Saturday, 24 December 2011

Ghost of Christmas Past / Chapter 15 Excerpt

For many children, Christmas is a time of year filled with wonder and excitement . . . it's Jesus birthday and Santa Claus is coming!  Pine trees are dragged indoors to be decorated.  Strings of colored lights transform a normal house into a magical castle.  The children's anticipation is electric! 

Joy and laughter dominate our TV screens.  Polished white smiles coax us to spend more than we should as we scramble to find the perfect gift for each name on our list.  Others show beautiful people dressed in stunning outfits attending lavish parties.  This is what we strive for . . .    

Everything appears perfect!

This is what we see and are made to believe.  But for many, these images are far out of reach and simply crumble at their feet.

Holidays can trigger memories to slip to the surface when least expected.  We each walk our separate path in life, which leaves indeliable footprints from the past.  Many we cherish and share with family and friends.  Yet there are others we'd like to forget.  Certain holidays can bring back strong feelings, depending on the path we've traveled.

Right now, you can probably recall your happiest holiday ever.  But also, maybe another you wish you could forget . . . like an elephant standing in the corner.

For me, I desire to dwell on happy, simpler times, shared mostly with my children.  Their innocence and goodness gave my life meaning when times were difficult . . . .

"Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way."          -  Douglas Pagels

Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, shows the best of times and the worst of times for one ordinary couple. The mystery of falling in love, the clumsiness of courtship, and the struggles of a new family trying to make it work. Gradually, moments of simple joy entangled with the trials and tribulations of PTSD, become normal. 

And there were holidays . . . like the one I share below, a simple and quiet time . . . a happy memory.

December 14, 1974   
     It was eleven days before Christmas and we were off to buy a tree.  The children chased each other down the sidewalk before piling into the back of Lorne’s car, each clamoring for a seat by the window.  Their carefree giggles warmed the chilly afternoon air.  On the surface we looked like any ordinary family . . . too bad it wasn’t true. 
     “Okay kids,” Lorne shouted across the lot.  He struggled to free another tree from the huge compressed pile at his feet.  Then one broke loose; he vigorously pounded the trunk on the ground, releasing the branches.

     “Run back, and tell me if the trunk’s straight,” he called, surveying the tree up close.          

     Cory ran over to me, his pale hair flying, his cheeks flush.  “Mom, Mom, come look,” he said, tugging me by the hand.  “Can we get this one?  It’s a real good tree.” 

     His innocent wonder was like food for my soul. 

     Later that evening, Lorne sat quietly watching the children rummage through the dusty old boxes I had dragged down from the attic.  Each year they helped me trim the tree; it was our tradition.  They would hunt for treasured ornaments stored in boxes wrapped in tissue paper, calico stars and hand painted angels they had made in kindergarten; stained glass ornaments embellished with their names, made by their Aunt Karen, my sweet sister.   

     Once the last ornament was hung on the tree and baby Jesus was safe in the manger, I turned off the lights, signaling Scott to plug in the tree.  It sprang to life, fat and robust, dancing in lights.  Draped in gold garlands and layered with shiny red balls, tiny gold flutes and red velvet bows, the tree resembled a Norman Rockwell painting. 

     “Okay kids, its way past your bedtime,” I announced standing up.  “It will still be here in the morning.”

     I left Lorne staring into the twinkling tree lights while I put Tiffy to bed.
     “Mommy, when is Santa coming?” she asked, crawling under her covers.

     "In eleven days,” I replied, tucking in her blankets.  I leaned down, tweaked her nose and gave her a kiss.  “He will be here before you know it.”

     I knew the boys no longer believed but I hoped to hide it from her as long as possible.  When the boys brought up the subject trying to corner me, I simply said, “Santa doesn’t bring presents to children who don’t believe in him.” And for the time being, that worked.    

     Once the boys settled down, I kissed them goodnight and headed downstairs.  Glancing over the banister, I noticed Lorne was still fixated on the tree. 
     "A penny for your thoughts,” I said, sitting next to him. 
     Lorne turned, then reached out and took my hand.  A strange look covered his face . . .

Lesson Learned . . . my two cents

 “Affliction is often that thing which prepares an ordinary person for some sort of an extraordinary destiny.”
- C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Our Soldiers are Returning / Write Your Heart Out

The holidays are upon us and the busy-ness is endless, so today I've done something different . . .

Our soldiers have returned from Iraq this week, just in time for the holidays, and I decided to repost a blog from May . . . which shows what's in my heart and why I write

My heart is over-joyed for these families that have been reunited, yet in the dark recesses of my mind, I remember so well and worry.  My prayers are that these men and women are counseled and debriefed before being expected to fit back into society, and are given a solid contact name to call, if needed.  Someone who has been where they have been, someone they can trust with their feelings!  Also, that their families and friends have compassion and patience as these warriors try to adjust back into family life.

This is their GREATEST DESIRE . . . please remember where they've been and what they've been through.

The trick is keeping your heart open.     Natalie Goldberg

May 5, 2011

This blog began as a tool to move me into publishing.  Accountability for my time and actions was my purpose.  Most entries have been lighthearted and chatty, other than the first.  But the time has come when I must share more.  And I'm uncomfortable.  So please bear with me.

Write your heart out.  Never be ashamed of your subject and your passion for your subject.     Joyce Carol Oates

War has gone on since the beginning of man's creation.  And will continue until the end of time.  This necessary evil brings death and pain not only to its victims, but also to the warriors and their loved ones covering our small planet.  It's not the way we'd like it to be . . . it is the way it is.

Brave men and women fight wars in hostile lands where life is valued differently.  Armed with rifles, they're exposed to sights and sounds no human being should ever witness.  And at times, they must engage in unthinkable acts to save their friends, which riddles them with shame and guilt.  Or they survive an ambush and the others don't. 

Can you imagine the horror? 

It's not a movie in the theater you pay to watch . . . it's real life!  And it's happening this moment in remote parts of the world.  How does a warrior return to a normal life with this running through their head?

It's called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder . . . a normal reaction to abnormal life threatening stress. 

Those who know me know my story.  They know what I wrote about, and why.  And those who don't know me, other than through this blog, will one day share an experience . . . one that will be hard to forget.

My book?  It's a love story.  And shows how I met the love of my life and we were married.  He was a Vietnam vet.  I didn't know he had post traumatic stress disorder.  I didn't know what post traumatic stress disorder was.  Nor did I know I would develop PTSD from living with my husband's illness. 

The ravages of war tainted our marriage eclipsing it into a nightmare.  And by grace alone, my love gave me the strength and the courage to survive.

I Corinthians 13:4-7  Love suffers long and is kind . . . bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  

Excerpt from my book proposal . . .

Diary of a Vet's Wife shows the innocence of love unblemished with hope and promise, unaware of the imminent demons vowing destruction.  And all too soon her impossible dream is shattered by nightmares her husband doesn't recall and hidden pain he refuses to share.  Her love is unyielding, her journey is long.  She retreats to a life of secrets in order to spare the children and her family from the truth, yet she has no place to turn.

