All posts by Debby Quick

What’s in a Name?

Seventeen years ago, I had to name a child. I mean, I guess I could have NOT named the child, but that would have led to much mayhem and confusion. I poured over baby naming books, asked friends, looked at surveys of popular names, and asked my family. I finally came up with a name for a girl and a name for a boy (I didn’t have a reveal of gender, and I’m glad I didn’t because I am not a fan. Our kids tell us their gender when they are ready). I told my mother what I wanted to name my child if it was a boy. Her reply? “…Oh.” Now it’s funny, but back then it was frustrating. You can find a reason to not name your child any name. They could be teased, or there could end up being a mass murderer with the same name. Imagine what it must have been like for Adolph Smith back in the 1940s. So how did I end up naming my child the name I chose? Well, I spent one night in desperation two weeks before my due date looking at every name in a book with 500 names. I tried each one on in my head, looked at their meanings, and thought if I would want to call my child that name when I was angry at them (along with the requisite middle name, which had already been chosen-both of my grandmothers had the same first name. No brainer). Finally, I found a name that I didn’t have any problems with, and it just happened to be the name of someone I really cared about in the past, and I had my name.

Now it’s seventeen and a half years later, and my child hates their name. Oh well. Best intentions, right?

What other things do we have to name? Pets, businesses, a tune, a price, etc. Some people name their cars, and others, their genitalia. Bomber planes and rocket ships. Ocean liners, trains. Lots of modes of transportation, and most likely they are women’s names. My favorite is Enola Gay. It always stuck with me, even thought that plane was a vehicle for an atomic bomb. It was probably also the name of some pilot’s sweetheart or daughter.

What does naming things have to do with writing, you may ask? No, you probably already know the answer. Authors have to name tons of things, and I often get asked how I come up with names. There are titles, chapters, characters, fictional agencies and school, towns, businesses. And in my universe, the characters’ hometown is Eastboro, Massachusetts, a fictional place eerily similar, and next door, to my actual hometown, so I had to make up everything. I will start with how I came up with the name Eastboro. I have to credit my brother, Jonathan (which is his name, don’t call him Jon) for coming up with this one. He figured out that Massachusetts has a Northboro, a Southboro, and a Westboro, but no Eastboro. So now there is an Eastboro, and it lives in my series of books. Now I will talk about Titles, Chapters, and Characters (including names of places) and how I came up with them.

  • Titles: I have written 5 books and I am in the process of writing the 6th. They are all part of the same series. They are love stories, but not just loves stories, so it’s hard to express everything they are in one small title. But so far, just like most things, my books have told me their names. The most recent one, #6, was more elusive, because I had to add some dimension to my universe, and I had to get to know the characters in a different context. So now I will tell you my titles, all except for one, because it’s too revealing of the ongoing story.
  • Book 1: May I Have Your Attention Please, so called because the main characters would like to get each other’s attention, both in the past and the present. And also, because they have difficulty with attention.
  • Book 2: I Just Can’t Say I Love You. Pretty literal. And also a line stolen from the book.
  • Book 3: Absolutely and Totally Smitten. Obviously contains love, and lots of it. Unexpected love. And big, overwhelming love.
  • Book 4: The Stories That Must Be Told. This is my most dramatic book, that deals with some real-life problems, and some very special people who help each other. And there are lots of stories to be told. They must be told.
  • Book 5: Not revealing this name, because it includes the name of the MC, and I don’t want you all to know who I’m focusing on. You’ll see why when you read my books.
  • Book 6: Secrets, Big and Small. This is my work in progress (WIP) and I had a really hard time with this one. I knew it should include secrets. There are some in the book. Some are big, some are small (I feel compelled to add an LOL here).
  • Names of Characters: Naming characters has a lot in common with naming children. In a way, the characters are your children. Sometimes, I name them after people I know. Sometimes, I name them and then delete them and name them again. One of the reasons I didn’t want to go with traditional publishing, is that I didn’t want anyone to tell me I had to change the name of my characters.
  • Sally: I do have a cousin Sally, but that’s not where this came from. I was looking for a name that would be appropriate for the 1980s, but not the name of anyone I knew back then. It fit the criteria, and soon, Sally was her name. No question. And then someone reminded me that it was also the name of someone from another part of my past, and maybe I might want to change it. But it was too late. It was her name, and she didn’t want to change it. She wouldn’t answer to anything else.
  • James: I wanted a good, basic male name, that could have a popular nickname, but could also be used as a full name. I wanted him to have the possibility of a cute pet name from Sally. And it really works. Every time I see the name James anywhere now, I have a feeling of warmth. It’s a good, strong name.
  • Darlene, Kim, Traci, Carl, Chris, Pete, Michelle: The group of friends started out as a generic support cast, but all of them eventually get a part as an MC. But these are all names that were popular when I was growing up. Michelle started as a tribute to a junior high friend of mine (whose name isn’t Michelle by the way) and then she morphed into her own person. But the red hair and glasses come from my friend.
  • Last names: Sally Bachman, James Newell. Sally is Jewish. I wanted her to have a name that reflected that. And I am a big fan of classic rock. Bachman Turner Overdrive. And Sally (and I) share a birthday with Tim Bachman. Newell is kind of generic. It was a name I saw written down somewhere when I was trying to choose a name, and I just loved it for James. And it also hides half of his ancestry, which will be revealed not too long into the book. Other character last names (Gorman, Cooper, Bishop, Feinman, Walsh, Drake) are all names that would be common in a place like Massachusetts. I also used the last name Wells, after a very dear friend who died of cancer early in the COVID era. She will live on forever in my writing. I used a lot of Irish and Italian names in my stories because there are a lot of Irish and Italian people where I’m from. And many of them came from Google searches.
  • Businesses, streets, school: These were really fun. I had to do a lot of research, because I didn’t want to use real people or businesses in my names, but I wanted the places to have a back story. Everyone who lives near the lake in Eastboro has some connection to Aries Corps. This is constant through all 6 books, but to be honest, we never find out what it is that Aries Corps does, or why it is named what it is. It’s not after the God of War or the zodiac sign. I think it’s named after its founder, and that may lead to some story sometime. The mall is called the Main Street Mall. The popular Italian restaurant is called Luigis because, well, the Mario Brothers. The two high schools in town are McKinney and Murphy. Both were famous Eastboro people. DeMarco Elementary and Randall Junior High. Both made up people. Abraham Lincoln Elementary. I think you might have a vague idea where that comes from. Street names: I just use street names I’ve seen before or make them up. Twin Bridges Park in Eastboro: Anyone who is from my hometown will know how I got that name after reading the book.
  • Chapter Titles: I love to name my chapters rather than just use numbers. In “May I Have Your Attention Please,” I use a gimmick. It was so fun. So far, readers have enjoyed it. For my other books, I have just come up with a word or phrase that I like that fits the topic. I have to say, for some reason, I’m really good at naming chapters.

