Do You Remember?

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Earlier this year, I accepted a new client who had never been edited before. From the start, there were problems. She couldn’t follow the payment plan, which was bi-weekly. I gave her multiple opportunities to “get it right” before she did, but I didn’t start working until she paid in full. Call me crazy, but I wasn’t about to lose money over a person who wasn’t serious and who thought everything was funny. “Oops, I’ll have to pay you in two weeks. I put the money on the wrong prepaid card. Sorry.” I’d get these messages for weeks before I said “You have to pay by this date or I’m not taking the job.”

Her “manuscript”, and I use the term so loosely, rope should be involved, was a fucking MESS. I don’t exaggerate about the written word, ever. Mess, disaster, and “manuscript from hell” are words I’d use, and did, to describe the torment of having to work for this demanding, rude, insensitive, know-it-all who’d never been edited and is going to tell me, after 20 years of experience, how long a “dirty manuscript” on a first edit should take. I know people who have taken five years to write a book they were proud of.  When it was edited a year after completion, so as to be thorough, at least they knew it wasn’t crap.

I’ve given her weekly updates, sometimes bi-weekly. I’ve done everything to be highly communicative, receiving responses like “Okie”, because apparently that’s how she spells “Okay”. Did you just empathize with me? Communicating with this person was like talking to a crash test dummy.

When I contacted her this morning to let her know that I’m moving and would complete her manuscript once I was settled in to my new place of residence, she claimed she’d given me two different deadlines that never existed. I know they didn’t exist because I never committed to a deadline, and she never specified one in the contract, or in conversation. It was 100% never discussed. I have a very sharp memory and yes, she bitched once, but I flat-out explained how much work was involved in her manuscript, and how time-consuming it was as it is not my full-time job.

Today she decided she’d prefer to part ways and “go a different road”. I returned the “dirty manuscript” with all of my notes and for the first time in 20 years, allowed myself to say “Good riddance.” I was the epitome of polite and respectful, but her demands during one of the worst years of my life and her deciding to “part ways” is a blessing. If I told you how much I got paid for this edit, you’d cry. Never again will I allow myself to be demeaned or disrespected by someone who thinks they’re the next Stephen King.

I had a moment where I felt like a failure. I have NEVER, not once, returned incomplete work to someone, but when a person is completely unwilling to work with you, to read their work before submitting it, etc., then I don’t feel it’s my responsibility, once they get vile, to do more than say “Here you go. Good luck.” Clearly she has NO idea how the industry works, what is and is not marketable, and that without a team behind me, yes, editing takes time. She said she wrote this manuscript in a few months and that “everyone who read it loved it”. It was barely a first draft, leave alone a fourth re-write. I can tell when someone is half-assing something. Even if they’re a New York Times Bestselling Author, I can tell when something isn’t properly thought out before submission.

So from here on in, I am only accepting proofreading, beta reads, and critiques. My writing focus now returns to my novels, which are quality. My creative focus will move to my career change because while I will always be a writer, I need more to keep me going. I need something daily that makes me feel like I have purpose.

A word of advice: Editors aren’t your punching bag and they don’t deserve to be shit on. If your editor is having a bad year, it’s okay to suggest moving on so that they can focus on their own life during a crisis, but it’s not okay to be a bitch to them. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated if the roles were reversed. Be respectful. Even more, if you’re barely paying them, you have no right to bitch about time unless you split everything up into chapters and allow them to work and submit chapters back to you as they complete them, because that’s when things can work in a much smoother fashion.

I highly recommend splitting your files up into chunks, perhaps a few chapters at a time, that way you’re communicating properly with the person who will be tending to your “baby”. Also, ask them to do a read-through before they edit, that way they can give you a fair price and an estimated time of delivery. Don’t freak out if the book that took you years to write takes nine months, or longer, to edit. I do a proofread, edit, fact-check, and then I double-check the work, so yes, it’s time-consuming.

The person you’re hiring is a flake only if you never see any results and never hear from them again, but a person who communicates with you regularly is being honest.

If my editor was having a bad year, I would never show them such disrespect. Shit happens, and it’s not the other person’s fault. If you want to hire a trained monkey who will kiss your ass, perhaps you should check out your local zoo.