The reader will slip into her world like a fly on the wall as she takes them places most have never been, while bonding with others who know the terrain that only love dare travel.

So there you have it . . .

Lesson learned . . . my two cents

Be open to your readers opinions . . . they're one of the reasons you write.

Show compassion to our brave men and women who have served and suffered for this nation, and our safety. You never know what a person is going through by looking at them.  Would you lay down your life for your country?  Please do me a favor.  When you see someone in uniform, or meet someone who has served in our military, go up to them, shake their hand and say, "Thank you."  It would mean so much to them.  I know from experience . . .

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Has PTSD Touched You? / Chapter 26 Excerpt . . .

Once I was brave enough to tell my story, actually said the words aloud, I realized how many others had been touched by this disabling illness.  I was shocked!  Almost everyone knew someone, whether directly related, a close friend, a neighbor, someone from church, a friend of a friend . . . almost everyone!

“Mental illness is so much more complicated than any pill that any mortal could invent ” Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

I lived with this nightmare for 15 years.  Then it had no name and there was no help.  The longer you live with post-traumatic stress disorder, the deeper you become entrenched with no escape . . . no reasonable escape.  You can't hide in a closet or pull the covers over your head.  You learn to live with it, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, never knowing from one minute to the next, what's lurking around the corner.

In Diary of a Vet's Wife, my memoir, the man I love battles his demons alone, in the only way he knows how, unwilling to admit he's in trouble and refusing to let me in.  I'm not strong enough to fight him, I can only stand in the shifting shadows and watch . . . and be there for him when he needs me. 

Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit
- Peter Ustinov

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD?

It's natural to be afraid when you're in danger.  It's natural to be upset when something bad happens to you or someone else you know.  But if you feel afraid and upset weeks or months later, it's time to talk with your doctor . . . you might have post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD is a real illness. You can get PTSD after living through through or seeing a dangerous event, such as war, a hurricane, or bad accident. PTSD makes you feel stressed and afraid after the danger is over. It affects your life and the people around you.

PTSD can happen to anyone at any age. Children get PTSD too.

You don't have to be physically hurt to get PTSD. You can get it after you see other people get hurt, such as a friend or family member.

What causes PTSD?

Living through or seeing something that's unsettling and dangerous can cause PTSD. This can include:
  • War or combat
  • Being a victim of or seeing violence
  • The death or serious illness of a loved one
  • Car accidents and plane crashes
  • Hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires
  • Violent crimes, like a robbery or shooting.
  • Plus many other things
Related diseases and conditions:
  • Stress occurs when forces from the outside world impinge on the individual. Stress is a normal part of life. However, over-stress now points to being involved in various diseases and conditions.
  • Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood and thoughts, and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things
  • Alcoholism is a disease that includes alcohol craving, and continued drinking despite alchol related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law.
  • Suicide is the process of intentionally ending one's own life. Approximately 1 million people worldwide commit suicide each year, and 10 million to 20 million attempt suicide annually.
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, is a mental illness in which a person has at least two distinct personalities. Symptoms and signs include lapses in memory, feeling unreal, blackouts in time, and hearing voices in their heads that are not their own.
  • Drug Addiction is a chronic disease that causes drug-seeking behavior despite consequences to the user and those around them.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder is a serious mental illness characterized by prevasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image and behavior. This instability disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individuals sense of self-identity.
  • Insomnia is the difficulty in falling to sleep, waking frequently during the night, or waking too early in the morning.
  • Sleepwalking is a condition in which an individual walks or does other activities while asleep. Conditions that have similar symptoms are night terrors, confusional arousals and nocturnal seizures.
  • Nightmares are dreams that cause high anxiety or terror. They occur during rapid eye movement (RIM) sleep when related to post traumatic stress disorder.


Spring 1976 - Giving in too easily

     The torrential winter rains with their raging rivers of mud had all but dried up, leaving a path of destruction in their wake.  The newness of spring brought proof that life goes on.  Our new house was finally under construction but far behind schedule.

     "Feel like riding out to see the house?" Lorne asked, standing in the kitchen, his hands deep in his pockets.  "It's a gorgeous day.  I think it would do us both good."

     He had strolled in long after midnight and knew he was in the doghouse.

     "Sure . . . I guess," I said, staring out the window as I rinsed the breakfast dishes.  "Give me a couple of minutes to change and situate the children."

     The Sunday morning traffic was light.  The brittle breeze engulfed us on the bike, stinging my cheeks and numbing my fingers.  I perched behind Lorne and clung to him.  The warmth of his familiar body melted my anger and soothed my soul.  For a while, I felt safe and secure.

     The naked wood frame of the house looked lonely against the clear blue sky, like a barren tree in winter.  Lorne got off the bike and turned to face me.  Putting his hands on his knees, he leaned down to look squarely into my face, smiling warily.

     I always gave in too easily . . . I turned my head, but he took my hand and pulled me towards him and off the bike.

    "I got the message," Lorne admitted.  "You're still mad about last night."

     "I'm able to get off by myself, you know," I said, resisting his pull like a dog going to the vet.

     Lorne ignored my stubbornness and led me into the house.  Stepping over a maze of wall braces protruding from the floor, we surveyed the layout.  Lorne ducked under a crossbeam and headed  over to check out the plumbing.  I stroked the fresh new wood, trying to imagine living here.  As I looked around, I could only hope our new home would be the answer to Lorne's problems.  Only time would tell.

     Construction was finally moving forward and it should be time to celebrate, but the joy and laughter were missing.  I worried about Lorne.  Just the other day, he told me he was having problems at work.  And this was not the first time.

     Lorne was a brilliant man.  He had the mental capacity to calculate complex mathematical formulas in his head at the snap of a finger, yet feelings of insecurity gnawed at his self-esteem like terminal cancer, leaving him suspicious and vulnerable.  He complained the people at work were out to get him, purposely conspiring to make his life hell.  He told me not to worry, he was dealing with it.  But I did worry.  Lorne had already changed jobs once since we were married, for similar reasons.

     Then there was a speeding ticket I only learned about.  To make matters worse, he was driving his company car.  Most of the time, Lorne kept problems to himself, and even though I begged, he chose not to involve me.  Entangled in his silence, I searched for a reason.  At the same time, I wrestled with my own feelings of lonliness and despair.

Lesson learned . . . my two cents

"This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted."    - C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Africa's Beauty Being Strangled / One Person Making a Difference


I'm doing something today I should have done A MONTH AGO, and I feel terrible it slipped through the cracks, but my schedule has been crazy-impossible . . . so I'll make it short. 

A dear writing friend from Santa Barbara, Lori Robinson, leads Safari's in Africa when she's not writing.  Last year, she read a piece in class called "THE BAG LADIES," where she describes a current plight in Africa. It seems they have the same problem there, that we have in the United States, too many plastic bags. 

