions and the pursuit of a Master’s Degree…have seen each other. It’s been at least two years since we last sat around that table discussing our writing endeavors, and five years since some of us finished that Master’s Program. And yet, last night it felt like no time had passed at all. We picked up our glasses, our banter, and our critiques with comfort. It was good to be in each others’ company, to be reassured that while some things change…projects, voices, opportunities…some things don’t…intention, interests, camaraderie.

But if we’re on the subject, the question that now presents itself to me is, do I have a good “friendship” with my writing, in all its forms…this blog, “the book,” short stories, new ideas? Time has indeed passed since I’ve given attention to any of it. Will I be able to pick up as if no time has passed at all…?

We shall see…

The tomato vine…the Maltese Falcon…the process…

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A check-in is long overdue! Summer, recently filled with eerie orange skies and hot nights, devastating California fires and Texas floods, a personal call to action and unanticipated foray into gardening, lots of exercising and even more revising, is (thank goodness!) almost over. But before the bluebird flies and my favorite season arrives, what news do I have for you…?

IMG_9161First, in very old news, I’m trying a new creative experiment: associating specific creative ideas & projects with specific scents. The goal…? Twofold. First, I often can’t sit down and write when I’d like to…namely, mornings, when instead I’m heading off to work. And when I do have time to write, I don’t feel like it. So just maybe, in those moments, if the story had a certain scent…like yummy vanilla sugar…and I took a deep inhale, the urge to write might be rekindled. Second, I’d like to successfully work on more than one project. It’s not always easy to shift between worlds and characters, so I thought perhaps if I had a trigger…tomato vine for this mystery, coffee for that short story, etc…I might be able to jump in and out of multiple worlds more easily. As I say, it’s an experiment…so I’ll keep you posted.

Second, in not-quite-as-old news, as you can see from my new favorite glass above, I recently went on a walking tour of Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, organized by the Northern California Sisters in Crime and conducted by Don Herron, who’s been leading these tours for 40 years…since the year I was born! Don describes the nature of the tour best on his website:

Shadow Sam Spade in his quest for the fabulous figurine of a mysterious black bird. Prowl the back alleys where the Continental Op, Hammett’s longest-running detective, faced down the opposition over the barrel of his blazing .38. Follow Hammett himself as he works for the Pinkerton Detective Agency on the infamous Fatty Arbuckle case. See the spot where Spade’s partner, Miles Archer, with a smile on his mug and his pistol buttoned away under his overcoat, met swift death in the night-fog.

It’s always a joy to see a familiar place in a new way…and I certainly saw San Francisco cast in thrilling, noir shadows that revealed places and things I’d never noticed but passed by many times. Just a few photos of some of my favorite parts…

 

(And if you don’t know who Dashiell Hammett or Sam Spade are, or what the Maltese Falcon is…get thee to a bookstore now!)

Lastly, the latest news. I’ve remembered to enjoy the process! I owe this reminder to my husband…photographer, musician, and all around creative-being-extradonaire! I watch him spend hours at his arts…chasing tone, crafting songs, creating images…for the mere pleasure of it. The joy and energy he radiates after spending an evening on one guitar lick or one portrait should be bottled up and prescribed to overwrought, cynical artists of all types. Being around him has reminded me that if you’re not having fun doing what you’re doing, then you’re either missing the point or aren’t doing what you really love. (That said, I’ve also observed that by following his bliss he has courted success and opportunity…new band mates, music gigs, photography assignments…proving Julia Cameron’s point that the Universe loves happy artists and wants to help them!)

And that’s it for this summer. I’ll leave you in the pub with a cold beer listening to my inspiring husband…

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An unapologetic era…

Good morning! As I was taking Oscar for his morning walk…(for those not following on Instagram, Oscar is on his way to becoming a bona fide “Adventure Cat” under the alias of Licorice…hence the camo vest and far-reaching gaze)…I was getting caught up on Social Media and came across this quote…

“I’ve worked too hard on my happiness to be affected by people and things that don’t understand the energy and time I’ve put into myself” ~Billy Chapata

…and it gave me pause…enough pause to sit and write a post. Why…?