I’ve never been so happy to delete someone’s work in my entire life. That probably sounds horrible, but at the end of the day, I shouldn’t want to remove my head off my shoulders because I was doing my job. No one should feel that way.

When someone tells me their story is SO good that it will be picked up traditionally and I’m editing it shaking my head “No, not in this lifetime.”, that means it will be 99 cents on Amazon Kindle. Granted, I’ve read some fantastic stuff for $5 or less on Kindle, but I’ve also been mortified by a lot of it.

Anyone who reads this sees my work regularly. They know I don’t eat bullshit politely with a knife and fork, and when you see my writing style, you can see that I edit it thoroughly. I’m human. I have the occasional typo, I’m quick-witted, educated, and willing to admit my faults.

Today, I say “C’est la vie.” Write what you want to write, but disrespecting an experienced, talented editor is unacceptable to me. One migraine less to think about. I’m moving on.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Praise Be Friday!

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Happy Friday everyone!
What a rough week. I am so physically, mentally, and emotionally drained that I am finding it difficult to move. Basically, it’s like any other day, but there’s the emotional component to it as well. If it were possible to sleep for 24 hours and not get a migraine from too much sleep, I wouldn’t leave my bed at all tomorrow. Unfortunately, I get tired just taking my migraine medicine, Aleve, and the enormous PN vitamin that is supposed to “give me energy” throughout the day. I didn’t know “energy” equated to “really wants a three hour nap”. They should put that on their web-site, I’m betting it would put them out of business.
I have a lot to think about & do this weekend. I’ve got work which I am sorely behind on (a few focused hours will help me catch up though. Sadly, it won’t make the work any easier.), I have some things to relocate within the house, and I absolutely MUST remember to buy candles before Tuesday afternoon. In fact, I am putting a reminder note into my phone so I don’t forget because there’s no simply excuse. There’s only so much pathetic behavior I can tolerate from myself at the moment.
There are photos to take, research to do, but ultimately, I am glad it’s the weekend and that next week is split in the middle with a day and a half for a holiday. I’m not thrilled about the emotional component, but I have to be strong and do my best. And after next weekend, we begin the month-long countdown to the ultimate yearly celebration. 🙂 It’s hard to wrap my mind around, really. My expectations are in the dirt, so by all means, do what you will to shock and surprise me. I am also looking forward to Samhain. I’m not decorating or passing out candy, but I might roast a pumpkin for myself because I’ve been thinking about pumpkin seeds for months now and I think making my own would be a good idea. I can’t really screw that up too badly, but if I feel incapable, I will buy the seeds on their own. Or I’ll settle for sunflower seeds, we’ll see.
All right lovely readers, I am off for today. Or at the very least, out of things to say. Have a fabulous weekend and enjoy the weather! Be well & safe.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Friday Musings

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Mondays bring forth a lot of stress and anxiety. Fridays? Not so much. In fact, I feel calm that the week has come to an official end. I’m looking forward to putting up a load of laundry, eating dinner, and eliminating an hour or two off my DVR.

I spent a huge portion of my week battling migraines. I was unsure if the cycle would continue, but I can say that after an exceptionally long day yesterday and going to bed early, I have mostly felt good today. Sore and achy, a little moody at times, but nothing I can’t handle. The downside of going through so much pain is that your body is pre-programmed to take the brunt of what it normally handles each day. It took me almost a full 12 hours to realize I wasn’t in agony. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing what tomorrow brings in terms of the physical side of things. 😦

I’ve struggled with some work-related things this week. I’ve had some personal breakthroughs with ideas for my work, I’ve made some career-related decisions for new creative outlets, but I am still being tormented by that manuscript. It requires so much time, it frustrates the hell out of me, so I’ve decided I will never edit for someone ever again without doing a read-through first. I refuse to price myself into a position that makes me feel used or abused.

I should be charging between $1000-$5000 per job, or more for additional development. I have tried to be incredibly fair to people, I even offer a payment plan, but the end result is that I am being unfair to myself, my time, my vision, and my skills.

