“I won’t give up on you,” I said softly, “not until you tell me that it’s time.”
– Designed, Chapter 17
A fairly benign statement, taken out of context.
To me, however, it’s one of the passages in my own release that I can’t bear to read. They’re the same words that I whispered to myself that day twelve years ago when I stood powerless and afraid of a future that I had no control over. The same words that take me back to that moment like it happened hours ago. The same words that make me tear up even now, knowing what I know.
That’s some pretty powerful stuff.
With my new release, I went darker than in my previous two books. Considering that I’ve already tackled drunk driving, felonies, death of a parent and familial estrangement, that’s saying something. Sure, there’s plenty of humor, steak and a happy ending. There’s also a whole lot of raw emotion, borrowed from my own experiences but with a few changed circumstances.
I, for instance, was older and married when it happened to me. I was gainfully employed and had a far better support system than my heroine did. I also told a handful of people what was going on when it happened, then relied upon those few to tell everyone else. I was not alone, even when I felt like I was.
But it still hurt like hell, and it continues to, right to this very day. There’s a numbness that comes with the passage of time, but it’s never really gone.
I’m not trying to be coy here. And I’m definitely not ashamed, but I’ll not mention the specifics here. Why? Because the thing that I share in common with my heroine is also her big secret – the bombshell that I’ve led up to for two entire full length novels. And though I know that I have a vastly different readership of my blog than I do of my books, I don’t want someone to stumble across it and see a spoiler. For those that have already read, they’ll understand. So far, the lovely bloggers and reviewers who have written about this book have quite eloquently skirted around this theme and I’m not going to be the one who ruins it.
Writing about it, passing that fear and grief and thought process on to someone that I’ve created has been a cathartic exercise. Truth be told, I toyed with the idea of chickening out and changing the big reveal to something else, because I was scared to deal with it myself. Maybe have her abducted by a UFO or something – something that wouldn’t hurt so damn much. But once I sat down and bled at my laptop, crying at the keyboard along with her, I knew I was doing the right thing.
I also knew that I would make some people uncomfortable. I knew that I might offend readers by being honest and open and genuine. Whether it’s because the subject matter hits too close to home or simply because it caught them off guard matters not. I knew I was running the risk of alienating those who were looking for a quick, breezy read and I more or less said “screw it”. I knew that readers would potentially label this novel as the “fill in the blank” book, and that’s okay. There’s still a stigma attached to talking about this, and it’s undeserved.
There’s also a lot of people who have the same history as I do – who might very well be ashamed or not distanced enough from the pain not to be lowered once more into those layers of despair that I know all too well. Who might slam the book shut or turn the Kindle off and stop right there. Now that I’m done with publication, even I skip strategic portions of that chapter because it’s too much. I totally get it.
I’m fairly new to the whole blogging universe, but I came across an article about trigger warnings. Which led me to Google the term “trigger warning” because I had no idea what in the world it meant. For the uninitiated (like I was two months ago), it’s more or less a disclaimer at the beginning of an article or blog alerting people that the content contains sensitive material. A lot of times, it’s related to depictions of violence or abuse, often of a physical nature. But it can be used for anything that a specific group of people could find especially disturbing because of their collective history. As far as I’m concerned, this topic also qualifies. I’m not being a softie, even though Pixar movies make me cry and that damn Apple commercial that ran over Christmas with the boy who you thought was always just playing on his phone, but was really recording his family in order to put together a video for them, well, that got me too. But seriously, there are bona fide support groups for this trauma. It’s a big deal.
It was then that I wondered if my novel should have contained a disclaimer. Granted, that would have been hard to incorporate without giving the entire crux of the story away. After doing a bit more research, I learned that most professionally published novels that contain sensitive material don’t allude to it on the book jacket, so I breathed a sigh of relief. Confirmation that you haven’t just made a major misstep is always a good thing.
Even so, there have been mixed reactions to my book and I’m good with that. Some have said it’s their favorite of mine to date. For others, it’s been their only introduction to my writing and it’s been viewed positively (meaning five star reviews). Some people picked up the series here and had nothing more to say than “meh”, but they really liked the side characters – who, of course, aren’t as depressing. Still others who have raved about Books One and Two have been completely silent after reading Three.
But I wrote the book that I wanted to. And that’s what matters in the end. I wrote it not to profit off of my pain, but to show that happy endings are still possible. I lived through this and came out intact. I’ve walked through the darkness and gotten through to the other side, knowing that I quite literally wouldn’t have what I have today if things had happened differently.
