Too darn hot

What my manuscript looks like

Cole Porter wrote a song years ago called “Too Darn Hot.” Maybe some of you remember the lyrics from “Kiss Me Kate.”

It’s about being too hot to coo and pitch the woo with my baby tonight, but I can’t help thinking it’s too darn hot to do anything. At least outdoor work, and that’s what I’m not doing right now. The painting is half done, the hedge needs trimming, and I’m staying inside where it’s cool

Because it’s too darn hot.

Which means, I’ve had time to sit at the computer and work on my novel. Yep, no excuses.

I’ve been putting off working and thankful for the excuses I’ve managed to come up with until now, because I need to end the darn thing and I’m trying to come up with a believable ending.  Someone once said you shouldn’t start a book without knowing how it will end and of course I know it ends with the two main characters working out their differences and getting together for that Happy Ever After.

What I want it to look like

It’s the part in between that takes work. I’ve set up some situations that the characters have to solve and that means their coming face to face with their deepest fears and conquering them. But how do I get them together again when walking away seems the most logical answer? To them, I might add, not to me.

Obviously, they have to realize walking away isn’t what they need.

I want to make the ending believable in light of what has happened in the first 200 pages. And to do that, I have to go back and make sure all the clues are there so that the reader (hopefully) will say, “Of course!”

And not depend on a deus ex machina to swoop down to make everything right. That might have worked for the Greeks  (the phrase is a Latin translation) but modern readers demand a more realistic solution.

I told a friend that people who have never written a book think it must be easy. It isn’t. Frankly I’d rather mow the yard or trim a hedge than sit down and try to make my characters behave. Writing isn’t a smooth journey from Once Upon a Time to The End. It’s constantly going back and forth, changing a word here, a paragraph there, so it all flows seamlessly to the conclusion.

If these characters do realize they can’t live without each other, it has to come from something more than, “Gosh, I’ve changed my mind.”

So…pondering and re-writing, and x-ing out and starting over. I come tantalizingly close to an answer and then realize it won’t work because…

And start over again.

That’s the trouble with being a pantser rather than a plotter. We pantsers like to say it’s more fun this way, but we also set ourselves up for just this kind of situation.

I’ve no doubt I’ll figure it out. After all, it’s too darn hot to do anything else.

(My apologies to those who live in cooler climes and wonder what I’m complaining about. It’s been in the 90s with no rain and I’ve had to trudge outside every night to water my flowers, and my ankles are mosquito bitten and itchy and I’m not in a good frame of mind.)

Maybe I’ll just kill off the two ninnies a la Romeo and Juliet.

Ah, no, that wouldn’t be believable either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best-laid plans…

I decided that while the weather was a little cooler I would paint the front deck and ramp.  I should have realized that if it took four

My son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons busy painting the deck and ramp. I had the trim on the house painted last year, so now I’m painting the deck to match.

people a full day to paint it, it might take me a little longer. So I painted for three days and then today I ran out of paint. So I’m taking a break and writing this.

You may think painting has nothing to do with writing, which is what this blog is about unless I digress (as I did last week), but it really does.

 

Painting, mowing the yard, ironing clothes … that’s when I do my writing because that’s when my mind is free to imagine.

I promised a few weeks ago I would let you know how my Amazon advertising campaign went. The truth is, it never started. I signed up for their marketing plan in which they put an ad for your book on other sites so that when people are searching for something they see your ad and think, “Hmm, maybe I’ll click on this.” Then they go to your page, fall in love with your book description, and buy it. The idea is that you pay so much for each click.

 

I am not out a dime. No one clicked. Not even me when I saw the ad for “Riverbend” while searching for summer sandals.

Maybe it was the cover. Maybe it didn’t appeal, or get anyone’s attention. Maybe people looking for shoes don’t get sidetracked and think, “Oh look! a book!”

 

 

Who knows why it didn’t work?

I did submit the book for a review in InD’tale magazine and a review was recently published in Uncaged magazine. Reviews help but it does take a long time to get them.

So as far as marketing, I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. Sometimes something works and sometimes it doesn’t.

As I said, I”m not looking to spend a heap of money because I don’t have heaps of money lying around. So I have to do the free stuff, like annoy all my friends with posts on Facebook and Twitter.

And the second best thing, which is write another book. Each time I put a book out there, I think this is the one that will get noticed and then people will look at my others books and then I will be a NYT’s Best Seller and…

Pop! See that daydream vanish in mid air?

 

Seriously, I do have a small coterie of fans and they are already asking when the next book will be ready. So maybe I should be content to be a big (well, middling-sized) frog in a very little pool.

It’s not a bad place to be.

 

 

The sins of my youth

When I was young, a hundred years ago, I thought I needed three things: a gorgeous tan, blonde hair, and adoring boyfriends.

I got the blonde hair from a bottle, and the tan from hours of lying in the sun in my teeny-weeny bikini. No, it wasn’t polka-dot.  And sometimes the sun tan turned into a sunburn, with accompanying blisters. The boyfriends came and went, not all adoring but faithful enough for brief periods of time.

