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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Square Peg

I do a lot of things that seem a little out of the norm.  

None of it was planned really.  

I guess you could say I'm a real pantser, even in life.

I don't brew beer. There was a time I knew very little about it (like five years ago). Then, about five years ago, a couple of guys came to me with a six pack, a business plan and a proposal. Now, I have my own "persona" and well-known caricature ....

I never read romance novels. But someone put a book in my hand five years ago by a woman named Shayla Black (Wicked Ties. I will never forget it). And a whole new world of reading was opened to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Reader, big time. My parents used to half-joke that I would weed the garden with a book in my hand (I did). I write reviews of books actively on Goodreads. And I still prefer my "romance" tinged with realistic heat and more complex characters and plots.

The degree I earned in English Literature at the University of Louisville (Go Cards) implied that I read for days at a time for four years straight (Ok, four and a half, I had a very fun "lost semester" in there somewhere).  I can have conversations about Milton, Dante, Shakespeare, Moliere, Shaw, Blake, Austen, Bronte...the list is endless and somewhat boring. However, having come in to my own to a certain extent as an author I have a renewed respect for using many of the literary stalwarts as your guide through the minefields of "getting better."

I never dreamed of living overseas. When my spouse called me as I sat trying not to puke, coming to terms with a third, very accidental, pregnancy and said, "well I took the job in Japan," I had no clue I'd be embarking with my two and nearly three small children on a 7-year, 3-country stint as semi-professional ex-pat American. And I have channeled it accordingly.

Yet, here I sit, part owner of a successful microbrewery and beer bar, manager of staff, inventories and promotions, and asked to speak more and more about my "role as a woman in the beer industry."

I also have 20 books published now and can say that at least a few people have heard of me. And I have a shelf and head full of memories from Japan, England, Turkey and all the places we visited in between.

All of this came with a price, mind you. I no longer consider a tidy and perfectly clean house a priority like I once did. I am positive my kids can get very well fed via the delivery and carry out menus around Ann Arbor. I'm only half a believer in the power of small businesses--we only are as strong as we are willing to support one another and have been disappointed by a few in this town lately. My natural, very not-latent cynicism has been magnified a thousand fold by the eye-popping levels of professional jealousy and bizarre need for certain in the writing profession to thwart those of us merely attempting to make a living. As well as the level of ego that abides amongst even "fans" of certain famous writers and the lengths they will go to make sure "their writer" is always considered better than all others. 

Oh, and "small business owner-slash-semi-best-selling-author" implies a few things (sans the blood and gore I guess)

It's a bit of a jungle out here. But I will tell you whenever I get frustrated, unhappy, or hurt by what some folks say about me in public (or on the internet, if you consider that "public") I turn my full attention back to the brewery, which gives me a reality break, big time, moving among folks who are less concerned about tearing down the competition and more about making a great product and selling it. Oh, professional jealousy exists in the brewing industry to be sure, especially among the zillions of us scrabbling around at the bottom of the pan for scraps of drinker attention. 

And I will say without a doubt that the group affiliated with this particular blog: Romance Books 4 Us, is hands down the MOST supportive, LEAST judgmental or snarkily jealous of any I have yet encountered and for that I am ever grateful.

I like to think all these slightly less-than-normal choices I've made have allowed me to concoct stories and characters who defy the "norm" as well. There is room for it all, of course. And the plethora of authors who have gone before me are a mere testament to the fact. But as I approach 50 years old I  look back and say that I'm proud of the choices I've made, even the bad ones. And that calling my books "character driven fiction" as opposed to "romance" is probably a fairer representation of what I do. I love to experiment with styles and genres and have done the gamut of things available to me within "contemporary erotic romance." From menage, to man-love, to cougars, overt BDSM action and less obvious "themes," I do at times set these stories in less-obvious breweries.

My life has been, in a couple of words, messy and complicated--less that some, more so than many. And that translates directly to how I craft my stories and the characters in them.

