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writing process | Author Olivia Boler

Author Olivia Boler

writing is fun
October 31st, 2013

It’s Nano Time!

Yesterday was kind of a landmark in the world of me. I finished a draft of my latest novel that seemed good enough to show someone other than my imaginary friend who follows me around all day. (Her opinion is one I don’t really trust—sometimes she’s like a hype man, other times…) Anyway, this is, I’d say, the fourth draft of this book I’ve been tinkering with on and off—mostly off—for ten years. It’s about two sisters who run a tearoom and their ups and downs in the romance department. I sent it off to my friend whose judgment I actually do trust—always important to have one of those.

Now I’m kind of dangling here. What should I do next? Well, it just so happens that tomorrow is the start of Nanowrimo. Honestly, I thought I’d miss it this year, that I would still be caught in the happy cloud of Nora and Rainey, the protagonists of the tearoom novel. So, I’m a tad thrown off to be at loose ends. There are plenty of them hanging about just begging to be tied up—like that prequel to The Flower Bowl Spell I’ve talked about. I do believe it’s time to give that a dusting off, just in time for November’s 50,000-word goal. Who’s with me? My Nano handle is livyink. Hope to see you there!

Oh, and have a happy and safe Halloween—and by safe, I mean, don’t pig out on too much candy. It’ll cause a rash.


July 17th, 2013

Yes, I’m Still Here

Hard to believe it’s been over two months since I’ve posted. Trust me, my intentions have been to give some updates, but I seem to have forgotten how to write anything witty or interesting. Hang on…It’s coming back…I need brain yoga for creative flow!

There isn’t much on the book front, nothing really concrete that I’m ready to share, anyway. I’ll just be cagey and say I hope to have some good news soon…The Flower Bowl Spell got a really nice review from ForeWord Reviews online. Click here if you want to read it. Yes, I do write reviews for them too; however, we are all freelancers and I don’t personally know any of their other reviewers. Actually, this is what happened: I’d entered their Book of the Year Awards 2012 contest, but got disqualified since I write reviews (Should have figured that out, right?). They offered to do an online review instead. A total no brainer. I got some feedback from a few people who have read the review via Goodreads or on my blog, saying they would check out my book. Huzzah!

On the personal front, I went to my college reunion in May, and took my daughter with me. It was our first trip with just the two of us, and we had a lot of fun. We also visited friends and relatives on the East Coast so that was a bonus. In June, my family and I went to Hong Kong to visit more relatives and see the places my mother used to frequent in her formative years. Sweltering, muggy heat, but what are you gonna do?


A conversation started at the American Girl Bistro outside Boston
(my daughter’s response: “Why would I tell you that?”)
HK skyline
The Hong Kong skyline
star ferryThe Star Ferry in Hong Kong

Summertime ushers my kids into camp and other fun activities. It also means some of my freelance gigs slow down, so I’ve spent more time getting some rough drafts into shape. Scrivener software has been more useful than I ever imagined. The tutorial was really helpful—I don’t think I could have just plunged in and started using it without going over that—but that’s just me.

I hope all of you are having a marvelous summer. And I promise not to let two months go by without any news. Pinky promise.


November 1st, 2012

First Day of NaNoWriMo 2012

I wrote 1,692 words today on the sequel to The Flower Bowl Spell. I have a few thousand more words already written, but I wanted to start the month and the event fresh—no cheating. Not yet, anyway. I anticipate there will be days when I’m not up to the task of writing the daily target of  1,667 words. There will be days, like the last few, when I’ll even wonder why I’m still pursuing this whole writing thing. I don’t have an agent. I don’t win awards. My books have received decent reviews, and for that I’m grateful.


It’s that kind of annoying interior struggle of a lifetime (not to be all dramatic), this truthful wish that I can’t shake to be a “real writer.” The hard fact is I am a real writer, just not in the category (full-time fiction!) I’d like. Still, I have NaNo, and if you don’t know what that is, click here to find out more. Maybe you can have Nano too. If you do decide to give it a try, my become one of my writing buddies. I’m livyink.

August 20th, 2012

The Saddle

Today is the first day of school for my oldest, and my youngest is off with his grandma, and I’m back in the saddle. Or am I?

