2019 was a year of personal growth and reflection. I understood, finally, what it would take for me to get to where I want to go — and what I must do to get there. Commit to learning more about Amazon ads and other book marketing strategies. Reintroduce a dedicated writing time into my day and stick to it. Run early in the morning … before the sun rises. Take time off to play and rejuvenate. Not be so hard on myself. Some of those won’t be easy or comfortable. Some I don’t really want to do. But sometimes changing your life means changing your habits, and that’s downright scary. [Read more…] about Off the Grid in 2020
What if I could get up a few minutes earlier to write? What if I met that one person who’d love me just as I am? Or what if I could get ten more likes on Facebook? What if I could just be more like…
What if has been ‘killing’ me lately. With the release of my next book now just three weeks away, doubt is creeping in and trying to have its way. I’m asking myself why it took so long to write this book? What bad habits got in my way? Did I have the right mindset? And while those questions may be important, there’s something else going on. I’m comparing myself to others — especially other artists who are farther ahead, and more successful — on their journey than I am.
The Comparison Conundrum
As a writer, it’s hard not to compare myself to others … even when I know I shouldn’t. But I want to be successful and productive. That always has me looking to others to see how they work and if there’s something in their routine and habits that may help me. What if I were like Somerset Maugham, who set a daily requirement of 1,000-1,500 words?1 What if I could be like Igor Stravinsky and work without a break from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm? 2
The thing is … I’m not Maugham, Stravinsky or anyone else. I’m me. And the best I can do is remember that it’s always been for me more about the journey than the destination. I’m doing the best that I can, with the time that I have, to focus on what matters.
Banish ‘What if’ from Your Vocabulary
Asking ‘What if’ is a sure way to let doubt into your life so it can have its way. It doesn’t change where you are or how you got there. It only makes you forget all that you have achieved and how far you’ve come. Remove it from your vocabulary to maintain control and focus on what matters.
Set your goal and get about the business of doing it. Don’t worry about how others are doing or what they think. Be yourself and enjoy the journey.
Do you ever find yourself asking, ‘What if…?’ How do you cope with the feelings that it evokes? Any strategies you’d like to share? Click Reply to let me know. I love hearing from you!
Coming November 21, 2019
When Scott Davenport moves into the university dormitory, it’s time to start over.
Free from his overprotective and ‘devout’ mother, he’s hungry for love and eager to chase dreams that are, perhaps, wrapped up in uncertain ambitions. Frustrated with the other students who don’t understand him and unable to ground himself in the new city he calls home, it’s a chance meeting with Troy Muir — his mild-mannered and attractive dormmate across the hall — that forges an unexpected yet powerful friendship. So close, so committed to each other, they can’t envision a future where they’re apart … until two life-altering events have them challenging deeply held assumptions about each other and themselves.
Raw and rich in emotion, Broken Man Broke is a thought-provoking coming-of-age story about identity and belonging. Lopés reminds us that not everyone sees us for who we are and that sometimes — amid the chaos threatening to destroy us — we’re not sure who we are or what we stand for.
A couple of weeks ago, I received my editor’s critique of my latest manuscript. I’d been waiting for it, eager to get this particular book project moving again. As I digested all the comments — good and bad — I stalled. I didn’t know where or how to begin. Then I started second-guessing myself, that maybe this wasn’t as good of a story as I thought it was. Would anyone be interested in reading it? Then I hit rock bottom and thought … maybe, I should chuck it all.
I’d let the drama from the page spill over into life. Taking a step back, I realized my editor was doing his job. As always, he hit on all the big-ticket items — character and plot development, structure, continuity, story arc, theme development, repetition and plot holes. Even before having the manuscript edited, I’d tried to address some issues that had been raised with regard to my previous books: Make the main character more likable. Give the reader a happier ending. Explain what motivates an action so that the reader isn’t blindsided by the reaction.
That would, no doubt, make the book more popular, accessible en masse.
