Brook Cottage Books Blog Tour

Monday, 19 September 2011

Welcome fellow Wild Rose Press writer, Jannine Corti-Peska


Welcome, Jannine! I am really looking forward to what you want to share with us today. Please pull up a comfy chair, cup of tea (or coffee!) and enjoy your time here. I love host guest and it's great when visiting authors have some interesting articles in between the interviews. Okay, over to you!

My Muse Took An Extended Vacation

I haven’t met a writer yet who hasn’t lost her muse at some point in her writing career. Often stress plays a huge part in sabotaging our creative mind. Whether it’s family related, job, finances, or simply a bad day, our muse can cut out on us without notice.

Since I began writing 30 years ago, my creativity has stalled three times. But the most recent began nearly 4 years back when I left a publisher amid controversy that exploded and spread like wildfire throughout the internet writing community. After that, I had difficulty creating anything resembling a plot. And my heroes or heroines usually suffered through an identity crisis.

After Carina and the Nobleman, the first book in my medieval psychic sisters trilogy, was released in January 2009, I was faced with writing book two. I had already written Carina years before, so a little rewriting and editing was all I did before submitting. This book was set in Italy, my comfort zone. But book two, Charlotte and the Gypsy, took place in a Gypsy camp in Andalusia. I knew absolutely nothing about either of these subjects. For the first time, I doubted every word I wrote and couldn’t keep the facts straight. I researched heavily as I wrote, which I normally don’t do. No matter how hard I tried to summon up ideas, it seemed as if I faced the same blank page every day.

Seven months later, I completed the book. (I’d never taken longer than 3 months to write a full-length novel.) During those long months, I pulled my hair out one strand at a time, wondering if I was the same person who wrote Charlotte and the books published under my name. After stepping away for a few weeks before reading the entire story, to my surprise, book two wasn’t bad at all. It sold and was released in early 2010.

Now on to book three, or so I thought. In researching Callie and the Knight, my muse took a hike. I turned over every rock (figuratively, of course), checked under the beds (shouldn’t have, found an army of dust bunnies), constantly returned to my computer (a big mistake, 1000s of emails and packed files to go through), and finally I threw in the towel…well, more like the pen and paper. I’d have thrown my computer, but thankfully my common sense shouted, “NO!!!”

Now what? Why was I having such a difficult time thinking up a viable story? Besides the fact that my mind had been cluttered horribly, book three is set in medieval England. Way out of my comfort zone. I’m used to weaving stories set in the same period but in Italy. So I decided to put it aside and pull out three manuscripts to edit and polish. Because they’d been on floppy disks, I had to retype them onto a flash drive, which was time-consuming, but it helped to reacquaint me with the stories. To my absolute shock, one sold in July 2010. The other two, the first two books in my Italian medieval series (The Lily and the Falcon and Surrender to Honor) sold in a two-book deal in September 2010. The month prior, I’d resold Charlotte and the Gypsy to a different publisher.

Okay, now I can concentrate on Callie and the Knight. It didn’t happen. As before, I dragged my feet. You’d think all that editing and rewriting would have tickled my muse. That was when I realized, she’d gone on a very long vacation without me. When 2011 arrived, I gave up and turned to another manuscript I’d written years before, Dante’s Flame, book three in my Italian medieval series. I submitted it, and two months later it sold. Wow, I must be good at editing and rewriting. Okay, now I was ready to get to Callie and her story. I really had to finish up the trilogy and not leave my readers hanging. The end of the book brings the three sisters together to learn about their past. I didn’t want to leave it like a TV series that ended without tying up all the loose ends. I tried everything I could think of to convince my muse to come back to me. The damn stubborn twit stood in the distance and folded her arms across her chest like a defiant child and wouldn’t budge. Then she took off again.

Fine. I’ll work on something else. At that time, my editor asked if I’d like to participate in an anthology titled Love Letters. I jumped on the invitation, eager and ready. A short story was the perfect way to get back into writing a book from scratch. Ha! You guessed it. I struggled to come up with a storyline. The first three-quarters of the story was more painful than having a tooth pulled, but the medieval Italy setting was a big help. By the time I finished and turned it in (10,000 words over), lo and behold, my muse sauntered back, relaxed, tanned and excited to dive into a new book. And she came back wiser. I finally saw the reason I kept putting off Callie’s story. She and her knight weren’t ready to tell it. My muse isn’t back 100%; she’s tripped a few times, but it doesn’t matter. I really missed her and was relieved to have her with me again.

