A Crisis of Confidence

Who hasn’t had a collapse of confidence? Just at that moment that you need your flirty, witty self, she disappears and leaves you a stuttering, sweating blob. Or maybe you lose your confidence when it comes to taking risks: like applying for a dream job or going on that blind date. Why are we never as spectacular in public as we are in private?

Although I have never had sex with an NHL player, I do have a lot in common with the heroines of my books. We all enjoy hockey, own cats and live in beautiful Vancouver. And we all have confidence in many areas, but not all. Like Frankie Taylor, who feels confident at school, in the kitchen, and when fully-dressed in a swishy fifties frock. But getting naked in a brightly-lit room worries her. Or like Kelly Tanaka, from my upcoming book, who feels completely confident in any athletic situation, but not when navigating relationships.

I have no self-confidence when it comes to sports and I have to be dragged to big parties. However, I feel confident at work, in any mall anywhere (because I am an Olympic shopper) and in normal social situations. And I feel pretty confident about my writing—except lately.

I try to welcome criticism. Of course—like any writer—it’s painful, but I have my own way to handle things. I generally step back for 24 hours to make sure I’m not being all stupidly emotional, and try to react positively. I understand that my books are not for everyone, and I think I can learn from negative feedback.

However three negative critiques from three unrelated sources in the past three weeks left me reeling. I completely lost confidence and started to wonder if I should even bother writing anymore. I decided to take a short break from writing, and do some exciting things I had neglected—like housework and laundry. After a week, with the floors clean and everything ironed while watching NHL Revealed, I decided it was time to go back to writing. I opened my laptop, and … nothing. I was too discouraged to write, feeling like there was no point in writing because nobody liked my writing anyway. Yeah, I knew it was a pity party, but that didn’t make it any less real. And I also realized that although I had tons of positive feedback in the past, now I could only see the negatives. Confidence crises have a way of spiralling.

Writing seemed like a monumental task that gloomy me just didn’t have the energy for. I had a whole book completed, but I didn’t want to bother implementing any of the edits I had planned and I didn’t want to start something new. So I closed the laptop and started watching episodes of True Detective. (Don’t tell me the ending because I’m not done yet.)

Then after a hockey-related conversation on twitter about our respective losing teams, I was asked how my writing was going. Boom! Something clicked in my head. Myan likes my writing! She wants to read the next book! And then she tweeted she would be the first one to read the new book when it came out! Wow, magically I was motivated again, I opened up the laptop and started editing. It’s slow going right now, but like any sport (or so I assume since I’ve never excelled at one) it’s tough when you begin after a setback and gets easier as you go along.

So all I can say is, thank you, Myan! You inspired me. I’m off to write some reviews myself, to say thanks to writers whose work I’ve enjoyed. And I encourage everyone to electronically hug your favourite writer today, whether it be with a good review, a recommendation to a friend, or a cheerful tweet. Because physically stalking and hugging that writer would be too creepy, and I have the restraining order to prove it. Kidding. 

The To Do List

I’m getting so excited that my next book, How To Date a Hockey Player, is almost done. Of course, “done” has so many meanings. At this point, I'm almost done writing the final draft of the book, which means everything that happens from now on will be fine-tuning.

Here are the stages of finished that this book will go through.
- Rough draft (done)
- Final draft (almost done!)
- Editor changes (25% done, and editors are standing by. One anyway.)
- Beta reading (not done, but I don't have to do this)
- Re-editing after beta feedback (minor, I hope)
- Final read-through (ack)
- Formatting (cue pulling of hair and tantrums)
- Cover (already started)
- Proofing on different platforms (double ack)
- Corrections and links (triple ack)
- Publish (hooray! champagne for everyone)

But I’m a shirker compared to some, I recently read about an author who does 15 separate edits. Whew. In any case, you may not be interested in all the blood, sweat, and tears that goes on behind the scenes. What about the book, Mel? When’s the book coming out? I would say late March, but I’ll warn you that I have a tendency to be too optimistic.

Meanwhile, an excerpt from the first book of the trilogy. Yup, it’s a trilogy which takes our heroine from high school to university to a real job. And there are tons of hockey players, including our heroine herself, Kelly Tanaka. She’s half-Japanese, half-Irish, and all hockey.

To set this excerpt up, Kelly is seventeen, but she’s always been more interested in hockey than boys. I guess you could describe her as a bit of a tomboy. However, she’s just started dating for the first time, and her best friend, April Lachance, is very keen to meet the lucky guy.

April had been bugging me about getting to meet Nicklas. She had heard he was cute and she was extremely curious about someone she referred to as “the guy who turned Kelly Tanaka into a woman.” The problem was that Nicklas and I ran in two different social circles, which never seemed to overlap. When April began threatening to stalk us, I finally figured out a night when he had a game at Ice Sports, and I had a game after him. April could come to the rink with me and meet him in the half hour overlap between those two events.

April pulled up in my driveway, and I was all ready. I ran out and stuck my hockey bag and sticks in the back of her mom’s VW Golf, and then I hopped into the passenger seat.

“Okay, let’s go!” I said, cheerily.

April turned off the ignition.
“What, in the name of all that is ugly, are you wearing?”

I looked down. “Oh, this? This is my team tracksuit. It’s not too attractive is it? But we have to wear it to every game, you know, because we’re a team.”

“Team Totally Hideous! And are you wearing a sports bra again?”