Her story showed that plastic bags are littering this majestic landscape by the thousands, hanging from trees, intertwined in bushes, covering the terrain like confetti.  Worse yet, the MAGNIFICENT ANIMALS that inhabit this country are dying because they end up eating these bags and are choking to death!! 

Lori's passion for this country and its' animals have led  her to do something about this travesty . . . proving ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

She came up the idea to exchange ONE CLOTH TOTE for every 25 plastic bags returned.  Last year, she collected these totes from friends and neighbors locally, and the program was a huge success.  Some of these women in Africa walked 10 miles with the plastic bags they gathered to collect a free tote.  Lori shows this in the attached video . . .

I know this is a busy time of year with the holidays upon us, but I'm asking if you can gather any extra totes you may have laying around, and send them to the address below . . . EVEN ONE TOTE would make a difference.  The problem: Lori needs these by EARLY DECEMBER, which is just around the corner. Think of it as HELPING THOSE IN NEED . . . those magnificent animals that live in this far away country, few of us will ever travel to and see face-to-face.

I graciously thank you in advance for sharing your time and money to do something EXTRA SPECIAL this year, by helping to protect these beautiful animals that share our planet . . .

Needed by early December.  They can be sent to: 

Where's Your Bag?
c/o SBCK
714 Bond Avenue
Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Below is the email and video I received from Lori the end of October . . . I'm sorry for the rush.  (Lori is the blond speaking).

FYI, I am again collecting canvas totes (ones that you no longer want) for Africa. 
I hope you will help by spreading the word, sending out this email to your network, donating totes and/ or money (for shipping), and commiting to using totes for your own shopping needs. 

A short video was made about the project in Africa.  To view it please go to:

Lots of love,

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Self-Publishing? Galley and Reviewer Quandry . . .

It's my final week of craziness and I feel like the gibbering white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland . . . "I'm late!  I'm late!  For a very important date!  No time to say Hello.  Goodbye.  I'm late!  I'm late!  I'm late!"

This fall, I bit off more than I could chew!  I signed up for too many classes, what with working part-time, doing a weekly blog and trying to publish my first book.  I've learned my lesson!  Gemini or no Gemini, I'm not twins and I won't do that again . . . I hope!

The whole life of man is but a point of time; let us enjoy it.              - Plutarch (46 AD - 120 AD)

My book cover is my main focus at this point.  It was pure joy to see the sample cover Tom Carey brought to class, and KNOW that my 96,000 words are REALLY going to be a book!  I'm no country mouse, but the reality was beyond words.  I still want to play with a few more ideas, once life settles down a bit, but I've decided SIMPLE and SYMBOLIC is best for my memoir.  There's also fonts, but that's for another day.  


I always thought a GALLEY was the compartment of a ship, train or airplane where food is cooked and prepared.  But this month, I learned a GALLEY is also a term for a pre-production copy that PUBLISHING COMPANIES send out to reviewers and people of the press.

Does a book's SUCCESS depend on favorable and widespread book review coverage?  And what about self-publishers?

Self-publishers have EVERY RIGHT to this favorable and widespread marketing tool . . . but you must plan in advance!

 In theory, there are usually 2 printings; your galley run and your main print run.  A GALLEY is also known as an "advanced uncorrected proof," these words should be printed on the front and back covers. (Galley is also a synonom for ARC, advance reading copy).

KEY REVIEWERS need to see your book well before your release date, 3-4 months prior, giving them the time to read and review.  This is to collect advance endorsements, "blurbs," for your final edition.

A GALLEY run can be simple, or they can  look identical to the final version . . . which is strongly recommended.  (The Well-Fed Self-Publisher - Peter Bowerman)

I've tentatively set July 4th, 2012 as my book release date for Diary of a Vet's Wife, my memior, inasmuch as Chapter One begins on July 3rd.  If this doesn't happen, my next preference is Veterans Day 2012.

My book will be in it's final version before sending it to a KEY REVIEWER.  Will I have "advance reading copy" printed on the front and back?  Probably not . . . an added expense.  In researching the key reviewers listed, some want an ARC from the PUBLISHER, not a self-publisher.  For this battle I must super-charge my TENACITY. . . you never know unless you try.  Are you game?

These First-Line Reviewers can get the word out early, if you can get your foot in the door, and they end up selling lots of books.  The main ones are:
Note:  Reviews should be FREE!!

There are endless BOOK REVIEWERS on the Internet.  Remember, there should be NO CHARGE!  The DIFFERENCE with these reviewers - Once a good review is posted, their followers may want your book in their hands . . . it must be available for purchase!  Books are impulse buys, don't lose a sale!

The best free resource I've seen on indie book reviews:
  • - has a list of over 101 reviewers and growing.  All have followers.  Check comments, as a few try to charge for a review.
  • Also, - seems like an endless list. - The First Word on the Book Publishing Industry - Stay on top of the publishing news by signing up on their website.  Good info.

I could go on and on . . . but this is a start and will keep you busy for a while . . .

Food for thought:  If you're self-published (or POD - print on demand) and ready to go . . . why not start your research and contact a few new reviewers each week?  And watch the MAGIC happen!

Lesson learned . . . my two cents

Last week in my writing class, I learned that a SELF-PUBLISHED book can now be SUBMITTED to an agent or a small publishing house in lieu of a Book Proposal!  Once you've stepped out on your own and have established a track record . . . you may want to PLAY with this idea.

Do you have favorite book reviewers you would like to share?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Survived Main Speech / A Book Cover Quest . . .

The way you overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid. ~Claudia Lady Bird Johnson

My TOPIC SPEECH is over, and I'm GLAD! How can we, intelligent mature adults, be so daunted by a 5-minute speech? After all, it's not like we're running for office! It seems absurd . . . unless it's stalking you like the paranormal abomination residing in your attic. 

Writing my speech was PAINLESS compared to the APPREHENSION that followed. A general speech consists of "a HOOK," THREE MAIN POINTS, and a STRONG CONCLUSION. As soon as my speech was proofed, my PAUSES highlighted, and then printed . . . my pulse kicked-up a knotch. Now I had to PRACTICE! 

The full-length mirror behind my bedroom door, served as an audience. A tall stool acted as my podium, and my new digital-recorder was the microphone. I was coached to "leave the podium," and walk from one side of the stage to the other. This was DELINITELY out of my COMFORT ZONE! Closet writers are not gregarious . . .

My coach recommended I MEMORIZE my "OPENING and the CONCLUSION," speaking from my HEART. I could read THE BODY, if necessary, as long as I maintained EYE CONTACT with the audience. I practiced until I wore a footpath in my white carpet . . .

I soon knew most of the BODY by heart, but my problem was the ticking clock. The speech was to last 5-minutes or less!  A time-keeper with green, yellow and red cards in her lap, would FLASH them at different intervals, allowing a 30-second GRACE PERIOD at the end. If exceeded, you're clapped off! Which would be EMBARRASSING! This was a concern as I continued to exceed 5 minutes when I practiced without reading . . .