Perhaps because I’ve always been a people pleaser, and part of being a people pleaser is not letting others feel uncomfortable or put out, even at your own cost. As a result, we people pleasers apologize for our unique beauty, greatness, accomplishments…we diminish ourselves so others don’t have to feel less than. What many of us fail to understand before too much time has gone by or before it’s too late is that everyone’s greatness and beauty is individual…your accomplishments can’t diminish mine and vice versa because we each have our own gifts to give…and we each have our own spectacular beauty to fill the world with that that only we can offer. Unfortunately, some of us convince ourselves otherwise and spend too much of life apologizing, hiding, and negating ourselves.

Maybe it’s turning 40 or just a natural accumulation of life experiences which has made me intolerant of certain things…things like lies, cruelty, ignorance, and self-deprecation, just to name a few.

And so begins an unapologetic era…

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Fog…mourning doves…2017…

I awoke this morning to find the house enshrouded in mist. It was as if, while I slept, the fog which has so befuddled my creative senses these past six months seeped from my head with each sleeping snore, then out through the cracks of this drafty house, leaving my mind clear for the new year. It seemed almost too good to be true! But as I made my first cup of coffee, I noted a single mourning dove…symbol of female fertility and procreation…perched on the bare branches of the tree outside the window and I knew I was finally returning to my creative self!

So often people start the New Year by giving up things they love…drinking, smoking, perceived bad behavior. No pun intended, but I gave up that practice long ago! For me the New Year…this one more than ever…is about taking back. This year I vow to take back my creative courage, joy, and energy…and return to the path from which I strayed sometime last year, the end of which was particularly rough on my creativity.

Now the fog has burned off and the mourning dove departed, but I’ve captured their messages in my heart, which is excited, joyful, and inspired on this first day of 2017!

 

 

Reporting in from the new office…

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Good morning…from my new office! Yes, it’s still in my house, but (for those of you who followed my 365 day journey around the sun) it is no longer the Blue Room, or even the dining room table. It’s a well-lit, dual-aspect, cozy bedroom off the dining room. It still needs work, as you can see, but I have French doors out to the rest of the house and a little jewel-box of a bathroom all to myself…not to mention a flat-screen tv, Playstation, sofa bed with quilts, and my faithful feline assistants. But, I assure you, writing will still get done…

Actually, I must get some writing done! I’ve been feeling quite lost as an artist…even though I’ve been working through the Artist’s Way and expressing my creativity through cooking and cross-stitching and decorating for autumn. But I haven’t been writing and I can tell my soul needs it. I even had a visit from a black widow spider, crawling across the living room floor to where I sat doing bills one evening with all the lights on! I think the message was clear…”embrace your female power, create, weave…or else!” I thanked her for her message and quickly relocated her outside. I’m worried if I don’t get writing soon she’ll visit me again.

I am pleased to report that Pitch Madness day went very well. I had multiple small publishing houses express interest, as well as one very reputable agent. I thanked the publishing houses, explaining that I would first like to seek agent-representation. As for the agent, well unfortunately (in one sense) the book is already out to one of her colleagues for consideration, and the agency has a strict no-submitting-to-multiple-agents policy. I emailed her and was honored to receive a response informing me that if her colleague didn’t express interest, she’d like to see the manuscript next. Of those first eight submissions of SHADOW OF A WOMAN to agents that went out in July, I’m still waiting to hear back – or not hear back, as the case may be – from four by the end of October. In the meantime, I have put submissions on hold, and am revisiting the manuscript. Not for major revisions to the plot, but to clean up the language even further, and increase tension where possible. A good manuscript goes through seven to eight drafts…this would put me at six, I think. And I’ve been blessed with the most unlikely of editors – my husband! He’s not read the book before, and is very good with language, so as we read it together, he’s helping to point out where I have too much description, what needs better description, and what just doesn’t make sense.

