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.