Thursday evening, our Master of Ceremonies introduced me, then handed me the microphone. I thanked her, placed my notes on the podium, took a deep breath, and looked around at the audience.  Then I began to speak as I glided across the stage . . . holding the cord in my other hand.

"IMAGINE . . . you're sitting in your car . . . the doors and windows are LOCKED . . . the gas pedal's pushed to the floor . . . the engine is RACING . . . the horn is BLARING . . . and YOU CAN'T GET OUT!" I stated firmly.

"This is what POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER feels like as was told by one young veteran to his army doctor . . ."

At the end of my speech, I still had time left. Everyone clapped and my PRESENTATION EVALUATIONS were extremely complementary. This time I didn't shake, and I knew I had just stepped OUTSIDE-OF-THE-BOX where I normally reside . . . I felt the wind in my face!! 


Last week, I mentioned that Tom Carey, a classmate from my writing class in Santa Barbara, brought in a sample cover for my book that he had graciously developed . . . which I never got to see because I was home memorizing my speech . . .

I was determined not to let that happen again, even though I was giving my Main Speech that evening.

When Tom arrived at class, he quietly took a seat at the desk in front of me, and within minutes, he set his artwork on my desk, then turned because Cork, our teacher, was starting class. 

During the 16 years I spent writing Diary of a Vet's Wife, I never once conjured up an image for a bookcover. Not once! Up until now, my book was only words in my head, on paper, and spoken out loud.

When Tom first offered, he asked for my ideas . . . I had none! All I could give him were words:  LOVE, MARRIAGE, FAMILY, WAR, VIETNAM VET, POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER, CHURCH . . . but nothing concrete. The only thing Tom had to go on . . . he heard me read a few chapters from my book on different occassions.

When I FIRST SAW his concept. . . I was STUNNED! Good? Bad? I didn't know. I had no idea what I wanted in the first place, so I had no idea what to expect! I put it away in a folder.  A little later, I looked at it again. Still unsure. I did this a number of times. Tom and I talked some at break, but I believed he understood what I struggled with. HIS ARTWORK was COMPELLING!  I won't go into detail because I may want to keep it UNDER WRAP until my book release  . . . but I vascillated for days.

I can only describe the feeling as a woman who is pregnant for nine months . . . She knows she has a child growing within her, she can feel it move, but she has no idea what it looks like. The day her child is born is the first time she SEES her baby. A tiny stranger who will be with her THE REST OF HER LIFE . . .

A cover gives my book a life of its own! This is the first time MY WORDS HAVE A FACE! The reality is startling and wonderful at the same time. It's HUGE! It's been 4 days and I've grown to LOVE IT! So much so, I've asked Tom to join me on My Journey into Publishing My First Book . . . I'm waiting for his answer.

You can visit Tom Carey @ AndAwayWeGotheDyslexicWriter Artist and Traveler

Lesson Learned . . . my two cents

A book cover should SHOW what your story is about and GRAB the readers attention!  This can be difficult . . . but it's most important!

Remember: Covers sell books.  Also, ask your designer to generate a variety of iterations of the image: large, small, hi-resolution (for print publications), low-resolution (for web-based publications), and even black and white.  When it comes time to promote your book on other sites, it will make their job easier if you're able to send them the right size artwork.  (Well-Fed Self Publisher - Peter Bowerman) 

Monday, 24 October 2011

My First Speech! . . . plus Revised Cheat Sheet into Publishing

Last week was one of those whirlwind weeks!  A wake-up call!  I realized I had over-done-it this semester . . . BIG TIME!!  So rather than skip a week, I decided to revise my Journey into Publishing Cheat Sheet.  This way I can still eat and sleep, not to mention, my brain is fried like a green tomato.  Too many different classes and research . . . but I won't bore you with that.

Time is the coin of your life.  It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.     - Carl Sandberg  (1878 - 1976)

My biggest challenge was my "Introduction" for Speech Class on Thursday evening.  As many know, my hand-held tape recorder is my #1 writing tool, next to my computer, which I planned to use for my speech. So what happens? The wretched thing developes an attitude . . . a horrible clicking that was so loud it drowned-out my voice, and couldn't be fixed.  Solution: buy a new one!  But now everything's digital!  The instructions were 6 pages long . . . and this took more time!

Pleasure and action make the hours seem short - William Shakespeare  (1564 - 1616)

I called Ingrid, the speaker I was to introduce, and gathered information to use in my Introduction.  The writing came easy . . . MEMORIZING was the hard part!  I missed my writing class in Santa Barbara on Thursday morning because I needed more practice.  Once I was fairly confident I knew my material, I wrote notes on a 4X6 index card and clipped it to my olive-green booklet.

That evening, I calmly sat listening to others speak.  I was the last Introducer on the program.  I had my notes and knew my subject.  It wasn't until I got up and walked to the side of the stage, waiting to be called by our Master of Ceremonies, that I began to shake!  It wasn't my hands or my knees . . . it was the upper half of my chest and shoulders!  The WIERDEST thing!!  Anyone else ever experience this?  Deep breathing DID NOT WORK.  Once I reached the podium, I took a deep breath, looked around and smiled sheepishly . . . then switched into automatic pilot.  

My presentation evaluation was complementary, noting I had no ahh's or uhh's.  I had practiced THE PAUSE when I couldn't remember what came next.  It worked!  My only ZING. . . I walked off stage on the wrong side . . . in front of the Master of Ceremony, instead of the opposite side.  This is definitely a NO-NO! 

"We can't all be stars . . . but we can all twinkle!"     - Fay Angus

Next week . . . my REAL SPEECH!  Scary!  This fear is something I'm determined to overcome!  I'm being groomed by Linda, one of our facilitators.  Her first call came Sunday evening at 7:00.  I was to have a "skeleton" outline ready to review.  Considering this was my FULL WEEKEND Counseling Conference (7:00 - 10:00 Friday evening and 8:00 - 5:30 Saturday), and with church on Sunday, I was doubting my ability.  But once I got in the groove, it more or less poured out.  She liked my writing . . . now all I have to do is turn it into a 5 minute speech!  Her follow-up call will be Tuesday evening at 7:00.  By then, I'm expected to have my speech "fleshed out."  Heaven only knows how this will turn out . . .

