Sunday, August 25, 2013

Deadlines: Real vs Self-imposed

One thing about it--I've learned a lot about formatting with MS Word since I started putting up my little tales. And I've had to learn by the seat of my pants in most cases--which isn't all bad, since trial and error generally imprints the process in one's mind (and fingers).

I suppose, despite the frustration(s), the whole experience has given me confidence that old dogs can learn new tricks. Old ladies, too!

Not that I'd set myself up as an expert by any means. Not now--maybe never. But I've learned a thing or two or three, and it's a nice feeling of satisfaction.

Penelope continues to sell better than I ever dared hope she would. The first four books have racked up almost 3600 sales/borrows on Amazon in just over a month, and I still have two books to put up. It surprises me, but then I think I got lucky. Somehow I put together a cast of characters who caught the imaginations--and perhaps the hearts--of some readers. That's a nice feeling, too.

The scary feeling kicks in when I start to wonder if I can ever do it again! One can only try, I suppose, and perhaps The Dreamland Series and The Kate Chronicles will appeal to a whole new audience.
 'Twould be nice.

Then I think about all those hours of formatting and the several stages of proofing, and I wonder more. Hopefully what I've learned will hasten the process a bit. One can only hope.

Meanwhile, I'm the current editor of our genealogical society's yearly publication, and that has to take top priority until it goes to print--and that deadline is coming up. As much as I'd like to make my self-imposed deadlines with these last two Penelope books, she'll have to take a back seat to the aforementioned publication.

Real life crashes in.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Which road do I take from here?

Another author who has done quite well with indie publishing and whose opinion I respect said the best promotion was to have the next book ready to go. That makes sense. I'd already planned to put up a three-book romantic suspense series, The Dreamland Series. Book 1 is in first draft (holding nose), and Book 2 has been planned (sort of). Book 3 is anybody's guess, but it will write finis to the others.
This is the series I wrote about earlier, the one with the character who has Down Syndrome, and is "for" my young grandson who faces the same challenge of living with DS.

What I have ready is a series of stories I refer to as The Kate Chronicles. They'll make perhaps as many as 8-10 volumes of 10 short stories or 3 longer 'chapter stories' each. They 'chronicle' the 100-year lifespan of a foundling adopted by an older couple who grows up to become a doctor. So they'll probably be next up.

I have two finished novels I could put up, but one bears a second look. It's rather gritty--not graphic or otherwise against my grain, but it deals with some very realistic life situations...and I'm not sure I've done the best job handling them. It's a good story about four siblings taken away from their father (their mother deserted the family) and put up for adoption during the Depression. The oldest vows to find and reunite them. Keeping Promises is the story of her quest. It's not necessarily a 'feel good' story despite its happy ending.

The second is based on a family story of how my great-grandfather shot and killed his stepfather back in 1876. It's a 40K+ novella to which I added a sequel of the same length--so perhaps that would be two books. Four Summer Days is, in my opinion, the best thing I've ever done, and I keep thinking maybe it should go to a university press in the area in which it's set because of the historical background. I've hung onto it for probably a dozen years, so maybe it's time for it to see the light of day--and hope readers like it.

And, of course, there are various other WIPS which may or may not ever be finished. (So much to write, so little time!)

This venture into indie publishing has been a satisfying venture (though exhausting). It's like I'm at the crossroads now...which road do I choose to travel next? 

Monday, August 19, 2013

First day of school...first day of...

My six-year-old granddaughter started school today. (She did kindergarten last year, of course.) For me, it's not a day of excitement because I am an 'old teacher' who knows that school is no longer a good, safe place for children. It's not because of the loonies who show up with weapons, though that's a consideration. It's because of the ruling monster, Political Correctness, which has infected every area of life today and particularly schools.

In California, the governor signed a law which allows students to use the restroom/locker room of their choice based on their own personal gender identity--not which body parts they have. Tell me how taking the rights of the 99% away for the rights of the 1% is a good idea. In the last school where I taught, faculty restrooms were unisex. I didn't like it one bit.