There’s a bit of insight into my process. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you are curious enough about book 5 since I wouldn’t tell you the name, that you read the first four so you can get to it! But, 6 is pretty cool, too. 4 is still my favorite, but the first 3 are my babies, so…read them all! And probably in order.

I hope that whatever your name is, you are having a wonderful week and enjoying the vivid dreams that this time of year brings us all. Stay warm and dry!

Field of Dreams vs. My Book

I didn’t know what to blog about today. I knew I wanted to write stuff about writing and about my upcoming book, but, you know, sometimes the muse just doesn’t hit you. Then I was talking to my brother on the phone earlier (those of us that grew up in the 70s and 80s still “talk” on the phone sometimes) and I was telling him how I thought that “Field of Dreams” should be considered a Christmas movie. He asked why. Well, I don’t know. I guess it’s just because it’s my favorite all time movie, and it’s awesome. I think the only reason that “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie is because it takes place during Christmas. Well, a lot of people think that Christmas is magic, and “Field of Dreams” contains a lot of magic. Ergo, Christmas movie. Actually, why I really wanted it to be a Christmas movie is because we have MLB on our cable (yeah, some of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s still have cable. We remember what it was like before cable existed) and they were playing repeats of past World Series games. I was hoping that on Christmas day they would be playing “Field of Dreams.” I mean, “Dad, do you want to have a catch?” makes me sob so much more than “Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” Okay, that line is touching too, but it doesn’t make me ugly cry like the final scene between Kevin Costner and Dwier Brown (the ghost dad). So “Field of Dreams” wins.

So, the reason I’m writing about this now is because I told my brother that I didn’t have any ideas for my blog today, and in his infinite wisdom, he challenged me to find a way to compare my book to the movie “Field of Dreams.” Challange accepted! Except, I have no idea what I’m going to say next. My book and “Field of Dreams” have very, very little in common.

Well, I guess one thing they do have in common is that they both feature characters. Yeah, characters! “Field of Dreams” features Ray Kinsella and wife Annie as main characters, along with Terence Mann and Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. They were all very engaging, and you just grew to like them so much. And we can’t forget “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and the amazing John Kinsella, everyone’s favorite ghost dad.

“May I Have Your Attention Please” also has characters. They are James Newell and Sally Bachman. They are the main characters, or the MCs. They are sixteen-year-old kids starting their junior year in high school. They have no idea what is about to happen to them, and how it’s going to change their lives forever. They have a vast supporting cast. They are part of a group of friends that grow closer as the year moves on. There’s Chris, the original bad boy leader, who has been in charge of his posse since second grade. Chris has a cousin, Carl, and he seems like a bit of a tag-along, but there is definitely something brewing inside of him. He and Chris have a huge family of cousins, many of whom will be mentioned in this book and those that come after. Pete is another friend, but he had to go to the other high school in town. He still plays a big part in supporting his friend James. Then there are the girls. Kim is a bit bossy and abrupt, but very pretty. Darlene is Kim’s shadow and biggest supporter. Traci is nice, and caring, and a really good listener. She also has a secret talent that will be revealed in later books. And Michelle is the nice little red headed girl that won’t put up with any of your crap. And she’s Sally’s best friend. And of course, these are sixteen-year-old kids. There are parents, siblings, and teachers. But, you know, this book isn’t so much about them. But they matter.

What else? Oh, yeah. They both have story lines! Yeah, that’s a big thing in common. “Field of Dreams” tells the story of Ray and Annie and their farm, and Ray having weird visions about plowing under his corn and building a baseball field. Weird, right? But as the movie progresses, it starts to make so much sense why this is happening. We WANT it to happen, and we cheer for it to happen. There are obstacles on the way, roadblocks (it is a road trip after all) and people who don’t believe in the dream. And guess what? There is a happy and touching ending.

“May I Have Your Attention Please” also has a story line. We are introduced to James and Sally, two really good kids who just can’t quite seem to pull it all together at home or in school, but they have dreams. And they want to dream them together. They have obstacles along the way, people who may not want them to realize their dreams, and situations that might be a little bit too complex for teens to have to deal with. But maybe, just maybe, their dreams are strong enough to see them through. That would really lead to a happy ending, wouldn’t it?

