Over My Head

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It’s getting closer. Publication for my adult nonfiction book is scheduled for November fifteenth. The final edit is done, and I’m about to write the acknowledgment page. I’m feeling pretty good about it all, pretty cocky actually. It’s all falling into place.

Or is it about to fall apart?

October is all about marketing and promotion. I’ve spent September getting all these materials together; shooting promo videos, completing the covers, getting everything ready to post online.

Then I’m stopped abruptly by bookmarks.

I want to have bookmarks made to include in the marketing materials, instead of business cards. I have several reasons for this. First, since I’m writing under a pseudonym, business cards seem unnecessary. I’d rather the name I use for my children’s books not be associated with an adult book. Second, a bookmark is bigger than a business card and can include more information about the book. Third, I can include pictures of the front and back covers.

I know a lot of authors who have had bookmarks made and it seemed like it would be pretty simple. But it hasn’t been.

Or maybe it’s me.

Then, a nephew with some experience with book covers harshly critiqued the front and back covers I thought were so perfect. Everyone’s loved them. Except this guy. And he’s right about one thing for sure. The text on the back cover needs to be completely rewritten. I wrote it in a hurry, just to have it done. Never a good idea. So it needs another edit. Before the promotional pamphlets are printed. Which was supposed to be this week.

And I’m having physical difficulties in the form of carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ve let it go for so long that the first three fingers and thumb of my right hand are constantly numb and the rest of my hand tingles all the time. It hurts. I’ll be having surgery but not until after the book launch party, if I can make it that long. Right now it’s hard to use my hand to write or use the mouse or the keypad on my phone.

So, the cockiness I was feeling is subsiding as I realize I may be in over my head. I’ve fallen into a malaise.

I’ve been trying to tackle social media and as October approaches, this is more important than ever. It’s not going well. I feel I’m losing ground.

My topic for this post was going to be social media and my ineptness at it. But this funk about the whole project is overwhelming me.

And then it came to me, the real cause of this funk. I’m amazed I didn’t realize this sooner. It’s five days to my birthday.

Anyone who’s been following this blog probably knows that I suffer from gerascophobia, a fear of aging. During the week leading up to the dreaded day, October first, I go through the five stages of grief. This birthday is worse than ever. I will now be on the seventy side of my sixties. So I rage and weep and generally fall into a week long melancholia that only ends with the acceptance stage that comes when the birthday itself has passed.

October, fittingly, is the scariest month. It begins with the distressing birthday and ends with Halloween. For me, in between, it’s facing the horrors of social media, sending queries to distributors, facing actual store managers, and dealing with all the business of preorders, large orders, merchandising.

I think I may be drowning in self doubt and anxiety. Fear of the unknown. I’ve never done any of this before.

But what do I do? I have to pull myself up, float to the surface, pull in a great breath of air and carry on. Which is exactly what I will do. The only other option would be to quit.

I’m not going to do that. I’ve invested so much.

Stay tuned.

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Onward

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Over the years, and I’m nearly an old lady now, I’ve had ideas. So many ideas. I am an
idea factory, inspired by anything and everything.
The ideas have encompassed subjects from a rock opera in pantomime, (never produced, wonder why), to several children’s picture books, (never written), to a non-fiction expose about AOL chatrooms of the nineties. (thoroughly researched, many notes taken)
I dreamt up my first novel about a girl who rides for the Pony Express when I was riding horses a lot. When my son was born with a head of red hair, I conceived a picture book series featuring “Little Red.” When my mother went into assisted living, I imagined a series of mysteries set in that world.
Jury duty, any job I’ve ever had, my pets, a random billboard, anything that could inspire, did.
Some of my ideas have seemed like potential money-makers. The booklet Teach Your Cat to Fetch, for instance. Mainly, though, I thought I might make a few bucks with sewing or cooking. I made quilted casserole carriers for a bit, and while they were unique and cool, I would have had to sell them for at least eighty dollars to make it work.
With cooking, if I’d gone into catering or party planning, as I’ve been urged to do over the years, it would have meant dealing with rich people. We all know what a pain that can be.
My current project is an experiment to see if I could follow through to the end and make money. My thirty-eight year marriage and other long term relationships inspired this, an adult nonfiction book. After years living in my head and my bed, it’s been a joy to put it all down on paper and contemplate sharing it.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am not getting any younger, no matter how I deny it, so it’s now or never. Almost literally. There are so many things I’m having to learn. I have said, for years, that I am on a need-to-know basis with technology and all things new in social media. Now I need to know. It’s tougher at this age. If I’d waited any longer, I don’t know if I could do it.
The book is 19,600 words, considerably less than any novel I’ve written. But I usually know how to approach a novel, a story. I had to find a voice for this book, and a way to give information as if it were entertainment, to talk about sex with a sense of humor and without lewdness.