But always, always, there’s the hint of what could have been. And the fact that I will never forget.
“Never forget how much I love you,” I whispered. “I’ll never forget you.”
– Designed, Chapter 17
Both my 10 year old and my 9 year old have a new hobby. They are happily creating their own masterpieces, which will most likely sell better and garner more publicity than mine. I’m kidding. Really.
I’ve gladly downloaded Open Office to the old hand me down desktop and my former laptop (where Intoxicated was written) already has the starter version of Word installed. A few tips from mom – but not too many – and off they went.
I’m saving the lecture about proper formatting for ebook editions later. I’m also ignoring the fact that I’ve already found several grammatical errors and misspellings because, hey, they’re kids. We’ll discuss that later. No sense in raining on their parades yet.
What’s cool is that I didn’t push them to do this. At all. I guess they think it’s normal, that maybe all people sit and create something and try to sell it on Amazon. The verdict’s still out on that; I’m sure some that are harsh on the indie publishing world would tend to agree.
Like me, they started from humble beginnings. I’m certainly not alone in the fact that I created my first works in spiral notebooks. Then I graduated to my inaugural bottom of the line laptop with the free version of Office. Yes, the annoying one with ads. They’re just starting earlier with the technology.
The 10 year old is also a pretty talented artist. Some of the stuff that she creates on the computer baffles my mind. I have absolutely no idea where she learned how to do what she does. And her doodles on paper have an anime styling. Naturally, the first “book” she put together on a wide-ruled tablet included illustrations.
It also included this cover blurb:
For those of you that don’t read elementary school girl writing, I’ll translate.
Welcome to the magical world of Maleot! 5 teens on a big mission and 1 big problem. Read on to find out what happens or leave yourself clueless…
First off, I think she might have been listening to those marketing gurus who talk about elevator pitches. Secondly, her first attempt at a cover blurb may just be better than any of mine. And lastly, maybe she’s come up with a new technique that the #amwriting world could learn from: insult your reader.
After all, no one wants to feel clueless. Right? But would it convince someone to buy your book? Hmmmmm.
For the life of me, the poor child could not understand why I took a picture of this. Or why it made me both laugh hysterically and beam with pride. And she would absolutely kill me if she knew I blogged about it. But I doubt she’ll sue me for copyright infringement so I think I’m safe. Plus, I pay for everything that she has, so she knows not to piss me off. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that this is an abandoned project and that she’s moved on to bigger and better things.
As for the 9 year old, she’s working on a collaboration with a classmate. As in the classmate came up with the title of the story and my daughter is writing the entire thing. Being the nice person she is, she’s given her friend equal credit on the title page. Yes, I know there’s plenty of lessons to be taught from that, but her eyes sort of glaze over when I explain why hers is not the best arrangement. She’ll figure it out.
Realistically, this is probably just a passing phase and all hopes and dreams for them of being authors will fly out the window shortly. They’re already distracted by the PS4.
But then again, maybe not.
I’ve spoken here a couple of different times about my hate/hate relationship with Facebook. The only reason I have a personal profile there is because I need to have one in order to have an author page. I don’t post personal pictures or status updates. If something really exciting is going on with my page, I will share it with my friends. I don’t think it makes much of a difference, but at least they can tell I’m alive. I do admit to scrolling through my news feed to see what’s going on with other people, but I don’t like or comment as just plain old me. My author self does all liking and commenting, which isn’t a whole lot anyway.
Up until June of this year, I didn’t even have an author page, because my disgust with Facebook was so strong. Then I took part in a really awesome Facebook party with other authors and I changed my tune a bit. Since I had so much fun hosting that event for my allotted hour and I met so many cool reader types during it (who asked me if I had an author page they could like), I decided to bite the bullet and create a page.
Since then, I’ve been fairly good about posting updates and content that I don’t share on Twitter – my social media drug of choice – or Google Plus, which I dabble in from time to time. After all, there are at least a few people who follow/like/whatever me all three places and I don’t want to bore them to death. I’ve also been rather lucky at growing my audience. When I first started out, I doubted I would ever reach that 100 likes milestone that Facebook dangles before you. But I bested that number two times over plus some, mainly because of a new release/giveaway promotion in July and just a plain old giveaway that I took part in with about 100 different indie authors.
Most of those people who liked my page have stayed around. Judging from my stats related to reach, most of those people don’t ever see a single word I post. Considering that I’ve found documentation that a common visibility percentage is between 2-6, I’m still kicking ass in that department. But then we get into the bane of my existence: the unlike. Over the past week, that nasty occurrence has reared its ugly head more than once.
