Monday, March 12, 2018

Coming Attractions--and They Won't Cost You a Dime!

I'm baaaaack!

How long has it been now, a little over a month since my last post? If nobody realized I was MIA, I'm going to be really disappointed. There's been a lot going on, most of it really, really boring--but I do have some new projects making their debut in the next few weeks. It's just a matter of setup now.

As those of you who've been regulars here (thank you, by the way!) know, I've been struggling creatively. Haven't finished a new book since 2009--in writer years, that's a long time. There have been times I haven't even wanted to write. I've been down all the roads already. First, there was traditional publishing--fourteen books, two major publishers. There were definite advantages, like large advances, skilled editors, major promotions. They did all the grunt work: editing, copyediting, proofreading, formatting, advertising, marketing. I didn't pay them. They paid me. That was a good thing. What wasn't a good thing was not getting to do the books I really wanted to write. When my agent told me she wouldn't even send out one of my proposals because it "wasn't glamorous," I knew my goose was cooked. 

Then I tried self-publishing. It was great, for a while. I wrote what I wanted to write. No deadlines, no compromises. And my writer life was good--for a while. I hated the grunt work. I hated self-promotion. I know authors who have been so aggressive in their marketing they've been blocked from some Facebook groups. I hated having to ask friends to write reviews--something, I confess, I rarely do myself. I can review a movie, probably because I remember more of what I see and hear up on the screen than I remember of a printed page (wow--that's not going to be a popular confession, coming from an author). Collin handled the formatting and all for a while, but with a full time job and trying to complete his degree, time was an issue--and converting my old (backlist) books to the necessary format for ebooks was a b****. 

Did I mention that I now have a virtual cuss jar?

Anyway, Collin and I talked it over and decided that we should find an indie publisher who could handle all that stuff. We went with Creativia because they came highly recommended by a fellow author. They reissued six of my sixteen books. I didn't expect to get rich, or even to make the Amazon bestseller list. I achieved bestseller status years ago, so been there, done that. I just wanted to make the books available to anyone who might not have already read them. And I wanted them on my own Kindles.

After six, I even had second thoughts about reissuing the rest. Why? Long story.

Four of the six reissues have been around since the late '80s-early '90s, and Chasing the Wind and Final Hours were first published in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Again, a long time in book years. So...what could I do? I wasn't sure. I knew I could no longer work on a deadline. Epilepsy has been an issue. There are good days and bad days. On the bad days, I can't even write a grocery list without forgetting something. Last summer, I discovered I'd had a stroke--a pinpoint stroke, but it seems even those can cause permanent problems in the right (wrong?) place.

So...where to go from there? When I first sent Chasing the Wind out to literary agents, one of them, someone I'd known from her days as a publishing executive and trusted, told me, "This is a movie, not a book."  I gave some thought to that in the past year. I considered trying my hand at screenwriting--but that's a crapshoot. And again, it involves deadlines. Deadlines I might not be able to keep.

But I still want to write. What options are left?

I decided to blog the as yet unfinished projects. Blogging a book is nothing new. Bestselling author Andy Weir first blogged The Martian before it was a novel and a movie. It's actually a recommended game plan for some nonfiction authors. This, I decided, would be a way I could tell the stories I want to tell in my own time, in my own way, with none of the grunt work. No marketing, no begging for reviews, nothing but writing. I had attempted to do this once before, but I hadn't really thought it through and it didn't work. This time, there's been a lot of advance planning. Collin created the above headers for three of the projects. I'm still trying to decide if they'll be here on Blogger or on Wordpress--Blogger's easier to use, but Wordpress looks more professional and has actual techies as their support team, rather than expecting bloggers to rely on the "community" for answers. Maybe both! I have posts ready to go--not just one or two, but enough to keep the posts consistent throughout my bad days. An Army of Angels will include text from Chasing the Wind and bring back characters from four of my backlist books.

I'll post the links here when they're up and running. I hope you all will check them out! 

Monday, February 5, 2018

On Dealing with the Loss of a Loved One

Last night, NBC aired a special episode of This Is Us after the Super Bowl. (If any fans of the show reading this have not yet viewed that episode, stop now. This post has spoilers.) It was a real tear-jerker, finally revealing how Jack Pearson died and how his widow and each of his three children are still dealing with their loss twenty years later. It resonated for me because Collin and I are also dealing with loss. Twenty-seven years ago last Monday, my dad died. In October, it will be twenty years since my mom passed away.
 Mom in happier days.