It’s all about promotion and marketing. As we all know, there are crappy products sold everyday because of excellent marketing. There are probably wonderful, useful products that fall by the wayside without excellent marketing. Today all of this takes place on the internet, on social media. Because of my lack of taking any of the prerequisites, I am woefully ignorant of most of the things anyone even ten years younger seem to take for granted.

But I’m no dummy. I found and formed a team to help me.

A smart, well read friend edited the first draft of the manuscript and did an excellent job. She put in and took out all those pesky commas.

A friend of Husband’s turned us on to a wonderful, knowledgeable marketing consultant, with whom I have weekly meetings on Zoom. (Zoom is like Skype.) I’ve learned, among other things, the term “influencer marketing.” Apparently this was something I needed to know.

Then there’s the video producer up in Canada who is making promotional videos, who found the perfect photo for the book cover, and is building the website.

That’s not all. Two of my son’s friends are helping. One is a young woman who follows this blog, read that I was going to be self-publishing and offered to help, telling me it’s something she’s been doing while in school. Now she’s doing all of it, bless her, and a promotional brochure as well.

Finally there’s Jake, who I call my I.T. guy. He helps with all things computerish.

I feel I have been blessed with this team of smart, savvy, and talented people. I think any project of this scope, putting this much hope into it, takes a team effort. It does for me. All I know how to do is write. And, clearly, I’m not a genius at that or I’d be published by now.

This month it’s all about getting social media set up for the author, as I am writing this under a pseudonym. A website will be built and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages are being created for the author. Promotional memes and videos will be shot. All the other aspects are being worked on as we go along as well.

Next month, with the aid of promotional materials, I will be selling to brick and mortar specialty stores, and distributors to these stores, with the hope of obtaining pre-orders.
This is quite a process, one I’ve never done before. I’m learning as I go.
Onward! Stay turned.

Fiction and Nonfiction

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I am dedicating this post to my beloved cat, Poe, who died on May 22nd from cancer. He often sat near me on my desk while I typed, or in my lap, getting in my way, when I was in a chair or on my bed, working stories out longhand. In author Rita Mae Brown’s different kind of writing manual, Starting From Scratch, she tells us writers should have cats. We should all have one on our desks.

I’ve had cats forever and Poe was one of the best. He was loving and sweet and funny. All the things a good inspirational cat should be. And he loved me as I loved him.

I have two remaining cats and I love them, too. But neither of them care for the writing process.

Webster’s defines fiction as: 1. A making up of imaginary happenings: feigning. 2. anything made up or imagined, as a statement , story, etc. 3. literary narratives, collectively, which portray imaginary characters or events, specifically novels and short stories.

There is no definition found in that dictionary for nonfiction. Does this make nonfiction insignificant in the writing world?

Fiction is fun to write. Well, it can be. It’s making stuff up, building worlds, creating people who live and breath and have problems and solve them. It’s writing down day dreams – with total control of the story.

Fiction takes us to places we’d never see, fantastic worlds sprung from an author’s imagination. Readers meet and learn to empathize with people we will never encounter in real life. Fiction takes us for a ride.

Nonfiction can take us for rides, too. It takes us to places we’ve never been but could travel to if we wished. They’re real places. Real people live in those places. Reality can be as fascinating as fiction.

Research is often necessary in writing fiction and, to me, that’s part of the fun. We’re told to write what we know. Research supplies the knowing. We take what we learn into our stories. We use the research, we mix it with what’s in our imaginations to write credible storylines.

Researching a nonfiction subject is a completely different ball game. In fiction, it’s a jumping off point, always seeing how the information affects your characters. In nonfiction its all information, all research. The challenge is to soak up the information and rewrite it in your own words and do more than rephrase lines from Wikipedia.

We need to look at nonfiction creatively, especially in memoirs and biographies. We can make nonfiction as fun to read as fiction. We need to make facts interesting without boring the hell out of the readers with how much we know.

When I began the adult nonfiction book I’m writing now, I thought, this is going to be fun – and easy. I’ll just Google all the facts and statistics and write what strikes me as funny.

A snap, right?

Yeah, not so much.

As I reach the end of writing the first draft, I’m wondering how entertaining the book will be. I suppose time will tell, come the book launch in November.

I wish Poe was here to inspire me.

  

Now It Gets Real

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I’m almost finished with the first draft of my adult non-fiction project. I expect to be done by the end of May and have it the hands of beta readers by mid-June. That’s a blink of an eye. In a moment, it got real. I’m nervous. No, panicked. No, scared shitless. Yeah, that’s what I am.