My gut instinct is to immediately ask “What did I do wrong?”
I’ve been around on Twitter long enough to not be bothered by an unfollow or ten after I tweet something. And I certainly understand a drop off of followers after a giveaway ends and a winner is announced. If you look at the majority of Twitter accounts of people who seem to do nothing on the site but enter contests, you notice that they have only a handful of followers themselves, but are following just under that magic number of 2,000. It makes sense that they’d pack up and run because they are on to the next contest entry.
I had to do a little digging, but I did come up with evidence that there is a Facebook liking limit as well. The exact terms of it appear to be very vague and confusing, or maybe that was just me because I was nursing a headache when I read them. But it appears that some contest enterers frequently hit this Facebook liking threshold and have to clean up shop.
I’ve told myself that this is likely what has happened in my case, but there’s something about Facebook’s terminology that makes it seem more personal. It hurts way more to be “unliked” then it does “unfollowed”. After all, do I really want someone tracking all my movements like that action on Twitter implies? Not particularly. But let’s face it: everyone wants to be liked.
So for you that use Facebook: are you very selective with your likes? Or do you like any old thing that tickles your fancy at the moment – from a toothpaste company to a band – and then deal with the consequences later? And what makes your list as grounds for an unlike?
I’ve been watching too many cooking shows. To be honest with you, that’s about all I really watch on television anyway. As a family, we decided a year or so ago to give up cable, since we weren’t really watching it enough for the exorbitant amount we were paying per month to be worth it. Let’s face it; when I’m at home and not actively doing something with my family, I’m either writing or reading. When I do stare blindly at the TV, my attention is focused on public broadcasting’s wide array of foodie shows.
So it’s reasonable to use a food analogy for my writing method. By definition, marinate means to soak or to steep. Most often in a sauce, but for my purposes, in my brain.
We’ll start off small. With my blog posts I typically have a few ideas rolling around in my head each week for things I’d like to discuss. Some are serious, some are self-promotional, others are off the wall zany. I’ll try to come up with a witty title and a short, tweetable plug that I’ll send out to announce it’s there. This all happens before I sit down at the computer and actually write the thing. Posts are typically written on Monday or Tuesday nights, then saved and published on Wednesday late nights so they get emailed to my subscribers on Thursday mornings.
Some weeks, I’m a fountain of creative genius that people may or may not be reading. I’ve been known to fire off three or four posts in a single week, though I don’t share them immediately. Most of the time my limit is two per week max- one that I share for Monday Blogs and if there’s a second post, it’s book related or promotional. Since I hate spamming “look at me” posts, I don’t expect the promotional ones to be retweeted by my blogger friends.
But always, always, there is a cooling off period where I let my thoughts marinate. I go back and read it before I send it out into the world. I edit, or add things, or delete things all together.
Why? Because in real life there are so many times where you’re caught up in the moment and the conversation doesn’t go as planned. How many times have you thought of a kickass comeback hours later and wished you could have said it? In my blogging life, I go back in and add it before anyone else reads it. So ultimately, I look super witty the very first time. Nobody sees how many revisions my posts have. That’s my little secret.
I’m the same way with my novels. I’m not an outliner, but I’m not a true pantser either. It’s no secret that I have entire pages of dialogue already written in my head for my WIP. I have scenes scripted screenplay fashion, with a character that I haven’t even physically introduced yet playing a crucial role. No, I don’t write these passages down, nor do I write scenes out of order. And no, I don’t forget what’s going to be said. It’s all there marinating, waiting for the perfect moment to come out.
Case in point: the main character in my WIP has been a scene stealer in the previous three books. Without a doubt, she’s the comic relief and she gets the very best, most memorable lines in every one. Her sense of humor obviously comes from me, but I can’t write those things for her on the fly. Okay, sometimes I do – but it’s very rarely at the precise moment they can be used. Instead, I think them up and commit them to memory, inserting them when the timing is right.
Now, writing an entire book from her point of view is a bit intimidating. So I’ve had to think long and hard about her moments of brilliance in this one, so as not to disappoint her fans. I think I’m doing pretty well at it so far. But I’m still scared that I won’t be able to top my personal favorites of “No wonder you’re depressed. Those clothes are making me sad, too” or “All it took to make things right in the world was a conversation and a good screw”. Did I mention she’s kind of raunchy?
I’ve got some good zingers floating around in my head. They find their way eventually into my Word doc and sometimes morph into greatness during editing. Other times, I don’t have to add anything to them.