The fact that I had sold four full-length novels in nine months wasn’t what nudged my muse. There were several reasons, one life-changing.

  1. Yes, Callie and her knight needed more time. So did I. Medieval England is out of my comfort zone. Once I came to terms with that, I could move on, knowing I will write their story one day. Just not now.

  1. I turned to researching Tempt Not My Heart, book four of my Italian medieval series. I should be ready to begin writing next month. I’ve been jotting down scenes that pop into my mind. Ahhh, I feel at home already.

  1. My biggest challenge, and the most disturbing to me, was the strangling hold my guilt and frustration had over me because I’d done nothing about my weight or my diabetes. But my renewed enthusiasm and resurgence of those much needed creative juices came when I began to lose weight in February and continued to lose a lot more since. My blood sugar is under control for the first time in 15 years (I was taken off one of my meds.), my blood pressure is great (cut back to half a pill a day), and my cholesterol is where it should be. My energy level is high. I don’t nap anymore. I get out of bed early without wishing I could just crawl back under the covers and sleep all day.

What I’m trying to convey here is, an attitude adjustment goes a long way to free your mind (or at least ease it) of the worry and stress weighing it down. No longer am I burdened with the guilt I mentioned above. Neither am I fighting with my once non-existent willpower. The self-destructive person I was just nine months ago is gone. I’ll be 60 next year. I’m proof that it’s never too late to change what doesn’t work for you, be it a personal issue, ideas for a story you’d like to write, or merely seeing there is an upside to life. I’m not saying it’s easy. We all cope in different ways. But you’ll never regret your journey down the new road with a rejuvenated you.

As for my muse? We’re still getting reacquainted, but she’s no longer a stranger.

Buy Link for The Lily and the Falcon:

http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=176_138&products_id=4616

Website:

http://www.jcortipetska.com/

Wow, what a fantastically inspiring account, Jannine! I'll never moan about my missing muse again - and four books sold in nine months?? You must be thrilled! I'm sure my readers and visitors will have LOTS of comments, lol!

Comments?

23 comments:

  1. Loved your post. So far I've been lucky and my muse has only taken short day trips, but I like your suggestion about sometimes all you need is a bit of change. Shake things up a bit and things will fall in the correct place. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. I am naturally a slow writer (so jealous of your ability to write a novel in three months or less!), but after spending most of the summer finding excuses not to write, I decided maybe I needed to do something different. I stopped trying to work on my WIP (a YA contemporary romance) and wrote a Regency novella. I finished it (14,000 words) in a week, and now I'm back to work on my novel. It really helped me to shake things up and focus on something else for a while. I'm glad I'm not the only one with these sorts of problems!

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  3. Loved this post! I can definitely feel your pain. I went through a period of about six years where I couldn't write. Nothing I did helped. Every day I would sit and stare and even forcing myself to write crap didn't help. For me, it was definitely stress. So I gave in. I started writing again about a year and a half ago, and I got about three books out when more stress hit and once again I'm struggling to write period. For me, I think the key is just not pressuring myself. I get stressed, can't write, then get stressed because I can't write. And I've found if I just give myself permission to not write for a while, it takes the pressure off. So what I end up doing lately is spending a few days writing, then a few days indulging in reading or simply not doing anything writing related at all. It worries me. Should I become the next Nora (haha, but you know we all have to keep that dream) I worry I'd never be able to keep up. I can't seem to write on demand it seems so the thought of having to write on a deadline is kind of scary. But... I'll cross that bridge when I come to it! For now, I just allow myself to write when I feel like it and so far it works.

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  4. What a story. I am glad to hear you have a handle on your health. That effects so many parts of our lives. It is interesting to hear what other creative people do when they feel that creativity blocked. I think we all go through that from time to time. It strikes me as important to have activities that free us up to be creative again.

    I applaud your perseverance, and congratulate your success in selling 4 books. Good luck with the sales.

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  5. Inspiring story Jannine!!! :)

    And congratulations on the weight loss... That's always tough!!!

    You're a strong lady!!! :)

    Lisa

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  6. Christine and Alysia:
    Change is always good, whether writing or otherwise. But for the creative mind, I believe it's necessary. I fell into a rut many times and got myself out by doing something different. I learned the hard way how to give my muse a good kick in the ***. LOL

    Thank you ladies for stopping by.