Twenty years after his death, Jack Pearson's family is still grieving, each in their own way. Rebecca, now married to Jack's best friend, has an annual ritual on Super Bowl Sunday. Her new husband respects it and, as he puts it, gives her space. She makes Jack's favorite lasagna and eats it while watching the Super Bowl alone. Kevin goes off alone to a special place and talks to his dad, pouring his heart out, vowing to do better in his own messed-up life, to beat the demons he shares with his late father. Kate watches a video Jack made for her while trying to help her gain the confidence she needed to pursue a future as a singer. In the video, she sees the reflection of her dad peeking through her bedroom door with his videorecorder, and it brings tears to her eyes. She blames herself for his death, because he went back to save her dog--which probably explains why it was so difficult for her to accept another dog in her life. Randall tries hard not to grieve. He celebrates his father's love of the Super Bowl, insisting upon watching the game with his kids  every year--even though the kids really don't care about the Super Bowl. This year, a seemingly unrelated incident--the escape and accidental death of the kids' lizard--has an unexpected effect on him.

I don't have many photos of Dad. 
He didn't like having his picture taken for some reason.

I can relate. When my dad passed away after what should have been a routine surgery--really, no surgery is "routine," but Dad had surgery two months earlier and this was supposed to be a sort of follow-up operation--it affected Mom, Collin and me in very different ways. For one thing, we were all blindsided by it--he'd come through the surgery with no complications, or so we thought. Even after the heart attack, when he was moved from his room to the cardiac intensive care unit, he seemed fine. He was laughing, talking with us, eating. That was Saturday. By Sunday night, he was on a respirator. By Tuesday night, he was gone.

Mom was depressed. She never really got through that. She seemed to have just given up. She went through the motions of living but was never quite there. Collin seemed okay on the surface, but his manner of dealing with things was to not deal with them. I was consumed by guilt. I wasn't sure I even had a right to grieve.

Dad and I had a complicated relationship. As a child, I was definitely Daddy's Girl. We were close. But as I got older and started to think for myself and not always agree with him, he didn't know how to deal with me. He'd come from a less than idyllic childhood that left him with control issues, a demon I inherited. Mom used to say we were always butting heads because we were so much alike--and she was the referee. Dad and I had unfinished business. And I believed that my success as a novelist made him feel unneeded. Before that, we were all dependent upon him for just about everything. 

That was the beginning of a very long, very painful writer's block. It would be another seventeen years before I would finish and publish another novel.

When Mom passed seven years later, Collin and I knew it was coming but it still hit us both hard. The first stroke came in February 1996. I knew the warning signs of stroke, but even when I saw them, I convinced myself that it wasn't any big deal. She'd slept on her arm. That's why it was numb. If I hadn't been in denial, Mom could have had a very different outcome. If she'd listened to our family doctor, she could have had a different outcome. If the two sisters she adored had been there for her when I couldn't be there, she could have had a different outcome. If, if, if...she was gone, and there wouldn't be a do-over. I didn't want to believe I could lose my remaining parent. But I did. I carried on, because I had Collin to think of--though sometimes I think I needed him more than he needed me.

We still miss both of them. We talk about how much they would have loved big-screen TVs, cell phones (maybe), streaming channels, delivery services for just about everything, and we wonder what life will be like on earth after we're gone.

How do you deal with the loss of a loved one?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Memo to the Guy in Charge of the Muses

To Whom it May Concern:

If you're in charge of the Muses, I wish to make a complaint. The one you sent me is a pain in the A. For the past twenty years now, I've been trying to develop Chasing the Wind as a series--books, TV, whatever sells first (assuming either one succeeds--these days, you couldn't get odds in Vegas). From the time the idea was conceived, back in April 1998, I knew it was not going to be a single title. Okay, maybe not from the beginning, but close to it. I went through rewrites, revisions, changing plotlines, characters, relationships. I added material, subtracted material. I came up with sequels. I considered dropping it entirely. I switched from third person point of view to multiple first person POV.

When Collin and I finally published the first version in 2008, I had removed a lot of material that was supposed to be the sequel. Still trying to finish that. Or maybe not. At any rate, my muse has been of no help whatsoever. In fact, she's almost never around, let alone doing her job. Whatever she's being paid, it's too much. Muses are not paid to watch soap operas all day. Or are they?

New Year's Eve--or maybe I should say New Year's morning--was the last straw. I missed the ball drop, having fallen asleep--upright, I was so exhausted--so I went to bed. Shortly after one a.m., my muse finally arrived, and in a talkative mood. She kept pestering me until I got out my phone and started making notes--for a twenty-five part series incorporating (but not starting with) Chasing the Wind. I was not amused. What time zone does she think this is, anyway?

