Guest Post: Good Composition by Lily Seabrooke

good compositionSynopsis

Erin’s dreams didn’t pan out the way she’d had in mind. An unsatisfying job, a relationship gone south, she’s heading nowhere fast—until she sends one little text to an old best friend, estranged with time.

But bringing Aubrey back into her life changes everything for Erin, as the last things holding her relationship together fall apart. With nothing left to lose, what’s stopping her from leaving home, crossing the country and staying with Aubrey instead?

In the middle of struggles with her self-image, with health and with work trying to start a new life starting from scratch, she finds herself falling into something unfamiliar—she never thought she might be a lesbian, but before long, her best friend starts to feel like maybe more than a friend.

Good Composition is a 50k-word low-angst friends-to-lovers romance.
Content warning for an emotionally abusive relationship, hospitalization, an eating disorder, open-door sex scenes and Britney—just Britney. Pick it up for a lighthearted, fluffy and easy read that feels like a shippy fanfiction or a teenage romantic daydream!

Goodreads | Amazon
Release Date: April 10th 2020

reader-break

Inspiration

I have a funny relationship with inspiration. 

Let me set the stage a little. I’m the daughter of an entrepreneur, and I got my degree in an economics/mathematics double major. I’m supposed to be a little bit more of an analytic person, and when I started writing with the goal of making it my career—way back in 2011 in one of those teenaged fits of passion where I decided I was going to make writing my lifelong career—I had a clear vision in mind: I didn’t need inspiration. Relying on something wild and unpredictable like a bolt of inspiration from the blue to do my job was so not a sensible business decision.

And like, sure. My writing development from there was pretty wild. I decided to center my whole life around writing, and I stuck with it. Staying up late coming up with strategies for how to sell books, living between home and the library, churning through stories trying to figure out my identity as a writer—I’d say something dramatic like I traded away my young-adult years to pursue my craft, but frankly, I was so focused on this thing, I honestly didn’t know what else there could possibly have been. Hard to feel like you’re missing out on much when you’re doing the thing you want to do more than anything else. It wasn’t like I had waning inspiration to worry about. I did not rely on inspiration to write words. I wrote down and repeated affirmations, leaving them stuck on my computer and hung on my walls, plastered over my desks through the years, things like “I am a machine,” “professionals don’t need inspiration,” and my personal favorite, “I make words.” I saw myself as a factory, and I really liked that. Inputs go in (coffee, occasionally food or sleep), and words come out. Very tidy. I liked tidy.

So, I guess I’m supposed to deliver a plot twist, huh? Right now it sounds like my relationship to inspiration is pretty straightforward: I needed it like a fish needs a bicycle. So let’s fast forward a little: Christmas of 2018, working at a fancy new Starbucks location in a gray and dismal central Michigan winter, sleeping on the floor in a friend’s apartment while she was out of the country for Christmas. I’d never had a Christmas alone before, and the quiet was haunting. I’d cut off my parents the year prior, and I didn’t miss them—toxic relationship and all that. But lying on the floor on what I’d been raised to believe was the most wonderful day of the year, cold and alone and so quiet I could hear every breath I took like they were desperate, hungry gasps in my ear, it was lonely. I was lonely. And there was something that told me Lily, I think you need a change.

I’d been making progress in my writing career. By this point I’d written so many words I lost count somewhere after four million. I’d written first drafts for a good dozen or so books, self-published one book to no success, and I’d taken the past year to focus my practice on writing faster, and just the month before, everyone’s favorite National Novel Writing Month of high-speed noveling fame, I wrote the coveted 50,000 words in one day instead of one month. It was glorious. And the rest of the month sucked hard, because then I had to look around and think, now what? I’d come farther in this than most people could ever dream of. Was this going to somehow magically turn into money at some point? I’d learned how to dig a hole and fill it back in faster than anyone else, but when I realized that was all I was doing, I burned out like I never did in all those seven years before. I was done for. Hence, the introspective Christmas slump the next month.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t this supposed to be about the book I’m releasing? Well, the lovely person who reached out to me for a post here said “no upper limit” for the word count, and I did tell you I wrote 50,000 words in a day once, so get comfy. We’re getting there.