We scream about how our children aren't getting a good basic education, but there's no time for that. They must be taught The Test. It must be practiced, analyzed, remediated, practiced nauseum.

The mention of God, Christmas, Easter, etc. has been banished. A 6 or 7-year-old child who innocently chews a poptart into what a teacher perceives as the shape of a 'gun' is suspended. Zero tolerance. (And that's only the tip of the iceberg.) I'm waiting for the inevitable suspension of a child who dares to say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays"--and is pounced on for bullying!

In one school in Texas (I think this fell through), high school students were being monitored through ID badges with chips in them. A  single student who refused based on religious convictions was thoroughly persecuted by the district.

A kindergartener who innocently touches (hugged, I think) another student is suspended for 'sexual harassment'. God forbid a teacher should offer any kind of physical comfort to a distraught child--her license would be gone, and she'd be in jail. In my last few years of teaching, I never touched a child--no pat on the shoulder, no hugs, nothing. Not only that, I made sure I was never alone with a child of either sex--if I couldn't find a chaperone while providing extra tutoring, the tutoring didn't get done. How sad is that?

No, school isn't the safe, happy place I remember as a child, and I weep for all my grandchildren will grow up without. Meanwhile, I teach them what I can--what is no longer considered necessary to good education--by reading the classics, teaching cursive writing and geography among other things including manners! My oldest granddaughter has an outline map of the U.S. on the wall of my study, and she gets to place a gold star on a state as soon as she's learned the capital. She sits fascinated while I read Greek and Roman mythology one might consider far beyond her years--stopping me occasionally to ask for an explanation of a word or an event. She loves classical music and poetry. She's been dictating stories to me since she was three.

Yes, she's bright, but all children are sponges and will soak up what they're given. The problem is, they're being given all the wrong things these days.

I tell her she has a guardian angel, and I believe in them. I hope hers is on duty right now.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I have a plan...

Barring unforeseen complications, Book 4 of the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, The Possum Hollow Hullabaloo, will go up today after I get home from church. Then I'm headed out for a shopping spree--using a gift card I've had for months! It's for my #1 favorite store, Kohl's, but alas, that's in Benton (on the way to Little Rock) and not Hot Springs. I love going over there. It's finding the time to do it that's the problem!

So it's a plan. Church. Work. Shopping.

Meanwhile, here's the blurb from Book 4:

Possum Hollow has existed outside Amaryllis for as long as anyone can remember. It’s a dark place with dark secrets, and outsiders aren’t welcome. The elementary school which has sprung up inside the impenetrable wall separating the people of the Hollow from the town, struggles to show the children there’s a better life outside. Soon after Penelope and Mary Lynn volunteer to fill in for an absent faculty member, one of the students and her little sister accidentally lead police to a fresh grave deep in the woods. And Miss Maude Pendleton, who scared generations of high school seniors into reading Shakespeare and Chaucer, faces the necessity of learning a whole new curriculum if she wants to stay alive. Penelope keeps the B&B slick as a whistle, but now she’s in the middle of a mess she’s not sure anyone can clean up.

I have to say, after all is said and done, this is my favorite in the Penelope saga. It was a fun write, and I hope it will be a fun read. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Is confession really good for the (my) soul?

Tomorrow will make one month since I launched the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series for Kindle. To date, the first three books have sold/lent over 2,200 copies. To say I'm amazed (and delighted, of course!) is an understatement.

But now it's time for 'true confessions'. I had no idea there were that many people out there looking for a good clean read. In addition, I will make full acknowledgement that I have in the past envied other authors who sold more books writing what I could not. Envy is always wrong and avails nothing. Let me be clear: I don't begrudge anyone success. In the end, one makes (or doesn't make) her own 'success' according to her own definition of same.

