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Month: January 2014

Why I Don’t Care If I Sell Another Book

Why I Don’t Care If I Sell Another Book

PollyannaThis week I had the opportunity to talk with the kids at Eastside Preparatory School. It’s one of the most academically rigorous schools in Washington state, but you wouldn’t know it to look at the student body because they defy the geek stereotype. As 200-plus kids trickled into the room, I was struck by how beautiful and shiny they all were. Stylish and smart? Unfair.

Feeling a twinge of self-doubt, I checked myself for stray scone crumbs and dabbed a smidgeon of gloss on my dry lips. Ah, better. And then for some reason, I thought back to when I was a teen. At any given moment, I could name off a laundry list of shortcomings, a pimple, fat butt, cheap jeans. I also remembered how hard I worked to seem perfect.

So, as I looked out at the faces in the crowd, I wondered if they felt the same as I once did? If I could read their minds, would I hear thoughts dripping with self-loathing and doubt? My heart broke.

I sucked in a gulp of air and a feeling washed over me. Like the rays of the sun, it warmed my hair and face, and with it came a clear conviction.  Writing the novel, Four Rubbings, wasn’t the most important thing. Teasing a storyline and selling copies of the book, that didn’t matter anymore. In fact, I realized that writing the book was just the vehicle that brought me to this place, in front of these kids to deliver a message of hope and encouragement. As I clicked ‘play’ on my Powerpoint slideshow, I knew that the words to come might be the only encouragement they’d receive all week, or month, or year. And I lost my breath.

My mother, a longtime public school principal, spoke of this often. In September every year, she committed all student names to memory. She ate lunch in the cafeteria with the kids. She checked in with teachers to find out the details of her students’ lives. Who was struggling? Who was making progress? Who was having problems at home? She sleuthed out the details and then reached out to her kids to offer help or congratulations. She told me it was important to touch each child with kind, personal words as often as possible because she was keenly aware that her compliments might be the only nice things some of these kids might ever hear. Ever.

I clicked the first slide and spoke to the kids of EPS about knocking down stereotypes, dreaming big, blocking out the negative and accepting help. I hoped my words might resonate with one student. If I came off as an idiot to the other 199, then so be it. If my positive message empowered one person to reach for their dream, then it was worth it. One kid. One kind word. One life changed.

Fellow Booktrope author, Tess Thompson blogged about a similar subject in her post titled, “I’m with Stupid.” Read it. She said it more artfully in her post than I did at the assembly, but the message was essentially the same. If you follow your heart, success will follow. Be bold and follow your passion. It’s an upbeat message, to be sure, but one worth repeating.

Why does it feel like I’m always apologizing for being positive? My whole life I’ve been accused of being a Pollyanna – a reference I didn’t understand until adulthood. Pollyanna was a fictional character that saw the positive side of every situation, regardless of how dire her circumstances. She lost family members. She faced death. And still, she smiled. Well, I suppose I’m sort of like that.

Fine. It’s true, I am Pollyanna. Toss your eggs at the computer screen, flip me off in your head, I can handle it. After spending time with the students at EPS yesterday, I know with such clarity what the world needs right now is more positive. So, I’m not going to apologize for being who I am anymore. I’m an optimist in a cynical world. I choose to see the best in people, hope for the future, see the invisible members of our society, smile, overuse exclamation points, wave at cops and construction workers, and add smiley faces to the end of my emails. Deal. With. It. 🙂

But, get one thing straight. Being positive doesn’t come naturally. It takes work.

431312-women-no-moneyIn college, when I was broke, held two jobs to pay for tuition and books, had way too much homework, and subsisted on cheap ramen, I posted a list on my dorm wall called, “Good Things Comin’ My Way.” I updated the list often to remind me that there was always something worth celebrating just around the corner. So what if I needed a microscope to see the good? My list included wearing clean white socks, sleeping in on Saturday, visiting home, talking to my brother, attending a football game, crunching fall leaves, having a day without rain, etc. You get the idea.  Small joys kept me moving forward.

