Is it me writing this blog post right now? Are you sure? I mean, someone at my house might have borrowed my computer and decided to pretend to be me for a few minutes and write a blog post. That’s pretty unlikely, though, since the computer scans my face for security. My child looks kind of like me, but not enough to access my computer. And my husband would just, well, never do that. So it’s probably me, right? Sure. I assure you today that it is me. But what if someday, it’s not? I could go to an AI app and put in a few key words about what I want in my blog, and the AI would spit out a full article, most likely saying the gist of what I want it to say. Boy, that would save me time, wouldn’t it? I could be a writer, but I wouldn’t even have to write! I wish they had AI for social work, too. I could just stay in bed all day while the AI counsels people and provides them with resources. Oh, what’s that you say? You say that you can do text therapy now, and the AI therapist just responds appropriately to what you tell it? Uh…
I like the idea of AI for some things. It’s kind of fascinating. It would help for some of the drudge work of research, for one thing. I mean, do we really even need to learn how to do research anymore if there is a mechanized way to do it? It would open all sorts of time for other scientific projects and thing. But I draw the line at the AI writing up the paper after the research is done. There is, and always will be, a human side to experimentation and learning. I don’t want to read a paper that was produced by a machine. I want to know who it was that wrote it, and I want to know a bit about their background. It would be like I decided to become a writer, plugged an idea into AI, let it take off and write the story, and then let it market the story on its own, by producing ads and videos. Then all I would have to do would be to show up to book signings. Maybe. I mean, maybe the AI can somehow make that work, too. Does this sound appealing to you? Because it doesn’t to me. My brother Jonathan decided to give it a try recently. He plugged the main premise of my newly released book (May I Have Your Attention Please, found on Amazon) into an AI app and set it free. The idea was, a boy and a girl are reunited after being in different schools for a year, and they fall in love. It is 1984. They both have some issues they are dealing with at home, and they are also dealing with the ups and downs of growing up and falling in love. So my brother read me what the AI wrote. And it was pretty close to my story. Not perfect, but close. It took the story in another direction, but it probably just needed a bit more information to get it right. Ok, that scared me. Is my talent as a writer going to be obsolete in a few years? Are writers going to be a thing of the past? I can see committees sitting in a room coming up with story ideas, and then passing them off to AI. I really, really don’t like that idea.
What else can AI do? It can produce images from key words. So that means that pretty soon, once everyone has access to these resources, stock photos will be a thing of the past. We can all create our own images, and they will belong to us. So far in this post, I have shown you two pictures of girls. These are images that I produced with AI yesterday in an experiment. I plugged in a description of my main character, Sally Bachman. Here is what I asked for:
“Sixteen-year-old white, Jewish girl in 1984, pretty, full length image, blue eyes, shoulder length brown hair, solid pink button-down shirt with puffy sleeves, wearing blue jeans, 1984 style hair and makeup, 34-inch chest. Show all of the girl.” And here is what I ended up with (in addition to the two photos above):
The first girl, on top of this post, looks like a mannequin. There is no escaping that fact. The second one looks like she is at her own murder trial. The third looks like some sort of weird portrait from the 1800s, the fourth is missing a face, and the fifth is most definitely possessed by the devil. NOT ONE OF THESE GIRLS LOOKS LIKE A REAL PERSON!!!! And none of them are wearing the clothing I specified. And what is the AI definition of pretty? Apparently not the same as mine. I might have been able to be a bit more specific, but not one of these girls has a 34-inch chest, amiright?
The next picture still isn’t right, but it’s at least, right-er:
She doesn’t look like I’d imagine Sally, but she looks more in the area of what Sally would look like. And why no blue jeans??? Maybe AI just can’t make real people. I have seen some drawings and other images that were pretty cute with cartoons. I might be asking too much. Just for funsies, I’m going to show you a few I got of James. The clothing is pretty good, but, ugh, the boys:
What, may I ask, is going on with those eyes? ALL of those eyes!