But I still need to get writing. I’ve been considering participating in NaNoWriMo this year. For those of you not familiar with this crazy writing event, it’s where writers across the world commit to writing 50,000 words in one month. And November of all months!…with Thanksgiving and family and holidays to negotiate. But it’s a wonderful way to force a first draft out. I’ve calculated that to make the quota I would need to write six pages a day, every day. What’s prevented me from making the commitment is that I just can’t decide which project I’d work on. Logic tells me that I should start the next Penzey Brighton mystery. But I also have another series I’d like to start. And then there’s my epic, historical fantasy, that will require tons of delicious research and total abandon. How to choose?!

And that’s the report from my new office. Apologies for the length. That’s what comes from being away too long. But I’m thinking that now that I’ve got an office back, I’ll be able to report in more often in style and comfort!

Woosh! The curtains open…

I’m here! I’m here! *waving from the front windows*

I know, it’s been too long! I’ve just been in a little funk. The kind of funk where you eat too many donuts and drink too much coffee, abandon exercise altogether, and can’t properly get started on a writing project even when your sanity depends on it. (All you writers out there, is there such a thing as post-first-submissions-blues…?) And I *moved* into this beautiful new virtual space, had an *open house*, then proceeded to close all the curtains and wander around aimlessly! (All you bloggers out there, is it possible to have bloggers’ block…?)

But I’m back! And I can report the following good news—I have joined Mystery Writers of America, I am signed up for a Sisters-in-Crime writers conference in San Francisco next month, I will be guest lecturing again this fall, and I’m working diligently through Julia Cameron’s “The Artist Way.” Not only that, but school has started, so the college is buzzing with contagious energy, and the first leaves have started to fall, marking the approach of my favorite season. And even though I’ve been in a funk, I haven’t been completely idle. I’ve been working on getting my new home office set-up, completed two cross-stitch projects, traveled to Washington State to visit family, and started translating my grandmother’s cookbook with my father.

“How are the submissions going?” you ask.

In the month and a half since I sent out my first eight submissions, I’ve had two rejections, two non-responses, and am still waiting to hear back from four agents who note longer response times. I’ll admit there was a crisis of faith when I wasn’t instantly offered a deal…honestly, who doesn’t fantasize it’ll happen with the first response?!…but I have regrouped, read all those articles about famous authors being rejected dozens of times before acceptance to soothe my ego, and am actually excited about the next batch of submissions I’m preparing now.

“And how are you getting out of this funk?” you ask next.

Posting this is certainly a step in the right direction! Another must, is getting up early in the mornings to write and exercise, like I did this morning. I have learned that if I don’t, I’m a complete mess the rest of the day. And finally, just reminding myself that I am a writer, showing up to the life I want, and leaving the rest to God and the universe.

Welcome! Cocktail?…

 

Welcome

A new blog…and a proper writer’s website! *sound of cork popping*

Welcome to my new home. Apologies for the mess…I’m still settling in. Sorry…do you mind taking your shoes off? Thanks. Now, grab a champagne cocktail and curl up on the sofa…just scoot the kitties out of the way…and let me tell you what I’ve been up to!

If you followed my blog, Living as a writer for 365, then you already know I spent the last couple years working on my first novel, the first Penzey Brighton mystery. What you wouldn’t know if you hadn’t visited is that after multiple revisions and much agonizing the book is ready for submission! Which means, it’s time to find an agent!

Yesterday I participated in my first #mswl Twitter event…when agents and editors share their manuscript wish lists while writers frantically take notes, drink cappuccinos, and scroll through tweets. There was amazing energy and enthusiasm, and Jessica Sinsheimer of manuscriptwishlist.com and the Sarah Jane Freyman Literary Agency was an absolute gorgeous hostess. I never thought Twitter could be so much fun, and came away with a legal sheet full of agent names and wishes I want to make come true!

And today is the first of July…the first day of a four-day weekend…the first day of the second half of the year. In other words, a good day to say good-bye to the old ship, as my old blog was affectionally known, and welcome you all into my new virtual home.

So, please, have another cocktail. *big band music plays* Appetizers should be out of the oven any minute, and games will start soon. Let’s celebrate, because tomorrow we get to work!