Other things these stories have in common:

  • FOD takes place in Iowa but has a scene at Fenway Park in Boston. MIHYAP also mentions Fenway Park, and the story takes place in Massachusetts. I don’t think there’s anything about Iowa in the book.
  • FOD had a character named Joe. MIHYAP has a character named Joey. A minor character, but a character, nonetheless.
  • FOD takes place mainly at a farm with a crop of corn. I’m not sure, but there is a chance that either James or Sally eats corn at some point in story. But I could be wrong.
  • FOD takes place in the 1980s. So does MIHYAP.
  • Ray Kinsella is a huge baseball fan. So is Sally Bachman.
  • FOD has a bitchy, opinionated protagonist at the school. So does MIHYAP.

Okay, I think that might be enough comparisons for now. This isn’t the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, although I think Kevin Bacon would have done well in FOD or MIHYAP when it gets made into a movie or miniseries. When I was a kid, he could have played the part of James Newell. But by now, I think most likely he would play the part of Nonno Angelo Romano, James’s Italian grandfather. Sorry, Kevin. We’ve all aged a lot since the 80s.

So, the next time you think of “Field of Dreams,” think about me and my little (108,000 word) book, “May I Have Your Attention Please” from the series “McKinney High Class of 1986” to hopefully be released in March, or maybe April of 2023, and then go to Amazon and buy it!

Thanks for making it to the end of my blog entry!

Book Teaser

How much information does an author give away before the book comes out?

This is an interesting question. Obviously, an author doesn’t want to give away too much about the plot. No secrets, no twists. But it’s still important to market your book. How do you market your book? There are only so many ways you can tell people that you have a book coming out. You know who else has a book coming out? Pretty much everyone. There is a lot of competition. And not everyone is like me. I have pretty much bought every book that I ever found even mildly interesting, and I have a huge “to be read” pile. It starts on the floor and is up to my neck. But that doesn’t stop me from buying more, much to the chagrin of my spouse and my bookcase.

So now you know I have a book coming out. So, what sets my book apart from the millions of others, and what will make you choose to read my next book after you read my first? Well, you have to like it. You have to not only like the way I write, but also the story I present. Is it captivating? Are the main characters likable? Are the antagonists just the worst, or maybe even someone you can sympathize or empathize with? Is the story interesting? Is there conflict, and does it resolve in a way that is satisfactory? You are not going to learn any of this by looking at my TikTok videos (although you can still visit them at dbmquick or follow me on Facebook at Debby Meltzer Quick, Author). You need to see a sample, or several samples of my writing. That is one reason I write a blog, so you can see my writing style. But blogs are not stories. They are snippets into my mind at the moment I am writing them.

So, I have decided to give you a taste of my book. A very small taste. A nibble, if you will. It shows a bit of the state of mind of one of my protagonists, without giving too much away.

So, with no more ado, I give you a little piece of chapter one. Setting: McKinney High School in Eastboro, Massachusetts, first day of school, junior year, 1984. James, Chris, and Carl are standing by the water fountain before the first bell (although they would call it a bubbler). They are dressed in jeans, and tee and baseball shirts, two of them in brand new wicked cool black leather vests. And here’s what happens next:

The boys were checking their schedules to see which classes they were in together, when Sally Bachman came in through the door. James coincidentally looked up at exactly that moment. It was a moment that years later he would later remember happening in slow motion. He didn’t recognize her at first. She was at least two inches taller than she had been when he last saw her at Randall Junior High, and definitely much curvier. Her straight brown hair fell above her shoulders and was softly layered around her face. She wore a button-down pink shirt with ruffled short sleeves, tight blue jeans, and white sneakers with pink stripes. She had her eye makeup done in a way that flattered her pale blue eyes and long lashes. She looked around with wide eyes and seemed unsure of what to do for a moment. She hadn’t been a student at McKinney Sophomore year, and James remembered she had gone to private school after ninth grade.

She caught his eye and smiled, making all of her nervous energy seem to melt away, replaced by relief. “Hey, Jamie!” she said walking toward him. “How are you?” She didn’t wait for an answer as she checked out her surroundings. “I’m so glad to see you! It’s my first day here and I have absolutely no idea where to go. Can you tell me where the office is? I’m supposed to check in there when I get here.”

James smiled back, amused at remembering how talkative she could get. “Hey, Sally,” he said, pointing in the correct direction. “Yeah, it’s just down the hall past the lockers, to the right.” 

“Thanks Jamie,” she said, and she touched his elbow lightly. “Maybe I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah, see you later,” James responded, watching her as she walked away toward the office.

James glanced back at his friends, who were both looking at him oddly.  “What?” he said to them, shrugging.

 “Hey Jay-mie,” said Chris mockingly. “Hey, man, pick your jaw up off the floor!”

“Was that Sally Bachman?” Carl asked. “Wow, she’s grown up a lot. Like really,” he gestured toward his chest area. “She must have been a late bloomer!”

James glowered at his friends to hide his embarrassment. “Shut up, you dufuses,” he told them. “Look, Chris, there’s Rhonda.” Carl and Chris became distracted by Chris’s girlfriend and her friends coming through the door, and James quickly turned again toward the main office to try to catch another glimpse of Sally walking away.

Spoiler alert: She likes him, too. But you’ll have to get the book when it comes out to learn about how things go for these two amorous teens, and to find out about their adventures.

I hope you liked the very short, very benign section of “May I Have Your Attention Please” that I have shared with you. I may share more later, I don’t know. If you like what you see, remember to buy the book when it comes out. And then buy a few more for your friends!

Have a wonderful holiday week, everyone!

Writing About the Holidays

Wow. It was really hard to find a picture that represents the Winter holidays. Everything is pretty much Christmas related. And the one I finally did choose basically looks like someone was trying to make an effort to include Chanukah in their Christmas celebration so someone wouldn’t feel left out. Here’s a little secret. Jewish people, as a rule, don’t feel left out of Christmas. We feel left out that our holidays and beautiful traditions are not openly observed in public. That’s not really the same thing. People seem to understand these days that Chanukah is not the “Jewish Christmas,” so that’s a start. It is a completely different animal, and if you want to learn about the history of the holiday, please feel free to peruse Wikipedia.

