Monday, October 15, 2018

#WEPFF Déjà vu at the Mailbox

I went out to get the mail. The day was sunny and mild. I must have been preoccupied with the newly changed leaves, the crispness of the autumn air. The neighbor across the street had put up garish Halloween decorations overnight. Ghosts and tombstones punctuated their once barren yard. My thoughts turned to my disdain for the whole month of October. Pumpkin spice and horror, not my scene.

It wasn’t until my feet hit the broken asphalt of the street that I noticed. The whole corner of the yard had been wiped out. Nothing but a freshly dug track of dirt where there was once a soaring 50-foot pin oak tree, a low stone retaining wall, and the white mailbox post. Everything was gone save the black metal box which sat post-less at the far edge of the dirt.

Instantly panicked, I ran inside and called for my husband.

“Tim,” I yelled. “Come down here and look at this.”

He ran downstairs, spurred on by my anxious tone.

“The mailbox,” I said. “Everything is gone.”

We went to the window together and looked out toward the street. I reached a new level of horror when I saw everything was perfectly normal. The pin oak, the low retaining wall, and the black mailbox perched on its white post. Nothing had been disturbed.

“But it was just...” I sputtered and broke down sobbing. “I’ve lost my mind.”

Tim and I stood in front of the window as he tried to diagnose my mental state. Had I seen anything else that didn’t make sense? Were my thoughts racing? Was I hearing voices? As we talked, a giant bulldozer drove slowly up the street.

I knew what it was going to do, but I made no move to stop it. My mouth couldn’t form the right words and my husband didn’t hear the noise until the splintering crescendo of the crashing tree caught his attention. The heavy machine crashed through the towering pin oak, the low stone wall. The black metal mailbox flew from its white post and landed at the edge of the torn ground. The dozer rumbled away carrying all of the debris.

Tim rushed into the street in sock feet. As he yelled after the dozer, I remembered something. I walked out and pried open the door of the mangled mailbox. I still needed to get the mail.

--- --- --- --- ---

This is my first time entering the Write... Edit... Publish flash fiction challenge. As you might gather from my story, I don't enjoy horror or really anything to do with Halloween. My entry is based one of my weirdest dreams. I hope the other entries aren't too scary!

Join the challenge here:

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

# IWSG Writing the Major Life Events

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group time again. The co-hosts for the October 3 posting of the IWSG are Dolorah @ Book Lover,Christopher D. Votey, Tanya Miranda, and Chemist Ken!

October 3 question - How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

My novel, No Room for Hondo, is a fictionalized account of the one major life event I've experienced to date.

Major life events (or the one event as it were) have a huge role in my writing. Since my preferred genre is realistic fiction, I find that it's only from living through something that I can write about it at all.

But then there's the issue of being helped through something by writing. I was writing excessively throughout my aforementioned life event. In recent months, I stumbled upon the term hypergraphia. Described as a "compulsion to write," hypergraphia describes one of the many symptoms I experienced after the birth of my daughter.

When I woke in the night to take care of my infant, I'd have the most productive thoughts. All of my ideas seemed excellent (they weren't) and I knew that by morning I'd forget (that part is spot on). So I filled one of those composition notebooks in the middle of the night.

My diary was getting a workout too. Even as mental health treatment progressed, the insomnia was bad. I had this odd dollar store journal with a yellow vinyl cover. I've hidden it away now because it pains me to read what I was thinking. One page features a real gem. In the margin, in a completely different print that doesn't resemble my handwriting, I wrote, "I didn't write this."

Was I trying to write my own horror story?

This is probably what that horrid psychologist was getting at when she told me, "At our next visit, we're going to have to explore whether or not writing is good for you." 

There never was a "next visit." I wasn't ready to explore the possibility that the one thing that made me feel like a competent human was actually hurting me. That therapist also spouted some stand-up comedian-esque one-liners like, "you're really good at being crazy!" Apparently, she ascribed to the theory that people can't be offended during a psychotic episode. And I didn't get the impression that she expected I would ever recover.

She was wrong.

Writing obviously wasn't good for me at that time, but I had a sense that it was a good thing overall. More than just being a positive thing I do, it is what I do. Being a writer is my identity.

So writing has never helped me through any specific life event. It's just what I do during the all of it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Novel Breads and Hard Selling Authors

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of taking part in the Beaver County BookFest. An exhibition of 50+ authors gathered in a fancy tent positioned in Beaver, PA's Irvine Park. It was my first time in the town of Beaver. It's adorable! Even with remnants of Hurricane Gordon soaking the streets, Beaver looked warm and welcoming.

The sun shining on the main street in Beaver, PA. I hope to see this in person
one day. On Saturday it was quite gray and puddly and I didn't photograph it.
This was my first experience with attempting to sell my book to real humans in person. It's safe to say that my pitch needs work. The sales totals for the day were Magic Ear Kids (3), Hondo (0). Also, people didn't even want my spiffy free bookmarks. And all three copies sold went to blood relatives. So... a learning experience!

