Christmas Mirror

Baking cookies today and writing Christmas cards. A few things I need to buy for the party tomorrow, so shopping on agenda. Also some gift wrapping. I do love a tree full of presents under it. Tonight a simple dinner and tomorrow Anton will help me clean and shine up the house for our friends. Then we will do it again on Christmas Day.

Tomorrow, baking more cookies with Dee and meeting Marsha Tuesday at the bookstore before lunch at Macaroni Grill, our annual Christmas lunch spot. Can pick up the ham while I’m down that way. Christmas Eve, the kids get in late, but I will be on the sofa waiting. Hope the weather is not too bad or that they don’t lose their way. They’ve never been to our new place. I have their room all ready and cozy for the mama-to-be.

Christmas Day I’m lucky; my family is coming here, a long drive down the river and through Detroit for them. Yet, my grandparents lived out this way since the 1960s, and we always came north on Christmas, even before they put a freeway through Detroit, we’d take Southfield and then over to Rochester Road. One of the big buildings would spell out MERRY CHRISTMAS in strategically lit windows.

I’m making my son’s favorite cookies, cherry jam thumbprints…

She shut the Mac, soul-sick at a world that seemed to have the habits of the holidays down so pat. This character seemed to actually feel the cheer and goodwill she only thought about and once in a while wished she could find. Her dinner this Christmas Day: toast with jam. Jam made it festive, a splash of cherry red in the otherwise undecorated apartment.

Why put up a Christmas tree when she was the only one who’d see it? She preferred her walls of books, her comfortable reading chair, the sofa for when she needed deeper rest but wasn’t quite ready for bed. She’d been here twenty years. How was that possible? She’d meant to buy something, stop paying rent and smelling curry and hearing arguments and, less often, laughter through the thin walls.

She bought herself something every year, just because the sales were good. Electronics. A new e-reader, new laptop, new phone. Some years she’d buy herself all three. The newest models were better and faster and made her work less of a hassle. She should work now. She’d eaten her toast without tasting it. Time to get back at it.

She wrote about another world, one unlike her own in every way. In this other world, she had children, grown children, with spouses and children of their own. Her grandchildren. Three of them. Maybe another on the way…she tapped the keyboard, dreaming up a subplot as she typed. Her beloved came into the room and held his face to hers, looking over her shoulder at her words. He kissed her and left her to it. She wanted to call him back. She deleted the line where he left her side and inserted herself turning toward him for a real kiss, one that would lead elsewhere.

Readers liked that.

Her fingers travelled over the keyboard, taking her far away from the apartment, out of the country even, alone on a mission. By the time her fictional Christmas rolled around, the book would be finished and she would have no need to imagine all of the things people kept themselves busy with in this most annoying of seasons where over-sugared minds laughed and drank punch, oblivious as the world burned.

I’m not sure why people bother with such whiny stories this time of year, or why I read them right to the end, or why they follow me into my real life. From where does that chill of recognition come? I might have seen another self in a dream or a distant  mirror, but how is that possible? I pushed my shopping cart, full to the brim, toward the mistletoe. Anton had specifically requested it, and if I hung it between the buffet table and the bar, it could make the party tomorrow even more fun.

Happy Holidays

~ See you in 2015 ~

Endings

Photo on 9-18-14 at 10.11 AMWanted to write about Quiet today. The book & my need for some. Been feeling raw and unsettled and have not yet reached that place where I can claim my quiet, although I am working on it. Progress slow, but being made. I make things out of no-things all the time. Today I made ten pages of a book out of blank white paper. Turned them dark and inky. Sprinkled in a little bit of light.

One of the phrases I loved the most, snatched from my notebook with glee, was useless. It was beautiful and I adored it, but it didn’t fit anywhere. Maybe it still will because I have not finished the book. I’m through the messy middle and I’ve reached everyone’s climax (ahem) but now to bring them to an ending. There’s an easy way to do this. A connect-the-dot way. I use it all the time. Happy ending. Problem solved. Murder avenged.

Now that there have been, much to my surprise, two murders committed on my pages, it would seem that okay, I can just use the endings that conventional romances (Plot A) and mysteries (Plot B) traditionally use. Except. That sly Lily. She was just a teenager in Blue Heaven but now she’s finished college and she’s back in town trying to take over the book. She came creeping into my head this week and demanded to have her own spin-off series. She wants to solve crimes and shoot guns and stuff. I’m telling her to shut up because I don’t know a thing about any of that but she says I’ve written it before. I’m writing it now. And she’s right.

So what does that have to do with this book’s ending?

If Lily is going to have her series, or at least another book, and I think she will, if I can just get some quiet to develop her new storyline, I’m going to have to leave room in this book for loose ends. I’m gonna have to break some hearts and leave them unmended. I’m going to have to sink blood, bones, and soul into this story’s end.

