Monday, August 5, 2013

Who's got your back when you get lost?

Yesterday, my gentleman friend and I set out for a hike. Our chosen quest promised beautiful wildflowers and mountain views on a moderately difficult 6.6 mile loop.

Both seasoned hikers, we packed plenty of water and snacks and studied the map and some directions from a hiking website. Things went well for the first couple miles. My gentleman friend (a freelance photographer on the side) paused often to snap pictures.

Maybe it was the frequent stops.

Maybe I was overly distracted by the views on our frequent stops.
I never tire of this view.

Whatever the reason, we took a wrong turn. Two mountain peaks marked the path along our journey, both about 5,500 feet in elevation. The one we intended to climb boasted well-marked trails, gradual ascents, and a lovely viewing platform at the top.

The other had long stretches with no trails and steep expanses of treacherously loose soil and gravel.

Guess which one we picked?

The climb up was difficult, but manageable. The climb down was downright dangerous. Then the real fun began.

"Where's the trail?" I panted as we stumbled down the side of a cliff.

"It should be over there." He paused. "I think."

I frowned. "Is that the tree where we stopped for a snack?"

"No, that's down there."

Onward we staggered, our water supply dwindling and our sense of direction becoming more twisted. Even the dog looked nervous. The later it got, the more I fretted.

I'm a worrier by nature, and it took a lot for me not to panic. My gentleman friend – admittedly as lost as I was – kept his cool. He led the way along dry creek beds aimed in the general direction we knew we should be headed. He pulled out his iPhone and used the compass to reorient us. He stayed calm even as I heard my own voice rising in fear. When I suggested we were veering too far from a plateau we'd pinpointed as a landmark, he didn't pooh-pooh my proposal go bushwhacking through the forest in hopes of discovering a clearing.

Eventually, we found our way back to the trail. We were a little battered and scraped up, and our water supply was perilously low. But we were safe. More importantly, we were still relatively jolly, never once bitching at each other or turning surly.

It called to mind my novella that's scheduled for release August 26 (though pre-order links are slated to go up this week, so watch for it here).

I wrote Eat, Play, Lust in the early summer of 2012 during what was arguably one of the lowest points in my writing career. The novel I'd written as the third in my romantic comedy contract with Sourcebooks was deemed excellent, but "not the right next book for your career." My editor and I were struggling to see eye-to-eye on what the right next book would be, and I'll admit it – I was on the brink of throwing in the towel. I was frustrated, disheartened, and ready to be done with the whole thing.

It's about as lost as I've ever felt along my publishing journey.

My amazing agent – who always seems to know exactly what to say – talked me off the ledge.

"You need to take a break and write something fun," she said. "Something to remind you why you got into writing in the first place."

"Like porn?"

"Maybe not porn. How about a novella for the Flirt line at Entangled Publishing?" she suggested, explaining that she'd already talked with an editor about me. "It's only 10,000 to 15,000 words. You can do that."

Compared to my normal 80,000-90,000-word novels, it did sound manageable. Before I knew it, I was off and running with a story about a yoga instructor with secret cravings and a hot gourmet chef with a habit of putting his foot in his mouth. The story flowed easily, and I finished in record time. More importantly, I found myself in love with the writing process again.

In other words, it was exactly what I needed when I was lost.

After that, I got back on my horse and wrote a new book for my Sourcebooks contract (now titled Frisky Business, and slated for release May 2014). And the novella with Entangled led to a separate three-book deal with them, with full-length novels now scheduled for release November 2013, March 2014, and July 2014.

All of it can be traced back to that one simple move from my agent. Instead of getting annoyed with me or allowing me to flail or rage or panic when I felt lost, she channeled all those emotions into something productive.

Suffice it to say, I'm a big believer in surrounding yourself with the right people in times of trouble. It's paid off for me more than once.

As my gentleman friend and I stumbled back to the car yesterday afternoon, we rehashed our hiking adventure.

"Do you think it was some sort of relationship test?" I asked.

"How do you mean?"

"Like to see if we got snarky with each other or started blaming one another or stomping off in opposite directions."

He laughed. "How do you think we did?"

"Pretty damn well."

"We should probably make out to celebrate," he suggested. "And then go get french fries."

Got your own story of getting back on track after stumbling around lost? Did someone have your back, or did you find your own way? Please share!

And please let me know if you'd be willing to take a turn rubbing Bengay on my legs. I'm getting too old for this.


Mary @ BookSwarm said...

I'm working on getting back on track -- too much stress at a new job last school year had me absolutely reeling second semester and through the summer. Now that school's around the corner, it's just the kick in the pants that I need to get me back on track!

And, if you don't mind me saying, I'd definitely let your gentleman friend lead, too. Nice view! *wolf whistle*

Skye said...

I'm sure there will be plenty of takers to help rub ben gay on your legs!

I'm working on getting back on track since my move back to Seattle. I lost the good, healthy habits of exercise and keeping up with paperwork and bills that I'd developed before I moved. I don't have anyone to back me up when I get off track or to help me remain calm, which is why it can take me a while to get there. But get there I eventually do. However, it's always better with a good backup team member!

erin said...

I'm working to get back on track after a long relationship just imploded :( I'm now in a new place and I know that I need to change. I'm determined not to be too hurt and stalk my ex, so wish me luck! :)

GCWilson said...

Can I rub bengay on your gentleman friend's legs? No? Bummer.

??? said...

"We should probably make out to celebrate," he suggested. "And then go get french fries."

DUDE. You had me at "make out," but the french fries made me ask, "does he have any hot male cousins or nephews?"