From the beginning, I knew that this book wasn’t going to fit snugly in any one genre, and that that might make it harder to market. The word on the street was that it needed a near-total rewrite, or it risked only receiving 1-star reviews. And there is room for improvement. My editor offered many great insights that will help make the story better.
Strangely, this time around his questions and comments had me wondering if making something ‘popular’ meant ‘dumbing-it-down’ to the level of a ten-year-old. I believe readers are smarter than that and deserve better. Or am I wrong?
Worse still, it felt like I was moving in the opposite direction of my dream instead of closer to it. The terrifying part? I wasn’t sure who’s story I’d be writing anymore — mine or someone else’s.
All I know at this point is that I must trust my art.
I let myself wallow in self-pity for about a day, tempted to ditch it all — not just the book, but writing. All because a familiar question, when doubt reared its ugly head, poked at me: what’s the point?
I’d forgotten my why. Writing is why I’m here on earth, my purpose. And I’m doing it — challenging norms and breaking the rules — to, I hope, change the world, make it a better place … be a beacon of hope. That is my why to life, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
We know that in this life, not everyone is going to like what we create and share with the world. But when you know your why — and are living it — it’s time to stop giving a f*ck about what other people think. Living your why, you’re not compromising your truth or your character. You’re being who you are. Stand up and take a bow.
This is your life, your mission.
Embrace it and your why.
Then roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Are you living your why? Click Reply or leave a comment in the section below. I’d love to hear from you!
I didn’t always want to be a writer.
Actually, that’s not true. I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a writer. Growing up in a fairly religious household (staunch is, perhaps, the more apt word) and possessing a natural talent for the piano, I was encouraged to use my gift for the ‘Glory of God.’ So, I did … use my ‘gift,’ and spent my childhood and adolescence playing in church. And much to the dismay of the church elders! When I sat down at the piano, I could almost hear their moans and groans of disapproval before my fingers touched the keys. I had a penchant for doing the unthinkable: rearranging classic hymns like ‘How Great Thou Art,’ ‘Amazing Grace’ or ‘There’s Power in the Blood.’ I was doing something that — to my parents’ chagrin — came naturally to me. I was breaking the rules.
Although music dominated my formative years, I was a closeted writer. I wrote stories in notebooks and journals, which I hid under my bed. Returning to Canada after studying for eight months in Nice, France, that was when I realized writing — more than music — was my passion. And I gave myself over to it.
I quickly discovered that writing is a messy affair and that the road to success is paved with many obstacles (and rejection letters) along the way. But I wouldn’t be dissuaded. Despite how daunting the writing life could be, I knew it was my calling. And I had to heed the call.
So, I wasn’t surprised when, in the early part of 2005, I sat down and wrote a story about rules that mirrored my own life. My late teens to early twenties were turbulent years, and I needed rules to govern my daily life and to ground me. Those rules were … unbreakable. And that story, published in September 2005 and entitled, “Malachi and Cole,” later became my first published novel, Freestyle Love.
When Freestyle Love hit the electronic bookstores in 2011, I hoped for a bestseller. That didn’t happen. And that disappointed. I thought I’d written a good book. After all, I’d worked hard on the manuscript — editing, reediting and editing some more. The publisher told me they loved the story and asked for very few changes. The reviews — some good, some (many) not so good — had me doubting my talent as a writer. The book limped to a slow death, and was pulled from online when the rights reverted back to me five years later.
During those five years I kept writing, working to hone my skills. I read books on writing to find anything of value to help me become a better writer. I had also written another novel, and began researching what it would take to self-publish. So, I decided to go the self-publishing route with The Flowers Need Watering, which is available on Amazon.
I learned a hard lesson with Freestyle Love, one that I wouldn’t repeat with The Flowers Need Watering: the importance of a professional editor. In reviewing the manuscript for The Flowers Need Watering, my editor hit on all the big-ticket items — character and plot development, structure, continuity, story arc, theme development, repetition and plot holes. He didn’t only point out what wasn’t working, but also what worked well. Through that process I realized something else. Maybe Freestyle Love, despite what I thought at the time, wasn’t my best effort. Now I knew I could do better. So, I decided to try.