When someone says “I’d like to pay you a penny per sentence and there are 10,000 sentences to go over.”, I shake my head. That’s a grave insult. Even worse, I bid on the job and didn’t get it. Yeah, that didn’t help my attitude one bit this week. Anyone that approaches with a disrespectful budget and the claim “It should only take an hour or so.” should Google the cost of minimum wage for an experienced freelance editor. I have exactly one client who I work for on an hourly basis and he thinks my hourly rate is “really reasonable”. Others are fearful of the hourly rate and even more fearful of the quote. I have an answer to that: Don’t write 100,000+ words and expect for it to be edited in a professional manner in a week for “$50 or less”. Be fair, be realistic, and don’t be disrespectful if you truly want to do business with someone.

What else occurred this week? Injury from cat’s back claws. I have absolutely NO idea why she’d think climbing over my scalp was a good idea. I tried to detach her from ripping me apart and she wouldn’t budge, so I have a long tear on the right side of my scalp under my hair down the side of my temple. The facial part isn’t even noticeable because she dug deeper into my scalp, which, thanks to my new hair color, isn’t visible. It hurt for a few days, but should be healed completely in about a week.

Yes, I said “new hair color”. When I get bored, I get dangerous. Last month I cut off a ton of hair. It was way more than I’d anticipated, far shorter than what I walked in asking for. I am still adjusting to having to put product into my hair as opposed to using Argan Oil and being able to work with my natural texture or straighten it. “Short Hair Don’t Care”? Bullshit. Shorter hair requires some finesse in order to look good. I’ve been every natural color a person can be. Blonde, a wide array of varying degrees of red and brunette, but this is my first time truly on “the dark side”. It’s only a few days old, but it is truly blue-black. My stylist refused to do it for me because my skin is on the fairer side of fair. I asked if it was “too dark” or “too Goth” and she said “Too dark.” I think she was trying to be diplomatic. Guess what? It is dark, and it’s a little Goth, but it looks fucking awesome. Ultimately, the only person who has to like it is the person that has to live with it and look at it day in and day out. Every time I look in the mirror I think “Man, this looks AWESOME. It’s so much better than I thought it would be.” Let’s hear it for listening to your inner voice and not the odd judgment of others. Everyone else is going lighter for summer, I’m going darker. Typical. Now all I need are sharper fangs to get my point across. 😉

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Quote credit: Angelina Jolie. I agree with her.

Have a great weekend everyone!

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Emerging From The Cave

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I woke up from a dream this morning that could have doubled as the weirdest movie EVER. Or a book. In fact, I’ll be writing it down later since my dreams revert back to a clearer picture within a certain amount of time. Rule #1- Never share your writing ideas.

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I’m exceptionally exhausted and in an extraordinary amount of pain. I was up late working for a client last night. I then referred her to a graphic designer, that way her product will look professional. If anyone is in need of a professional graphic designer for any number of things (banners, book covers, etc.), please let me know and I will put you in contact with her. She’s worked for Harper’s Bazaar and Disney and has been in business for 25 years. She knows her shit and can work with ANY budget. Plus, if I am going to pass business on to anyone, it’s going to be someone who I know needs the work.

All I really want is a nap. Unfortunately, I know full well that a “nap” will lead to me screwing up my sleep patterns. The storms that passed through my area last night knocked power out for a lot of people. As hideous as the sky looked, making me believe it would be an intense summer storm, there was merely some “scary to watch” lightning, a sprinkle of rain, and later on, a truly stunning sunset. If there was anything else, I missed it in between making dinner, decompressing for two hours, and then going back to work before bed (NOT a wise decision! The last thought I had was “Did she spell chili wrong on the product label!”). I’m running on fumes today, looking forward to the moment when it’s acceptable for me to simply fall into my bed.

My pain levels are off-the-charts insane. I am certain there’s a rod in my spine, that my right hip is disintegrating, and that my attitude matches how I feel. Being in pain 24/7, with no reprieve, is a challenge unto itself. If anyone would like to take it off my hands for a few weeks, I’d be happy to help you understand how real Fibromyalgia is. I am so sick of people saying that sufferers are “lazy” or “Doctors say it’s a fake disease.” I’ve got two words for that. Yes, those are the words.