Image result for sunburn meme

Then I married and had children. No time for tanning, no time to redo the roots of my hair. I let it grow back into its mousy brown.

As I got older, I began avoiding the sun. In the past few years I do my yard work protected by sunscreen, a floppy hat, and long pants. I get my various moles and other blemishes checked periodically by a dermatologist. I became especially vigilant after my younger brother died of a melanoma he’d had 20 years previously. They thought they got it all, but during those years it had metastasized, unknown to him and his loved ones.

So just before I went on my annual trip to Pennsylvania to visit my sister (my excuse for no blog last week) I got a call from my dermatologist. She’d removed a suspicious mole during my last appointment and sent it for a biopsy. The results were melanoma in situ.

It wasn’t that big of a shock. I knew the risks. I knew that in spite of the care I’d been taking, my foolishness 50 years ago had more than  likely set me up for something like this.

Of course, we didn’t know back then of the danger. Baby oil and iodine? Slap it on for a deeper, browner tan. Hours spent on the beach or on a towel in the back yard. A sunburn was a small price to pay. Sure, it hurt, but the blisters eventually went down. And then we did it all over again.

I went back Tuesday to have more tissue removed to make sure that all of the cancer was gone. It wasn’t fun. The area was numbed and then I lay on my stomach, my arms slowly falling asleep, trying not to twitch as she cut and cut … and cut. The the stitches. I didn’t ask how many, but it took a long time. The wound is covered with steri-strips, so I can’t see the damage. Yet.

And I’m waiting for word of the second biopsy. She was cheerfully confident it would come back clear, but I’ve heard that song before. I had to go for a third surgery when I had breast cancer because the margins weren’t clear the second time. Hopefully, that won’t happen again.

My back is sore and it hurts to stretch or move suddenly, but I tell myself that’s a small price to pay if the threat is truly gone.

Now I must be ever more vigilant because what happened once can happen again. I told my three sons they also must take care. We now have a family history of melanoma. I’m sorry to pass that on to my children and grandchildren. Fortunately, the grandchildren’s parents have been more cautious than I was, and slathered on sunscreen whenever the kids went outside.

I’m writing this as a warning. If you have children or grandchildren, please, please, make sure they are protected. They, like me, won’t think ahead. They think they will always be young and anyway, who cares what happens then they are “old.”

They will care. And it’s up to us to protect them now.

 

We’ve come a long way, baby

Among a box of goodies I received for Mother’s Day was a book: The McGraw Hill Author’s Book, copyright 1955.  I think it was intended as a curiosity from my daughter-in-law, who is an antique/collectibles dealer and who comes across curious items in her search for treasures at flea markets, yard and garage sales, and estate sales.

Just reading the “Foreword to the Author,” I realized how far we’ve come since the mid-2oth century. We are all familiar with galley proofs and making changes. To us, this is minor. Back then, revisions were (and I quote) something “we devoutly hope to avoid, for after-thought is time-consuming and very costly.” Evidently it took the work of 4-5 “highly skilled and commensurately paid” printers to make changes, even small ones.

I guess all those printers are retired, or as the British say, redundant, now. I hope they got commensurate retirement benefits.

The book was written so the hopeful writers submitting their work to McGraw-Hill would know exactly what was expected of them. Clean copy is not a new thing, every publisher hopes to see it. But back then it was more of a necessity than a courtesy.

The first chapter, Preparing the Manuscript, tells us that the submitted copy will be handled by as many as 25-30 people, and so must be printed on good quality paper, and a black noneradciable ribbon should be used on the typewriter–a ribbon that should be replaced often to ensure a good impression.

This brought me back to the days when I had to write term papers and that stricken moment when I realized I’d made a mistake, and the work had to be painstakingly re-typed on a fresh sheet of paper.

Then Betty Nesmith Graham invented a typewriter correction fluid she first called “Mistake Out” in 1956. The name was later changed to Liquid Paper. I know I am not the only one who kept a bottle handy on my desk…and said a daily prayer of thanks to our benefactor.

The chapter goes on to admonish the writer not to use mimeographed, ditto, or photostatic copy “which cannot be corrected with ink.”

I haven’t seen a mimeograph machine in ages. We had one in the school office and I recall running off copies of  worksheets for my elementary age students. Purple goo that got all over your clothes and hands…ugh.  And ink? Can you even buy ink in a bottle any more? I still have–somewhere–a pen with a refillable cartridge, but I’m pretty sure it’s an antique.

Then the writer is advised to be sure and make a carbon copy of her work. Oh yes, I remember trying to line up the carbon paper with my white typing paper, only to have to it go awry when I rolled it in the cartridge. And again, the purple ink on my fingers, ink I had to be sure not to smudge on the paper. Carbon paper, like the typewriter ribbon, had to be replaced often. I suppose someone somewhere still uses it.  I simply hit hit “copy” and “save” on my computer. No mess, no waste.

I’m eager to continue my walk down memory lane, reading this book chock-full of antiquated advice. It makes me realize how much easier we have it today. I’m sure some of the  advice still holds. Some things never change.

But thank goodness the mechanics have.