My table was split 50/50 between No Room for Hondo & Magic Ear Kids.
The fairy lights and doll-sized crib were crowd favorites. The books, not so much!

It was a long day (9am-4pm) with lots of interesting adventures (box lunch! porta-potty that flushes!), but I've pared the list down to the top three...

Notable Happenings at the Book Fair

  1. A few weeks before the BookFest, I received a note from the event organizer about a unique opportunity. One of the vendors, Novel Breads, wanted authors to submit quotes to be baked into artisan bread loaves that would be sold at the event. Of course, I had a lot of questions. How is this possible? Could I eat my words?

    I submitted quotes from the Magic Ear book and Hondo. Days later, the Novel Breads baker contacted me to say that she'd selected the quote from Hondo!!!

    This was the most exciting thing that has happened in my writing career to date. I beat a path to the Novel Bread tent and purchased a loaf of delicious bread with my very own words inside. Then I purchased a loaf called "Don't Cry Over Spelt Coconut" with a quote from David B. Seaburn's Parrot Talk inside. And then I ate a lot of bread!

    Here I am with my No Room for Hondo bread
    on Sunday morning after a nice long night of post-BookFest sleep.
  2. Most of the day was spent greeting people as they passed my table. Occasional interest in one or both stories warranted longer conversation than the typical pleasantries. I talked to lots of people. Only one conversation stood out.

    Mid-morning, an elderly couple approached. A woman, easily nearing eighty-years-old, told me that she wasn't at the book fair to buy books. She'd written a story, what she could only describe as a personal tale "about a boy," and she was doing research about getting it published. She wrote it all by hand, she told me, and she figured she'd need to type it. She has an old typewriter, but it's not very good and people have told her that she should put it into a computer. The woman asked me all about self-publishing with CreateSpace and wanted to know how I got my stories put into printed books. When she'd satisfied her curiosity, the woman took her equally aged husband's hand and slowly walked away.

    Somehow learning that this elderly woman has a handwritten story tucked away that she still dreams of publishing was really inspiring to me. I hope she finds a way to share her words with us.
  3. While we were all setting up, I overheard one author telling another that you "have to talk to people." She offered anecdotal evidence that "Last year, I sat next to a young girl that didn't talk to people and she sold two books all day!"

    Later in the day, my husband manned my table (in case of theft or a sudden influx of customers) and I took a lap around the tent with my daughter. We encountered the author whose advice I overheard and boy, did she ever talk to us! She was one of about four writers engaged in hard selling tactics.

    Do you like fantasy? What would you say to a story in a world where chickens rule over people that have been turned into eagles? Did you know this is a trilogy? Are you in the mood for love?

    This was rather a successful tactic on a rainy Saturday in Beaver. People were buying books from the authors that pitched the hardest. I observed the phenomenon and promptly went to my table where I talked a woman out of buying my book. She wanted to buy Magic Ear Kids for her thirteen-year-old daughter. It just wasn't a good fit!

    It occurs to me that I might have to let go of this fantasy of my book finding the perfect reader. It's not always going to land in a home where it will be read and loved and cherished. Someone might buy it and hate it. They might never read it. They might even give it a bad review. Perhaps I should let it go.

    But I really think that thirteen-year-old would have been befuddled and disappointed. I hope her mom went and bought her a love story about chickens and eagles. I hear it's a trilogy.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

#IWSG -- The Publishing Path

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! If it links to Google+, be sure your blog is listed there. Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Remember, the question is optional!

September 5 question - What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

The awesome co-hosts for the September 5 posting of the IWSG are Toi Thomas, T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler!

My Publishing Path

Self-publishing through CreateSpace was a natural choice for my first two books, No Room for Hondo and Magic Ear Kids. Both books appeal to very small niches (Hondo: women with young children or women with a vague memory of having young children/Magic Ear: parents of kids with hearing loss) and I did not get widespread interest from publishers from the handful of queries/none queries sent out.

With a very low achieving goal of having a non-zero amount of people read either work, self-publishing offered a quick(er) way of getting my words out into the world. And now they're out there. Job done.

There remains the little matter of book number three. Tentatively titled, More Than a Bad Teacher, the work in progress is a lighthearted bit of women's fiction that chronicles a rough year in the life of a deplorable seventh-grade language arts teacher. With stories ripped from the daily debriefings of my middle schooler, I imagine it will turn out to be a quick fun read that will make you glad that you don't have anything to do with middle school.

Queries will be sent out for the bad teacher book. Perhaps Twitter pitches too. But if those efforts fail, I'll self-publish again. Maybe this time I've even found a slightly larger niche: people that love remembering the horrors of seventh grade.