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  7. You are a true inspiration Jannine! I need to force my muse to get used to the idea that I'm the boss. Period. I'm happy you are getting healthy! That's bigger than all the rest. Take care of you. Congrats on all the sales!

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  8. LOL, Joanne, should you become the next Nora, you'd be calling the shots! I'm happy that you're giving yourself a little space. Reading is part of writing. Think of it as maintaining your craft.

    Often you hear from others in the writing industry that you must write something every day, whether it's a line, a paragraph, 500 words--whatever you can do. And I agree to a certain point. If I have to sit down and struggle to get a paragraph written and have no idea where I'm going with it, then I certainly will take a break.

    But, it's usually no more than 2-3 days, and I don't do it often. If I go more than 3 days, my mind begins thinkig another day without writing won't hurt. And another. Until weeks fly by, and I haven't put one word on a page. It's too easy to talk ourselves into reasons why we can't sit and write. The trick is to validate each reason. But I doubt you'll be able to. You'll see those reasons are really just excuses. The longer you stay away, the harder it is to get back into it.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  9. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Derek. And yes, it's good that writers have a plan when those dry spells hit.

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  10. Thanks, Lisa!

    I think we are all stronger than we believe. To be a writer, you have to be made of sturdy material, lol. Otherwise, this business will eat us up.

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  11. Thank you, Calisa. I certainly agree. Getting healthy is the most important thing we can do for ourselves. I wish I had seen that 25 years ago.

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  12. You are very inspiring. I know I am stronger than I thought when I had to deal with the death of my daughter and then three years have cancer surgery myself. It was my blessed muse that saved me and brought me back to sanity. I never seem to run out of ideas, but as I learn and perfect the craft, I am finding a lot of joy and making a lot of friends. My sure-fire way of pulling my muse back into speaking to me when she is quiet is to figure out what I was doing that she disapproved of and start up the Phantom of the Opera music/the movie. So far, it's never failed.

    I have four stories done and one of these days, will have enough skill and confidence to put them out there. :)

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  13. Jannine,

    What a great post. I, too, find if I take more than a couple of days off from writing then it can turn into weeks or more and then I've lost the thread of my story and have a hard time getting back into it.

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  14. Paisley:
    First of all, my sympathies on the loss of your daughter. No mother should have to bury her child.

    When I went through 10 months of chemo 25 years ago, I wrote a book. About 20 years later I pulled it out to look it over. My characters were burdened with so much anger, so much negativity. But it was good therapy to get my mind off the treatments.

    Get your stories out there. Are you entering contests? Before I was published, I used them like a critique partner.

    Good luck with your writing.

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  15. Katherine, getting back into a story after a long absence is horribly difficult. It always brought my spirit down, which made it even more difficult to write. A vicious cycle, isn't it?

    Thanks for commenting.

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  16. BTW, I will post the winner of my latest release, The Lily and the Falcon, in an ebook on Sept. 21st.

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  17. Jannine, loved the post, and reading the many posts I find it interesting how the many challenges we face, solidify our focus. Like you and many of the others here, I faced a health issue that gave me the kick in the butt I needed to get back to work. Sometimes I think the muse has to wander off occasionally, to give us time to heal and grow and settle.

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  18. I agree with you, Mackenzie. But I hate not having my muse with me all the time as it was when I was much, much younger. LOL

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  19. I don't mind telling anyone that Jannine has been a great inspiration to me both personally and professionally. She and I are now dealing with the same health issue and what she has done spurs me on to do the same. And on top of that, Charlotte and the Gypsy is an awesome book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Hope that tricky muse realizes what a good person she belongs to and comes back for a long, productive stay!

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  20. Miriam, I'm very touched. One can hold onto her experience, or she can share. I've chosen the latter, and I'm so happy that it's helped others.

    Thank you so much, my friend.

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  21. I have picked a winner for an e-copy of The Lily and the Falcon.

    Congratulations, Christine! I'll get it to you soon.

    Thank you for visiting and commenting.

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  22. I would like to thank Rachel for hosting me on her blog. It was a wonderful experience.

    And thank you to everyone who read my article and commented. And to those who read and chose not to leave a comment. I truly appreciate all of you.

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  23. What a wonderful response to Jannine fabulous, post! Thank you so much for commenting. She has picked a winner for her book and it is Christine Warner, yay!

    Jannine will contact you directly Christine - congrats!

    R x

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