Another little secret: Do you know why there are so many different spellings of Chanukah? Well, I’m not really the expert on everything, even if I would like you to believe that I am. But here are a couple of facts. First off, many Jewish children go to Hebrew school starting at a very young age. They are taught the pronunciation of all the letters and sounds. One of the sounds is the CH- sound. In English, this would sound like the CH in cherry, chat, chop, or chill. But in Hebrew, it is totally different. It sounds like the horrible noise people make when they are trying to hawk a loogie (I looked this up to make sure I got it right). Sorry to be so gross, but it’s true. It comes from deep in your throat. Most people who don’t speak Hebrew or other languages from that part of the world just can’t make that sound. It comes out like an “H.” So that is why there are CH spelling, and H spellings. And also, it is a Hebrew word, transliterated into English letters, so you can just spell it any way you want, as long as it sounds the same. Now you have some trivia to share at your next office holiday party.

Holidays are important to most people, and the December holidays are an institution in the United States (many other countries as well, but I don’t live in them). Shops close down, work is closed, the government comes to a halt, and even the mall isn’t even open (Walmart might be, I don’t know). Large amounts of food are consumed, and families and friends gather to celebrate and inevitably to reopen the wounds of all of their childhood slights and traumas. Some people look forward to the holidays, and others dread them. I love holidays, but I just don’t love other people trying to push their traditions on me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like to celebrate with people who have different backgrounds than I do. On the contrary, for as long as I can remember, I have been part of my friends’ Christmas celebrations, and they have been welcome to light candles and eat latkes with me on Chanukah. So that’s why holidays take a very important role in my book series, “McKinney High Class of 1986.”

I have kept most of my stories non-denominational, but there are mentions of Sally in “May I Have Your Attention Please” celebrating Shabbat on Friday nights by lighting the candles with her mother. And she gets a lot out of these familiar interactions. All of the books mention yearly holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s, and of course, there is much ado over Christmas in every story. Schools are closed, the snow has fallen, and the characters are preparing for two weeks of non-stop family fun. But since this has not been my experience every year (Chanukah goes by a lunar calendar so it spans a different 8-week period every year) I thought it would be a good experience to educate my readers about my holiday. I keep it kind of simple and fun. It’s always fun to be with your new love over the holidays and spend time getting to know their family. So that is the context of my winter holiday scenes. James learns about Sally’s family traditions, and in turn, she spends time with his family, learning about their experiences.

Not all of my characters have the best holiday seasons. Sometimes, it’s their first time away from home, and they miss their family and friends. Sometimes, they expect someone to be there with them, and they just don’t show up. Sometimes, they are experiencing a significant personal issue, and they don’t feel that they are ready to share it with their family just yet. Sometimes, the holidays were no big deal in their family growing up. And sometimes, they suspect that it might be the last Christmas they are able to spend with someone they love. No one character experiences the holidays in the exact same way as their friends. I think this is important, because this is like true life. Everything is not always ribbons, bows, and happiness. Sometimes, things are hard, and you find a (figurative) lump of coal in your stocking. Hopefully, everything gets better over time, but forced cheerfulness does not make all of the problems go away.

We are all inundated with Christmas movies this time of year. “White Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Santa Clause, I, II, and III,” and “Elf” (my favorite). Then there are Lifetime and Hallmark movies about coming home for Christmas and meeting your true love after they first try to take over your ranch to build a racetrack or something. These movies are Hollywood’s way of telling the masses how they should feel during the holidays. If you start out as a Grinch, the true meaning of Christmas will make your heart grow several sizes. If you just believe, you will get your heart’s desire. Everything that hurts will be remedied, and everyone will have a Merry Christmas. I think people like these movies because they aspire to have a holiday season just like they have seen in the movies their whole lives. And that’s fine. I hope they do have a holiday just like that. But I also think it’s important to know that not everyone is in the same situation for one reason or another. And if we want our friends, family, and strangers to be okay, we have to remember that we need to be there for them on the other 364 days of the year as well as on Christmas day. Not everything is fixed by a mug of eggnog.

So let’s continue to share our experiences with the people we love or the people we would like to love and teach them about what is special or troubling to us, about our holidays, and about our lives. Let’s make them part of all of our traditions, and value theirs as well. And let’s make space for everyone over the holidays. Even people who say things like “Bah humbug!”

May the rest of your year be exactly as you would want it to be.

How to Write a Book

Don’t let the title fool you. I have no idea what I’m talking about. A little more than a year ago, if you told me I would be on a path to publishing my first novel in a series, I would have said you were crazy! But here I am, hopefully, about three months from completing the only real item I have ever had on my bucket list: publishing a book. Actually, it’s been a goal for me since way before bucket lists were even a thing!

So how does one even write a book? Well, that’s a silly question. One does one of several things: you can get a notebook and a pen, and do it the old-fashioned way, by giving yourself hand cramps by writing it in cursive. This has many advantages, since you can do it anywhere, even in the bathtub if you’re not overly splashy. But the cramp thing…and eventually you’ll have to type it all into the computer anyway, unless you find someone who can read your scrawl and do it for you. So doing on the computer seems to make more sense unless you are really, really old school. I opt for the computer. You can save stuff, you can delete instead of crossing out or erasing, and as long as you are using “the cloud,” you can pick up your writing anywhere at any computer. I’m on a laptop right now at a coffee shop, and you can’t do that with a PC. Oh, you can also record or use voice recognition software.

