So perhaps the single most awesome thing in my writing career happened for me recently. Nope, I didn’t hit the bestseller list for thirty seconds, or get closer to achieving my goal of luxury car ownership via royalty checks. In fact, my monumental feat has absolutely nothing to do with sales.
My books are now in my local library.
My husband told me that it would be unseemly to go visit them, so I just have to take the online card catalog’s word for it. I believe it; here’s the link.
For some reason, this is more validation for me as an author than having an Amazon page, a Goodreads profile, or a Facebook fan page. Maybe it’s because growing up, I never dreamed in a million years that something I wrote would be placed on those shelves. Shelves upon which I discovered my love of reading. And in the library setting, it’s somewhat of a more level playing field, in as far as my fiction books are alphabetized right in with traditionally published works by big named authors.
As you might recall, in November I was one of approximately 70 authors who took part in an Author Fair held at our Main Library. As such, we were encouraged to bring copies of our books for sale. This event pushed me to create paperback copies of my already published ebooks so that I actually had something to show off while I was there. Though I sold a few books there, I did come away with some inventory. Which got me thinking – what if I donated a couple copies of each book to the library so that readers in my community could enjoy them?
So I asked. And I got a quick response back. One that shocked me. It went something like this: “Of course we would be happy to accept your contribution. But we’d like you to know that we’ve already got the first book in your series on order and it should be stocked shortly.”
Yes, they had already purchased my book. Without me asking them to, or me getting down on my hands and knees and begging them to. And I had no clue. Which I found to be even sweeter than them agreeing to take some free ones off my hands.
I’ll likely never see the proceeds from that book, because my net royalty on that particular sale is only 50 cents. And I seriously doubt I’ll see an influx of paperback purchases that will help me cross the payment threshold. But I don’t care one iota. Because they showed me with that order that they believed in me, at least a little bit.
I promptly dropped off copies of Books Two and Three, as well as two additional copies of the one that they already bought. Now all three novels are in circulation, and as of this posting, over half of the copies available have been checked out. I’m really curious on how they are being displayed, or if library staff is recommending them or what. Other than a quick post to Facebook and Google Plus and a mention to some coworkers – who I seriously doubt are responsible for borrowing them – I’ve told no one that they are there.
I’m excited to see what the future holds, and I’m cautiously optimistic that this will have a snowball effect. A common take away from people that I met at the Author Fair was that it was cool that I based my books in Fort Wayne. And now, the community that serves as my setting has the chance to check them out, very literally.
Though I know not everyone in our city of a quarter million people has a library card, our library system is county wide. Even though the copies all originated at the main library, since readers can return them at any branch in the county, they may find their way to other locations in the area. Or if there is enough demand for the copies that they already have, the library may purchase additional copies to shelve at some of the more frequented branches.
Any way I look at this, the potential to reach a new set of readers is nothing to sneeze at.
I miss sleeping on my left side.
There’s a work around that I’ve come up with recently which is sort of convoluted and involves me putting my pillow a few inches away from my husband’s and sticking my left ear in the gap between them, balancing my head on the edges of both. Understandably, this position doesn’t last long, and it usually only works when I’m trying to fall asleep anyway. Sometimes I also try propping my ear up on my arm so that it doesn’t touch the pillow itself, which doesn’t work much better. Invariably, I wake up on my right side, or if I’m feeling really adventurous, on my stomach.
Back in the spring – I’d say around May or so – I got my left ear gauged. For the uninitiated, what this means is that I got the cartilage at the top of my ear pierced by a hollow needle, leaving a hole into which was threaded a small hoop earring. It hasn’t yet completely healed, which isn’t out of the ordinary. It certainly doesn’t hurt nonstop, but it is still sore when bumped into or when I smash it against a pillow. But I like the way that it looks and that’s just the price that I have to pay. I’m hoping at some point it will be as though it’s not even there and I can go about sleeping (or putting on my winter hat) as I did before. But not quite yet.
This is the second piercing that I’ve had done in relatively the same location. The first time I got it done was at the mall, with a traditional ear piercing gun when I was about eighteen or nineteen. I had loads of problems with that one, so I took out the earring and let it grow shut. I later learned that one should never get a cartilage piercing done with this method, and in fact, the state of Indiana has outlawed this practice. You now need to go to a tattoo / piercing parlor to get this done (with the needle method) by a licensed individual, which is what I did the second time around. So far, so good.
As you might have gathered from reading some of my previous posts, this was not my first trip to a tattoo parlor or my first piercing. So the thought of having to go back to one of these establishments certainly did not discourage me from getting a cartilage piercing done (like it seemed to do to the lady at the mall who told me to simply cross the state line and get it done in Ohio, instead of going to the tattoo place that’s approximately seven minutes away from my home). Last time I checked, Ohio was more than seven minutes away.