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.               - Rodin  (1840 - 1917)


Below is a list of my blogs for those who might be looking for a specific topic: 
     1.  In The Beginning                                                               April 9
          How my book came to be . . .
     2.  This Closet Writer . . . Goes Public                                April 16
           My first writing class - posting my blog
     3.  I Never Planned to be a Writer!                                      April 23
          Blogging - my writing class - my free-lance editor   
     4.  Publicize Your Book . . .                                                     May 1
          Publicizing - blogging - writing class - book query
     5.  Write Your Heart Out . . .                                                   May 7
          Blogging - why I wrote my book - book proposal excerpt
     6. Q is for Query Letter . . .                                                    May 15
          Posted my original query letter
     7.  B is for Book Proposal . . . Part One                                 May 21
          Elements of a book proposal - my proposal table of contents
     8.  B is for Book Proposal . . . Part Two                                 June 12
          More elements of a book proposal
     9.  What Next? . . . Time for an Agent                                   June 19
          Some basic agent information
    10.  Marketing in an Electronic World . . .                             June 26
           First steps to marketing my book  
    11.  Will Self-Publishing be My Only Option?                          July 3
           Posted excerpt from Chapter One of my book
    12.  A Platform . . . Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone       July 11
           Start to develop a platform for my book
    13.  The Marketing Medusa . . .                                              July 28
           JK Rowling's success - more marketing
    14.  2011 Agents . . . What Do They Really Want?              August 7
           Identify agent's most asked for requirements
    15.  What is a Synopsis and Why? . . . Part One                 August 27
           Details to begin synopsis process
    16.  One Writer's Journey into Publishing Cheat Sheet  September 4
           Lists previous blogs and subject matter
    17.  What is a Synopsis and Why? . . . Part Two              September 11
            What to include in a synopsis
    18.  Ebooks . . . A Contemporary "David and Goliath"  September 19
           Show why authors are choosing to self-publish
    19.  The #1 Question: Who is Your Audience? . . . plus Excerpt
             Importance of locating your specific audience             September 26
    20.  "The Moving Wall" . . . An Experience I Will Never Forget!
             An emotional visit that squeezed my heart                       October 3
    21.  Traditional Publish or Self-Publish . . . My Decision plus Excerpt
            What direction I chose and why                                       October 10
    22.  Public Speaking 101 . . . Fight or Flight?                               
           Terror and my first class . . .                                              October 17

Lesson learned . . . or my two cents

This week I learned that Tom Carey, a classmate from my writing class, had graciously developed a sample cover for my book, which I never got to see . . . instead, I was home memorizing my speech.  Tom is an artist and a photographer, who generously offered to put some ideas on paper.  I'm sorry I missed the showing, Tom.  I didn't know you had time to do this yet and I'm anxious to see what you've created.  Hopefully, I'm better prepared this week, so I can attend class.  Thank you so much!!!

Visit Tom @ to sneak a peek at his artwork and photography

Monday, 17 October 2011

Public Speaking 101 . . . Fight or Flight?

What is fear?
Fear is an emotion that is pre-programmed into all animals and people as an instinctual response to potential danger causing certain physical reactions as:  rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, tightening of muscles, dilation of the pupils and increased sweating.   

Yet a small amount of fear before an important speech serves a purpose – it encourages you to focus on your topic and avoid making a fool of yourself. This is one of the types of fear that can be useful to sharpen our minds.
It took 16 years to write Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, while working full-time. Not once did the reality enter my mind, I would someday have to stand in front of an audience and tell my story !!!

I think I'd rather jump out of an airplane. And I'm scared of heights. Though I'd probably change my mind once I was standing on the threshold, the wind rushing past me, while I gazed upon trails of ant-sized cars below.

Research indicates that at some point I will be expected to TALK about my book . . . in person. Yeh Gads! Even the thought of this is terrifying!  I decided to take a public speaking class in preparation . . .

"According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two? Does that sound right? "      -Jerry Seinfeld

Three weeks ago, I attended my first Public Speaking class at a nearby church. I figured this was a safe place to start. It was a pleasant group of approximately 25 people whose desire was to gain confidence. We wore name tags and were handed an olive-green booklet entitled Fearless Speaking - Public Speaking - Beginner Class. The evening consisted of a dry-run of what would be expected from each of us. I listened attentively. It seemed simple enough, and definitely doable.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the next two classes due to prior commitments . . .

"The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public."     - George Jessel

On Thursday evening, I attended my 2nd public speaking class . . . it was everyone else's 4th class. A big difference I came to learn. My facilitator took me to the sign-in table for my nametag and a copy of the AGENDA for the evening. It was then I saw MY NAME. . . ! I was scheduled to be a "puzzlee." Is this even a word? I must confess I never took time, in my crazy schedule, to read the olive-green booklet, or I would have known what a puzzelee was.

     "What am I suppose to do?" I asked, without a clue.
     "Don't worry, it will be easy," she said, turning to speak to someone else.

As it turned out . . . there was the puzzler, who asked a question at random. The puzzlee was to answer this question. I was called to the podium, asked a question, then handed the microphone like in a Miss America Pagent, except I was missing the gorgeous gown. You talk about pressure! I had never held a microphone before, a chrome cage on a handle. Heavy and daunting. A few inappropriate uhhs and ahhs slipped out, before I started talking about the first thing that came into my head. All I wanted to do was hurry up and go back to my seat.

     "We can't hear you," my facilitator called from six rows back. "Please hold the microphone closer to your mouth."

My brain scrambled to remember where I was. I kept going. My heart pounded in my ears. I was close to tears at one point. Finally, I was done. I escaped back to my seat. People clapped. To be honest, I remembered very little of what I said.

"Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel."     - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Public speaking fear - Edward Hope, editor and publisher of The Art of Great Conversation . . .

The fear of public speaking is common to most people around the world.  It is very often one of the top three fears of people in surveys. And the reasons for this are simple:
  • Fear of the unknown - new situations can be frightening
  • Fear of rejection - the feeling your efforts may be criticised
  • Fear of failure or making a mistake

Listed are 7 techniques to overcome the anxiety:
  1. Emerson's quote, "Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain."
  2. Have an attitude that says, "I'm giving them my best. I hope that's good enough . . . "
  3. Mentally play down the importance of the speech. Who is going to remember it in a hundred years?
  4. Learn to grin at your audience and go right on speaking when you make a mistake. People will forget the mistake and remember the grin.
  5. Talk about something you really know. Something you know from your heart, not through memorization.
  6. Practice your speech. Either on your own or with someone - know your subject intimately, and practice as often as you can.
  7. Visualize delivering your speech successfully, as often as possible with intensity and passion.
This week, I'm assigned to be an Introducer . . . which I will definitely review in the olive-green booklet. I plan to practice as often as possible . . . into the wee hours of the morning, if necessary, in order to never experience that feeling of helplessness again!

Does anyone have a sure cure for this . . . other than imagining everyone naked?

Lessons learned . . . my two cents

Man's mind - once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.     - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Monday, 10 October 2011

Traditional Publisher or Self-Publish? . . . My Decision and An Excerpt

For months, I've been sitting on a fence, grappling with indecision.  Do I continue to query Agents, or break the chains of Traditional Publishing and embrace the New World and Self-Publish? 

I'm down off the fence . . . my decision has been made!  Diary of a Vet's Wife, subtitled Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, will be self-published due to the heartfelt encouragement and confidence from friends and followers who are waiting for this book.  And I am most grateful!