Just today, I came up with a line that will be marinating for the next seventy thousand words or so. It’s in one of the final scenes, but this time the credit doesn’t go to my heroine. I’ll leave you with it to ponder:
“You’re so good at making me forget that I don’t even know why I wanted to remember.”
As some of you may already know, I’ve signed up for an Author Fair this fall at my public library. Although they do allow entrance to authors who only have ebook copies of their work available, the draw is obviously there to bring along paperback versions of your novels, as you’re encouraged to sell them there. Add this to the fact that I’ve read time and again that while ebooks are taking over the market, you’re still wise to have hard copies available. Plus, someone who read my last book contacted me on Facebook and asked me if I had any book signings planned.
Mind you, I can already autograph ebook copies. But the thought of actually sitting at a table with a pen and signing a real book for a fan just seems way more impressive than sitting at my laptop and trying to do an impersonation of my signature with my mouse.
So I decided if I was going to do this thing, I would do it right and have some real life hard copies of my series available. If I’m being honest with you, I don’t expect to sell a single one of them. But I’ll have a copy of each for posterity, I’ll probably sneak a set onto my employer’s book cart in the break room to see if anyone notices, and the rest will make awesome doorstops.
Like many self-pubbers, I opted to use CreateSpace for my paperbacks. I’ve heard horror stories about formatting, page numbering and the like, so I did a bit of research before diving in. I bookmarked some helpful blogs, scoured the CreateSpace website itself and also went to the ultimate source – a book on my bookshelf.
Then I set to work. Obviously, the hardest part was already over. I have three books that are currently published in ebook format. So there’s over three hundred thousand words already plotted out. Already read and reread, over and over until I can recite them in my sleep. All I had to do was make them pretty on paper.
I started in chronological order, choosing to format my first book first. I made only a couple minor changes to the file. I shortened a “you are” to a “you’re” in the prologue, because it really, really grated on my nerves when I had to read it over and over in excerpts on the blog tour I did. I added a missing (in some versions) word back to the last chapter. I updated the page with my other books in the series to reflect Books 4 and 5, which haven’t come out yet but are already titled.
Then I got down to the hard part. I was timid, expecting to experience the nightmares that I’d already read about. I formatted according to what guides told me, doing things I didn’t understand because it was the next step on the list. I opened up the actual paperback on my desk and confirmed little, silly things that I’d never considered before. Things like how chapters start on odd pages in traditionally published books. Things like how the front matter isn’t page numbered, nor are the first pages of each chapter. So while page two is the second page of Chapter One, it’s not the true second page of the book. And there’s no (marked) page one.
Much like the first time I formatted my first book for ereaders, the exercise made me want to curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth. But I got through it, and still came out alive on the other side.
The second book didn’t go as well for me, though the total formatting time was less than the first. This is because I went without the assistance of webpages and blogs. Instead, I referred back to what I’d already done with my first book and attempted to recreate it. Just when I thought that I’d gotten it right, a quick check through the interior viewer would confirm that Chapter Such and Such still began on page 204, and I really didn’t have a good concept of what I was doing. I tried to be all ninja like with Odd Numbered Section Breaks, but for whatever reason they didn’t seem to stick. Ever. But after much yelling at my computer and much uploading to CreateSpace, I got it done all in one night.
The next night, I came back for Book Three. And to potentially get my ass handed to me yet again. That’s when the magic happened. I didn’t refer to anything. No blogs, no websites, no Book One or Two. I put in my earbuds and just went to town on the thing. I didn’t think about formatting. It all came naturally. I did sing (loudly) through three complete Parabelle albums, which usually drives my girls nuts, but since this was infinitely better than me screaming at my computer, they didn’t say one word.
Which led me to believe that I do my best formatting when I’m not thinking about formatting at all. It also led me to question whether I could make any money doing it for other people. After all, CreateSpace’s packages start at $199. I think that price includes a bit more expertise than I could provide (and undoubtedly less cursing), but still. They’ll also happily do your Kindle version for something like $80. That’s a lot of money that some people are willing to shell out for a couple nights’ worth of work. Even if I charged half that, it’s still a nice little chunk of change.
Then I remembered that I am super anal retentive. No joke, my rough drafts – ever since the first book – are all fully formatted for ebook consumption. I write them that way so once I’m happy with the edited version I can just slap on the copyright, front matter, back stuff and be done with it. I couldn’t deal with someone else’s files handed to me every which way. So there goes that career path.
But at least I know when I’m ready to print Book Four that it’s not a daunting task ahead of me. And I can be glad that I will never, ever, have to do three paperbacks at once again.
