Finally

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Finally

I’m baacckk…

It’s not just television shows like Better Call Saul that can take a two-year hiatus. A blog can, too. I only wish my return was as highly anticipated.

Here it is, two months into 2020. Since finishing Sexsage in September, 2018, I haven’t written. I’ve kept a toe in the pond by doing a final edit on my novel Outlaws but that’s about it. I’m hoping I needed the break to come back stronger. Kind of like Better Call Saul.

I started 2018 with the intention of writing, producing, printing and selling Sexsage. Although I made some mistakes – all fixable – I succeeded in what I’d set out to do. At the end of 2018 life did that flip flop thing it does and I felt uncertain and untethered, needing to take a breath. I decided to step back from writing to devote myself to my health and well-being.

2019 became the Year of the Purge. I gave up sugar and carbs (Hello, Keto), which led to purging sixty pounds, along with losing sciatica and other pains. My energy level is off the charts. I have cleaned, organized and emptied unwanted items from every inch of my house. It’s been a lot of fun.

I’ve run out of things to clean. I find myself making new projects for myself. I know what this is. This is pre-writing procrastination. It’s taken me months to sit down and write this blog post. My next novel is beating at my brain. And I want to move all the framed pictures from a hall-long counter and hang them instead before starting.

See what I mean?

The next book is a historical, so there’s research involved. I’m going to attempt two points of view for the first time. I don’t even know if I can still do this thing again, this writing. I know what’s involved, what it takes, the joy of the perfect word or phrase, the agony of critique. Yet, after a two-year break, the process feels fresh.

My attitude about my writing has always been – why not me? I’ve had no illusions about the depth of my talents. I know I’m probably more of a Solieri than an Amadeus. But I read and enjoy plenty of Solieri-grade novels. So, why not me?

I know I can write another novel.

I walked in and out of my garage for a couple of days as I contemplated how to best clean and organize it. It seemed an insurmountable job. It demanded a purge. I let myself be overwhelmed, not in an anxious way, but consciously. I let it pour over me, looking at the big picture, the long view. That makes it easier to break it down and then break it down again. Pretty soon I had doable tasks. It’s a process that works for me. It’s the story behind my name, learning to build things a brick at a time. It works. You should see my beautiful garage.

I’ll use the same method to write my next book. In my mind, it’s written already. I know the story; beginning, middle and end. Now the pieces need to come together. A novel no agent can resist must be written. I say that every time. I have faith. Every time.

I want to enjoy everything, whether it’s tackling a DIY project, working social media, writing a book, or cleaning the kitchen. 2020 is going to be full of fun and surprises. It’ll be nothing if not interesting, that’s certain.

It’s time to get to it.

I leave you with these words from Jodi Picoult. Something all of us procrastinating, hiatus-taking writers should remember.

You can always edit a bad page.
You can’t edit an empty page.

Stay tuned.

You can edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

Don’t Quit

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Hello Faithful Reader. I’m back.

I devoted all of 2018 to writing, producing, publishing, and marketing my first nonfiction book, Sexsage. I made so many mistakes, but two in particular. I should not have used a pseudonym, Virginia Watkins, for the book. Second, I should have known, going in, that I suck at social media.
While it did not turn out as I’d expected and hoped, I did do what I’d intended. I didn’t just try, I completed it. I’m proud of my effort and my book. It’s far from successful–yet–but, do I give up? Would you?
I do what I generally do in adverse situations. I make plans. I decided that what I needed after the Year of Sexsage was to step back. Reevaluate. This is the first extended time in twenty-seven years that I haven’t been working, in some way, on a novel. Will I be able to do it again? Do I have another book in me?
I believe I have seven more books in me. At least the stories are there, taking up residence in my head.
I decided as last year was ending, that this year, 2019, would be about getting myself back together, physically, mentally, spiritually. All three took a lot of hits at the end of 2018. Now, with the end of summer in sight, I have lost weight, gained energy and I’m feeling pretty positive.
I love writing. I believe everything I’m doing will contribute to future projects –the books I’ve read, the shows I’ve binged, the pounds I’ve shed, the closets and cabinets I’ve cleaned. The ton of junk I’ve given to Goodwill is a metaphor for the purging of my mind and spirit.
So what do we do when we’re fighting discouragement or disappointment?
We re-set, re-adjust, re-start, re-focus, repeat. As many times as we need to.

Don’t Quit.

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell just how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
– written by John Whittier
– published by Edgar A. Guest

Since a teenager, I have loved and been inspired by this poem. For me, it never loses its wisdom.
I can’t quit. I’m getting older by the minute (this is a recurring theme in this blog), and the minutes run fast. The sand in my glass is emptying. I’m not ready to chuck it in just yet. I will be devoting 2020 and 2021 to writing and selling my next two books. This blog is about getting published, whether through traditional publishing (I should be so lucky), or with self-publishing, and what comes after. I will continue to follow my dream of traditional publishing and I will continue to blog all about it.

Stay tuned. Never quit.

