I Couldn’t Keep It To Myself!

First off, I’d like to thank Christine DiMaio at flipcitycovers.blogspot.com for my cover.  None of this would be reality without your hard work, diligent effort and commitment to my vision.  I appreciate you and your talent very, very much and look forward to working more with you in the future.  

I cannot recommend Christine enough to anyone looking for a beautiful cover.  If you’re stumbling along looking for an artist who will capture your ideals on a computer screen, who will put in the time and energy to make it work with constant communication, mock ups and professional input…GO TO HER!!  Run, don’t walk!

*****

Seeing the cover of my book for the first time without a water-mark, in high resolution was…oh…just pretty much amazing.  It challenges that euphoria of holding the first draft of my novel in my hands…it’s the bliss of creation.  The feeling that it’s all real, and it’s getting bigger with each day.

There are moments when writing a book feels like a dangerous, slippery slope.  It’s hard to navigate and hard to stay motivated when you’re hearing no, no, no, no, no, no.  Then there are also moments, like seeing your cover, that make it feel spectacular and you know it’s all really worth it–worth everything–all the stress and tears and frustration and self doubt, because you did this–this is yours.

Writing a book–start to finish, dipping your toes into every step of the process…it’s hard, but it’s worth it.

I am so excited to share it with you all….I couldn’t keep it to myself!

With Much Thanks

An amazing thing happened.  A month ago I started a blog.  I expected nothing from it, honestly.  I’ve tried blogging before–it was not my flavor, disastrous results and never a single visitor.  But, when I started writing my book and decided to publish it, so many people were championing a blog as the best way to introduce myself and let potential readers in, I decided to try this whole thing on for size again.

It fit!

I want to start this post with a simple, yet huge, thank you.  So, so much thanks.  It’s one thing to write a blog, to share myself and my story with the internet at large, it’s another entirely to click on my dashboard and watch the ticker-tape of visitors climb with each day. I can’t really explain what it means to me to be read…but I can just say, it’s pure awesome.

I have this paradox of 28 in my life right now.  Good things happen on the 28th…it’s becoming my “lucky number”…

1. I started this blog on August 28th

2. My cover artist finished my cover on September 28th

3. My editor is taking my book on October 28th…and it will take her 28 days to edit it.

It sort of feels like magic.

Today is my one month anniversary of being a blogger…the day my cover was finished…and the day I realized good things come on 28’s.

Thank you all!!

I Literally Do Not Want To Be Literal

I hired my cover artist.  She is an amazing, truly gifted individual who is kindly putting up with my crazies without so much as a grumble.  As we’ve previously established, readers, I’m “nuts-over-this book”… so her ability to work with me…well, lets just say, that’s says a lot about her good will and tolerance.

When we first started bouncing our ideas around through e-mail, I was very literal.  My book is about tapes, so, naturally I was on board with “lets put a big honking tape on the cover.”  Actually, okay, that imagery was what I’d always imagined.  A tape, with the film threaded into a heart.  It is, after all, the basis and heart of my story.

Then we did…and I was…not loving it?

No.  I didn’t love it.  I didn’t feel like I was looking at the cover of my book.  It was pretty, it was close to what I wanted, basically–she nailed it (she’s very talented, by the way)…so, the blames all my own, my vision changed.  I did something called my research.

Covers, in my genre, are very rarely literal beings.

Take, for instance, the best selling novel, THE HELP.  The original cover  that first drew the crowds and accolades is a soft buttercream yellow with three birds resting peacefully on a fine wire laced across the page.  It doesn’t have a maid or a vacuum or  a book, even though those were things that constructed the crux of the story.  No, none of those things are pictured.  It sends a different message.  I read it as this: some little birdie told me and the fine line they’ll walk to tell the truth.  My mother sees it different than I do–something about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost–but I wasn’t getting it her way.  My point is, Stockett didn’t spelled out, it’s not showing you a snap shot of the story…it’s engaging you, piquing your curiosity.