I put in a lot of work over those first seven years. I got a lot of incremental improvements, learned a lot about writing a little bit at a time, never slowing down, no matter how uninspired I ever was. And then something hit me on Christmas, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to call it, but I don’t think I can rule out that dreaded name of inspiration.

I hired a writing coach. Christopher was his name—great guy with a great beard. Christopher was a guy who’d achieved exactly what I wanted to do, making a living off self-publishing books. I hit him up, explained my situation, explained my goals—told him I wanted to be writing full-time by next Christmas. “I know how to put a book together,” I told him, in so many words. “I need to figure out what happens next.”

“Been there,” he told me, in so many words. “We got this.”

And we had it.

Let me tell you, 2019 was a wild year. I wrote a book in January, and then I wrote a book in February—I lost track, but I put together about 12 by October. Inspiration or no, I sat my butt down and I wrote. Funny things happen when you spend more time in that writing state of flow than you spend out. Reality starts to get subjective. The rules don’t seem to apply anymore. Suddenly, all the things in life that seem stressful, all the little fires we put out throughout our days, the hundred million little crises that keep us feeling like the world is one mistake away from falling apart, none of it seemed like that big a deal anymore. Around May, something funny happened: I stopped thinking things like I really think I can become a full-time writer, or things like one day I hope I can make a living like this. Around then, I realized I was convinced that, as sure as night came after day and spring came after winter, it was a foregone conclusion that it would all work out for me.

So I kept going. Inspiration or no.

I published a few books that year. None of them got any traction. No big deal. I didn’t need outside validation anymore. It was going to work out somehow or other.

Then something else happened to me. While I was working at a different coffee shop—I like coffee, what can I say—I started to have issues. My blood pressure dropped day after day, breathing got harder until it felt like I was breathing through a rag most of the time, and I wasn’t able to stay on my feet for a full shift of work anymore. My body was giving out from under me—not to mention the wrist pain that was getting so bad I could barely get the portafilters off the brewheads anymore. Maybe it was all the coffee? Maybe the unhealthy obsession with my status as a word factory? Either way, I had to quit my day job in the middle of the year while I tried to figure out how to recover—you know, without going to a doctor, because it wasn’t like I could afford that while I was out of work. By September, I had a hard time spending more than half an hour out of bed at a time. I didn’t have much longer, my savings vanishing alarmingly fast.

No biggie. I had a laptop. I couldn’t sit at a desk for more than half an hour at a time, but I could bring my laptop in bed. I dropped some of my (now scarily precious) savings on an ergonomic keyboard, so my wrists would be able to bend again, and I got to work. More books went out to no avail. I didn’t falter—I still knew for a fact it was going to work. Christopher knew the same thing.

He told me I needed a clean launch. I put my series on pause and, under his instructions, set out to write a trilogy in full before I got to releasing any of it, so that once it was launching time, I’d be able to focus on the networking and other things. Sound plan. Worked with me—writing fast was something I could do. He asked me if I could have all three done by Christmas, our one-year coaching anniversary. I laughed. I had said I was going to be full-time by next Christmas. I still had a monthly income of, oh, about five dollars a month? Thrifty as I was, I didn’t think I could live on that.

I told him I’d have them done by Christmas. Inside my head, I was thinking I’d have them done before October was over.

I was a sorry sight then. My writing career was still at a big fat zero, my marketing plans had all failed one by one, and there was me, barely able to drag myself out of bed, facing down my self-imposed goal of getting to full-time status by Christmas, and I didn’t even have one book yet I thought could make me money. For a minute there, that wild conviction I had that my writing career would work out? I doubted it, for just the quickest second.