These were the main deciding factors . . .:
  1. I've spent nearly a year querying agents with no success.  Even if I was picked up tomorrow, it could potentially be another 18 months to 2 years before the book release date.
  2. Most agents now ask for a Marketing Plan submitted with your Book Proposal, including the action items you plan to implement yourself.  It used to be a traditional publisher would solely market an author's book.  
  3. Agents and publishers take substantial profits, leaving the author with only a pittance for their years, and sometimes decades, of dedication in solitary confinement. (Plus now market their own book).
  4. Early on, I was advised not to include excerpts from the book on my blog. This, I was told, could lead to a possible rejection by a publisher. Can't they see this is a marketing tool to gain interest?
When your profit per book (after all expenses) is three, four, five, or more times what you could make with a conventional publisher, you can generate a nice income stream with much lower sales numbers.             - Peter Bowerman

Countless books have been written on Self-Publishing and Marketing, many occupy space on my desk and the floor surrounding my feet. Way too much information to absorb, but I'm wading through it.  Truthfully, once I discovered this avenue, I couldn't set it aside.  I continued to query agents, while uncovering this brave new world. The more I read, the more sense it made.

But now where do I begin? What do I do first?

Success as a self-publisher is far more a function of a process than an aptitude.   - Peter Bowerman

Once again, I never planned to be a writer, and everything I'm doing is from the view point of a novice. I'm as green as a Spring pea. If you're trained in this field of expertise, please forgive my simplicity. I know there are many others like me who need to experience these steps . . .
  1. Establish a Reader Base - The first lesson I learned in market research was the necessity to reach readers BEFORE your book is published, whether traditionally or self-published. This was the reason I started my blog.  Each week I also email my post to friends and family in my Outlook address book. Then there's Facebook, Twitter, etc . . . which I still must tackle.  
  2. Editing - A writer must scrutinize their work with the eye of a detective. Too many writers, it appears, still submit manuscripts with misspelled words and grammarical errors. It's always best to have someone trained in this area to edit your writing.  Personally, my writing teacher was the first to do a light edit, a classmate did a second edit.  She then recommended one final edit with a professional before submission.  I hired a free-lance editor, Kay Thompson Lee, who is currently three-quarters through my manuscript smoothing any rough edges along the way.   
  3. Your Cover - The most important part of your book! Covers sell books! Many buying decisions are made based solely on covers. Why do so many authors stop short of the finish line? Take the time and invest the money to create a cover that would have an impartial observer be totally unaware that it's a self-published effort. A cover so good that when they do find out it's self-published, they're amazed. - Peter Bowerman, The Well-Fed Self-Publisher
I finally feel like I've stepped into a clearing on My Uncharted Journey into Publishing My First Book. I can take a deep breath now that I know my next major step is my book cover. This requires a graphic designer. Maybe a college student at California State University Northridge, which is located nearby.  A creative type bubbling with fresh ideas, who can deal with me and my artistic preferences at a lower pay scale, knowing their name will be carved in my book like stone with my eternal gratitude.  Wish me luck . . .

To be honest, I literally still have no idea what I want on this cover.  But I'm open to suggestions . . . Anyone?

An Excerpt . . . from Chapter 4

     . . . Grant rang the doorbell. 
     Moments later, Jackie flung open the screen door.  "I'm so happy y'all could make it," she said, hugging us tightly.
     Jackie was in her early fifties, slim and attractive, with cropped platinum blond hair that framed huge Bette Davis eyes.  Dressed in a simple sundress, she looked fresh as a new day.
     "Happy Birthday," I said, kissing her cheek.  "I hope you like these."  I handed her a small gift containing a pair of sable paintbrushes.
     "Happy Birthday," Grant echoed.  Taking her wrist, he clicked his heels, bowed and kissed the back of her hand, then produced a bottle of red wine from behind his back.
     "Grant, you are so gallant," Jackie giggled.
     We followed her down a long narrow hallway to the back of the house.  Oil painting of subtle nudes and vivid flowers lined the dimly lit walls, casting the illusion of some archaic art gallery.  The small three-bedroom house was old and unassuming, but the natural lighting in the den was an artist's dream.
     Muffled voices drifted out into the hallway over the grumbling protests of an ancient air conditioner.  Stepping into the den, Jackie introduced us to the small group already gathered, then hurried back to the kitchen for more appetizers.
     I settled into a cozy blue chair opposite the doorway, setting my purse on the floor.
     Grant tapped me on the shoulder, "Scotch?"
     I nodded, "Please."
     He strolled off to the kitchen and returned with a tall drink with lots of ice.  He took a seat across the room at an old upright piano against the wall.  Sitting tall, he closed his eyes, dissolving into his own rendition of Lullaby of Bird Land.
     As I sipped my drink I looked around the room feeling lost and out of place.  Stepping back into the world of singles was definitely a shock.  So much had changed.  Women were liberated, fighting for equal rights, a cause I supported but one in which I had little experience.
     The doorbell rang.  Jackie hurried down the hall to answer it.  In the distance I heard the resounding echo of cowboy boots striking the hardwood floor.  Jackie emerged in the doorway, her cheeks flushed.  I peered over the rim of my glass, catching my first glimpse of the new arrival . . .

Lesson learned . . . or my two cents

 Smiles, tears, of all my life! - and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.                     - Elizabeth Barrett Browning 

Monday, 3 October 2011

"The Moving Wall" . . . An Experience I Will Never Forget!

On Thursday, September 29th, I had the priviledge of being in Santa Barbara attending my writing class on the same day "The Moving Wall" arrived at Chase Palm Park . . . was this a coincidence?

Members of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 218 of Santa Barbara, proudly honored the service and sacrifice of the 11 million men and women who served during the Vietnam War by bringing "The Moving Wall" to their fair city.

"When the soldiers came home from Vietnam, there were no parades, no celebrations.  So they built the Vietnam Memorial for themselves."         - General Wm. C. Westmoreland 

"The Moving Wall" is a replica of the original memorial on permanent display in Washington DC, where carved in granite are 58,226 names of brave Americans honored and remembered forever. We honor the courageous service of America's 2.8 million Vietnam Veterans - especially the 58,226 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in serving their country for the enduring cause of freedom.

I pulled into the parking lot, took a ticket from the meter and found an empty parking space closest to the Memorial, though I still had a distance to walk. I sat in the car lost in thought. Questions filled my head. This was the closest I've come to "it" since the day I buried my husband's ashes in Houston National Cemetery, after which they folded his flag and presented it to me.  Could I do this with grace and dignity like Jacqueline Kennedy, or would I melt into a blubbering puddle?

I followed a sidewalk to the street and headed toward the monument. A photographer toting a heavy camera passed by. Towering palms scattered the patchy green grass. The sight of The Wall off in the distance, the sky and the ocean it's backdrop, enfolded me like a loving grandparent I'd never met. I felt timid, yet I knew I belonged . . .

They walk as if on hallowed ground. They touch the stone. They speak with the dead. They come to mourn and to remember, memory mixing with grief, making an old ritual new, creating in this time another timeless moment.   - 25th Anniversary Commemorative

In the distance, the long narrow black wall appeared to rise out of the ground where people stood like toy soldiers set in groups of two or three. Flags of many countries rose high against the hazy afternoon sky, furling in unison. A large khaki tent stood guard off to the right. As I drew near, the black panels began to reveal meticulous white lettering. Snapping flags overhead muffled the soft murmurs of family members, some clutching framed  photographs to their chest, as they stood solemnly talking with counselors near The Wall.