These next two are pretty decent. I changed James’s age from 16 to 17 and specified wavy hair, which made it a bit longer.
But still, someone needs to work on making the AI eyes a bit more realistic. These two guys look like people I might have actually gone to junior high school with. And James’s appearance is actually based on one of those people. Okay, so one win for AI images.
So that is all I am going to show you. I also tried to make some images for my future book covers (although I have an excellent cover designer. I was just goofing around) and they weren’t bad. I am thinking, AI just not good at faces. At all. But I’m glad a had a chance to play around. With Dall-E, you can get a free account with fifteen credits and month. I used up all my credits just trying to get Sally and James right, so no more credits until a month from now. If I want more, I have to pay. That doesn’t seem right. Maybe for fifteen results. You couldn’t have to use your credits for an image that doesn’t come out anything like what you were looking for. Heavy sigh. I just hope that AI keeps having problems. I guess it will be really good for my job(s) security. Small blessings.
Okay, so I dragged my 54-year-old butt on two 90 minute college campus tours this weekend. That’s an hour and a half each time, for those of you that are averse to math problems. Three hours of walking over two days. With a 17-year-old. Nothing makes you feel older than the point where you grab your lower back and moan, “I’ve got to sit for a minute.” Oh, no, actually, I’m wrong. There is something worse.
We were walking around the University of Oregon on our tour, and our charming and wordy tour guide stopped to let us know that the building we were standing in front of was featured a great deal in the 1978 super comedy, “Animal House.” All of the parents made OOH and AAH noises, and we all squinted at the building to get a glimpse of something that looked familiar. Then we all looked at each other with expressions that spoke of great coolness in our general vicinity. Then I heard a mom say to her son, “that’s so cool that they filmed ‘Animal House’ here, and his reply? “What’s ‘Animal House’? Of course, much discussion ensued where this mother and I told him all the wonders and beauties of this classic movie, and told him that he needs to (choke) stream it when they get home. So I looked at this kid and I said, “Surely you’ve heard of ‘Stripes,’ right?” And he looked at me in confusion. At that moment, my age caught up to me and I turned to gray dust on the ground and later was blown in all directions by the four winds.
What? Kids don’t know about “Animal House?” What kind of world do we live in where this is not mandatorily shown to all Americal children when they enter high school? Like, they should be holding assemblies, and passing out hot buttered popcorn! I can sort of understand never seeing it, but never even having heard of it? That’s just outrageous. So, anyway, in my shock and dissolving into powder state, I still managed to market my new book to the mother. Here’s my line:
“So, you look like you might remember the ’80s…”
I’ve been using that one a lot. I went to a concert the other day with my husband, and I would say the average age of patrons in the place was 71. Not kidding. So I was pretty sure that most of the people there remembered the ’80s, or were in their 80s, either one. So I felt more safe saying it to them. But I’ve also been trying that line at other places. At the ramen place. I asked a woman if she was from the 80s, and then I realized that that statement might have been slightly offensive to her. It turns out she was, and I gave her my bookmark with all of my information on it and told her to buy my book. I’ve gone through quite a lot of bookmarks in the past two weeks, but I don’t know if they have let to any sales. Marketing is tricky.
I’ve tried other things, too. The picture above was taken at Oregon State University. I have apparently learned to photo shop, sort of. I have learned to create stickers to put on my pictures, and one of them is my book. So I am putting them everywhere. Not too bad, if you ask me. Looks like a sandwich board, right? I’m looking forward to what else I can stick my book into just for funsies.
I’ve been doing lots of videos on TikTok. I love it, it’s lots of fun. Then I also share the videos on Facebook and Instagram. I still don’t get Instagram. Out of all the social media platforms, Instagram is the only one where I have gotten tons and tons of solicitous messages trying to sell or review my book, in addition to the “hey beautiful, I couldn’t help but notice your smile” messages. I don’t really enjoy looking though Instagram either. Maybe it’s an old person thing? But I love TikTok. I don’t even care if anyone in China gets information on me about my book. Maybe I’ll have a market in China for my book. Probably not, though.