Taking it to the Next Level
Everything He Thought He Knew is a complete rewrite of Freestyle Love that has been through two rounds of vigorous editing by Dave Taylor of thEditors.com. I am eternally grateful for his insights and wisdom.
Throughout my writing journey, I’ve often felt ‘caught’ (Caught was the original title of Freestyle Love before publication) between the life expected of me and the one I imagined. Malachi Bishop and Cole Malcolm may or may not be caught by something more sinister: the idea of true love and its sure path. Malachi, a writer and professor of creative writing, is a rigid — even awful — man paralyzed by a long-held grief knotted around his heart. He is, perhaps, not the most likeable protagonist, but it’s my sincere hope that he is a real one. Cole, a successful management consultant, is older and unafraid of the things that love is all about. Everything He Thought He Knew tells a story of two men caught by love and betrayed by it. It is a journey of self-discovery that forces Malachi and Cole to confront their present and their past, bringing into question the larger fantasies of home and their place in the world.
Everything He Thought He Knew doesn’t guarantee the normative happily ever after ending of the romance genre. My hope is that it transcends it.
Ottawa, six years ago
THIS WAS IT. THE moment he’d been preparing for his entire life. The end of introspection and self-flagellation. Yet it felt … surreal. He still didn’t believe it was happening, despite the evidence around him. The boxes stacked around the room. The walls stripped bare, dotted with holes where the IKEA print of New York taxi cabs, and framed photos of Toni Morrison and his other celebrity friends used to hang.
He remembered every moment that had played out here. He remembered the laughter. He remembered collapsing onto the chocolate-brown leather sofa as he read, and reread, the letter confirming his first novel had been accepted for publication. He remembered the sweaty, breathless sex on the sofa, the floor, in the shower. Rarely the bed. A past he’d carry close and into the future.
Yes, this was it. The moment when he felt, finally, like he’d become a man.
The commotion outside broke his reverie. Malachi Bishop bounced off the sofa, crossed the room and pushed open the balcony doors. The thumping music, the shouting and the skunky smell of burnt leaves rushed at him. Proof that it was Friday night and all bets were off. He couldn’t wait to be free from it all.
Jenna, Malachi’s silver-haired neighbour, leaned over her railing. “I’m tired of you druggies acting like you’re the only ones who live here!” she barked. “You need to learn the meaning of respect.”
“Respect this!” a guy with blue hair shouted back from the balcony below and flipped her the bird.
“Oh, no you didn’t…” Jenna stood up straight. “That’s the final straw. Now I’m calling the police.” She turned to go inside but froze when she spotted Malachi. “Do you believe those two?”
Malachi, watching the scene unfold below, stepped back from his balcony’s railing and raised his hands defensively. His message was clear: leave me out of it.
“This is a good, family-oriented neighbourhood,” she lamented. “Or at least it was until those jackals moved in.”
“We’re on our balcony,” the blue-haired guy spat. “We can do as we fucking please.”
“And the language,” she said, indignant.
His fellow ‘jackal’ turned around slowly, blew out a large cloud of smoke and looked up. “Hey, Malachi! You wanna come down for a drink?”
Malachi bristled. They’d never been introduced, so how did the guy know his name? Despite how ‘liberal’ Malachi considered himself to be, he didn’t voluntarily associate with guys who had tattoos covering their arms and multiple piercings. Did he read my book? Is that how he knows me? Not really knowing what to say, Malachi swallowed hard. When he caught the woman’s accusatory look, as if he were in collusion with their free-spirited neighbours, he grimaced. “No. No, thanks. I’ve got some work to do.” He raced back inside, sliding the balcony doors closed with an unintentional bang.