I’m flying blind here. There are a myriad amount of things I’ll need to do to publish, promote and market this book. I’ve never done anything like this. In fact, this will be the biggest thing I’ve ever done.

And I’ve raised a son.

It has to be written well and perfectly presented. It has to have been thoroughly and brilliantly promoted and marketed on every social media outlet possible. It has to be published impeccably. And all this must be done by November fifteenth. That’s my launch date. In plenty of time for Christmas sales.

I feel hopelessly unprepared.

However, I will pull up my big girl panties and throw back my shoulders and face it. Whenever I’m faced with what seems like an overwhelming challenge, I break it down. Then all I’ve got are manageable pieces.

Right now all I can do is write this as best as I am able, then take it to my writers groups and get critique, which helps the manuscript. All I can do is work with the illustrator, who, I am sure, finds me frustrating at best. It seems I don’t know what I want until I see what I don’t want. I thank him for his patience in every email.

I will make copies to hand out to almost anyone willing to read and comment. Copies will also go to those who will help with promotion and marketing, to the web builder, and anyone else involved. By the end of July, I should have a finished product, ready to go to the publisher.

When I published my first book, after it had been with an agent and rejected by all the big publishing houses, there were no POD (Print On Demand) companies. Twenty-five years ago, the only options were to hire a vanity press or do it yourself. With my husband’s help, I did it myself. I still have four boxes of books in my garage.

This time I will probably use CreateSpace, a POD company in association with Amazon. I’ve heard good things. But I have no idea how involved the process is, especially when adding illustrations, or how long it takes. I plan to hire someone to figure all that out.

I will also have to hire people to build the website for this book, and to manage the social media. I want to make promotional videos to post online wherever. And those videos will require actors and a camera person. And music.

Whenever I add something to my list, more ideas come up. And the simplest idea becomes complicated the minute it’s thought.

How will I get reviews from credible sources? How do I get followers for all the social media outlets I will join? How do I make my promotional videos go viral? How do I reach my target audience? I haven’t a clue.

This is scary stuff.

I tend to procrastinate. I joke that it’s part of my process. But there’s no time for that with this project. My deadline is November fifteenth and if I miss it, I’ll have to put the book launch off until next year and that is not happening.

Stay tuned.

New Years

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One new year for an entire 365 days is not enough for me. It seems I need more than one fresh start. I need three. If you can come up with a fourth, please let me know.

The first is when our year changes – welcome to 2018. I make plans that encompass the next twelve months. While Christmas shopping, I found a gift for myself, a journal with the title Master Plan. It’s a blank journal but includes sticky notes titled Notes, To Do:, For Now, For Later, Remember. This book was meant for me. I’m hoping it will be filled with goals, steps to achieve those goals and more plans as they occur to me by the end of 2018. I love making plans. Probably more than I like actually doing.

According to my Libra Horoscope this year may be a challenge for me to keep up with my work. This is the nature of Neptune in my work zone. I should do what I think is right and ignore the comments of others. From January 21st, apparently I will be attracted to getting out and about and will love entertaining people. By the third week of February, the fun will cease and I’ll get back to work.

I already do not like nor do I agree with what is foretold. If I follow this, I’ll be wasting a good six weeks of productivity. I have to have the first draft of my nonfiction adult  book done by March. There must be hidden meanings in this horoscope. I hope.

The second is the Chinese New Year, starting on February 16th, ushering in the Year of the Dog. What does this mean to a me, a Dragon? The Dog will offer support and aid to each Dragon. The only thing which it cannot help with is inspiration. With such a down-to-earth nature, this canine is not capable of creating, which means that even Dragons who think in unorthodox ways will have to spend the whole of 2018 without major flights of fancy.

Holy Moley.

The Chinese Horoscope also says on the whole, during the period when the Dog is ruling, Dragon’s careers will have every opportunity to lunge forward.

Okay. Whew.

Apparently I need to work with other people on creative endeavors. Which is exactly what my adult nonfiction requires. And those people are in place, ready to go.

Finally it’s October first and the last of the new years. My birthday year. When that comes, my astrology  will be more specific. I will reevaluate previous plans and make new ones.

Three months later we celebrate another New Year and I start all over.

I have two projects on my desk but they’re big ones. Both will need to be broken down into sections. Taking them step by step is the only way for me to not be overwhelmed. I plan each step. I celebrate each fresh start.

I’m pretty this fixation has a lot to do with my on-going struggles battling time and aging, but there’s something optimistic and hopeful about having three new years.