Shortly after it became clear that the first three books had found an audience, my shortcomings were brought home to me in a short prayer from one day's morning devotional:

May everything we do
begin with Your inspiration
and continue with Your saving help.
Let our work always find its origin in You
and through You reach completion.

The bottom line was, whether I sold one book, a hundred books, or a thousand books, I could only hope to feel satisfied if they were the product of my own moral compass. 

Then came the next--and most difficult--'revelation' if you want to call it that. On another morning I was reading from "Daily Living for Seniors", a devotional to which I subscribe by email. It spoke of how many people carry around 'spiritual fire extinguishers', afraid to be seen as too extreme or as having gone overboard. I realized I'd been packing that fire extinguisher for a long time, at least in my writing world. But shucking it off was another matter.

If I shared my  newly-acquired 'wisdom', would the readership of this blog dwindle? Would the next three books be shunned as having been written by an 'extremist'? Was I obligated to take that chance? The answer was--yes. There was no getting away from it.

So here it is. Somehow I feel 'lighter'. 

Book 4, The Possum Hollow Hullabaloo, should be up on Sunday. Meanwhile, get acquainted with Penelope here.    

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It's a dark and stormy day...I love these kinds of days when I can just stay in and write! Unfortunately, I can't work on my personal stuff today because I'm busy with the yearly publication of a genealogy group to which I belong. With some uncertainty, I took on the job of editor, and I've had a few nights when I've lain awake wondering if I could really make it happen. But bit by bit, with a lot of help and input from the other members, it's coming together.

But if I COULD spend today writing my own personal 'stuff', what would it be? Penelope's proofreader emailed last night to say she's ready for Book #5--and I'm not ready to send it! I need to run one more spell check and put it into PDF for her. BTW, Penelope is doing well on Amazon for Kindle, and I'm properly grateful as well as blown away! Book #4 will go up on the 20th of the month if not sooner. My proof reader is amazing!

The Dreamland Series is crying out to be finished, but Book #1, which I did as a blog novella here, needs to be rewritten. Based on the success of Penelope, I may change tack a bit with this new series. It's always nice to know what someone likes to read.

Next to go up on Kindle will be several  volumes of The Kate Chronicles, and those need to be looked at yet again and formatted.

I have at least two novels begun and never finished--no, make that 4!--but who knows when if ever I'll get back to them? And there's a folder stuffed with story ideas which may never see the light of day!

Still, it's lovely to be busy, to have work to do that matters.

So, taking  deep breath, I plunge forward into this day with a smile and a thankful heart.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What was hiding in the supply closet?

Nothing tall, dark, and handsome (not to mention rich) unfortunately! Of course, I don't really want/need anything like that at this time of life, though striking oil in the back yard would be acceptable.

I've been keeping the supply closet in the study pretty well organized, or so I thought. I love those decorative "photo boxes" which often go on sale at a local craft store 6 for $10. They pretty up my shelves and keep everything in its place. While adding more of the beautiful boxes, I found a few things hiding behind other boxes such as
  • a package of those big rubber bands (I was out but hadn't bought more)
  • a roll of magnetic tape, which I haven't been able to spot at the store
  • my Crayola sharpener
  • two unused sticks of that 'sticky stuff' I used to use in my classroom to hang posters, etc. 
  • the flash drive (minus the protective lid) I used when I taught school lo these many years ago
  • a cheap caculator which still works and which the small person will delight to find in her desk drawer
  • packages of manila envelopes I forgot I bought
  • and enough pens, pencils, markers, and highlighters to see me through more lifetimes than I'll ever live
 What can I say? When I retired, I left behind many things for the teacher who was replacing me, but I took boxes of supplies bought with my own funds. It's been six years this spring, and I still haven't used them up. I probably won't. But I won't have to buy more either.

So the supply closet is once again tidy. Honestly, it stays mostly tidy, but it does need some tweaking occasionally. So now it's on to my middle desk drawer. Who knows what's hiding in there? I'd better get the wastebasket handy just in case...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bits and Pieces

People talk about 'writers' block' but I only seem to get it when I prepare to blog. There have been 55 views here today, and the last post is several days old. I feel guilty. I also feel totally clueless about a topic for today.