TWILIGHT (insert: groan and me asking if you’re tired of my obsession yet) isn’t about an apple per say, but the battle of temptation, the forbidden fruit, is a beautifully cryptic message.  That was Stephenie Meyer’s goal, she said so herself.  Visit her website to see some of the literal drafts she 86’d in favor of the epic one she decided on.

That brings us now to the newest book cover I’m mildly obsessed with is, THE TASTE OF SALT.  A stack of sugary sea glass resting on weathered driftwood planks.  It’s a lovely way to show affinity for the sea and is visually stunning as the glass variates from pale pink to aqua–a perfect compliment to the dried out boards they lay upon.  But, the book isn’t about sea glass or driftwood, it’s about addiction and family.  Yet, the book sings of the ocean–which is a component, the protagonists much loved career–only, the water is not the soul focus.

My book is set in the Olympic Peninsula.  A place full of trees and salt water, moss, and meadows of emerald grass–all visually stunning, all worthy of being put on a book cover celebrating the glory of natural beauty.  But, I decided I wanted lavender on my cover.  Which, by the way, was a total accident.  I was just puttering around Shutterstock.com trying to find something that would hone in on the story.  And it wasn’t really until I saw the picture that I felt it.

Do I talk about lavender in my book?  No.  Did Kathryn Stockett talk about birds?  No. Do Bella and Edward walk around picking apples all day ?  I don’t think so.  While I feel slightly…off…about abandoning ship and going in a totally different, unexpected direction…I have no doubts. (I should also add that I felt terrible guilt over putting my cover artist through the ringer–she is sweet and accommodating, I’m crazy and unsure but serious and dedicated.  Of course I felt awful about the bait and switch…poor girl).

Here is a little known fact, something I’ve failed to mention and even left out of my book:

In the heart of the Olympic Peninsula, the Dungeness/Sequim area more specifically, there are plentiful family owned “you-pick” lavender farms.  Endless fields of sweet smelling purple florals. There are markets and festivals because of these luscious blooms that perfume the air every July.

July also happens to have deep significance in my book–but you won’t find any hand-feed spoilers here, folks.

So, long story short, it fit.  Rather perfectly.

But, even with all of that serendipity oozing off the open pages on my computer, I never drew the parallel until I read the word that sold me the vision.  Devotion. The lavender flower is a gift of devotion (thank you: research).

Click, Click, Click!  I had a moment!  I asked myself, ‘isn’t that’s what my story is about, the devotion a mother feels to her child…always?’  My answer: Yes, actually, it is.

Here I am…Saturday night, 28 years old with a good looking husband…and I’m buying fonts.  I spent the day trolling a bookstore, not to buy, just to look. I’m clicking away  e-mails on the microscopic keyboard of my iPhone to the cover artist, what about this and can we do that.  In a word, I’m devoted.

So, someday if you pass over the thumbnail of a lavender bunch on a vintage burlap sack, that may just be my story inviting you in.  Inside and out, you’ll find devotion.

Being A Pirate

This article, written by an Indie Author created a great deal of buzz on forum I belong too…and I felt like I had something to say…though, there it may not be favorable…

http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/blog/2011/09/21/why-i-nuked-my-writing-career-before-it-even-started/

It makes sense.  In some ways.  I was broke once too.  I had just given up a great job as a teacher with a well know cosmetology school where I was making serious bank and suddenly, I was trying to make ends meet, working full time at an auto body shop as the front desk girl (don’t ask me why I traded a great job for a lousy one…I couldn’t make it make sense even if I tried).

My life then was this:

-Amazing vintage apartment with hardwood floors and a palatial bedroom, a separate dining room, marbled entry way on the hottest street in Evanston….CHECK (kicker: none of it wasn’t mine, I was subletting to the tune of $1,800 a month while the real owner was off in Texas at medical school)

-Luxuries, like books or music, were memories of better days, things I couldn’t afford.  I would wander into Barnes & Nobel and touch the books, wishing I could buy even one…but one would send me into a spiral of choosing between gas or food or cell phone…I was seriously that poor.