It was surreal . . . until it hit me.

The avalanche of names washed over me. Dear God, so many names. Too many names. Each called from the wall. I could hardly breathe. 58,226 names including 8 women. The Vietnam war. They all died in battle. This was all that was left of these warriors who were part of us, never again to feel the sun on their faces, or taste the salty air from an ocean breeze.

A train echoed from afar. A lean-muscled man riding a bicycle pulled up. His fluorescent green jacket and trimmed white beard reflect off the shiny black wall like a mirror. He straddled the bike as his eyes eagerly searched the names. One woman wandered a distance from the wall. Maybe fearful as I was to get too close. Afraid of being swallowed alive by the reality before us.

The Wall elicits a physical response. It has inspired visitors to represent their own grief, loss, rage, and despair. Contributing their private representations to public space they cross a boundary between the private and the public, the nation and the citizen, powerfully claiming the memorial as their own.   - 25th Anniversary Commemorative

The Vietnam war. So many names. So many died in battle. Yet many more returned home wounded to the core still fighting the battle. Their never-ending battle. Day and night the mortars still blaze, the screams, the cries still echo in the din. These returning soldiers who found themselves shunned and abandoned by a great many civilians who were not able to separate the war from the warrior.

As a writer, how can I not say what I feel? How my heart still aches for my husband . . . and all the names on this wall. It aches for all the people who loved and cherished the people who were these names, and feel the pain they still bare. I reached out and touched one name . . . Leon B Smith II in raised white letters. My heart hurt. Then I noticed a sign that read, "Do Not Touch the Wall."

I spent a large part of the afternoon sitting on the grass, a distance from the wall, journaling, taking pictures and thinking. How can these families heal? I wrote a book which allowed me to put my heart on paper. I may have found healing . . . but I can never forget.

Occasionally, I'd wander up to the wall and walk it's length looking at the volumes of names which loving parents carefully chose for their precious newborn as they envisioned the bright future their baby would grow into.

And never dreaming the name they chose would one day stand as part of the history of our country . . .

Lesson Learned . . . or my two cents
The human heart can be shattered in a million pieces . . . yet you still must go on living.

A few Vietnam war facts you may not know::
  • The Vietnam War was the longest war in history  1955-1975
  • There are still nearly 2000 POW (Prisoners of War) - MIA's (Missing in Action) who have not been accounted for, who never came home from the Vietnam War.
  • The U.S. fighting in Vietnam was called a conflict because Congress never voted to officially declare it a war.
  • 265,000 women served during the Vietnam war. Over 10,000 were stationed in combat zones alongside their brother soldiers. All were volunteers. The names of those who gave their lives are etched in stone forever, there were 8 of them . . . Carol, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Hedwig, Pamela, Annie, Sharon and Mary.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The #1 Question: Who is Your Audience? . . . Plus an Excerpt

War has gone on since the beginning of man's creation.  And will continue until the end of time.  This necessary evil brings death and pain not only to its victims, but also to the warriors and their loved ones covering our small planet.  It's not the way we'd like it to be . . . it is the way it is.

Diary of a Vet's Wife, subtitled Living and living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a 96,000 word memoir covering an eighteen year period in the author's life and reads like a novel.  It took sixteen years to write and is the first book to show the day to day struggles of an ordinary family living with the chaos of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; unaware the author will develop this same disorder by association.

The number one question . . . who is my audience?

To think like a marketer is a common sense process that takes place over time.  -Jacqueline Deval

Did you know that it's not unusual for a traditional publishing house to take 18 to 24 months from the time the project is signed on until the finished books are in hand?  They're in the driver's seat, yet they can't put all their chips down on one book like a self-publisher can . . . they're just trying to make a living.

As a self-publisher, you control the timetable and make things happen when you say . . .

No matter what kind of book you have, its success depends on two things:  It must tell a good story, and you must find an audience for it.

Most books fail in the marketplace because nobody ever heard of them.  Only about 1/3 of new titles sell more than 100 copies.

Yet, an author today can build an audience solely through the community voice without leaving their own backyard.  Internet social networking has given authors their most powerful tool since the invention of paper. Word of mouth is the only thing that can make a book really successful.  Online communities allow authors to bond with readers intimately, inspiring deep loyalty.

There is no such thing as overnight success. It might require a year or more of steady work to see appreciable results.

Self-published authors who own the ISBN and online rights for their book can promote it however they please. Trade-published authors must confer with their publishers marketing department for approval.

Sales is nothing more than matching your product with a prospective buyer's needs and desire.  Early on those prospective buyers are wholesalers, distributors, and bookstores. They want to know you'll be an integral part of the promotion process . . . making sure those books aren't hanging around long.

Next are potential reviewers.  You're selling them on the subject of your book and why readers would care.

Final audience is book buyers, whose needs and desires can be met with your book.

Figure out what sets your book apart in the marketplace and drive that difference home - early and often.

Your #1 job is to Build the Demand for Your Book.  Zero in on the key influencers for your target audiences and focus on taking massive action.

Who would be the most likely readers of your book?  To whom would your subject be especially appealing?

Why not put this action item on your to-do-list today?  Start an ongoing list of potential readers that will be there ready and waiting.  Brainstorm!  Give your mind the freedom to wander outside of the box, and write down any ideas that float to the surface.  Never know when something surprising will appear . . .

Business-building is NOT immodesty.  Drawing attention to yourself when you have a good, high-quality contribution to make to the book marketplace, that's why you wrote the book in the first place.  You're an author with a book the world needs to hear about, and you have every right to tell your story.  - Peter Bowerman

I'm posing this question because I'm guilty as charged of being so busy I haven't focused in on this most important step myself . . .  

(Also see:  Marketing in an Electronic World . . . My First Steps - June 26, 2011 and The Marketing Medusa . . . Don't Let It Overwhelm You! - July 28, 2011)
Excerpt from Chapter Eleven . . . Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

     Toxic fumes burned the inside of my nose as we merged onto Highway 10, heading out into the country away from the snarl of city traffic.  Soon Lorne turned onto a two-lane road and opened her up.  I hung on tight.  The narrow strip of asphalt dipped and twisted without warning, snaking through the rolling fields while a broken white line blurred beneath us.  Chilling wind beat against my arms, tugging at my hair, pulling strands free to whip my face.  The air smelled fresh and clean.

     I clung to Lorne, my body pressed into his, feeling his warmth penetrating my tee shirt.  He felt good in my arms like he belonged there.  I held on tight, leaning with him on every curve, my eyes squeezed shut.  Brown and white patterned cows that munched on meadow grass lifted their heads to watch the bike roar by.  Intoxicated with a feeling of freedom, I rode the back of the wind aimed at some unknown planet.