Next thing you need to do is write. And make sure it doesn’t suck too bad. This is the easy part for me. I just sit and let it all flow from my head to my fingers and to the keyboard. But say you don’t know how to write, or you don’t have ideas? I’d say take some classes and see if you even like to write. I love it, but some people love olives. Ew.

So, now you’ve written down everything. You’ve written a book! Congratulations! Now someone will just somehow knock on your door and tell you that they have magically heard of your brilliant manuscript, and they would like to publish it for the whole world to see! End of dream sequence, and back to reality! So, pretty much none of the writers I have gotten to know have any instinct for what to do next, and the information, although readily available if you’ve ever heard of Google, is overwhelming and confusing. There are so many choices of what to do next. Do you want to have your book published by a huge publishing house, become the biggest writer of all times, and make millions on your work? Of course you do! Until you learn that so do millions of other people, and there are only so many slots out there for new, famous authors. And if no one has heard of you, your chances are pretty slim. To get a publisher, you need an agent. To get an agent, you need to send out queries, lots and lots of queries. I mean, hundreds of them. And then you get the joy of receiving hundreds of rejection letters. I have a very fragile ego. I feel like it is a personal slight if my cat doesn’t come when I call him. Cat people, you understand. So, I decided to skip the queries. Actually, I sent exactly one. And never even heard back. And that’s when I heard there was another option.

Self-publishing. So, what was my first thought about self-publishing, besides the inevitable “only losers and bad writers self-publish?” It was “how do I self-publish???” Then, I felt helpless because I didn’t even know where to start. Time started to go by. People kept telling me that I should do something with my completed manuscript. So, what did I do? I wrote four more manuscripts! Now I have a series, sitting in files on my laptop. But then things started to get interesting. First, I met another author, and we exchanged stories to beta read. Ok, that was fun. Then, my brother got me a book by an author local to him about indie writing. Eh, okay, I don’t really like non-fiction, but I gave it a look. Then I took a nap. Then, I contacted my first cousin once removed to ask a question about sushi restaurants in the 80s in New York City and he told me about someone he knew that had self-published several books. He gave me her contact information, and that changed everything. This author was/is amazing! She has all versions of presence on social media, and I started to follow all of it. She had videos about how to self-publish. I ate them up! I ordered her book. It was beautiful! And it was good. And I wanted to be just like her. So, I started to do everything she was doing. I kind of want to be her. If she is reading this, just kidding.

So, here are some of the things I have learned about self-publishing:

  • Join an online group of people helping each other out with self-publishing, like the Self-Publishing Support Group on Facebook. It’s the best move I ever made around publishing
  • Read your work over and over and over again
  • Read your work again
  • get other people to read your work (alpha readers for the first draft, and beta readers for the almost-final draft)
  • make changes based on what people advised, but don’t compromise your integrity. Someone might hate something in your book, but that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of it. But sometimes, your readers have really great ideas!
  • This is where things get really tricky. There are lots of things to do after your words are the way you want them. First, it’s always a really good idea to look at other books in your genre and see how yours compares. You’ll want to make a lot of creative decisions about your book, so see what else is out there.
  • Get your book professionally edited. You can get an editor to review your content, another to check your spelling, grammar, and flow, and another as a proofreader. Beta readers can take care of some of this stuff, but it’s a good idea to get at least a copy editor, who can see things that everyone else misses. Editing will probably be the most expensive part of self-publishing. You pay per word. The longer your book, the more you pay.
  • Complete your cover art, or hire someone to do it for you. You can use original art, but you can also get a cover designer to complete the whole thing for you so you don’t have to worry about dimensions and all that. Just make sure the designer is very clear on what you want. What type of cover to you want? Check out other covers in your genre to see what sells!
  • Formatting is crucial to make your self-published book look professional. You can format yourself using any one of several programs. I’m just using Word right now, but there are some products that are much more sophisticated, so do your homework. There are lots of thing to format, including titles, subtitles, headers, subheaders, page numbers, footers, images, front matter, back matter, etc. There are tons of vidoes on You Tube to help you to figure out how to do these things on your own. If you don’t think you can do it yourself, hire someone who knows what they are doing, to do it for you.
  • If you don’t know someone personally who you can hire to do all of these great things for you, you can use some websites already set up for this purpose. I used Reedsy to find my editor, and there’s also Fiverr. The nice thing about these options is that the folks on the site have already been vetted, and you can see what work they have already produced along with their resumes. If you find someone by another means, be really careful, and make sure you have some sort of signed contract with the expectations of both parties clearly stated. It’s heartbreaking to get scammed at this part of your publishing journey.
  • When you have your cover image, editing is completed, and formatting is exactly how you want it, you can then load your PDFs to the publisher/distributor. Do TONS of homework about who you want to use and ask questions of your support group. The main ones I have seen being used are IngramSpark and KDP, but even they have tons of options. You want to look at your options for hardcover, paperback, digital, and possibly audio versions.
  • One thing that you might not expect (no one does) is that your book will not sell itself. It requires marketing, unless you are already the most popular bestselling author ever known to Earth, and even then, you have to market. You will need to start marketing long before your work is released. There are many ways to market. Some are free, and some will cost you some money. Social media is free. Make sure to start author pages on all the social media platforms that you can stand, and then post to them, a lot. It’s free. And it gets the word out. Pay attention to the audience you want to attract. You’ll find more seasoned adults on Facebook, but if you are trying to sell to teens and young adults, TikTok is the way to go. Get over your stage fright and make some catchy videos! They don’t all have to be about your book; they just have to be engaging and attract people to following you. Other free things you can do are newsletters, blogs, and podcasts.
  • If you have a marketing budget, you can run ads on Facebook, or Amazon, or whatever works for you. You can start a personal website with your own domain name. Some people like to sell their books off of their own site, or just use it for updates and information. When you know your book will become available, you can schedule book signings or release parties to get the ball rolling. Get some swag for giveaways or raffles. Get yourself some interviews. One good way to get publicity is to sign up for book awards. Think of how nice your book cover would look with an award on it!
  • What do you charge for your book? Again, turn to books in your own genre and find some that area a similar length. Then just charge whatever you want.
  • Get advance copies of your book when available and find readers to read them. Then have them leave reviews for the book on Goodreads and Amazon. Ask everyone you know to leave reviews. Reviews are free ads for your book.
  • Make your (Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, etc.) author page the most beautiful it can be. Look to see what is available for you to make it great. Amazon has A+ Content. Look it over and see if it’s for you.
  • Make sure the world is aware of your release date. they can’t buy if they don’t know it’s there. Make a lot of noise. Squeaky wheel, etc.
  • Revel in the fact that you are now a published author and try not to have imposter syndrome. You are a real, accomplished author. Congratulate yourself. You deserve it.
  • Now, write the next book in your series, and start it all again. Keep in mind, the more you publish, the more you sell. Series sell. You will have repeat buyers.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list. There are other things you can do, like get a logo, or a marketing package, or hire a public relations professional…but not everything is for everyone. But I wish I’d had a list of things to expect on the first day I started writing. It would have helped to move things along a lot faster. And if even one person sees this list and finds it helpful, it’s a big win. For all of us.