My first experience at a tattoo parlor was actually getting a tattoo done. This happened prior to children, and most of the time I forget it’s there. A pretty vine of flowers along my lower back, which I will catch in the mirror from time to time when I’m getting dressed and still have no regrets over it being there. It occasionally shocks people when they learn that I have one, though to look at me it shouldn’t, because though it’s my only tattoo, I didn’t exactly stop there with the modifications.
Next I got my navel pierced. This one I had to think long and hard about. And I also waited until I was done having children before I did it, because I just didn’t want to consider the logistics of it. I mean, I was the pregnant lady that completely lost her belly button, as in it became totally flat as things progressed. Both times. So when I was in the clear, it took a small dare from my husband before I grabbed the keys to the minivan and drove myself to get it done. Though I love the end result, it was the most painful addition I’ve made – both during the actual piercing and the healing process itself. If it ever closed up (which I won’t let happen), I would not get it done again.
Then came the nose. It’s the one that most people are curious about, maybe because it’s right there in the middle of my face. It’s also my favorite one of the three that I have. I’d admired other people’s nose rings before, but being in the banking industry, it was always a sort of pipe dream for me since that look was definitely not work appropriate for a conservative institution. When I quit the bank and moved on to insurance, I found myself working in a much more laid back environment, so I got the green light to have this done.
Nose piercing number one did not work so hot. My first nose ring had a habit of migrating out of my nose, which sometimes happens. I tried a shorter nose screw after the initial healing period, which actually got embedded into my nostril and had to be pulled out the other side. Yeah, that was about as fun as it sounds. After a few more pieces of jewelry, it closed up overnight when the nose bone I had in came out in my sleep.
I was sad. Of all the piercings I had, the nose was the one that I felt was a part of my personality. I went bare for about a year or so before getting it redone. This time, no problems at all so it’s here to stay. I did have a dream this morning though, where my nose was horribly stuffy and I ended up waking myself up by taking the nose bone out, likely to solve my problem. Luckily, I still had it in my hand, so straight to the bathroom I went to put it back in with very bleary eyes.
To be honest with you, apart from the occasional “How do you blow your nose?”, most people don’t even seem to notice the tiny sparkle on the side of my face. The answer, in case you were wondering, is just like everyone else. With a tissue.
I’m happy to report that I’ve never gotten any rude comments from people because of the way I present myself. I’m beginning to think that as time rolls on, people are growing more and more accepting of those who choose to adorn themselves in a permanent manner. This is a wonderful thing in my book.
Case in point: I went into the same bank that used to employ me over the summer to attend to some business. The head teller there had a nose ring, small and delicate, just like the one I sport.
Kind of makes me wonder if I should have pushed the envelope before I left.
I’ve already posted here that I use my legal name as my author name. There’s no need for me to pretend that I don’t; it’s already out there in black and white and there’s no taking it back. I haven’t had any issues with doing so, but I don’t exactly shout it from the rooftops that I’m a romance author when I go about my daily business, either. Most people that I cross paths with don’t put two and two together, nor should they. Mine is not exactly a household name.
That being said, there’s a contingent of people that are up in arms concerning those in the writing and blogging communities who choose to use a pen name when they do their thing. To me, it’s a personal choice and not really a big deal. After all, people in the public eye (celebrities, journalists, radio personalities, etc.) have long taken stage names and this is considered an acceptable practice for them. Why should it be any different for an author or blogger big or small to do the same?
There are certainly many valid reasons for opting to use an alias. Privacy, for starters. Maybe your given name is difficult for others to spell or pronounce. Perhaps you don’t want others in your community – think employers or church members – to know that you write something like erotica on the side. Maybe you’ve come up with a witty pseudonym to market yourself with. Whatever.
However, those individuals that criticize the practice seem to assume that people that don’t use their real name ultimately have something to hide. In some cases, I’m sure that’s true. I’m thinking those that have left abusive relationships, etc. And that as a consumer, they have the right to know what this something is. Um, no.
In my eyes, you have the right to create the public persona that you want to. As long as you’re writing or blogging in a professional and respectful manner, which the vast majority of us do already, there’s no reason for the public to dig any deeper. Even when the public doesn’t like the book we wrote or the opinion we’ve taken on a topic, for most people it stops there. Sure, they might never buy another novel from us again, or stop reading anything with our byline on it, but that’s their choice and their right.
But keep in mind that the internet is the internet and that there’s a scary amount of information out there that can fall into the wrong hands. And no matter what you choose to call yourself publicly, there are people out there who know the real you. Think about it. We all have bank accounts, go to doctors and dentists, get our taxes done, have insurance policies. There are no ways around using our legal names for these purposes. Plus, there are well meaning family and friends who may let things slip accidentally. Despite all the various precautions taken, an alias is not a fail safe plan to protect your true identity.
Given all that, shouldn’t we all just hole ourselves up in our homes and stop creating or ranting? Should we change our opinions on things just because someone could search us out and torment us? I don’t think so.