I’ve been sitting on this bonus content for quite awhile. However, in honor of Labor Day and not working, I thought it would be appropriate. After all, Eric and Lauren didn’t exactly work, either.
There’s a couple minor spoilers in here for those of you who haven’t read “Designed” yet. I don’t feel too badly about revealing that, yes, Lauren and Matthew get married in this book because that part was already pretty obvious at the end of Book Two. This leaves what I consider spoilers to be a.) Blake and Eric make a bit of a scene at the wedding (unbeknownst to either her brother or new sister-in-law), and b.) what Eric sees at the very end of this content.
That being said, enjoy!
This week I’m taking a departure from my usual self-publishing/social media/writing rants and I’m going to focus on something entirely different. Something totally self-indulgent, trivial and non-important. Why? Because I can.
And because my head is spinning trying to put three books into paperback all at once. (Whose bright idea was that? Oh yes, that was mine!) But more on that in another post.
I’ve mentioned previously that shortly after I took my new author picture I totally changed my look. The semi-shoulder length, blond highlights are gone. At first I went to an asymmetrical short haircut, but now I’ve settled down with a full on pixie cut. Said pixie cut gets magically blonder and blonder every seven weeks or so, to the point where I’m almost platinum up front and darkish brown in the back. I’ve also gotten a new piercing because now that I’m minus some hair, you can actually see it.
For the past fifteen years or so, I’ve been pretty experimental with my hair. I’ve been almost every naturally occurring hair color – blond, black, brown, red, you get my drift. Even gray, though not anywhere close to all over, but that’s because I’m getting old. For a few hot minutes I was also pumpkin orange, but it wasn’t on purpose. I’ve even had zebra striped hair (dark brown with huge chunks of blond – it was way more attractive than it sounds; my husband loved it).
For my formative years, my mother forbade me to cut my hair. So I wore it in the usual little girl style, long and nearly halfway down my back. Only problem was that my hair was and still is baby fine and super long isn’t the best look in that case. Couple that with the fact that my mom didn’t allow me to take daily showers, and by puberty it looked like a disaster by dinner time. Long and stringy isn’t a style; it’s a recipe for embarrassment.
One of the first things I did to rebel against my mother was cut my hair. My aunt served as a co-conspirator in this mission, sometimes paying for me to get my hair done when I went to visit her. My mom always had some snide remark when I returned home with considerably shorter, different colored locks. The one that stuck with me was how I’d “whacked” it all off, because it was ripe with mental imagery of a mob boss forcibly removing several inches of my hair, sending it down the river tied to cement blocks. I’ve always had an author’s mind.
Once I started messing with it, I found I couldn’t stop. I did attempt a grow out and was successful for a time during my zebra striped stage. That was my second favorite look, after all. But then I became bored and the scissors came back out, much to my husband’s chagrin. This ended with hand wringing and the promise of more growing out.
Until the cool thing became to have a pixie cut and celebrities right and left began cutting off their hair. The itch for short hair came back with a vengeance and my husband and I went through pictures and settled on a look. Even though he swears up and down that my hair never looks like what I’ve shown him. But that’s okay.
So now, I’m shorter than I’ve ever been and I absolutely love it. You know how you read about those haircuts that look perfect no matter what you do to them? I have one now. I can shower, comb it out and let it air dry and it looks exactly the same as if I take a blowdryer to it and use styling products. I can make it messy and spiky (and bird-like if you ask my sweetheart) or I can wear it smooth and classy.
I’ve also gotten more compliments on my hair than ever before. From both men and women. From women, though, it’s usually paired with something like “I wish I had the courage to do that”. Or “my husband/boyfriend/whatever likes long hair, but I would do that if I could”. Seems my mother isn’t the only one who holds fast to the little girl long hair stereotype.
For the record, my daughters aren’t ready to jump on the short hair bandwagon. My youngest recently told me that she saw a boy on YouTube with the same haircut as me. Whatever.
I don’t see myself as courageous. I’m truly a bit of a wimp. I’m nowhere near as brave as other people, but if I had to pick my personal moments of bravery, cutting my hair wouldn’t make the list. Self-publishing would. Completely natural childbirth would. Other things, too. But not hair, because it’s – well – hair. But it does get easier the more that you do it. I started out with baby steps, going to shoulder length – gasp! – and slowly progressing further north. Now that I’ve been everything in between, my hairdresser knows I’m not kidding when I walk in and tell her to cut it all off. Or make it black. Or blond.
But I like this so much, I don’t see it changing for a while.