Then I started writing the first book of my trilogy. It was a fun little thing—an urban fantasy story with organized crime as a backdrop, and a cute f/f romance between the leads, with one of my very favorite tropes, the grumpy one soft for the sunshine one. (I know, I have good taste.) I was enjoying it, but there was a voice in the back of my head that said this isn’t going to be it and you know it. You need something. You need a change, Lily.

October 1st felt funny for me. I was at some 40,000 words on my urban fantasy, and it was coming along nicely, but with October rolling around, I wasn’t so sure anymore I could put it all together before October ended, and even if I did, what was I going to do with it by Christmas? Christopher asked me how I was coming along, and I told him I was fine, without believing it myself. Chugging along, I said. A little over halfway on my first book. He told me I was doing great. I wasn’t so sure.

I had a hard time sleeping that night. There was something churning inside me, a restless energy that wouldn’t settle down until I gave it what it wanted, but it wasn’t really being clear with what it wanted. I was grasping in the dark, hands inches from the metaphorical light switch but none the wiser for it.

You really don’t know when everything is about to turn around. You might be a blink away from changing everything this moment, no matter how hard it is right now.

I don’t remember exactly what happened. Thoughts piled up on one another. There was an unnatural clarity where I could suddenly see everything I hadn’t before. My hand hit the light switch. The one thing I clearly remember is that I fumbled over to my phone, texted my friend out of the blue and said, “hey, I think I figured out writing.”

She had no idea what I was talking about—par for the course—but she was happy for me for whatever I was yelling at her at midnight about.

The next morning, I set out to give it a try. It was so wild and random, I didn’t even know how I was supposed to clear it with Christopher—a switch to contemporary lesbian romance, a genre I’d never written before. I had no idea if this was sustainable for me. Would I burn out after writing one fun idea? So I committed to writing three books and seeing how it went, but I didn’t know how I was supposed to explain that to my coach, so on the down-low, the next day, I wrote outlines for three books, and the day after, October 3rd, still not a soul aware of what I was doing, I started writing my first romance novel, Good Composition. It was based on my own experiences—a story of a flight across the country away from toxic relationships, making a new start, pursuing old dreams and diving into the scary world of making art for a living, and how a sudden crash in your health can come at the worst moment.

And this time, my special practice paid off. I started writing the book on Thursday. I finished the first draft at 48,000 words before the weekend was done. And this time, I wasn’t burned out: on Monday, I started a new book, and it was done on Friday.

Well, Christopher had a good laugh when I got a little sheepish and told him, “so, I abandoned the plan, changed genres, and wrote two books since I last talked to you,” but he didn’t seem all that surprised.

“I love working with you,” he said.

I loved working with me, too.

Especially when I had inspiration.

Over the first seven years after a bolt of inspiration had told me to pursue writing for a living, I’d grown steadily, in incremental improvements. Then that eighth year, after a bolt of inspiration led me to coaching and to this sudden sureness that I was going to succeed, I made more progress than in all those seven years prior. And then in that one moment, after a bolt of inspiration laid everything I needed right in front of me and I switched to a new genre and threw out over a dozen books, I think I learned more as a writer over the next month than I did over the last year.

Looks like my little resolution to be a professional who didn’t need inspiration didn’t quite work out in the end. Oh well.

I got weird. As single-minded as I was before, I was twice as bad now. I was doing ten thousand words a day, and I barely even managed to tear myself away from the computer long enough to shove a couple pieces of toast into my mouth between writing sessions. Still couldn’t work outside of bed, but clearly I didn’t need to. I wrote Good Composition one week, and the next week I wrote another book that I scrapped right after finishing because it wasn’t good enough. No real loss, right? It was just a week’s work. Easily recovered. I set up my release plan, and when I realized Good Composition—a book that felt like a celebration of springtime warmth and rebirth—coming out at Christmastime wasn’t a good idea. So I did the only obvious thing: I wrote another book, taking it from concept to final shippable product in two weeks. That was what I called my “new debut novel,” The Christmas Ball.