I’ve cleared my freelance docket and have a quiet moment. I could be writing. I could be revising. Instead, I’m getting to the little things that need to be done, but really, could wait until a bit later…bills, prescription refills, digital photo organizing, updating the blog. It’s all important of course, and my butt is in the chair, yet it’s not really a Butt in Chair (BiC) do-the-damn-work moment. It’s an ahem, ahem, throat-clearing one.

And that’s OK. Those are allowed. Take my upcoming reading at Phoenix Books in San Francisco a week from today (that would be Monday, August 27, 2012, if you want precision). I need to figure out an excerpt that’s appropriate. As author Dina Santorelli pointed out in a recent post, you want something that’s exciting, but doesn’t give too much away. and that’s not always the novel’s opening.

So, I’m in the saddle, yes. Not quite at a trot. More of a slow amble.  I know it’s not New Year’s, but it’s the beginning of the School Year, and I’m making a resolution! I resolve to put my writing at the top of the To Do List everyday, and not beat myself up if it doesn’t quite happen.


April 10th, 2012

Hey, Jealousy!

Back in the day, I wrote a lot of book reviews for a major newspaper. Not a whole lot, but with some regularity. I developed a relationship with the book review editor there. Then, he left, taking a golden handshake. The new editor threw me a few bones. But eventually, he stopped. I’d send friendly emails now and then, letting him know I was available. Not one reply. “Well,” I told myself. “That’s that then.”

About a year later, I noticed that the author of the last book I critiqued for this publication had published a book review there. Hm, I thought. That’s interesting. Guess the new editor who had chosen to ignore me liked her. A few months later, another of her reviews appeared. And then another.

Today, there was a review in that very same newspaper about a new book by an author I’ve long admired. I glanced at the reviewer’s name. Guess who? Yup—the last author I had reviewed there! An author whose chosen subjects and themes have very little to do with the subjects and themes of my favorite author. Well, what did I do? I’ll tell ya!

I saw green.

I decided I sucked. As a writer. And a reviewer. And a person.

At the same time, I knew I could have written that review. I knew that my review would have been just as good, if not better. Maybe it would have won an award or gotten the notice of and a big appreciative laugh from Anthony Lane. I wondered where I had gone wrong in life, what had led me down this path of obscurity and mediocrity. When I was 30, I had so much promise! Ten years later, what have I done wrong?

But,  I didn’t wallow for long. I couldn’t. I had to get dinner on the table for my kids. And I had a blog post to write, a certain rant about those doubts that are always there, even as they get shaken loose a little by the need to monitor the boiling water for chicken tortellini.



January 13th, 2012

That Scary Next Step

So, here’s my progress report on releasing my novel into the world, like a baby bird that has just learned to fly:

  • I have gone through all of my copy editor’s edits.
  • I have the cover.
  • My sister-in-law/photographer sent me a link to the photos she took, and out of 58, I have to narrow it down to 5 (so far, I like more than that).
  • I need to write my acknowledgments page—and have someone proofread it (and make sure that someone is included).

Then it’s time to upload it! I’ve only read through the Smashwords style guide once, and I’ve barely glanced at Amazon’s, so those are two major tasks that need doing.

This might be a good time to mention that I’m quietly freaking out a little bit here. I’m like that. I’m not one of those people who says, “OK, my ducks are in a row, so let’s take that next step!” and then goes ahead and does it. I hem. I haw. I ask the question, “Are you sure the ducks are in a row? Maybe they need a little adjustment? Perhaps they aren’t lined up precisely so?” And I don’t actually do anything about rectifying this. Not right away. Instead, I run errands, do chores, take on a freelance project, write a blog entry, read a book, or watch TV. (In my defense, some of these things need to get done!) Because the moment for taking that next step doesn’t feel…quite right. To be more frank, it’s scary. When I send my baby bird (or duck) out into the world, it’s all on me whether it flies or falls (that is to say, has a major typo, formats weirdly, etc.). Such is the nature of indie publishing. I know what I need to do. I just. Have. To. Do. It.

October 18th, 2011

Finding the energy for NaNoWriMo

Thinking about blogging is my new favorite pastime, because actually sitting down to blog has become rather a challenge. I’ve been working a lot lately or taking care of volunteer projects, and I have to say, being this tired…this will make some of you roll your eyes, but I’ve never been this tired. I cannot come up with witty repartee, or the niceties of polite small talk. All my energy goes into not crashing the car or giving into road rage while shuttling my kids to and fro however many times a day.