 

 

 

Curiosity and all that…

When you were a child, did you ever sneak a peek at the Christmas gifts hidden in the hall closet or under your parent’s bed?

I think almost all of us did this at one time or another. Curiosity gets the better of our conscience. 

I’m experiencing the same curiosity regarding Riverbend. I know I should let it go, but I can’t resist checking the sales figures. I look at the graphs on the KDP page and then check Author Central for sales ranking. Then I go to the book and see if anyone has left a review.  (Check it out!)

I know I shouldn’t do it. The book will sell or it won’t, and all my “peeking” won’t bring the elusive goal any closer.

“They” say word of mouth is the best advertising, so all I can do is hope the readers who bought the book like it and recommend it to their friends. And there is nothing I can to do make that process go any faster.

There are a few avenues I can pursue to promote the book aside from social media that won’t cost more than the modest royalties I’m seeing. It’s always a toss-up. I know writers who hire publicists to get their book in the public eye, which is, to my thinking, a really big leap of faith. You’d have to sell millions of books to afford that, but unless you do you won’t sell millions of books.

Is it the cart or the horse?

As I said earlier, I”ll let you know how it goes. So far, it’s slow. So instead of checking the graphs daily, I’d be better off concentrating on my next book. And the one after that.

I write because I need to get the stories out of my head, not because I want to be a best-selling author. (Although that would be nice.) I just want the people, as many or as few as they be, who buy my books to enjoy them and feel they got their money’s worth.

But I’m not saying curiosity won’t get the better of me in a few days time and I won’t be able to resist signing in to my account and checking the sales figures.

It’s that curious kid all over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rocky road

No, I’m not talking about ice cream, although I love ice cream as well as anybody I know.  Since this is a blog about writing, you’ve probably guessed I’m talking about the rocky road to publication.

I’ve been fortunate to find a publisher who believed in my work, and disappointed when, due to financial difficulties,  that publisher went out of business. I found another, but they only do e-books. Correction, they will do a print version when your sales reach X number of dollars. Alas, mine have not attained that pinnacle.

So I decided to self-publish my latest book, Riverbend,  in both print and Kindle. I say Kindle and not e-book because I am trying another experiment, and that is listing the e-book version on KDP Select. Some authors say it has worked well for them, and others maybe not so much. We’ll see how that works out and I promise I’ll get back to you with the results.

Like you, I attend workshops and conferences and try to figure out what gives a writer the most exposure, or should I say return on investment? Do  you cajole, threaten and blackmail friends and relations to post reviews so you will be eligible to submit to the giant among e-book promoters, Book Bub? And then pay hundreds of dollars for an ad IF you are accepted?

Do you find sites that post banner ads for a sum of money and pray that someone sees them?  Or do you pursue book reviewers and hope their influence will increase your sales?

I’ve tried all of these (well not, Book Bub because no matter what I do, I can’t get to that magic number of reviews.) I’ve spent money and time, only to be disappointed. People say they like the book, the reviews that are posted are good to excellent, but sales are dismal.

This time I’m trying a new feature introduced by Amazon. For a fee (of course) they will place strategic ads on their pages advertising your book. You can pay as much or as little as you want, and run your campaign for one day or to  infinity. I thought I’d get on board because isn’t it in Amazon’s best interest to sell books?

I’ll let  you know how that works out, also.

Meanwhile, keeping my fingers crossed and working on my next book.

 

 

 

 

Doctor Strangelove returns

Back in the day, schoolchildren routinely practiced a drill that was said to protect us from tornadoes. We all knew it was to protect us from the Bomb.

And even at that age, I knew huddling under a desk with my arms covering my head was no protection at all from fallout, supposing we survived the initial blast.

The Cold War  went on until we all got used to it and the drills gradually stopped except for fire drills, which meant going outside for a few minutes, a welcome break in the day.

There were wars–Korea, Vietnam–but we had little to fear on our own home ground. The wars took place across the world, and all we knew of them were headlines in the newspapers. Television coverage was new and brought the carnage into our living rooms, but it still didn’t touch us.

Oh, there were the promised hurricanes and tornadoes, but the death toll was relatively light. Even if in the hundreds there were still fewer deaths than an average day of fatalities caused by shootings or distracted drivers.

So we felt safe. Just last Sunday I remarked to a friend that we were blessed to be able to worship without fear of someone joining us with a suicide vest strapped to his chest.

Then the bomb. The first one killed our own allies. The second, called the Mother of All Bombs, sounds like something from Doctor Strangelove.

And it was not “they” who unleashed the dogs of war, it was us.

Now we fear the fallout from a people who believe in the Old Testament warning of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Some of these enemies have nuclear power and are prepared to use it.

Churches across the country this Easter morning, as we ponder the miracle of the Resurrection, have heightened security in anticipation and fear of reprisal.

Will the schools also heighten security against suicide bombers? Will they hold drills in case of nuclear retaliation?

I don’t think the latter will happen. We are wiser now, and know that huddling under a desk won’t save our children.

This Easter Sunday, pray for our leaders and for an end to this insanity.

 

 

 

 

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