Penelope #1 and #2 are doing well on Kindle--about 832 and 247 sales respectively. Book #3 is with the proof reader and should go up on the 10th. Three down and three to go. I'm ready to move on to the next project.

The small person is tucked up in the guest room for 'quiet time', after which she looks forward to a jaunt to Happy Hour at Sonic. It is source of much amusement to her that 'Mimi' always orders the same thing--a large diet vanilla Coke.

The beast is sulking beside the sliding glass door as she always does when the attention is diverted from Her Majesty.

"My" humming bird is fluttering around the feeder on the sill outside the study window. Clouds are moving in. Rain?

I have paid the few bills not automatically drafted each month, responded to some emails, and finished reading Heidi to the small person. We've collected pictures and printed out several sheets of lined paper so she can re-tell the story and illustrate it.

Is any of this of any interest to anyone? Who knows? But it's all I have for now.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Close to my heart...

In March 2012, my grandson Liam was diagnosed at birth with Down Syndrome. He had a rough start, including open heart surgery at six weeks, pulmonary hypertension, 24-hour-a-day oxygen, and cleft lip surgery. Just one year ago this month, he stopped breathing and had to be airlifted to the children's hospital where he'd had his surgery. It was touch and go.

Now, thanks to the skill of many doctors, nurses, speech, occupational, and physical therapists--and the total love and devotion of two parents who think he's the absolute best--he is thriving. I just enjoyed a lovely visit via Skype with a bright-eyed, alert little fellow whose muscle tone has improved 200% since I last saw him on his birthday in March. He's scooting/crawling and into everything--but for the two hours we were on Skype, he was content to sit in his daddy's lap while his mother fed him supper.

The sky's the limit for our Liam. Not so for many other children so diagnosed. As a former special ed teacher, I've seen too many children labeled and their potential dismissed. Fortunately, his mother is trained in Montessori and already has him enrolled in a Montessori homeschooling program. He will never be shunted aside as 'different' and 'unworthy'.

Which brings me to the new series--The Dreamland Series. One of the pivotal characters is Danny, a young man with Down Syndrome who, like Liam, was loved and guided past the pitfalls of needing some extra time and help as he developed. Danny is a valued employee of the local supermarket in Dreamland, Arkansas. The customers love and appreciate him, and management keeps a protective eye on him. Lucky Danny.

As the series progresses, it is Danny who unobtrusively watches and listens. To many, he's invisible, but he never gives up. He knows what he knows and passes it on through the proper channels.

I've written characters with various disabilities, but Danny is close to my heart. Hopefully, I can give voice to all who struggle to become an integral part of society despite the labels hung on them for the convenience of others.

Some statistics state that up to 80% of babies diagnosed in utero with DS are never born. Liam's parents refused the testing and gave him life. Now he is filling theirs--and mine--with joy.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


I've been considering my shortcomings in the social media scene and have hereby resolved:
  1.  to comment more frequently on other people's posts
  2. to retweet more often
  3. to write a review for every single book I read, especially if it is another indie author, but ONLY if I can be at least three-stars positive
  4.  to blog regularly rather than hit or miss--a helpful blog once a week has got to be better than three or four not-so-helpful
  5. to learn to do one new thing every week, whether it be navigating a site I don't understand or the subtleties of posting pics more attractively
 Meanwhile, I still have to get the other four Penelope books launched. To be honest, I bit off a very large, difficult-to-chew chunk when I started out as a newbie with SIX books to get up there! I have to say, the customer-service-support-teams have been very patient.

Now, here's something I've cut and pasted from Amazon. I HOPE it says what I think it does about Book #1, The Bogus Biker. 

 I'm blown away by the number of free downloads and subsequent sales. Here's a BIG thank-you to everyone who has been part of that.