Write or Wrong?

This is what I look like when I am writing in the coffee shop and I find out the wifi is down.

I love to write, but sometimes, writing doesn’t love me back. Take last week. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and of course things were a bit hectic. Then I had plans to go to a friend’s house for lunch on Saturday. I planned to spend my afternoon on Sunday writing at the local coffee shop (they have the best chia pudding, and music I like playing in the background), so I packed up my laptop, wrapped myself up in my warmest winter wraps, and headed out to the car. I waited in line for my chia pudding and herbal iced tea for about 10 minutes. Then I sat down, situated myself at the counter near the power outlet, and opened my computer. I clicked on my most recent work in progress (known in the author world at WIP), and waited for it to load. I got a message on my screen…”loading, loading, loading…” I took my first spoonful of chia pudding, savored its deliciousness, and waited. Then, much to my dismay, I overheard the barista speaking to a customer. “Our wifi is down,” they said, “and it’s not likely to come back up today.” So, my document would just continue to try to load indefinitely. I swore quietly into my hibiscus iced tea with one packet of stevia and fumed. I was going to write for an hour or so, then complete a blog entry. Grr. The best laid plans. So, what does one do when one cannot open one’s document in Google Documents? One reads their previous FINISHED stories on Word. What can I say? I’m the biggest fan of my old (read: written before last week and still unpublished) books (I think my fourth one is the best)!

When I bought my current laptop, I loaded all of my documents and files, which had been saved in a backup drive by the good folks at the Best Buy Geek Squad, into my new device. And I was very happy to see my first novel. Well, that’s if you don’t include the handwritten ones from junior high. Those still count, but those will just be for my own personal perusal, okay? So, I started to read the novel that I had started more than 18 years ago. And you know what? It was pretty good! I was surprised. All these years, I had thought I would have to go back and edit the living daylights out of it to make it halfway decent, but it wasn’t so bad. I mean, I’ve learned a lot in life since the days when I first started that novel, but the concept was still sound, and the dialog was compelling (at least I think so). I thought maybe I could change enough of it to make one of the characters become one of my McKinney High Class of 1986 grown-up kids, but as I went along, I learned that Maya and Tyler (I love those names) really needed to have their own, separate story. So, I decided that they would. It would be a stand-alone book and not part of my current series. Until, ugh, the worst thing happened. I tried to open the second half of the book so I could see how it ends (Ha, I knew how it ended…it actually needs one more chapter to wrap up), and all of the chapters were in Works. Or maybe Perfect Works (different from Word Perfect). So, I called for reinforcements: the family members who know computer stuff. I am not included in that group. And they offered to help. So, I sent them the files and they made assurances that they could figure out how to convert them to be read and edited in Word. Well, it turns out even they were stumped, and they do this crap for a living! So…either I find someone else who can do it (“Hello, Geek Squad?”) or I plan to rewrite half of the book that I mostly wrote over 18 years ago. So, for now, novel number one sits in virtual obscurity.

And you may ask why I never finished the story of Maya and Tyler. Good question. For anyone who has ever been pregnant, you may understand. Babies are born with brains. And somehow, they have to grow those brains in utero. So where do they get the material for their brains? You guessed it, from their gestational provider’s brain. In this case, me. My darling child sucked out every last bit of creativity I had, until I had to actually drop out of my writing group, because I had no capacity to bring in any new material from week to week. It all paid off, I guess, as my child is very smart and creative (we all know where she got those traits). But what was my excuse after my child was born? Uh, 18 years of raising a child. I don’t think I need to say anything further.

But then, one dreary night in mid-November, 2021, in the midst of the COVID Omicron variant outbreak, I had a dream. Yes, an actual dream. And the dream was compelling. It led me to think, “what if.” What if things had gone differently for me when I was a teenager? What if I had gone to this school instead of that school? What would my life be like? And then a floodgate came open, and I started writing about Sally. Soon after, I realized that Sally’s life was nothing like my life would have been in that situation, but so what? Then, James came into being. Then her friends captivated me, and I needed to tell their stories, too. So here we are one year later, floodgates still open wide, nearing the end of book number 5.