Wishing all of you, constant readers, (and you two know who you are) a happy, healthy, productive, successful New Year!

Revisiting An Old Friend

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My young adult novel, Morning of the Mermaid, came about because a few lines appeared in my head –

When her parents died, an hour apart, of a mysterious fever, Calista  thought–now I will experience great grieving and utter desolation. All of her family had just passed on to the world of eternal rest, leaving her alone for the first time in her sheltered, pampered life. Yet she felt nothing. The depth of emotion she hoped for never came.

I thought these would make great opening lines for a story and a great character to explore. The story, from there, formed in about a week. I would tell of the first ever mermaid and how she came to be, starting with her mother’s story. The mother fascinated me, this gorgeous doomed girl who, because of a cursed beginning, never developed feelings.  Hopefully, readers would grow to love her as she grew to find love, only to die in  childbirth, leaving a daughter who was half-human, half-fish.

I wrote the entire first draft before I recognized the problem with it. Most of the first half of the book dealt with her mother’s troubles, how she came to live on a deserted island and formed a friendship with the creatures there, grew a heart and fell in love with the mermaid’s father, a man enchanted into dolphin form.

I would begin to tell friends the story and instantly they would ask, “Is she the mermaid?”

“No, wait,” I’d say, “and then…”

“But where’s the mermaid?”

Obviously, this should begin with the mermaid.  Total rewrite in which the mermaid, Kallea, not only seeks to find others like herself, but also to learn her mother’s story. It becomes the story within the story. And those lovely first lines come in somewhere around page 118.

I finished the manuscript, again, and took the synopsis and first two chapters to the summer SCBWI conference for a critique by an agent. I was told I needed to “take it to the next level.” The next level? What did that look like? Didn’t I just do that?

I spiraled into self-doubt, self-pity and defeat.  Which lasted for a few months.

Digression: I’ve never found time off from writing, for any reason, to be unproductive. I usually read a lot and do a lot of cooking and baking. And it usually results in fresh ideas and a wave of creativity.

This time was no different.  I knew what Mermaid needed. How had I not seen it before? The problem was that, for Kallea, the stakes weren’t high enough. All I had to do was make her troubles more do-or-die, put more shadow into the story.

I attacked another revision, the images clear in my mind. I wanted to make this book so good, no agent could refuse it. My mermaid deserved it. Her story should be read.

But a certain amount of my interest and faith had faded. And there was another, more insistent, story pounding on my door. This one had been wanting in for a year as I’d made notes and tossed them into a basket. It was time to put the mermaid aside and channel my inner eighth-grade bully.

The plan was to go back to the mermaid after I’d finished Alex Bullied. I strove, through several revisions, to make this the book that no agent would reject.

I got the idea for My Identical Cousin and decided that instead of tackling Mermaid again, I would write Cousin, because it would be a better book to follow Bully.  We all know how delusional I was. And probably still am.

Cousin had to be put on a back burner, which is fine, because, apparently agents can reject Bully pretty easily. I’m not ready to give up on either of them, but I needed a middle-grade novel break. I wanted to work on something new and different.

Or maybe old and different.  I’d decided to turn Morning of the Mermaid into a graphic novel. The time seems right to start that project. Graphic novels for the Middle Grade and Young Adult crowd are popular right now and not going away any time soon.

I bought some books on the subject, and am reading graphic novels that were actual novels in a previous life. A Wrinkle in Time is one of them. I’ve never read it. (I hear your collective gasp.) I’m reading the novel, then will see how it transformed into a comic. The San Diego chapter of SCBWI, which I attend, is sponsoring a graphic novel intensive next month. It’s a sign that this is the right course to take.

It’s so nice to revisit this old friend, the mermaid. She’s been so patient. I read some printed out pages of the book, the first chapter. Then I pulled it up on the computer and it’s a totally different first chapter. Which one is better? Which version is more suited to graphic novel?

And so it begins.

Stayed tuned.

Repost: Why You Should Skip Nanowrimo by Zarah Parker

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I have been struggling with the rewrite of my latest work in progress, My Identical Cousin. I wrote the first shitty draft last November for Nanowrimo. 50,000 words in thirty days. I managed to get to about 47,000 words, which is a decent length for a middle grade novel. I thought having this first draft done in thirty days was quite an accomplishment and a real head start in completing this book.

But the revision has not come together the way I thought it would, or as quickly. I came across this blog, The Memoir Of A Writer, read a current post and suddenly knew why.

This is the first time I’ve wanted to repost from someone else’s blog. But this one made so much sense to me. You may not agree. Perhaps your experience with Nanowrimo was different. If it was more like my ordeal, this post may make a difference.

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