Lessons Learned . . . My Two Cents

     I was headed for New Zealand, standing in line at the airport waiting to go through inspection, when the young woman in front of me turned and said, "You have such beautiful skin!"  I was flattered.  Then I told her my secret . . . "I use apple cider vinegar to remove my makeup at night (not mascara)."  She seemed surprised.

     This weekend at church, another woman made the same comment.  I gave her the same reply.  The next day when I saw her, she said with a smile, "I used apple cider vinegar this morning."  It was then I realized I should share my secret with all of you . . .

     I've used Apple Cider Vinegar on a cotton ball to cleanse my face at night for about 4-5 years.  I read it someplace, tried it and loved what it did for my skin . . . and it's inexpensive.  It acts as an exfoliant, tightens pores, and balances the PH factor in your skin to alkaline.  If your skin gets a bit dry until it gets use to it, switch to Witch Hazel for a few days.  I hope you'll be pleasantly surprised as I was . . .

Let me know how you like it . . .

Monday, 19 September 2011

Ebooks . . . A Contemporary "David and Goliath"

Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.           - Stephen Fry

But has Stephen Fry seen the research on this anomaly?

This is a sad day for all who love books.  It was announced that our beloved Borders would close forever on Sunday, September 18, 2011.  Rumors were flying like locust, but the starkness of the situation was a jarring reality. It's happened!!

Ebooks are now being viewed as the new bully on the block as they push forward toppling the mega-booksellers in their wake.  Much like these same establishments buried the small bookstores of the past, which was the premise for the movie, "You've Got Mail" . . . if you remember.
Last week, a member of SheWrites brought an article to our attention.  This article noted a decline in the sale of adult paperbooks of 64%, whereas the increase in Ebook sales was 162%.  These figures are staggering!!

Technology has proven Ebooks are here to stay.  We must adapt our writing careers with this in mind.  The entire publishing world is changing like a giant Transformer . . . and no one knows for sure what it will look like in the end.

(Note: Much of this information has been drawn from the article listed below with the author's written permission.)

"I believe there will be a war between the writers who want agents and traditional publishers to "take care of them" and indie writers who want to control their own careers."    - Barry Eisler

Another article mentioned that some publishers attempt to slow the transition from paper to digital by holding back the Ebook release date, or they may authorize insanely high Ebook prices.  

We're the writers.  We provide the content that is printed and distributed. 
For hundreds of years, writers couldn't reach readers without publishers.  We needed them.  Suddenly, we don't.  Publishers don't seem to be taking this into account.

It appears that most publishers offer 25% royalty on ebooks, which equates to 14.9% to the writer after everyone gets their cut.  Now consider there's virtually no cost to creating Ebooks . . . no cost for paper, no shipping charges, no warehousing.  No cut for Ingram or Baker & Taylor.  Yet they're keeping 52.5% of the list price and offering only 17.5% to the author.  Does this seem right?

NYT best seller Barry Eisler turns down $500,000 advance in favor of Self-Publishing.

I mentioned this same article in last week's blog.  I don't know how many of you found the time to read it, but please do your career this favor.  GoogleEbooks and Self-Publishing - A dialog Between Authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath."  It's a MUST READ for anyone ready to publish their work.  The article is extensive, but worth the time . . . then decide for yourself.

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.    - C.S. Lewis

I'm a new kid on the block.  I've spent sixteen years writing my memoir, my first book, and my journey into publishing has opened my eyes to a world I was unfamiliar with.  In my other life, I worked as a Sr. Buyer in Aerospace and Electronic manufacturing, both on an international basis.  That is, until these companies moved overseas in order to increase their bottom-line profit.  Was this fair?  Not for me . . . and the thousands of other displaced workers left behind without jobs in America.  But it too happened . . .

And it taught me a valuable lesson . . . LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP.  In essence, do your research!! 

 "Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn."   -  C.S. Lewis

My original plan was to query agents for one year . . . until November.  Then move into self-publishing, if I wasn't picked up by an agent.  Little did I know what was happening behind the scenes . . .

The explosion of the Internet gives writers the opportunity to do tremendous online promoting: blogs, social networking, chatrooms . . . and now with digital books, there's no more profitable use of an author's time than writing . . . traveling and book tours may become passe.

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.   - John Steinbeck

Ask yourself this question . . . Are you writing for pleasure or money?
Personally, I love to write!  The entire process makes me feel complete, doing what I was born to do.  But it's hard work!  Most people hold a 9 to 5 job, Monday through Friday, where they collect a paycheck for their time and productivity. Writing should be no different . . . but it is! We work in isolation, sometimes for years, creating a piece of work from our very soul that hopefully will touch others. And we too would like to be paid for our work . . . I know I would.

I think Henry Miller has had huge influence not because he wrote about sex, but because the memoir or the nonfiction novel has become such a monumental force in American publishing, if not in literature.       - Leslie Fiedler
There are two major differences between virtual shelves and physical shelves.
  • A virtual shelf is infinite.  A bookstore has a limited amount of space.  Books are crammed spine out, and copies are limited.  A virtual shelf, like Amazon or Smashwords, carries all titles, all the time.
  •  A virtual shelf is forever.  In a bookstore, you have anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to sell your title, and then it gets returned.  A big waste of money. 
But Ebooks are forever.  Once they're live, they will sell for decades.  Someday, long after we are gone, our grandchildren may be getting our royalties.  Forever is a long time to earn royalties!

If you're thinking about Self-Publishing, be sure your manuscript has been refined to perfection, as you would do when submitting to an agent.   

You can make 70% self-publishing!  You can set your own price.  There are reams of data what show how ebooks under $5 vastly outsell those priced higher.  This is a critical point.  Digital books are a price-sensitive market, and it appears maximum revenues are achieved at a price point between $.99 and $4.99.  You set the price, but keep this in mind.  You can always lower it later . . . have an international sale!

Lessons learned . . . my two cents 

If you find you are having trouble writing and nothing seems real, just write about food.  Write about the foods you love most.  Be specific. Details.  Where did you eat it, who were you with, what season was it? 
  - Natalie Goldberg

Think of "Julie and Julia". . . one of my  most favorite and delicious movies!  This movie taught me how to cook mushrooms to taste like succulent bites of fillet mignon.  The secret?  Butter and . . . "don't crowd the mushrooms!"
Welcome to the SheWrites Blogger Ball!

Welcome!! I'm so happy you stopped by during Blogger Ball #7.

My name is Nancy MacMillan, and my blog is My Uncharted Journey into Publishing My First Book, a memoir, Diary of a Vet's Wife, subtitled, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  My blog shares the steps I'm taking towards publishing and what I'm learning along the way, which I share weekly with others.  My first blog on April 9th, In The Beginning, sets the stage . . .

Please share your thoughts on this topic by leaving a comment  listed below in red, and include a link to your blog.  I'll visit and comment as soon as possible, I promise!  Then double-click on the bookshelves to return to SheWrites.  And please visit again.