-Gas, even at the lowly price of $2.00 a gallon was stretch.  It made it into my car, of course, but at about $5.00 per visit.

-I lived on frost bitten pizza bagels and the two cheeseburger value meals at McDonalds—one for lunch, one for dinner.  Not the healthiest of choices I’ll admit, but it was better than complete starvation.

-Horrible breakup, broken heart, tears on the pillow and the feeling that I just couldn’t go on…absolutely (I was oh-so melodramatic).

-A television that didn’t work because it was stuck on TiVo that the original tenant forgot to disconnect it or explain how it worked?  Yes, ma’am.

-And yes, I had Limewire downloaded on my computer.

Music helped me survive.  I couldn’t afford it, but I needed it.  Those songs I illegally pirated brought me back to life, one chord at a time.  And yes, the music I loved then became a touchstone for me, and when I (thank you, Jesus) managed to regain hold on my life and finances, I bought the songs–legally, of course–to remind myself of the skin I’d shed.

I guess this is where I merge my mind with the original author…people do need things, little bits and pieces of laughter and entertainment and normalcy, even if they can’t really afford them.

Right now we’re living in the middle (…not the end…) of really tough economic times.  There are men and women, who’ve never done a single thing wrong in their whole lives, out of work, fighting day in and out to put food on the table and gas in the car and doggy paddle the waves of this strange new world.

That’s us.  That’s America.  It’s 2011 and this is where we stand.

As a writer, I kind of think of it as my job to transport someone from the bedroom in their home, or the couch in their living room, or the rickety chair in the doctors office and put them somewhere else.  I know that’s what I depend on other author’s for.  When I read a book, I beg, take me away.  Maybe I want to read something scary, or learn something new, maybe I want a good cry or a hard laugh…whatever it is…that’s what I, as a reader, seek.  And that’s what I, as a writer, look to give in return.

It’s true…I wrote my book to (hopefully…fingers crossed) escape the grind of 7a-5p Monday-Friday and use my creative mind.  But, I didn’t do it to become rich…sure, of course that would be nice (think: Jimmy Fallon saying “but it’s more money“) however, more genuinely, I started writing because I had a story to tell–first for me, second for all of you.  And slowly, all of you became the focus of my intent.

Where I differ from the original posters mind set is right here:

Anything illegal is wrong.  I get that, 110% crystal clear…and my view will never be a universal truth shared by all–as so often opinions aren’t.  I don’t think it’s my place to get involved in pirating my own work.

But, reading is right.  It’s good for everyone to slough the grim of real life and visit another place, even if just for an hour.  I can totally get behind that.

At the end of the day, my feeling is this…

I will never torrent my own book–so if someday you bump into it free on a share site, know it wasn’t me who put it there, and I can’t be sure if you’re getting some “wreak holy havoc” virus instead.  I’m not going to breach contracts and isolate myself from other readers because Amazon, Barnes & Nobel and the like would pull me for breaking “good faith” which would totally go against my original agenda–which is, to make my story available.  However, I’ll never feel cheated if, somehow someday, the books does go beyond pay-to-play.

I was, once upon a time, that girl in the overpriced apartment rationing pizza puffs looking to escape.  I would be a fraud if I took the stance of how dare they.  And really, I wouldn’t feel that that way.

I wrote THE MILESTONE TAPES so that it could be enjoyed…and however you find it, I hope you do just that, enjoy!

A Book By It’s Cover

I’ll own it, I’ll put my name it…I do judge a book by its cover.  Yep, that’s right.  This girl, right here, is shallow enough to gauge her interest based firstly on a pretty picture.

But, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Books are sold with covers for a reason.

The first books we enjoy as children are picture books with few words and fat, cardboard pages. While we learn to master the skill of reading at large, we look for picture clues.  Books in book stores aren’t sold face down. Book covers are art.