Oh, sure, I'm happy to have the thing finally plotted, and in such detail, but do you have any idea what this means? Does she? I can't just unpublish the original novel to restructure the whole thing. Or maybe I can, but I don't want to. I got some pretty darn good reviews on that one. Do you know how difficult it is to get people to write reviews, even short ones, even when they love the book? I think I could hold them at gunpoint and still get nothing. Anyway, I'm no spring chicken. I might not even live long enough to write all of those books. Couldn't Ms. Muse have given me all of this twenty years ago, before my brain decided to retire? It would have been helpful.

All of this inspiration, and nowhere to go. By the way, I'm still trying to catch up on that lost sleep.

Sincerely yours, 
Disgruntled Author



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Year's Resolutions: Keeping It Simple

Before I start, I want to dedicate today's post to my blogger friend Ivy. She's been an inspiration, even if this project has taken way too long. Ivy, I bought these at Dollar Tree last week and immediately thought of you....

Ivy's a big Wonder Woman fan!

I'm not one to make New Year's Resolutions. I used to give it a shot, but since I never stuck to them, it seemed a big waste of time. But now, I think I just might  manage to finish what I've started. Some months ago, inspired by Ivy, I decided to declutter. I long for the simple life, and decluttering seems the best way to start. I went through my clothes and donated a lot of stuff. Every year, except for 2016, our church has had a yard sale, and I've given them stuff for those sales. Collin has scanned all of our paper documents into the computer so there was no need for paper files. Anything I didn't use was given away or thrown away. Our movies, music and books are almost all digitized now.

And still, things started piling up again.

In the past year, we've spent more time than either of us would have liked in doctors' offices and hospitals. I had a couple of CT scans, x-rays, a brain MRI, a Doppler carotid ultrasound and a trip to the emergency room for an infected finger. I discovered I had a very minor stroke--"pinpoint" was the word my doctor used. Still, it's had an impact.

Collin, on the other hand, has a problem that has yet to be identified. A few months ago, he started having trouble walking. He lost feeling from the waist down. At one point, I had to hold him up. He's fine now, but still needs to be evaluated for a potential neuromuscular disorder. That's scheduled for a couple of weeks ago.

So as I said, things were piling up. I had boxes of stuff I'd planned to donate to the church sale that didn't happen, bags of recycling I couldn't get to the recycling facility. We could barely get into our storeroom. And there was stuff that really needed to go to the dumpsters. We had boxes in the dining room, and things got worse when the time came to set up our Christmas tree. (Yes, we have an artificial tree--we've had the same one for twenty-three years now.) We bought a new plastic container for the tree because the box it came in was falling apart. Problem: the new container is much bigger than the old box, so it won't fit on the shelf where we've kept it as long as we've lived here. We need a new storage spot--but where? The storeroom looks like an episode of Hoarders.

Our storeroom. It was worse.
 A LOT worse.

The wake-up call, for me, came when we were out with a friend just before Christmas. I was telling her my Odd Couple story about issues I'd had with a former roommate--and she was genuinely surprised to hear that I was the Felix in that story! When we got home, I took a look around and decided things had to change. 

It couldn't happen overnight. It was going to require some reorganizing. So Collin and I spent New Year's Eve sorting, bagging, boxing and reorganizing. I estimate another week's work to get everything done, but we're getting there.

Anybody else make any resolutions for 2018 beyond just getting through it?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Murphy's Law, Christmas Edition

I'm back, just in case anyone noticed I was gone.

I haven't been around much lately, and discovered I was about two weeks behind on blog comments--so if I haven't left a comment on anyone's post, I apologize. I'm still playing catch-up.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an appointment with my primary care doctor--just a routine check-up. I had an ingrown fingernail that was bugging me, but I didn't think it was any big deal, so I didn't mention it to Dr. B.  Big mistake. That was on a Friday. By Sunday, there was swelling and a pocket of pus on the side of my fingertip. It wasn't painful and I had no fever, so on Monday morning, I emailed Dr. B. a photo of it and asked if I could just poke it with a sterilized needle and drain it. Her response: absolutely not! She wanted to see me that afternoon. I persuaded her to wait until Tuesday so Collin could go with me.

Gross, isn't it? And I wanted Collin to
do a video of the....uh, cutting....

When I saw her on Tuesday, she read me the riot act. She told me she couldn't treat it herself, that it would require a hand surgeon. Surgeon? Just what was she thinking? She said there was an infection, that it would require an incision to drain the pus and could cost me the fingertip or the whole finger. Maybe even the whole hand. Whoa! I'm right-handed and my left hand is rarely very cooperative. Nobody was cutting my hand off!