Today, more than ever, it takes real effort to stay positive. I was a student of the media, so I know the studies about how disproportionate the violent/crime-related news segments are compared to the actual instances of crime. They overblow the bad, undercover the good. Yeah.

And in our current political climate when every politician (it seems being inept crosses party lines) works to pit you against me, us against them, him against her; I find that the news is no longer safe ground for me either. Of course, I have to track the news to stay informed. But, I can only take it in small doses. Then, I must unplug.  That’s why you won’t find me posting political stuff on my Facebook wall. I refuse to feed the derisive climate of the day. I love you. I could never hate you.

After my talk with the kids at Eastside Prep, I stopped caring about selling books. This is about me being a positive voice for others. Yes, I wrote a novel. I fought all the negative forces out there and within myself and got it done. You can transform your goal into an accomplishment, too.  But, the book is no longer the thing.

So as I climbed off the stage, I knew my goals had shifted. The lights on the stage dimmed and I found myself surrounded by students. They hugged me, asked questions, shared stories and shook my hand, and I listened. Selling books doesn’t matter anymore. But, being a positive voice for others does. So, that my friends, is what I’m going to pursue now. 🙂

My Jekyll and Hyde Reality

My Jekyll and Hyde Reality

Poster - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)_01For me, the toughest challenge about being a writer is the Jekyll and Hyde-ness of my days. In order to write, I have to shut out the world, close the drapes and withdraw into my thoughts. But then, to sell my book I need to engage with the world of potential readers through tweets, blogs, vlogs, posts and earnest conversation.

This is most certainly a first-world problem, but writing a novel is tough. So, when you submit that final draft, approve the cover, write the back cover blurb and hit send on the final details, you want to rest. But, don’t expect to rest if you want to sell any books.

Because books don’t sell themselves, do they? As an indie author, published by a hybrid publishing house, Booktrope, it is expected that we are not only willing, but excited about immersing into social media. Twitter. Facebook. Wattpad. Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube, to name a few. We have to find our future fans, connect with people that will connect with our writing. Also, we want to enhance the reader’s experience and find ways to connect them to our characters after they close the book.

Truth be told, we rely on the enthusiasm of strangers to bring our novel into the spotlight. We love our readers, and adore our bookclubs, and oh how we gush over our reviewers, the gems that took the time to read our novel and then post their opinion for all the world to see. You are worth every minute of squeamish discomfort I felt as I vlog, blog, post and tweet. I happily become Dr. Jekyll for you. Saucy, spicy, loud Dr. Jekyll.

Dr. Jekyll is the extroverted side of my days. She slaps duct tape over the mouth of our inner-governor and boasts about the novel, shares silly pictures, reposts someone else’s deep thoughts, toots the horn of other authors. She survives on gin and tonics, alternative music and doge memes. She’s cool. She’s relevant. And when she looks in the mirror, she smiles as she applies lipstick too thick and too bright across her lips. She laughs too loud.

And Dr. Jekyll has a heart filled with love. She loves her fellow indie authors. She loves her local libraries. She adores all independent bookstores and longs for the day the one down the block will call to set up that book signing. She covets the recognition of John Green and J.K. Rowling and Michael Connelly. But, she doesn’t hold their success against them. She just daydreams that she one day will walk among them.  This is Dr. Jekyll, the extrovert on steroids. Being her exhausts me. But I like being her in small doses.

The writing side of my personality is Mr. Hyde, because that’s what I have to do to be an effective writer. Hide. It is a lonely, soundless life. If I want to get into the heads of my characters I need everything else to fall away. This means I can’t bear the company of people, or the sound of music, or a view out the window. Somehow the cats and dog make it through Hyde security. They nestle within reach, and when the words won’t come, I stroke their fur.