Lets talk TWILIGHT (again) for a minute.  Those ghostly pale hands gently cradling an overly ripe red apple are trademarked, did you know that?   So for all you independent artists out there looking to make your own rendition–think twice, Summit will be all over that real quick.  That cover–more so than the rest–have come to stand for something–it is the image of the story.  Other YA authors have cashed in on the black/white/red trinity as well.  Don’t believe me?  Run to Barnes & Nobel…head straight to the YA section…count how many books you see that smack of the saga?

I believe it’s because, at first glance, it strikes a chord with readers looking for something new.  If you love, love, love Edward Cullen or Jacob Black Twilight then the sight of the color trifecta probably evokes a strong emotion in you, inspires you to pick the book up, run your fingers over the embossed, glossy cover, flip the thick novel over, glance-read the back.  That five seconds you spent with that book based on how those colors made you feel is a lot longer than other novels ever get.

So, guess what?  I’m taking this next step so, so seriously.  I’m pretty neurotic when it comes to my book in general (can you tell?!) and the cover is absolutely my non-negotiable.  I have a vision.  I probably first felt it bubble in my chest before I even finished the book.

I’ll be honest, again.  I’ve spent a lot of time looking at other covers.  And, I can sometimes tell an Indie Author from a Trad Author based on cover alone (put the pitch forks away, please).  I know, I know…but sometimes I just can.  The one’s I can spot tend to look…flat…even with dimension.  Sometimes they’re silly or underdone or overdone…and my eyes slide right past them.  I can’t help it.  I have a guttural reaction to covers.

Writing Women’s Fiction, in general, follows a certain recipe; a cup of this, a pinch of that.  And the covers of the books tend to be pretty, soft, feminine with a distinct flow.  I’m not departing from that, but the problem was–for a while–all I could find were…ummm…thing that weren’t my style.  Very bright, bold, dramatic covers better suited for action or horror or even erotica.  Definitely not my thing.

I found a few really great artists who I’ve had to ask to stretch.  But that’s okay, stretching is good–right?  I’m in no position to do it myself–I’m not savvy with graphics, sad but unfortunately true.  What I finally figured out, with the coaching from other published authors, was to look beyond the fantasy and see the skill.  If they can do all that…they should be able to do all this.

Right now I’m a kid on December 21st…days away from tearing into my big wishes…and anxious.  For a girl really driven by design, this is a HUGE mile marker for me…that little place where this dream becomes just a pinch more real.

The Girl’s Guide To Homelessness

I should probably just point out that I love biographies.  They are my weakness.   I really enjoy other peoples extraordinary lives and journeys…I try to take away lessons and inspiration from each one.  But, there is also the other side of the coin–that one that just sits wrong with me.

Welcome to Brianna Karp’s world.

She’s a twenty-something living in a trailer in the parking lot of Wal Mart.  She’s armed with a blackberry, laptop and a boat load of misfortune.

I read about THE GIRLS GUIDE TO HOMELESSNESS in PEOPLE magazine and was looking forward to picking it up. The idea, I thought, was interesting enough and the book was made to sound like it would be quick read. I finished it in a single night, mostly because I couldn’t wait to write a review, but felt in order to do so, I owed Brianna a fair shake at things.

This book should have been have been written in three parts: Belief, Suspicion of Disbelief and Total Disbelief.

I harbored a feeling, a strong feeling at that, that most of this book is written from Brianna supposed reality, and I highly doubt most of it is actual reality. A lot has been made about fictions claims and stories in the books–and I’m guessing that is probably the only true account when it comes to this story.

Brianna claims to be homeless, and yes, by definition she is without a stable home, ergo “homeless”. But she’s far, far, far and away from the image of a woman sitting curbside begging for change. She’s not that by a mile and a half of hard road.