He returned to the sofa and chuckled. He could still hear his disgruntled neighbour repeating her threat to call the police, that was until the music was cranked up even louder. He tried to block it out as he packed up the DVDs piled on the coffee table. Just then the phone rang and he jumped. He raised himself up slightly and reached for the phone wedged between the DVDs and a stack of literary journals. “Hello,” he said, falling back into the sofa.
“I’m running late,” Taylor Blanchard said.
“Where are you?” Malachi asked.
“Still at the office. I started reading your book after my last class and I haven’t been able to put it down. God, Damien is a freakin’ prick. I don’t understand why Ryan hasn’t left his sorry ass.”
“Hurry,” Malachi said.
“I will. I’m almost done with this chapter. I should be home in about twenty minutes. But is everything all right?”
“Yes. I just can’t wait to see you.” Even after three years of dating, they still acted like new lovers who couldn’t get enough of each other. That first kiss when Taylor arrived home from work set off an atomic explosion of passion that had them naked almost instantly. They talked with an intimacy that, in many ways, scared them because neither of them had felt so connected to anyone else before.
“I’ll hurry,” Taylor said.
That made Malachi laugh. Ever since their first date, Taylor was always running late. It turned out to be a good thing. Malachi learned to practice patience.
“Should I pick something up for dinner?” Taylor asked.
“No. Well, maybe.” Malachi paused. “It depends…”
“Depends on what?” Taylor sounded concerned.
“Your mother called,” Malachi said quickly, as if expelling some evil force.
“What’s the crisis this time?”
“No crisis. She’s invited us over for dinner.”
“Tonight?” Taylor sighed. “I’ll call her. I’ll say we already have plans.”
“That’s what you told her last week,” Malachi said, curbing his urge to laugh.
“You want to have dinner with my mother? Fine. But we’re not telling her we bought a house.”
“You and your mother have too many secrets.”
“You’ve met the woman, right? I didn’t imagine that.” There was a brief silence. “You know what she’s like, and I’m not in the mood for the great inquisition. ‘A house? How can you afford a house? What bank would give you a mortgage? I still don’t know how you afford the car…’ Christ, my ears are already ringing.”
Malachi grinned. “She might surprise you.”
“God, you’re cute.” Taylor chuckled. “And I love you.”
“Now you’re changing the subject,” Malachi said coolly.
“Yes, I am. I’ll be home soon. We can talk about it then.”
“Yes, we will.”
“See you soon, beautiful man.” Taylor hung up.
Malachi tossed the phone back onto the coffee table. It was a week after the publication of his second novel, and they were excited about their recent home purchase. It took them five months to find the perfect house. Some were too small, most were too expensive, and the rest were too far from the city. And then they struck gold — a three-bedroom house on Regent Street in the section of town known as the Glebe. Immediately they saw themselves laughing and sharing Malachi’s famous veal scaloppini and sweet potato gnocchi with their friends in the cosy dining room. It’d be so easy for them to manoeuvre about the airy kitchen as they cooked together. Then every evening wrapped up in each other on the sofa in the spacious living room. They’d each have their own office, and everything else they’d need — banks, coffee shops, grocery stores — were just minutes away on foot. Perfect. It was just perfect.
He smiled as he thought about Taylor and how he’d let himself be swept off his feet. He loved the way Taylor searched him out when he came home, taking him into his arms in a crushing embrace. His protector. His strength. His refuge. Malachi loved the way Taylor looked at him as though he was the only person in the world who mattered. He loved the tenderness of Taylor’s touch, his spirit of generosity, his patience.
When it came to Evelyn Blanchard, Malachi thought Taylor needed to engage some of that patience. He’d lost his own mother even before she died. He let go of her without making any attempt at reconciliation. Taylor, if he were open to it, had the chance to be better than him, to not let silly misunderstandings separate him and his mother. Then again, perhaps Malachi would have been just as annoyed if his mother had dotted over him the way Evelyn did Taylor. What would it be like to be the sole, and beloved, prodigal son? Malachi cringed.