My long-time companion, Quincy the golden retriever, died as I was wrapping up the ending to Four Rubbings, I lost my bearings. Quincy’d been with me for the whole process, from dream to notebook to Word file. We walked the wet streets together, took in fresh air between chapters, and helped cleared my head. When Quincy died, I stopped caring about the finish line. I wasn’t supposed to reach it without him. But, thankfully, my heart healed, well mostly, and I finished the book.

But since the release of Four Rubbings,  I’ve existed in the gray areas between Jekyll and Hyde. I committed to devoting six months to promote the novel before embarking on book two. I’ve nearly reached my self-imposed deadline and I’m worried that I won’t be able to wipe the lipstick off, shut out the world and write in the coming days. Worried and excited. Because, I crave time inside my own head to invent characters, fill in their details, set them in a situation and then watch them play out the story. I do miss writing.

So, after Four Rubbings goes on its blog tour the end of January, I’ll silence the cell phone, turn off the radio, shut the drapes and write. But, I want to tell you now that I will miss you. Though, I promise I’ll let Dr. Jekyll out of the cage every now and then to say hello.

New Year – Fresh Start!

New Year – Fresh Start!

orchidThere’s a one in 365 chance you’ll stumble upon this blog post on a day other than January 1st. Well, so what? Any day is a good day to make a fresh start. It’s just a trending conversation as we throw out our old calendars and pin up a new twelve months.

I’m making a couple changes. Are you ready to break that bad habit yet? Are you about to reach for a major goal? Then, I’m here to cheer you on as well as share my successes and inevitable failures with you. So, like always, I did a bit of research to help us both out.

  • From MY YOGA ONLINE, Gabrielle Harris shares the story of Buddhist lamas that work over the course of decades, DECADES, to perfect certain poses. The evidence of their slow, persistent attempts is seen in the ruts their hands and feet wear into the stones. Gabrielle tells the tale to remind us that the path to major change is a slow and steady one, so be patient with yourself. I’d also suggest you journal each day – even if you only jot down a single word in your smart phone “Notes” app. Make a record of your journey so that you can look back over time and appreciate how far you’ve come.
  • Also from Gabrielle, be clear about your goal. Be as specific as possible and set your intention. My personal example is that I intend to start losing weight, today! I’m doing this specifically to have more energy and reclaim my health. (Yes! You need to add that level of detail.)
  • Which brings me to tip #3. Set your goal for yourself, not someone else. Don’t set a goal to please your mate, impress your friends or outdo your coworkers. Those goals won’t be achieved. It’s got to be something you want for yourself first. Let the reaction of others be a happy side effect, agreed?
  • Confide your goal in someone you trust – even better – find someone else aiming for the same goal and team up. Then you can support each other, check in with one another, encourage and share in your successes and missteps. When I vlogged about this subject for teens, my example was about raising grades. Simply raising grades involves changing many small daily habits, like where you study, when you study and who you spend your after school hours with. This is all infinitely easier if you have a mutual friend to study with each day at the library.
  • Forgive yourself. You’re going to screw up, slip, or forget. Don’t give up! Remember what the lamas taught us? Change happens gradually. You’re in this for the long haul, so keep that in mind and give yourself a pass every now and then. Wake up tomorrow and start fresh again. Slight footnote here – if we’re talking about major addiction, that’s a different challenge entirely. I still care about you and your journey, but please, seek a doctor’s help so you can seek a clean life with every physical advantage possible. You deserve it.
  • Finally, think about the roadblocks you’re going to face BEFORE you face them. For me, I know I’ll be faced with restaurant menus, surrounded by delicious smells and want to veer toward those items that are deep-fried and coated in butter. If I picture it now, I can rewrite the story. I imagine myself choosing something healthy, feeling physically good afterward, and proud. I have to play and replay my doctored up ending a few times, but it gives me a stronger chance of making it past that particular roadblock successfully.

So, good luck to you. As always, I’d love to hear how you are doing. Until next time, take care.