I’ve also been walking around with my book everywhere. I take it on walks, so I can pose it with the scenery. That’s fun. I’ve also posed by Kindle, open to my book cover. I take my book on the bus and train and when anyone asks me what I’m reading, or tries to talk to me in any way, I manage to ask them if they know who wrote the book I’m reading. Then I show them the author picture on the back. Then they get confused, because I’m wearing a mask and they can’t see my face, so I hold my breath and lift my mask for 5 seconds. Then they’re impressed? Impressed enough so they’ll buy my book? I don’t know. Jury’s still out. But it’s still pretty cool. I had two guys in the train talk to me for 15 minutes and then tell me they were proud of me for publishing my book. Someone else told me they wanted to tell me they were proud of me, but it would be weird. I immediately told them it wasn’t, and made them say it! Hey, I’ll take pride from strangers any time I can!
So, all that being said, I’ve sold 55 books on Amazon in the past two weeks. I’m not sure how I feel about that number, but I think it’s pretty good. There was another book released in the Coming of Age genre at the same time as mine called “I’ll Stop the World,” and it was published by Mindy Kaling. So it was number one for two weeks. How could I compete with that? Mindy Kaling? How do I get Mindy Kaling to publish MY books? But I was number 77 in coming of age new releases for about two hours, so that was nice.
So, how do I tie all of this information together? Well, here’s the thing. I’m old. I should retire soon, right? So I can write full time, and enjoy my happy “golden” years (I guess golden years come in about 10 years) but at the same time, I have a kid I need to send to college for the next four years. And right before I started to write this blog post, I looked up how much it would cost to send my daughter to college for four years, at an in-state rate. And guess what? It’s a whole lot! So, in conclusion, buy my book. Buy a few. Buy one for yourself, and one for your sister. Buy one for your mother, your aunt, your daughter (over the age of 16 please) and even for your uncle or son. People seem to like it. All sorts of people. You’ll buy 10-12 copies of my book for Christmas and birthday presents this year, and then when I put out book 2, you’ll be looking forward to buying that one too. And just think, the more you buy, the more you’re helping put my daughter through college without me having to get a third and fourth job. Wouldn’t that be nice? And it’s really a good read. Check it out on Amazon. I’ve already got 6 five-star reviews! Okay, maybe I might know most of the people who reviewed it, but some of them, not too well. They didn’t have to do a review, and they did. And I’m also on Goodreads. Just so you know.
As always, thank you for reading my blog to the end.
My book, “May I Have Your Attention Please” can be found on Amazon, in both paperback and ebook! I plan to release my second book, “I Just Can’t Say I Love You,” in September 2023. Please check it out, and if you do read my book, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. It would mean a whole lot!
I had never heard of this genre before I started communicating with Meg Stratton a few months ago. We met in a Facebook group for independent writers, and we decided to check out each other’s work. Meg has given be some great information about self-publishing and has been instrumental in helping me get to the point of being able to publish my book. So I decided to ask Meg for an interview, to learn more about her writing process and her genre. The following are the questions that I sent Meg, and she was kind enough to send back to me, all answered!
Tell me a little about yourself.
So I am a mom, coffee lover, native Washingtonian. I have lived in Washington my whole life and even though it gets more crowded every year, I still enjoy my drive to work where I get amazing views of Mt. Rainier when it’s out, or Lake Washington or even downtown Seattle. This is home for me. One thing I don’t enjoy is my two hour commute back and forth to work every day. I could get so much more writing accomplished with that time!! But I have 4 kids to take care of and a wonderful husband who actively encourages me to write and publish. So I do 12 hour days and then come home to write in the night and on my weekends. Other activities I enjoy is baking, gardening, and reading. Oh my reading that is where this all started for me. The reading.
I had never heard of your genre before. Can you tell me a bit about it?