His eyes roamed the books, stacked on the floor next to the coffee table, which he’d yet to pack. Sometimes it felt like a dream, but he knew this was real. He’d been caught up in his studies when Taylor came into his life and turned his world upside-down. Living in Ottawa, Malachi did what everyone else did. He joined the civil service and tried to shape a career he wasn’t sure he wanted. All the while he kept writing, and Taylor championed his work. As he searched for meaning in a world filled with competing priorities, Taylor let him know what was truly important. When he was paralysed by long periods of self-doubt, Taylor reminded him of his worth. He needed that gentle handling now, especially after reading Jason Miller’s harsh review of his novel in the local paper: Bishop’s rushed follow-up to his greatly overrated one-hit wonder, All I Do Not Know is True, is little more than a pretentious, predictable money grab. Clearly, Bishop is more concerned with proving how smart he is than in telling a good story. He longed for Taylor to walk through the door and take him into his arms, hold him safe … and maybe even track down Jason Miller and slash his tires.
This apartment … it was where his adult life began on that humid August day when they’d moved in and built a home together. Sweaty and exhausted from hauling furniture up three flights of stairs, they sat on the sofa eating a Domino’s pizza and sharing a bottle of Black Tower riesling. They were nervous, like on their first date, and uncertain as to what the future would bring.
“I love you very much,” Taylor had said and reached for Malachi’s hand.
The declaration stunned Malachi into silence, but not because he didn’t believe it. It wasn’t the first time Taylor had said that, but this time it was how he said it — with absolute conviction. He meant it. That was the moment Malachi realized he’d never love another man. “I love you, too,” he said, the words coming easily. From that moment came a simple truth: Taylor was his life. All that mattered was making Taylor happy. He didn’t care if that meant always doing the laundry or getting up at four in the morning to write so they could spend as much time as possible together.
Malachi realized that the blaring music had stopped. He sat up straight and glanced at his watch. It was quarter to seven, and Taylor should have been home by now. He picked up the phone and dialled Taylor’s office number at the university. No answer. Then he called Taylor’s cell. Again, no answer. He moved off the sofa and crossed to the window. He looked down into the street and saw a police cruiser pulling up to the curb. He smirked. Jenna finally had the nerve to call them. He watched the officers get out of their vehicle and enter the building. He looked up and down the street. It was empty. Where was Taylor?
He jumped at the knock on the door. Had Taylor forgotten his keys again? He rushed to the door and opened it. “I was beginning to worry…” He froze. Two grim-looking men — the police officers who he’d seen just moments before — gave their names and asked to enter the apartment.
Inside, the shorter man spoke first. “How are you acquainted with…” He paused to look at his black notebook. “Taylor Blanchard?”
“He’s my fiancé,” Malachi said with a slight edge. They’d talked about getting married, but neither of them had proposed.
“There’s no easy way to do this,” the officer continued. “There’s been an accident…”
Malachi heard the words but they instantly fell away. Something about Elgin Street, a car and two pedestrians. Investigators were still on the scene. Taylor had been hit first and succumbed to his injuries on the way to the hospital.
“I don’t understand,” Malachi said, feeling himself trembling. “I just talked to him … not even an hour ago. He was on his way home…” Tears filled his eyes and raced down his cheeks.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” the other officer said.
“He lost consciousness almost immediately,” the first officer said. “The pain … he wouldn’t have suffered long.”
“You’re mistaken. I mean…” Malachi could feel his legs about to give out on him, and before he could move to the sofa he collapsed to the floor. When he woke up, one officer was kneeling over him, the other radioing for an ambulance.
“Don’t move. Help’s on the way.”
He couldn’t move as he thought about the plans they’d made for the future. They’d talked about hosting Taylor’s family at Christmas in their new home, and visiting Paris the following summer. Suddenly, the man who was his saving force — a champion of his writing, his confidant, his best friend — had been plucked from his grasp.
How was he supposed to live without the man who’d taught him what love was all about?
Find out on October 10, 2018. Pre-order your copy today!