The hand surgeon, as it turned out, was triple-booked and couldn't see me that day, so Dr. B. insisted I go to the emergency room at St. Mary's across the street. Oh, great, I thought. An entire afternoon and maybe the evening as well, stuck in the ER waiting room? I almost didn't go.

As it turned out, the waiting room in the ER was nearly deserted. I was taken in immediately and seen by a doctor who, as it happened, had considerable experience in this sort of thing. He patiently explained the problem to me in medical jargon, describing what was building up in my finger.

"Pus," I concluded.

He nodded. "Pus."

He said he would anesthetize my finger, which would take about fifteen minutes. It would take two minutes max to drain it, then it would be bandaged. I asked if it would need stitches. He assured me it would not. It had to drain, after all. I felt a slight sting when he administered the anesthetic, but nothing after that, not even when he made the incision. He had me rest my arm on the arm of the chair, then covered it with a small cloth with a hole in it for my finger, similar to those used in operating rooms.

"Raise your finger," he told me, "like you're flipping me off."

I grimaced. "I think that's what got me into this mess." Is it possible to have an overworked flipping finger?

It was over in no time. The bandage made it look worse than it really was--like a mummy finger puppet. Collin and I left the ER in time to go to lunch, puck up some groceries and still get home by three that afternoon.

Now, it's healed and looks as if nothing ever happened. I think the most painful part was that $150 copay. Even with insurance, with my deductibles and out-of-pocket minimums met, it was still $150? Boy, am I glad we had insurance....

Monday, November 20, 2017

How They Have Changed in Thirty-Plus Years!

Having been housebound for the past ten days with a weird allergic reaction to something that has yet to be identified, I wasn't up for much of anything except lying on the couch watching TV. I decided to check out the Dynasty reboot. I hadn't planned to watch it at all, but I was sleeping a lot and figured if I fell asleep during an episode, I wouldn't mind so much. I had watched the original series back in the '80s and found it fell short (in my opinion) to Dallas. The original Dynasty was more of a fashion show than anything else, with less emphasis on character and story than on what the women were wearing.

Blake Carrington was the head of Denver-Carrington, a major oil company. At the start of the series, he had two children, daughter Fallon, who was headstrong and a bit of a tramp. Son Steven was quieter, more thoughtful--and gay, to his father's shame (a TV father was allowed to be ashamed of a gay child in the '80s). Fallon ended up married to Jeff Colby, nephew of Denver Carrington's chief rival, Cecil Colby of Colbyco. Blake married his secretary, the mostly spineless Crystal, who had previously been involved with a fellow employee, the mostly married Matthew Blaisdel. Then there was Crystal's niece, Sammy Jo, who managed to marry Steven--though of course it didn't last.

In 2017, Denver Carrington has been relocated to Atlanta, is no longer all about the oil, and is rechristened Carrington Atlantic. Crystal is now Cristal, the Hispanic COO of Carrington Atlantic, and Sammy Jo is now a guy. I guess that works better as far as his relationship with Steven is concerned. Time will tell. Fallon is furious that her father has promoted his new wife over her and becomes his competition in the business world. Her partner, Jeff Colby, is now an African-American tech whiz.

Oh, how times have changed!

It made me think. Years ago, when I decided to reissue my backlist books as ebooks, I considered updating them much in the way Dynasty has been updated. Mainly, I wanted to drop the glitz and glamour (even I used to refer to four of the five books I did during my time at Berkley as Lifestyles of the Shallow and Superficial). I saw Alexander's Empire (Dance of the Gods) as story more focused on his flashes of memory and his ties to a woman in a mental hospital. I considered making him an equestrian champion who bought a farm in the Midwest with a tragic history, only to find living there was triggering memories he didn't understand.The title, of course, would have to be changed.

Angels at Midnight would be about a young up and coming artist who married an idealistic lawyer with a dark family secret; a tech whiz who worked for a conglomerate taken over by a criminal element; and a custody fight that led to some creative forms of revenge.

Yeah, I guess I could have rebooted the four books. I was just never sure if it would be worth the effort....

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It's Finally Here! I Was Startiing to Think it Might Not Come This Year!

I'm talking, of course, about the autumn colors. They were expected to show in mid-October, but only arrived in full this past week. I had Collin do the photo honors. And after he was finished, he explained to me that the Samsung Galaxy has a special feature that compensates for shaky hands like mine....