 I'm on the cusp of something new as I work my way through the final novel of my best selling Stewart Realty series. I'm dealing with clear and very challenging issues of addiction and how one young man's compulsions can destroy lives, no matter how many people keep trying to love him. It has opened up options in my own head as I write and I find myself doing different things with "love scenes" (hinting at them, talking about their aftermath as opposed to the nuts and bolts of the actual act for example) and with dialogue (using fewer "tags" and making it more direct and brutally real). It's been a real trip I tell you and it has me in its grip, especially as I miss one of my characters within it desperately but since I was the one who took that person away, I guess I must deal with the consequences.

Forgive the rambling but as I am very very deep in the writing cave I tend to wax philosophical, especially as I face down my own fears about how I plan to end this thing.

Take care and happy reading, writing, drinking, or whatever it is you do that brings you joy.

(And Happy Mom's Day to those celebrating. I am by writing for 5 hours, uninterrupted while my spouse carts our son up North to his May semester Zoology class in the field. Then by going to see my first and only book boyfriend: Jay Gatsby, on the big screen. I know it's gotten meh reviews but I don't care. I can't wait to see the spectacle the way I have always pictured it)

Feel free to leave an equally rambling comment about your inspirations as an author. Or, as a reader, which authors transport you the way Fitzgerald has always done for me. (and yeah, that book contains the Death of a Major Character too).

P.S. If you have not given my Stewart realty series a shot (and I know some of you have and I thank you) you can now get the first three books (a.k.a. The Jack & Sara Trilogy) in a cool "boxed set" book bundle.


Melissa Keir said...

Happy Mother's Day Liz! I've learned one important piece over the years, if we aren't learning we are done! I believe that all the things you've done are amazing and the wealth of knowledge and growth is outstanding. I'm finding that getting better is a part of this aging process that I never knew! All the best and I can't wait to see how you write such a touchy but realistic subject. :)

Cara Marsi said...

Liz, you continue to amaze me with your talents in so many fields. Your books are emotional reads that I've enjoyed immensely. Twenty books in a short period of time! I raise a glass of beer to you for how prolific you are. Please don't worry about the trolls out there. They can't keep you down. Best of luck.

Sandy said...

Liz, do you have the boxed version at B&N, too? I have a Nook e-reader.

I can understand the rambling, as I often find myself doing the same. You've had an interesting life traveling the world and living in faraway places.

The topic you intend to write about is a difficult one, and I wish you the best with it. Society needs to address the problem more than it does.

Liz said...

Sandy, I'm not sure that it is B&N yet but it is on ARe which is in all formats, including the one for the nook. thanks

Kate Richards said...

Happy Mother's Day, Liz! We never know what life will give us, do we? Congrats on the boxed Stewart Realties.

Margaret Taylor said...

Hi Liz!

Congrats on getting to 50 and still being sane! That's a major accomplishment seeing all that you do in life...*winks*

And major congrats on 20 books. I can only hope to get there myself someday...:D I can't wait to finish up the series - bittersweet though it may be! So, write already woman! *cracks the whip* Get to it! Some of us are waiting...*taps foot*

Hugs, kisses and Happy Mother's Day. Enjoy the movie my dear.

jean hart stewart said...

Your post shows clearly what I believe, life's a wonderful adventure. We're lucky to be here for the ride.

Kenzie Michaels said...

Happy Mother's Day!! I'm completely in awe of how you manage to juggle everything:) I love your books and kudos to your success:)

And yes, I AM snarkily jealous of your success, while being supportive at the same time, and defend you from anyone who dares to try to knock you down!

Janice Seagraves said...

Happy Mother's day, Liz. You are a busy lady. Keep going while we all cheer you on. :)


Liz said...

thank you all for your support.

B.C. Brown said...

It is nice to see someone who has managed to juggle wearing many hats in their life and still manages to be a success at them all.

"Some people have heard of me..." Puh-lease, honey. lol

To me it sounds like you have just lived life, which is one thing that equates to the fact you are a good writer. Good writer's live and write.

Here, I will raise a glass of beer to you (at the same time finding out where I can get some of yours too *wink*) and toast a remarkable lady with remarkable talent.

BC Brown "Because Weird is Good."

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