My mother, a hardcore yogi, says I need to do some yoga, that it will rejuvenate me, but the idea of making the time to do, never mind the money to pay for, such lavish luxuries stresses me out. I walk my dog instead, and my heating pad has been getting a nice workout across my shoulders, where the weight of my small world rests.

It’s been quiet on the creative writing front. Haven’t had anymore news (i.e. rejection), and haven’t had the time or energy to send out queries or write something new. I look forward to Nanowrimo, probably putting way to much stock into what I’ll get out of it, but every year, I look to it like it’s a writerly binge diet. I know that this is not a good sign, but it will have to do. If you don’t know, Nanowrimo is an annual November event, National Novel Writing Month, in which writers around the world pledge to write 50,000 words of a novel (or whatever?) manuscript in 30 days. That’s about 1,667 words a day, folks. I did it once, reaching over 50K (the first draft of the witch novel I’m now “shopping around”), and got to about 13,000 words and 8,000 words in other years. I plan to work on the sequel. Whoo hoo!

Who will join me? Really, typing with the heating pad across your shoulders is not that difficult!

September 27th, 2011

Magic Yoga

Last week, someone I know pretty well was in a terrible accident and is now in the hospital. I spent that entire day and most of the next few days processing what had happened, talking to friends, thinking about what life would be like for my family if something awful happened to one of us.

There was lots of adrenaline in my system, and the only reason I know this is because I’ve read A Discovery of Witches and the main character is always freaking out about her magic powers and excess adrenaline is always making her snap, crackle, and pop, literally. To get the adrenaline out of her system, you’d think she’d do magic, right? No. Like all good witches, she resists her natural-born powers. Instead, she rows, runs, and practices floaty, magical yoga. I barely do regular yoga, and running and rowing might as well be hang-gliding and parachuting. But I do walk my dog and listen to podcasts of NPR shows.

While we walked, I listened on my iPod to Tom Perrotta talk about his new book The Leftovers (which, BTW, sounds amazing), and about how tragic events like 9/11 (that’s been on my mind, of course, wow, can’t believe it’s been 10 years), which are so big and raw when they occur tend to fade into history (except for those directly affected, naturally). I thought about how raw I felt after this person’s accident, about how the world—at least, my tiny world—turned upside down.

When I got home from our walk, I sat at my desk, opened up a new document file, and began typing…Just a couple of paragraphs, but within minutes, I noticed something. I had stopped holding my breath. My heartbeat seemed steadier. My vision was more focused. Tragedy wasn’t yet a story, but it was the beginning of something. I know this event will fade into my personal history, but not before it becomes my fiction. Writing may not be magic yoga, but it’s even better, because with writing I can invent my own version of magic yoga. And sometimes I can even figure out how to deal with sadness.

September 17th, 2011

Reading Food

I used to love to cook, and I still do, when things go right. I had binders full of cooking magazines at one point, mostly Cooking Light, but a few copies of Gourmet, Saveur, among others. Cooking was a grand experiment that needed to get done. These days, more often than not, it’s a jar of spaghetti sauce poured over pasta and—voila!—dinner is served. It’s a good thing my kids like it.

I read Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone years ago when it first came out, and I had her sign my copy when I used to attend book readings like a devout. She reminds me of my mother-in-law, and that is a compliment to both of them—thick dark hair, New York accents, smart women about the same age. Her book was wonderful—funny and easy to relate to—but I didn’t pick up any of her others. Just too busy. Recently I heard her on a Fresh Air (NPR) podcast talking about the memoir she wrote about her mother, and Terry Gross (love her!) asked for a couple of recipes. One, Spaghetti Carbonara, sounded so easy, I thought, Screw you, jar of sauce! Tonight I cooked it. It was so good, I have to share it. Click here to get the recipe.

If I could throw together a novel like I threw together that Carbonara, I’d be one happy camper. So easy, so tasty! Big pat on the back. Not to put too much of a stretch on this blog post, but for me, writing is a bit like cooking—it’s necessary, but it can be so easy to just open a jar of sauce and half-ass it. Cooking good food doesn’t have to be so hard, and really, either does writing. Each is a process that should be enjoyed and savored, and they should pass in a blink, really. They can consist of a few simple and fresh ingredients, and at the end they don’t have to be all that pretty (beauty’s in the eye of the beholder and all that). The results of writing, like cooking, should be something you like, that satisfy your hunger. Something that you can feel good about having worked on yourself.

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