So I started my Covid lock down reading romance novels at a very rapid rate. Somewhere in that manic reading frenzy I found the reverse harem section. Just an FYI, many people want this genre to change to ‘why choose’ romance. I agree for the many reasons people say the word harem means in other cultures. So you may see more ‘why choose’ usage in the future but today reverse harem is the most common name for my genre. Regardless, I read a book by Stacy Jones that was something new to me. Sci-fi, why choose, romance with aliens!! Oh my goodness I was hooked. I read everything she wrote for that series, book 5 just came out last month, read it in 2 days, on working days! So good.
So ‘why choose’, is when multiple mates partner with one female. MMFM is an abbreviation that is used on Amazon. My book has MMFMMM, so there are a lot of guys with one lady. Sometimes the men are intimate with each other but many times the focus is all on the lady. My books are that way. Each guy in my story brings a quality that my main character needs to move on in her role as the Oracle. The Sci-Fi part in book one of my series is that aliens attack, the world is challenged, and my main female character is part of the action with her guys.
When did you start writing? Is it something you always did, or did you just start recently?
So I haven’t always written. I wrote a blog thing while on a trip I took about 5 years ago, but I never posted it anywhere. It’s was just for me. I didn’t even have my husband read it and he went on a trip with me. So this is new to me. I will say that I didn’t intent to write a book or publish anything. I just started writing.
I read your book, Oracle: Mia, and I loved it. Tell me about what gave you the idea for your book.
Well, I was reading all those romance books and had finished a few of Stacy’s books and my overactive mind sent me a dream. Honestly the dream was only a tiny snapshot of my overall story, but it got me started on my book. I am a pantser, for those that don’t know it means there is very little planning for my books, I just sit down and write. So, I started with that kernel of a dream idea, by the time my husband suggested I self-publish, I had 300,000 words down. Don’t get me wrong, not all of it was good and I had too many words for one book. But I wrote and had a good start.
How did you get started with writing your book?
Well, it started with me just writing down the dream I had. I wrote first in OneNote, I like this as I can add pictures of my characters to help me describe them and give them life. I can add multiple chapters as pages and graphs, charters to keep track of my characters. As a pantser that is important because I forget who I have where without this structure. when I had too many words to be one book, I split up my main characters into books.
How did you organize your book? Did you have an outline, etc.?
Ugh, structure, outlines, charts. I wish I could give you some magic sauce here, but I’ll just be honest and say I am a hot mess with that all. My suggestion: try everything! My first way of building a book in OneNote, adding a new page for each chapter didn’t work out so don’t do that, but OneNote is still a great way of getting a visual on your characters in the same place that you rough draft. Then I copy and paste it into Word where I do edits, cut the fluff and add more as needed. I know I am getting better and more efficient with each edit and book that I write. Just remember that there is no perfect way to do this. Every one of our minds works differently. Just sit and write into Word if that is something you are comfortable with. Some authors have said that they write into a note on their iPhone, whatever gets the words out of you and into the black and white for later reviewing.
How long did it take you to write your book? Was it straight through, or stop and go?
Holy smokes, the first year was amazing for writing. June 2021 to the end of April 2022 was when I wrote 300,000 words. That was when I decided to self-publish. Then it all slowed way down. I was no longer writing. I was editing, revising, learning the self-publishing rules, trying to find new people to mentor me, setting up my business (because when I do something I go all in), made websites, found artists for my covers, and a million other small things. It took me from April 2022 to November 2022 to get my book published. So for the first part of actually writing in a rough draft format took almost a year. To get it to a place where I could launch was 7 months later.
That being said, I still write. Almost every single day. But I have to sit down now and think about it. It has not been as easy as that first year was.
How did it feel the first time you held your book in your hands?
Oh my goodness! Well that was great but what was amazing for me was when you, Debby, sent me the first picture of someone holding my book in their hands ready to read it!! That was the most special moment for me. I think I told you that I squealed when I got that picture, well I did much to the concern of my husband because I am not known for squealing. But wow all the feels in that moment.