This was something that I came to terms with a few years ago when I first obtained my insurance licenses. You give up quite a bit of privacy in becoming licensed, which I didn’t realize until I learned that there was an online data base that includes at least a smattering of every licensed agent’s personal information. Name and address (whether business or home) was enough to concern me. But nothing bad has ever come out of that in my case. No disgruntled customers waiting for me in the parking lot or showing up in my driveway. Granted, I don’t actively sell any more, but still. I suppose there was the guy that continued to call me after the fact we established he wasn’t a potential client, but I never felt threatened by him. Let’s just say he got a little more pleasure out of my phone voice than he should have.
Everything worth doing in life has a risk. Just like I put myself out there when I became life, health, property and casualty licensed, I did it again on a larger scale when I made myself a brand. To me, it was a big step in proving that I’m ultimately responsible for my successes and my failures as an author. It might also have a little something to do with the fact that I have a hard enough time coming up with names for characters, let alone myself.
But would I be any less genuine or snarky if I called myself something else? Not on your life. My books would read exactly the same no matter what name I put on the cover. Every single word.
So pick your name and own it. And don’t let anyone silence your voice.
When I was writing my debut novel, I didn’t have a dedicated workspace. Since my whole foray into the world of self-publishing started off as a hobby, or at the very least, a dare to myself, I wasn’t thinking of being in it for the long haul. At least initially. So I wrote in bits and pieces, when I was watching television with my husband. I’d perch the laptop on my legs and fire off a few hundred words or so at a time.
Formatting that way proved to be a bitch. Or maybe that was because I was learning the process. Just imagine lots of screaming and frustration at my technology. That’s a pretty accurate description of preparing my first book for publication.
Eventually, I decided that I would only write when I wasn’t spending time with my husband. Since he has a work schedule that has always been a bit opposite mine, this still allows plenty of opportunity for me to work on my books. It also eliminated him being around to shoot me weird glances when something didn’t go right. And stopped the whole reading over my shoulder thing that I’ve never been fond of anyway.
For books Two and Three, I moved my work area out of the family room and into our repurposed dining room. Here, I had a computer desk and an office chair. This also coincided with my new attitude of making self-publishing my second career. I would hunker down at my desk and spend hours at work, just like this was a job. I’d like to think that aided in my productivity, but I’m not entirely sure. I think a large part of my confidence also stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t new to the game anymore.
Formatting went the same way as the creative process. A little easier, because I wasn’t as flustered by things. And since the preorder option was available at that point via Smashwords, I was able to take my almost finished manuscript, sideload it to my Kindle, and proofread the thing from my couch like I was reading any other book. Since proofreading isn’t technically writing, I do fudge a bit on this step and I will read my own stuff while my husband’s home. Seriously, what’s the difference between having my Kindle out for fun or doing work?
So now we are on to Book Four and some things have changed. I’m almost, nearly, halfway done with my first draft. I’ve also given up my computer desk and chair to my ten year old. This time, I’ve moved out into the living room to write while sitting atop our brand new sectional.
I’ve also discovered television again. See, I can’t work in total silence so I’m always writing either to the sound of whatever program is on or whatever music I choose to play on my iPod. In my dining room, it was always music because I didn’t have the option of anything else. But now I’ve got choices.
And a new guilty pleasure. Namely, The Voice.
I shied away from watching much of anything on television when my husband was home during the week, simply because our tastes are so different. So we’d watch what we could agree on together, mainly sporting events or cooking shows. But now, with him back working weekday nights, I have a whole world of reality TV calling out to me.
Too bad for me that the program I picked to watch captivated my attention so much it cut into my writing time. And it’s on two nights a week to boot. But I’ll adjust, because it’s drawn me in that much.
A long time ago, in that hazy place called my teenage years, I used to sing, too. Depending upon who you asked (my choir director and some friends and parents of friends), I could have been good at it. I had solos and I sang in contests and musicals and such, but I always let that evil stage fright get the best of me and never really met my full potential. Of course, there wasn’t this kind of programming on back then to make you push yourself and truly believe that someone from Indiana could be discovered and make it big.
So what’s a few hours sitting back and getting caught up in the dreams of other hopefuls? Seeing people working hard and getting recognized for it is sort of inspiring. We’ve already established that I’m a bit sympathetically emotional, and some of their performances give me chills and/or bring tears to my eyes. Plus, it also reminds me that I always wanted to – but never did – learn how to play the guitar.
The world today is so different from what it was when I was growing up. Internet and all that goes with it has helped to eliminate the geographic boundaries that used to exist for those of us passionate about the arts. Now you don’t have to move to LA or Nashville to get noticed; just post a video on YouTube or audition for one of these competitions and you might very well become a household name.
It kind of reminds me of how self-publishing has eliminated boundaries for those of us who choose to explore our creative sides offstage.
Besides, writing is much better for introverts, anyway.
“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