She works really hard to sell you on why her version of homelessness is still legit, despite having money enough to fly her online boyfriend around the world 4 times, own a Blackberry cell phone, a neo mastiff (which she boards–and can afford to keep in food) and 2 cars, oops…lets not forget her trailer which serves as her home for the duration of the story. Brianna tries, and fails, to justify these actions by pulling the old “poor little me” excuse to explain away various expenses she occurs in the pursuit of wooing her man–like the antique ring or the the trips across the globe last minute.  She’ll tell you (more than once) that being homeless doesn’t mean you have to go without, for example, that owning a blackberry is a necessity of the modern world despite the $40.00 a month service plan that comes along with it.

There are moments where you’ll feel for this girl, of course. If this story even harbors 1/100th of truth, that’s a real shame. But, at the end of the day–and all else aside– she’s an active and willing participant in making poor decisions, al a, taking her unemployment, when she’s too broke to buy food mind you, and flying her boyfriend to the US for an extended “sex and getting to know you” vacation. Those tickets aren’t cheap, people.

I have no doubt Brianna struggles, be it from her circumstances or free will, but the reader will have a hard time reconciling the two. If it wasn’t for bad luck, Brianna would have none and so I wish her the best and hope she can realign her priorities so she can get back to on an even keel.

I disliked this book.  With passion.  I felt like it was blatant fraud.  She wasn’t living the life she wanted, true, but she wasn’t homeless.  Homeless means without a home, she had one–it was a trailer, maybe not the best living conditions long term or rise up to meet her standards–but a real homeless person, someone who has dumpster dived and begged change, would consider a trailer a treasure, a gift, a home.

It Keeps Me Up At Night

Do you remember as a child jumping into the swimming pool?  Launching yourself off the deck by the tips of your toes, into the thick sticky summer air, curling yourself up into a tight knot, hoping to hit the water hard, wanting to make the biggest, loudest, wettest splash.

I sort of feel that way about going it alone.

I want, whatever I do, to make the biggest, most powerful impact possible.  And it’s all about having a compulsively readable book.  I won’t have the benefit of a big publishing house behind me, heck, I won’t even have a small publishing house behind me…what I’ll have is my team, the people I choose to surround myself with.  Those choices amount, essentially, to how tight I’m curling myself up, readying to break the surface of the publishing pool.

It begins with an editor.  A good, heavy-handed, honest editor.  But that’s hard.  Each brings something impressive to table–sometimes what’s impressive is simply just what they charge.  But still, I visit their websites and amaze over their credentials and whit, beautifully laid out digital pages of reviews from past authors and bright book covers and promises to give your book a resounding voice.

For me, choosing an independent editor was two-fold process.

First, and most importantly, I had to get the sense that this was someone I could actually work with.  Someone who would read my questions and actually answer them…since, lets just face it, I had a lot of stupid, new-to-the-party kinks I needed to iron out.  You can just tell when someone is actually on your page, where what you’re saying is translating.

Giving your book away is a damn scary thing.  Every single word, mistake, flaw, character, conflict, drama, resolution–they’re mine and I own them.  By hiring someone to take the”red pen” to the paper (okay, so everything is digital now with word tracker, but you know what I mean) is saying “change me”…take this from me only mine and make it some of you, too.  Scary, right?  But exciting when you realize you’ve found someone who sees the book in your terms and the context in which you wrote it.

Secondly, they had to fall into budget.  Yes, the B-word.  I have this thing called living expenses that still matter very much in spite of everything else going on, and those bills, they just don’t go away.  So, yes, I was working with a set figure on how much I could spend and still feel good about myself.

The kicker to be “new” is that there were moments when I felt like people were lined up to see what my boundaries were.  Dollar figures like $3,000 and $1,800 were spilling out of my e-mail and I was literally sending out an SOS with my tears.  I was walking that fine line of thinking is this even worth it?  Yes, of course it’s worth it…but…

I’m not saying those editors aren’t worth their price…of course they are!  But, to be honest, I never planned on spending much on publishing (actually, I kind of thought I’d make a few bucks…) so forget about anything with 4 figures.

But, when it all boils down…nothing, absolutely not one single thing, is easy about this.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.  And…I can finally say it…finding the right editor was worth it…

Right now is probably a good place to announce that I am literally jumping for joy.  I found someone.  Someone who is going to take this rock and polish it up for the public!