I should be placed inside an insulated cave with running water, electricity, and WiFi. We’ll slap a label on me that says “Not fit for human consumption”, and I don’t mean that in a Hannibal-esque way at all.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Professional Headaches

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I am not known for my patience. If you’re not a child or a “little” (“Hello littles!” That’s how I talk to animals.), my tolerance for you is probably slim to none. God help you if slim leaves town.

People’s expectations are unreasonable, especially when I am given work that requires hours and hours of face time. There are only so many hours in a day. You can only write “rewrite” and “revise” so many times in a day. You can only make so many corrections that are crucial to the development of a story, and point out major errors before you slowly start to lose your mind. And when you do, if you’re like me, you take a few days to breathe. Unless I’m on a tight deadline, I am going to include some self-care in the mix, or I’ll kill the clients and no one wants that…or do they?

You ignore the “Is it done yet?” questions that have about as much impact as on you as “Are we there yet?” You try not to say what you really think and feel. You wait a few days and then you respond as professionally as humanly possible, but how many times do you really need to say “Please, let me work. This is way more than what I signed on for.” to the same person? How many times do you have to repeat yourself about how they should have read their work in advance of sending it to you? Yet, perhaps it’s nerves, impatience, what have you, but it is fucking annoying to constantly be asked the same damn questions. I’m exceedingly mature, so when people far older than I are immature, it’s an immense turn off, be it personally or professionally.

If you give me something and ask me to read it, be prepared for an honest answer when you inevitably ask “Is it good?” I used to ask people if they wanted my opinion or the truth, and to be careful with their choice. I no longer ask because whether it’s one or the other in terms of delivery, it is still the unadulterated truth. Dunkin Donuts and I have not teamed up to sugar coat your day. Mmm, donuts…

Editors still have lives. I work hard, but when I need a break it is usually due to my health or personal responsibilities. I cannot be glued to my laptop 24/7 looking at the same material every single moment. One, it’s not healthy and two, it’s important to get up and move when you work at a computer all day. Sitting is the new cancer, at least according to the medical professionals I know. I don’t know about all of you, but it makes me uncomfortable hearing the two words used together, so it’s not uncommon for me to walk away and do a load of laundry, or cook, watch the birds and bunnies in the backyard for a while, or simply shut the computer down for a few hours and focus on other things. I’m human. Moreover, I’m a human-being who suffers from Fibromyalgia. The days I can sit at all are miraculous. My pain gets worse each day, so I’m not receptive to whining from others.

I can either do something right the first time or not do it at all. If you consistently annoy me, you can pretty much guarantee I will be unavailable for future projects. I’ve already done enough work for 20 paychecks, not one. It’s hard not to be frustrated knowing that.

For future reference, too many people think they’re writers. Puking ideas onto paper does not make you a writer. Cohesive storytelling is a gift. Having honest people in your life who encourage the good and let you know when something is awful is also important.

There are days I wish I was an unprofessional hack. 😦

For those of you that messaged me about cutting off so much of my hair: I am almost certain today that it’s too short and I hate it, but I am trying to give myself time to get used to it. In turn, I am off to play with the Topstyler and see if that makes a difference. If it doesn’t, I am changing the color to blue until it grows back. Right now I am pretty sure I look like my brother with hair. 😦

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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To Cut Or Not To Cut

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In editing, I spend a lot of time “cutting out the crap”. Endless amounts of time are spent, weeding through words, cutting what does not mesh well, making everything cohesive in the end. Flow is important when it pertains to writing. In fact, it is crucial. A successful manuscript isn’t always about the first draft, but the finished product.

As an experienced editor, I know when to cut something in my own work. If that means deleting an entire chapter, five words, or only keeping key elements of the chapter and re-writing, then I do that. That which is best for the overall body of work is what I am going to do, even if it’s slightly upsetting/heartbreaking in the moment. I also keep a few files for paragraphs and/or chapters/characters that are well-written, but might work differently with something else or fit better in another spot. Sometimes, you don’t have to cut something entirely, and other times, you do. It’s trial and error.