What was it like for you after finally pushing the publish button?
So no one knows that I write books, especially spicy romance except for 3 people in my immediate family. 3 of my kids only know that I write, not what I write about. (too young for all that). So pushing the button was a quiet affair. But I will say that there was a LOT of relief. While writing is fun and meeting new people is fun, pushing your words out there for other people to read is the scariest thing I have ever done. But it was such a relief to say it is done, it is gone, I have published something.
What is your most effective means of marketing your book?
So I would say BookFunnel promotions. If you don’t know what that is, I will give a bare bones break down. It is a site that for a cost will keep your completed work on file for your Beta readers, Arc readers and their group promotions. Honestly you can send a copy of your book to anyone you want to review your work if you wish through BookFunnel. They have a sales portal too, but I haven’t looked into it. The thing with BookFunnel promotions is that you can’t give away your book if your book is in Kindle Unlimited (KU). So then you have to have a free prequel that you upload like you would your book that you enroll into promotions to get people interested in your writing and joining your mailing list. Once you join a few of those promotions, people look at your style and see if it is interesting to them and if they want to go get your other book. My book that is free on BookFunnel is my prequel to Mia’s story. It is called Power of the Moon, is about 12k, and set in the early 1900’s.
You are working on your second book. Are you doing anything differently with this one than you did with the first?
So many things!! I am starting earlier with Beta readers. Beta Readers are the best thing ever!! I had 4 Beta readers for my first book. One 1 is a fabulous first-time author for England who put out her first book 2 weeks before me, we have learned so much from each other in that time and keep in touch regularly still. One turned into my editor. She is a great lady in South Dakota who I have recommended a few people to for her services. She put up with all my new kid questions. And one who gave me the best advice on the genre I am in and how my book could be better aligned with that genre, she was from Australia and is a new writer too. But wasn’t afraid to dish out the real talk.
I am more active on social media than before. I will continue there to build my brand. Including new promotions in BookFunnel and trying some other areas to promote my book as I find them.
What advice would you give new or aspiring authors?
Get some 3rd party people who aren’t connect to you as a person, to read for you. They will be the most honest and then take whatever they give you and grow. Are they maybe saying tough stuff about something you spent a year or five years writing? Yes, they are but they as readers that are further away from the work and can see the flaws that you have decided to overlook. They aren’t out to hurt you; they are telling you need to grow.
MORE social media!! I have been working hard since my first book launched to build up my social presence. There are some awesome people in the Bookstagram world. There are some wonderful authors who will help lift you up as you are growing your audience. Get out there and meet them and ask questions! This will help you when you launch your next book. But it takes time, start it early.
Are there any items on your bucket list that you can’t wait to get to?
Oh man this is tough. I want to write books for a living. But I don’t make any money doing this. So that is why this is a great hobby with good feels when you get a positive review, it is not a living. So I want to get my books out there when I can and be supportive of other authors as they seek this world with me. I want to lift up others and help with their questions. I want to see all of this series and my next one (yes, I already have a next series in mind) grow and mature like fine wine. Other than that, live one day at a time.
Anything else you would like to tell the readers?
First, I appreciate that you gave me this time to talk about my journey to self-publishing and writing strategy. My greatest advice so far is to find that one person you can talk about your writing. Even if they don’t understand everything you are talking about, that you have a support person is so very important. Then get on FaceBook, Instagram, or TikTok, join a writing group, another author’s page, or Bookstagrammer engagement groups. Look for other people at your level or beyond to ask questions. Promote yourself earlier than you are ready to. I know that it seems as if you don’t have much to contribute but you need to be able to share your story when you are done writing, then again when you are done editing, then again when you need betas, etc. Before that, be an advocate, share others wins when they are happy about something, find your book friends.
I can be found on FaceBook, Goodreads, Instagram, and TikTok. Email me, I will do my best to answer questions!!