The end of the year was a bit wild. Suddenly it felt like all the doors were open. The next thing I knew, I had another book written just for the backlog, I was friends with all my favorite authors, and The Christmas Ball had more preorders than all my old books ever sold copies of, combined. I’d dragged myself to the gym for a risky self-administered physical therapy program, starting with five-minute workouts that were a far cry from my old 50-mile endurance cycling tours.

Everything was up in the air. Health and career, both waiting, breath held, to see what would happen.

December 10th, The Christmas Ball launched, and it hit the front page for Amazon’s lesbian romance bestsellers. I was slammed with messages from people telling me they loved my book. I watched my sales numbers soar, and I ran frantic calculations to see how much money this was, getting giddy as the number went up. The threshold for full-time income made a funny whoosh sound as I passed it, just before Christmas.

Goal achieved. I could breathe now. Literally, too—my energy, my stamina, and my heart health were rushing back as I pushed my physical therapy further.

It turned out I’d had everything I needed to make it happen. All it took—much to my dismay—was a little inspiration.

Even now, it’s a little weird, honestly. Part of me is still in disbelief that I’m actually a full-time writer now, even though my third book is coming out right around the corner. But I am majorly grateful every day I get to live my dream life.

It’s funny, but also kind of inevitable, that Good Composition would have been the book that served as a turning point for me. It was what I wanted my life story to be. I’m not going to spoil the book—it’s not out yet, at the time of this writing, after all—but I’m just going to say that of course, it does have a happy ending. And I wonder how much of the same inspiration that led me to write that book, where dreams do come true and people can live their happiest lives, also led to actualizing that reality for me in my own world.

Frankly, I don’t exactly know my relationship with inspiration anymore. I still think of myself as a well-oiled machine, where I can optimize my processes to get as many words out as possible. I wrote over a hundred thousand words this March, and I’m aiming to match that in April, and I’m going to do it whether I’m inspired or not. But everything in my life seems to come down to those singular moments that hit like a lightning bolt, and I think my sixteen-year-old self would turn up her nose at me for that. Oh, well. Sorry, me.

But in a way, I think it’s obvious how it worked. I kept going whether I was up for it or not, inspired or not, and if I hadn’t, then inspiration never would have hit me. It’s the singular moments that change the shape of your life forever, but it’s the hard work over the hundreds of unmotivated hours of putting the time in despite everything that sets the stage for those moments to actually happen.

Do I think I have it all figured out? Of course not. I’m only coming up on my ten-year mark of pursuing writing professionally. Given the way my growth has spiked so sharply recently, I can’t even imagine where the next year will take me, let alone the next ten years. Maybe after another dozen books or so, I’ll have better answers as to what it is that makes a dream come true. But for now, I have the picture of the inspiration that changed my life written out in perfect detail—it’s almost unchanged from the original first draft, written in the throes of inspiration—and that is Good Composition.

See? I told you I’d get back to the topic at hand eventually. Honestly, I’m not sure there’s any other way to explain just what this book means to me, and how excited and honored I am to share it with the reader base that I cannot believe I have. Seriously! My readers, you all blow me away every day with how amazing you all are. This book is sort of my whole life—so far, at least—tied up and tidied up into one neat package.

I hope you all love Erin’s and Aubrey’s story. And to you, the reader I’ve dragged through this whole long post, I hope you love my story, too. That one’s a bit more exciting, because it’s only just starting, and you’re here for the ride.

I hope it’s able to bring you a little inspiration, too.

About_the_Author

lily seabrookeLily Seabrooke is a trans woman whose body is made of rainbows and coffee. She writes soft and fluffy lesbian romance novels, and is weirded out by this whole thing about describing herself in the third-person. Why do we all do this, anyway?

Follow me on Twitter if you like my books or really just sapphic books in general!

TwitterWebsite | Goodreads

Genre: Contemporary Genre: Romance Pairing: F/F Self Published Tag: Fluff Tag: Friends to Lovers Tag: Guest Post Trigger Warning: Eating Disorder Trigger Warning: Emotional Abuse

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