I feel content with the amount of work I’ve done over the last few weeks. I still have the killer manuscript. My goal is to focus on the manuscript as much as humanly possible until it is completed. Should additional smaller jobs pop up, I will work on them because they’re immediate and don’t require as much face time as the manuscript needs, but ultimately I want to get this big one done.

Because I’ve worked my ass off, I am excited to say I cut something else entirely today. Rather than trekking into the city (New York people, I will never refer to any other place as “the city”.) to see my usual stylist, I went to my local stylist and chopped off more than half of my hair as a “reward” for working so hard and not having the time to do “me things” as often as I’d like. I wanted to do it last Friday, but she was off and I wasn’t able to make it there on Sunday which is the start of her work week. So, I went this afternoon. My hair was at my waist, it now sits above my shoulders with a mess of really cool layers in it. It’s going to take some time to get used to it, but it feels amazing. I cannot remember the last time my hair was so short that I couldn’t put it in a pony-tail, braid, a clip, or twist it into something cute. I suspect I’ll be using the TopStyler on a regular basis now that it’s so short. Beachy waves will look great with this cut. Bring on the salt spray!

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Blame It On The Pain

I hate the color red.

UGH! Yes, that’s what I have to say. I’m tired, because apparently “crack of dawn” in my house means “We’re all awake Mommy! Don’t you want to feed us?” Mmm…not so much. LOL.

After truly forcing myself to get things done yesterday, today barely feels like a Sunday. It is quiet, thankfully, and there’s supposed to be a thunderstorm later on. At the very least, rain is predicted for the first half of the week, so I’m content with that because it explains a lot of my aches and pains. The rest is from overdoing it. The mileage I clocked on my pedometer over the last few days is insane.

I completed all of my jobs, except for the big one. I will focus on that this week, as much as humanly possible. I hope additional work comes in, especially proofreading and anything else that isn’t mind-numbing and/or soul-sucking. The faster the job, the faster I get paid, and that makes my life slightly easier in the moment, which is a huge help.

Today I am allowing myself to take it easy. I’m in clean PJ’s with wet hair, I already did a load of laundry, and I completed 95% of the prep for Sunday dinner. Everything else can wait until later or tomorrow because “rush” isn’t in my vocabulary at the moment.

For now I think it’s safe to say that I have some things I want to accomplish going into this week, but beyond that, I can only take things on a day-to-day basis. My pain has escalated to the point where my daily activities revolve around how much pain I am in. I have been off of traditional prescription pain medication for over two years now. For every doctor that assumes we are all drug-seeking addicts: SCREW YOU. Living my life each day with little to no access to genuine pain relief is agonizing. I do take Eastern medicine when I am able because herbs work when taken properly, but through trial and error I have come to decide that the new herbs for lower body pain is not something that should be taken each night. I’ve had several episodes where the combination of different compounds made me sick for a good 24 hours after taking it. So seen, even some herbal remedies have their side effects. Acupuncture is next on my list. No, I am not afraid of needles. In fact, I barely register that sort of thing because the pain I am in each day is so severe, little things simply don’t show up on my physical radar.

I am hoping this will not be a summer chock full of migraines. I am strongly considering starting a new migraine journal if things get out of hand again. I do have medication for that which can be taken daily, but it’s horrible to start during the summer because one of the side effects is that you MUST drink at least 120 ounces of water every single day and the second is that you don’t sweat. It’s not a good combination of immediate side effects during rough summer conditions, so I might start it again in September when things start to cool down and I am able to focus on the dosing. I’ll have to download an app for my phone because it is all too easy for me to forget whether or not I took medication each morning. With tiny pills, I often find it easier to forget as opposed to the monster pills that you simply cannot forget. Odd, but true for me.

I hope everyone has had a delightfully restful weekend. I’m off to take a nap. I woke up WAY too early this morning and since I haven’t been sleeping well, I’m not going to beat myself up because I need to rest. In the words of my Uncle: It is what it is.

I’ll be back with more interesting things soon.

XO…L

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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It’s usually 4:00 a.m., I’m lucky if it’s 5:30 or later. The enchantingly beautiful cat and kitten are featured on the ABOUT page.