“Duh! I’m playing hockey, which is a sport, therefore the sports bra.”

“Okay, but aren’t we meeting your boyfriend first? A boyfriend who is allegedly one of the cutest guys on the North Shore?”

“Yeah, but he knows why I have to dress like this. Besides, who can look sexy in a track suit?”

“Have you never seen Victoria Beckham? For starters, you could get a suit that fits a bit tighter. Okay, let’s go to your room,” she said as she opened the car door.

“What? April, this is not a makeover situation! Everyone else on the team is wearing their tracksuits; I have to wear mine too.”

“Oh Kelly, and if all the other girls were jumping off the bridge, would you too? Do you know how eight-years-old you sound? Don’t worry; I won’t make you change completely, only a bit.” She saw I was hesitating, “Quick now, it will go faster if you just obey me. Have I ever steered you wrong?”

“Yes, what about the time when we drank Hard Lemonade at the grade seven grad?”

“Okay, that was a mistake, but that was not a fashion decision. I am never wrong about fashion.”

Ten minutes later we were back in the car. I looked ridiculous, in my opinion. April had safety-pinned the tracksuit in some weird way, so that was now tighter at the waist and bust. I was wearing a push-up bra and a low cut tank top underneath a strategically unzipped jacket that I wasn’t allowed to zip up any higher. Luckily she hadn’t made me change from my running shoes into hooker heels, because then I could not have lugged my hockey gear into the arena.

A Short History of How I Became A Hockey Romance Writer

Recently, I had an email asking for advice on becoming a published author, so I thought I’d lay out my writing history here. There are two parts: todays post is about writing and part two is about self-publishing.

In the beginning there was hockey.

It all started around the time of the 2010 Olympic selection for Team Canada. In fact, I can remember the exact moment I got inspired. I was sitting on the couch with my friend, Daisy, and we looked up at the TV and said, “Who’s that?”  That turned out to be Jonathan Toews, who has both the boyish good looks and on-ice determination that are so appealing to hockey fans. Well, to Daisy and me anyway. And then he turned out to be from Winnipeg, which is where Mr. X, the man in my life, is also from. This gave me the excuse while watching games to point him out, “Hey sweetie, that guy’s from Winnipeg too!” As long as you don’t drool while speaking, this method will effectively deflect all attention away from your hockey crush. Sadly, I do drool.

I love hockey and I love reading, and I wondered why those pastimes could not be combined. So I went in search of hockey romances. I read a few paperbacks from the library, but to be honest I found them to be fairly lame. Either the writer had no clue about hockey (they’re hockey pants, not hockey shorts!) or the stories themselves were too predictable. But then one day, I was reading a hockey blog for women, and I clicked on the profile of one of the commenters who looked slightly familiar. She followed a number of other blogs, which all seemed to be about hockey, so I clicked on one.

Whoosh, talk about falling down a rabbit hole! Suddenly I was whisked into a world where there were serial stories about hockey players. I had certain preconceptions about fanfic, and all of them were negative. But although many of the stories turned out to be lame and occasionally laughable, (it’s not possible to have intercourse for five hours, especially if you’re Dave Bolland) a number of them were pretty darn good. However, most of them were about Sidney Crosby, who doesn’t really do anything for me. I wondered why nobody was writing about the player I wanted to read about, and I figured I’d have to do it myself. At the time, before the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup, there was only one about young Captain Serious. Now there are zillions.

Creative writing was already something I enjoyed. As an oversensitive teenager, I journaled my every boring thought and emotion. Then, as an English major at university, I was used to reading and critiquing three books a week. However, after that, most of my writing was restricted to (yawn) business writing. But now I had the writing bug and some new inspiration. I got encouragement and advice from one very kind author, and I started my own serial. She told me that optimally I should post an update every day, which I did. Looking back, I think I must have been insane, but my chapters were pretty short at the beginning. And after 170 posts, I wrapped up my first story. Yup, even from the beginning, I wrote long books.

At first, nobody, except my mentor and my friend, were reading. I begged Daisy to leave comments so I’d look legit. But slowly the blog readership grew, and by the end, I was getting about 200 hits a day and a ton of enthusiastic feedback. You know your blog is popular when it gets ripped off by content scrapers. I wrote two more long serials, and two short stories. All the time my readers were so encouraging, telling me how much they liked my writing and getting emotionally involved with my stories. My big highlight was when someone told me the post made her cry. In my stories, I like to have a bit of everything: laughter, sexual tension, dramatic tension, and tears. Just the way life is.

I have to say that serial writing was the best apprenticeship that I could have had for becoming an author. I had to produce chapters to a deadline and I had to plan everything out ahead of time. 99% of the comments were positive, because c’mon, who is going to criticize something that’s free? But I could still see if readers didn’t like a post, because I would get fewer comments. And comments for blogger are like crack for Rob Ford: completely addictive. I’m always encouraging authors who are starting out to try serial writing, and now it’s even easier with Wattpad. You get to see what appeals to readers, and you get to work on a deadline, even if it’s self-imposed. But the more frequently you post, the more readers you get. In addition, while fanfic does get a bad rap, it has the advantage of having a built-in audience. I did debate whether to “come out” as a fanfic author, but I’ve since found out that a lot of hockey romance novels began as fanfic. So, why not be upfront about it?

Okay, there I was, sitting with a ton of finished books. What to do? Well, I think you know already. Tune in for my next post on how I began e-publishing.