How do you do that? In “An Anatomy of Endings” David Chase suggests that instead of my typical “closer” type ending where loose ends are tied, and relationships restored, I might go with a “clincher” that “surprises by tying story strings together in an unexpected way or throwing a new, ironic light on the whole recent past.” Yeah, ironic. Lily can do that. I can do that.

Or can I? Chase lists all the ways a “clincher” can fail: the cop out, the let down, the tie up, the wrap up, the aha, the huh? are all filled with pencil-type peril. I do know this: I’ll try anything once. I have never been afraid to take the leap. It’s just a book. There’s always revision. Which basically means I’ll try anything twice. Or even three times.

The next question is: will Lily’s landing be soft or hard? I think right now it’s gotta be hard, even though everything inside me longs for strong soft & quiet.

Writing Again

Finally, almost two weeks after I sliced my writing fingers open, I am back to writing. Had a serious pen and paper session that lasted a few hours and blasted through a block that has been with me for most of my life. Finally, I’ve started working on a memoir.

I still plan to indie pub Gypsy on December 26, so I’m keeping the free document up until then. I also aim to finish ‘the novel of my heart’ which is very close to done. This is the next book I’m sending to my publisher and my first attempt to publish women’s fiction. I imagine that this winter will be waiting and  editing, but also working on the memoir.

I don’t want to say anything else except I am writing a memoir that I plan to publish and it takes place in the space of five eventful years of my life. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Anyway, now I’m going to take those first scrawled pages and type them into a Word document.

It feels so good to be writing again.

Indie or ePub?

Congratulations to my publisher The Wild Rose Press for winning “Best ePublisher” five years in a row here. Being with a #1 ePublisher feels good. About the same time I signed a contract with TWRP for The Paris Notebook, I self-published my first indie novel Sister Issues on Kindle. I thought it would be interesting to see the differences between doing it myself and having a publisher. I can now report that:

1. Money: the money I earned on each book so far is about the same. Quarterly earnings in 3 figures. Low 3 figures. Don’t let that discourage you. Other authors earn much more. They promote their work more effectively, write more books, write sexier books, paranormals, series.

Another money issue, if you go indie, you’ll probably have out-of-pocket expenses. Nothing like what a vanity press would charge. (Many people think indie publishing and vanity presses are the same but they are not. A vanity press will take thousands of your dollars and not even edit your masterpiece. Not even a spell check!) But a couple of hundred bucks if you hire out any of the hard stuff. With TWRP the author pays nothing and the publisher does everything.

2. Content Control: Going indie means I have complete control of content. It also means your book will need an editor unless you have two degrees in English and a super smart critique group, like I do. Freelance editors charge fees as low as $100 but some are much higher. Going indie, you’ll need to do your homework here. Ask indie authors you’ve read and enjoyed who edited their books. With TWRP, I worked closely with an editor.

My TWRP editor advised I cut a subplot and add a consummation scene. I really loved that subplot so I turned it into the free short story “Sarah’s Survival Guide” on my website. I paid a friend who is good with graphic design $100 to make a cover. I think the book would have been better with the subplot but it would not have been a romance.

As for the consummation scene, this is a personal decision. TWRP does have a “sweet” line of books for people who want to be sure they are reading “G” rated material. My book was not sweet, even without the consummation scene. I had four letter words and lots of sexy foreplay. So I wrote the scene.

3. Covers: As an indie, I had to find a cover that looked professional or hire someone to do it. After a long time of trying to stage a cover myself, I got permission from my daughter-in-law to use a pic of her and her sister. I paid them peanuts, but I think anyone who gives permissions like that should be paid. At TWRP I got a great professional cover by one of their artists. Didn’t have to pay a dime or do a thing but fill out an art-fact sheet.

4. Print: As an indie, I knew it would cost a little more ($100 working with Amazon’s Create Space) to have Sister Issues available in print. I decided not to do that. Yet. With TWRP, if you write 65,000 words or more, your book goes to print. That was a thrill!!

5. Format: As an indie, I had to find someone to format my Word document into KDP (Mobi). I tried several times and could not get it to work right. I found someone to help with that for $100. Turn around time was less than 24 hours and my book looks great. TWRP does all that for you:)

6. Marketing: As an indie, you are on your own. I read up on self-promotion and did what I could with the time I have. I want to write, not market my work. But with indies, self-promotion is essential. TWRP has a marketing department. They send galleys to all kinds of review sites and I pulled in a few reviews that way. They chat up your books on Twitter and Facebook. They ask you for ideas to partner with them to promote your book. I’ve done a bit of that, too.

7. Distribution: Most stores that sell books do not sell indie books. If you live by an indie bookstore, lucky you! But you need to make first contact. TWRP handles distribution. That is huge.  Everything TWRP does for me is huge. I want no part of making covers, formatting, or distributing my books. So the clear winner, at least for me, is The Wild Rose Press.