So, I guess I say all this to say, nothing can really stand in my way of writing. Let the wifi be down. Let my mind be decimated by growing a zombie brain-eater inside my own body. Let the computers crash and the sky fall down. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is going to get in the way of me completing my stories. So, I hope you enjoy them.

If you are interested in the best Chia Pudding in NE Portland, Oregon, leave me a comment and I’ll tell you where I get it. And let’s hope the wifi is back on tomorrow!

Coming up next: What it takes to get from start to finish: my experience so far of being an indie author

And coming soon, but I just don’t have the date yet: COVER REVEAL of “May I Have Your Attention Please.” (It’s really cool)

Real Life Problems

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I am first, and foremost, a social worker. I have been a social worker for many years, even more years than I’d like to admit. Well, I have already admitted in earlier blog posts that I grew up in the 70s and 80s and was in the class of 1986, so do the math. Maybe I wanted to be a sports caster on Boston TV when I was in junior high, but that hope came crashing down when I didn’t get into the communications program at the college I chose to attend. It was probably a blessing in disguise. I have seen women sportscasters in the past 30 years. It would have been a huge challenge to make it in that field, and it would have been very competitive. Sometimes degrading. But it was pretty easy for me to fall into the social services after majoring in Sociology in college.

I was very quickly typecasted into working in the field of mental health. My first job out of college was working in a group home for adults with mental illnesses. It was a huge wake up call. I didn’t know anything about mental health, but I was about to learn quickly. One of my main characters in the fourth book of “McKinney High Class of 1986” has a very similar experience as me, even though her experience is made up, for obvious reasons. It was really challenging to learn everything that needed to be learned about mental health while already employed in the field. I attended many trainings and got on the job training. I learned about interpersonal communication skills, and crisis management. I was exposed to various people, with various diagnoses, and I quickly realized that you cannot define a person by their mental health diagnosis. And people with mental illnesses need so much support and advocacy. It actually turned out that I was pretty good at this stuff, so eventually I decided to pursue a master’s degree and a career in social work.

Through it all, writing was still my true love. I wrote my first “novel” in the early 2000s, but it was basically abandoned when I had my daughter. You lose a lot of creativity when you have a child, and you no longer count sleep as something you can depend on each night. So I didn’t sit down at the computer again and attempt to create a new story until the world was struck by the Omicron COVID variant in November of 2021. And then the words just exploded out of me, non-stop. It was a bit exhausting, but it also felt like something inside of me had woken up. For me, it was a relief from the anxiety brought on by the pandemic. It was an escape. I got to imagine a different reality, one where there was no COVID, and I was not stuck working from home for another six months because new variants delayed our return-to-work date, yet again.

I had some very certain ideas for my first real novel. I wanted to see what would happen if I took someone out of their comfort zone, dropped them in the middle of a different world, and then brought them back where they came from after a year. And boy, do things change. People change in a year. Feelings change. But one thing doesn’t change. People, even fictional people, have real life problems.

There is never any question in May I Have Your Attention Please about whether the protagonists are going to fall in love. I even state it clearly on the cover blurb. So this book is not full of “will-they-won’t-they” tension like a typical romance. But what does happen, is the world continues to spin in the same direction, even when people fall head over heels in love. They still have to deal with their own reality. And they are teens, so there is the fear of not being accepted for your reality. Hell, most adults feel that way too.

So there are problems in Sally and James’s lives. Real life problems. People get sick. People misbehave. Not everyone likes you. And sadly, sometimes people in your own family are suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues. And sometimes, there are things that you just don’t know about or understand. So our couple tries to work these things out.

As hard as it is to be a person with a mental health or substance abuse problem, it’s sometimes just as hard to be someone who loves that person. There is a feeling of helplessness, of unpredictability. Of just not understanding what is going on. It helps when there are adults in your life to listen, and to explain, but it’s still a lot to work through. And who better to write about this stuff than a seasoned social worker?

As my series progresses, the problems get more intricate, complex, and severe. There are issues with parental abuse and neglect, unexpected traumas, dangerous secrets, loss, and powerful grief. Through it all, there is love and support, and coming of age. And yes, a good deal of romance and intimacy. Because all of these things are not mutually exclusive.

When you read these stories, again, please understand that they are fictional. These are not taken from my own life or the lives of anyone I have ever worked with or helped. They are figments of my imagination, but they are very real issues, and they are issues that we have all had to face sometime in our lives, even when we were teens.

I hope my stories touch you, teach you something, and even make you laugh or roll your eyes sometimes. But also, I hope they make you think, and make you want to learn more about the topic I write about. It’s really interesting stuff, and it’s only a Google search away.

If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call your local crisis line, call 988 (in the US), call 911 (in the US) or go to the closest emergency department.

For resources for mental health or substance abuse treatment, please call 211 (in the US) or go to 211 online. There is help out there.


Ok, this was an unintentional post. I meant to put it on my “about me” page, but it’s hard to see what you are doing from your phone!

But since it landed here, I will keep it up, and let you know that I do plan to post some stuff on TikTok once I get my nerve up. Stuff about my book, of course. Right now, I am planning a cover reveal, but first I have to compete the photo shoot for my author picture. That will be next month. My photographer and I have some great ideas!

So hop on over to TikTok and follow me now so you can be ready! My user name is dbmquick. Please don’t laugh too hard at my upcoming videos (unless they are intended to be funny)!

Thank you, and please keep reading. (Aren’t QR codes FUN???)

Attention, Please!

Photo by Pressmaster on

Squirrel! Just kidding. But no, seriously, a pretty butterfly!

That was my whole childhood experience, and to be honest, also my whole adult experience. It doesn’t have to be an animal, or something pretty flitting by. It can be a speck of dust floating in the air, or a scratch on a desktop. Don’t get me started about the music in my head. It draws my attention away from my task at hand.