The Proof Copies

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I’m eating an In n’ Out Burger and trying to ignore the box from Amazon sitting on my bed. I’m pretty sure the box contains the proof copies of Sexsage. I want to eat my lunch before I open the box in case I’m desperately disappointed and lose my appetite. Or throw up.
Burger consumed, I approach the box.
I’m afraid. Will I open the box to gasps of “It’s perfect. I love it. I did it!” or “This is horrible. I can’t sell this book.” Pregnant women often have nightmares about what they will give birth to. When I was expecting my son I dreamed that what came out was a wolf. A werewolf to be more specific. Opening this box feels something like that. I’ve had nightmares about the book.
I open the box. The proof copies are here. Not a werewolf among them. I love it! I did it!
I start reading and stop immediately. There are pages missing. The introduction ends abruptly. A mild panic sets in until I see I’ve turned pages two and three together. Pages all there. Not a werewolf among them. Whew.
It’s good. It’s a real book. I’m so relieved.
These 106 pages are the culmination of eleven months of determination. It’s been a boulder-sized struggle to keep at it; searching for an approach into the writing of it, finding that, then losing my beloved cat, Poe, my son getting married out of state, travel, family drama. Then there was the debacle with social media, glitches with the illustrations, and the website. Starts and stops.
My goal was to have the book out by mid-November. I’m two weeks behind schedule, but it could be worse. As of this writing the book is still not published and available but the website is functioning and we’re close, so close. Now I will do some serious marketing and push for Christmas sales.
I wanted to devote a year to this experiment. I set out to prove to myself that I could take an idea to completion, and sell it. I’ve done the completion part but the selling part remains to be seen. I have a few weeks left of the year to get sales off the ground.
I did something I’ve never done before, and I knew next to nothing about the process of writing a nonfiction book and self publishing it. I stumbled into the unknown. But I did the task at hand and then the next step indicated. And that worked. My excuse for every mistake was, “I didn’t know.”
And, boy, I am ready to get back to fiction, to story-telling.
I swear to you, I’m not the most consistent, energetic or focused person. I love diversions. Television. Movies. Books. Recently I’ve been watching football. I’m lazy. I love naps. I take procrastination to new heights.
So, if I can do this, trust me, anyone can. You can.

Can A Book Sell Without Social Media?

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Nothing shows my age more than my complete lack of social media skills. Seriously, non-existent.
Social media is a must for any endeavor, any new product, any art. I’d anticipated using it. I was going to make promotional videos and post them on every social media site under my author pseudonym.
I’m on Facebook, of course, as are so many of my aging generation. I enjoy keeping up with family and friends. I “like” their posts and photos, and sometimes comment. I don’t post daily. Sometimes, but rarely, I post a photo or an announcement. I’ve been invited into groups that I swear I’ll participate in, but then I never visit. Online groups are either intimidating to me or seem filled with people who have never heard of spelling or grammar. There are so many members, so many posts – how do I make my mark among all that?
I took a quick dip into the Twitter pool. The hash tags frightened me so I jumped right out.
I’ve managed to avoid Instagram altogether. Until now.
I’m aware of how this makes me sound. I’m hopeless. And I don’t care. I’ve always said I’m on a need-to-know basis with technology. I haven’t needed, or wanted, to know this stuff. I’ve been forced to face it in spite of all my efforts to avoid it.
In order for anything to go viral, one must build a following and get in with influencers. I barely have a following on my own Facebook account, and now I’ve introduced a person who, for all intents and purposes, is a newborn. New born to Facebook and Instagram. How is she to find followers when no one, literally no one, knows who she is? How is she going to get in with an influencer?
An influencer is a person or a group that has the ability to influence the behavior or opinion of others. The influencer is the individual whose effect on the purchase decision is in some way significant or authoritative.
The aim is to join groups on Facebook or Instagram, especially those with influence among like-minded people. Then you read through all the posts and add comments and share their posts. Something like that.
I’m not good at ingratiating myself into online groups like these. I never know what to post. Finding the right groups is the challenge. Ironically, I’m a joiner in real life. I’m friendly, affable, polite and respectful. Most of the time. I can’t seem to translate that into social mediaese.
I’d never been on Instagram before. Now my alter ego is. And she’s doing poorly. Nothing she – I – posts is trending. Nothing is going viral. I – she – have posted photos with captions that I hoped would puzzle and intrigue viewers, sparking their curiosity. But who’s looking at them? The author has no friends. Sad face emoji.
To use any of these sites effectively, you must spend quality time on them, engaging others, applauding their achievements, while sharing your own. You can’t just be one long posting about yourself, which people hate. I need to find out how to make this fun for me. Right now it feels like a chore that I don’t want to do.
Do I need social media to sell this book? Probably. I’ll do the best I can with social media, but I will also go the old school route. A few friends and I are going to venues that attracts older couples, people of a certain age. These are my readers. Couples in long term relationships are the primary demographic for my book. We are going to paper windshields with large postcards about the book. I will hand out bookmarks. I will encourage everyone I know, everyone I come into contact with, to spread the word. Get the buzz going.
When the book is published, which should be by Thanksgiving, I will hope for good word-of-mouth. And I will pray sales snowball.
It could happen.
Meanwhile, I’ve realized that writing the book under a pseudonym, might not have been the brightest idea. I did not think that through. I didn’t want, what, to confuse the no readers of my unpublished middle grade books with the publication of an adult sex book?
That’s right, faithful blog followers, it’s a sex book.
What was I thinking? Using another name just made the social media thing more difficult. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I will see it through. Mainly, though, I want to make sales. I want readers.
Now I’ll need everyone I know to help get the word out. I do believe you’ll like the book. I think it’s a good product and worth the $14.95 price. It’s informative, instructional and light-hearted.
The book is Sexsage, written by Virginia Watkins. Now you know. This is the project I’ve been blogging about all year and it’s about to come to fruition.
Spread the word. Visit http://www.discoversexsage.fun and watch some videos that will give you more of an idea of what Sexsage is all about.
And stay tuned.

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.

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.