I’m on my tip toes, people!  CANNON BALL!!!

The Prodigy of Kickstart

Who has heard of this?  I found it on a podcast and visited the site today–okay, I did more than visit, I applied.

Maybe this method is unconventional…plugging your story to mini-philantropists in hopes of scraping together enough money to push your dream towards the finish line…but I like it, a lot.

Here’s my take–it’s only worth two cents, so it’s a bargain…

Sometimes a dream is bigger than one person.  Bigger than what they are capable of alone, bigger than their personal bank account, bigger than they ever thought they’d do and totally under prepared for it.  But, that’s essentially what dreams are…for stretching and growing.

When I started my book, it was just this bat-shit crazy idea I had.  It was this story I wanted to tell, but the actualities of my life held me.  I’m not a writer.  I don’t have a fancy education from a big 10 school with a diploma hanging on my wall championing my greatness.  That is so not me.

That’s the part where this writing became a dream…because wasn’t a set of tools I had, it was something outside of everything I knew.  The further I went, the more I wanted it, and suddenly what I didn’t have wasn’t as important as what I could have.

I think that’s the point of a place like Kickstart, and the many others.  It gives people the chance to really, really dream big.

Back To The Beginning

Last spring, on my 28th birthday, my husband took me to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.  I was so normal back then.  I woke up, went to my job, devoured books, played with my dogs, hung out with my family.  I never, ever imagined that one tiny trip and four days would effectively change my whole life.

Driving towards the Pacific Coast, along the winding and dangerous highways, there are beautiful, timeless harbor towns.  So beautiful you wouldn’t believe.  Homes set high above cliffs, the Puget Sound out the back door and captivating views of Mount Rainer from the front, panoramic windows set inside craftsman homes offering views of the world.  As a girl from the midwest, you can only imagine how magical this was for me.  My life; North, South, East or West and everywhere in between is flat, flat, flat. I was won over–very, very easily.  Maybe it was the greenness of the land; trees dripping heavy with rain soaked moss and ferns.  Maybe it was the restlessness of the coast; wild with crashing white capped waves and tumbled stones, graveyards for fallen driftwood beached white with salt.  Maybe it was the sea life; the baby elephant seal behind a hallow log waiting on his mother, or the starfish that washed ashore in clusters to hungry seagulls who swooped the shore, tide pools teeming with life so bright and full it was hardly real.  But, whatever it was, I was so lost and so found all in the same moment.

I came back home different.  I needed to live there, only, I was tied to this place by work and a home and all the other nonnegotiables that one manages to collect over a lifetime.  Still, I would sit up at night haunted.  Everything about the Olympic Peninsula sang to me–and that would not quiet itself.

One night, long after my husband fell asleep, I opened a new document on my computer and just started typing.  No, I didn’t outline or worry the finer details of writing a novel–all of that came later.  I just started by telling a story.  I set up shop in a small coastal town that we’d visited, a real place with good restaurants and quant shops, and researched all I could about life there.  What are the schools like, what is the median income, what sort of folk live there.  I did all the background as though I was moving there, because, really in many ways I was.  I was writing my first novel based on that place, tying myself to it forever and ever Amen. I built a dream home with words and made the land the center focus, my protagonist loved the place as much as I did.

Then, the story grew.  It stopped being only about the place and started to be about the people.  My people.  And, once I knew who they were and what they did and why they did it…they took over.  They completely and entirely drove the story, I knew exactly what was supposed to happen and when.  That honestly surprised me lots.  It was joyful, to tell the story of the Chamberland family, and it was easy.  

Once my book hit about 30,000 words, I knew this was serious.  I didn’t know how serious, but I wasn’t going to stop until I finished it.  I bought the Publishing For Dummies book, and Writing Your First Novel, I poured over the pages with such seriousness.  I owed to my little story the best I could muster.

So that’s that, then.  Where it all started, on Highway 101.