I’m not alone in my dearth of attention. Many children and adults deal with similar challenges. For me, it started when I was in elementary school, or that was probably just when it became obvious. It was the late 1970s, and I was in fifth grade. I had broken my arm ice skating over winter break, and was pretty preoccupied by my limitations. Mr. K. was talking about geometrical shapes, specifically the octagon. I was re-wrapping my ace bandage around my splint. Mr. K. made a comment about there being an octagonal shaped church on the corner of Salsbury Street and Kadidawapa Way. He looked right at me and said, “right, Debby?” I looked up, baffled, and responded, “What? Oh, yeah.” The whole class laughed at me. There was no Kadidawapa Way in my city, and Mr. K. knew I wasn’t paying attention. Everyone laughed at me. That kind of hurt.

In sixth grade, I stopped doing Math homework, and only did other homework at the last minute. I still got A’s and B’s. In eighth grade, I finally got called on my behavior, and got an F in effort in Math class. I was mad, and I mouthed off to my teacher. But it was kind of a wakeup call. As we get older, our teachers start to pay more attention to our behavior. But I didn’t.

I squeaked through high school doing the bare minimum and relying on my procrastination and natural ability to retain information. I somehow made it through college. And grad school. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that a medical profession finally suggested that I might have ADHD.

What would have happened if I had been born in the 2000’s? I probably would have been evaluated at school, maybe by a developmental pediatrician, and diagnosed young. I probably would have been started on Ritalin, or some other stimulant medication. My teachers would have been made aware. They might have dealt with me differently. But as it was, I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s. The only kids that got attention for not paying attention were the ones that were disruptive. They were usually boys, and they were usually ridiculed by teachers and other students. We were told to pay no attention to them. They were just trying to get attention. Girls would just grow out of their daydreams and pull it all together someday.

One thing that I could concentrate on back then was writing. I loved to write. The ideas popped into my head unprovoked. Characters would develop in my subconscious and start dialogs in my brain. Some of them I wrote down. The stars of my stories were me as a Boston sportscaster, always married to a famous Boston professional athlete. Hey, I had a type! I found one of these “novels” not long ago. It wasn’t bad, for a twelve-year-old.

So, it makes sense that when I finally got serious about writing as an adult, I created a character who is a lot like me in some ways. A character that struggles with schoolwork and gets very scattered. She has no verbal filter, and sometimes her friends find her to be all over the place. Her story mimics my story in some ways, but she is not me. Her experiences are different. Isn’t that what we do when we write? We take our characters and put them in different situations and see what they would do. Sometimes, it’s different than what we would do ourselves, but it’s always a good story. Sally has some good times, and she has some struggles. But they are not my struggles. But we all have struggles, unique to ourselves.

My book, May I Have Your Attention Please obviously deals with attention, but we all know, there are many definitions of attention. And they all apply. Make up your own mind about what it means. Now you know what it means to me. I hope my story ends up meaning something to you, too.

Am I Done Yet?

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My title reminds me of me and my brothers in the back, and way-back seats of my parents’ green Plymouth station wagon driving from Central Mass to Niagra Falls in the early 80s. “Are we there yet?” we chorused from the rear. My parents vowed, not for the first or last times in our young lives, to never take us on a car-trip vacation again!

No, but what I’m really thinking about today is writing books. How do you know when you are done writing your book? Are you ever done? When do you put down the pen, or close the laptop, and say definitively, “this is as good as it will ever get”?

I have written four books so far in my series, “McKinney High Class of 1986.” I have read each one at least ten times. Each time I read, I tweak the dialog, or turn some narrative into dialog, or take out extraneous filler words. I don’t think I have gotten through even one manuscript so far where I couldn’t find something to change.

Finally, I sent Book 1, May I Have Your Attention Please, to the editor. But like I mentioned before, I had to send it two more times after that, because it just wasn’t perfect yet! But I’ve finally let go. Book one is in someone else’s hands right now, and I just hope she doesn’t find too many mistakes or inconsistencies! In the meantime, I have forbidden myself to even look at that text. Doesn’t stop me from collaborating with my marketing manager and cover designer, but, you know, my big part is done.

Yesterday, I started to read Book 3 again. I had just finished re-reading Book 2, on the tail of re-reading Book 4, and then doing some formatting on them both. So, I sat down to look at Book 3, for the 12th time. And what I saw was discouraging. The first three chapters almost bored me to sleep! I was just giving information, no story. I was trying to keep the reader a recap of what happened in Book 2. I was worried the reader would forget what happened and be lost. But in the meantime, the reader would nod off, drop Book 3 on the floor, and never get to the juicy parts. So, I had to re-write. Not all of it, but I had to chop it up into pieces. This is never easy. The words on those pages are kind of sacred to me. Deleting a line that doesn’t work HURTS a bit. But it hurts less than someone telling you that your first three chapters suck.

So, I made the changes. And I’m sure they won’t be the last changes I make. I have had one person read Book 3 so far, and he liked it (thanks to my brother/alpha reader) so no real feedback yet. I want to get feedback, but I also want it to be GOOD! So how do I know when I’m done? I have no idea. Faith? Maybe. Personal deadline? More likely. But once it’s done, it’s done, and it’s forever. Except for the fact that I can still reprint an edit. So yeah, maybe it will never be done!

If there is anyone out there who would like to be a beta reader for my series, please let me know. It’s a bit of a commitment. There are 4 books, and you miss quite a bit if you don’t read them in order. There’s no pay for being a beta, except for the satisfaction of knowing you helped, and maybe your name in the acknowledgements! Leave a comment or send me an email if you are interested.