1st Book: Oracle: Mia (The Oracle’s Journey Series) Available for free on KU
Thanks so much, Meg, for sharing all of this great information with us! I can’t wait to read your second book (full disclosure, I already BETA read it!)! I wish you all the best going forward with your writing!
On another note, my book, “May I Have Your Attention Please” is now live on Amazon, in both paperback and ebook! I have a great launch party last night, and now I am looking forward to more sales and more writing, with plans to release my second book in September, 2023. Please check it out, and if you do read my book, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. It would mean a whole lot!
It’s finally here! The launch date of my first book, “May I Have Your Attention Please” is March 4, less than one week away! And I have finally gotten everything ready to go for the actual launch, such as the book being able to be ordered and printed. Now I’m working on my launch party, which will be on March 4 at a really cool book pub in Portland. If you’re in the area and you want to come, it’s the one on Fremont Street, and it’s from 3-6pm. I guess I’ll be doing a short reading, giving away some books and prizes, and generally having a good time. And there will be cake. You can’t turn down cake, can you? No.
Now what? Deep breaths for one thing. Thinking of all the things I might have forgotten. Finding typos and reloading my manuscript. Over and over (but it’s all good). Inviting people to the party. Other marketing things. Oy, I’m so tired of marketing by now, and I’m just at the starting line! It’s fun, but sometimes, I run out of ideas. I’ll come up with something, I’m sure.
In honor of the pending launch, I’m going to include an excerpt from the book. I try to be so careful about my excerpts not giving anything away, but I have to remember, it’s out of context. You will still have to read it in context.
This excerpt is during a dinner that James and Sally have with Sally’s adult sister, Andrea, and her Army husband, Derrek. He’s in town on leave and wants to see his favorite (albeit only) sister-in-law, and meet her new boyfriend. Here it is:
They reviewed the menus. When the waitress returned with their drinks, they were ready to order. Everyone ordered shellfish and salad. When the salads arrived, they paused momentarily from their conversation to dig in. Then James turned to Andie.
“So Andie,” he said, dabbing the corner of his mouth with his napkin, then putting the napkin on his lap like his mother taught him to do in fancy restaurants. “I met Sally in Junior High. We were both totally awkward back then. No offense Sally.”
“Oh, none taken,” Sally said enthusiastically. “I completely agree. I was totally awkward back then. Well, until like a month ago!”
James smiled fondly at Sally and turned back to Andie. “So what was she like as a kid?” he asked. “I bet she was a cute baby.”
“Oh, she was!” Andie agreed. “I was seven when she was born, so she was my little baby doll. She had these springy curls and round pink cheeks that always looked like they needed to be pinched! Mom was still pretty busy with our brother Nathan, who was two when she was born, so I would entertain Sally with my stories and songs and puppet shows. She had such a laugh, so I was always trying to do things to make her laugh. She had a short attention span so I had to come up with new things to do to make her happy all the time. If I didn’t, she would cry.”
“Is she like that with you, James?” Derrek joked.
“I’ve never seen her cry,” James admitted.
“Take her to a sappy movie,” Derrek advised him. “But bring Kleenex. And bring Andie too, she could use a good happy cry.”
Andie nodded. “It’s true,” she confided. “I really could.”
“Sally may have been awkward at school,” Derrek said, “but at home, she was always the life of the party.” He looked at Sally. “Remember? You were always singing, dancing around, trying to get everyone’s attention.”
Sally blushed. “Oh God, that was such a long time ago!”
He turned back to James. “And she loved to bake with her Mom and Grandma.”
“Yeah,” Sally said, “So you always had cookies and brownies to eat.”
Derrek grinned. “Can you still bribe her with chocolate?”
James raised an eyebrow. “What?”
Andie laughed. “We learned that if we gave her a chocolate bar or a cookie, she would let us watch whatever we wanted on TV.”
“Or give us some alone time when we needed it,” Derrek added.
Sally gave a little shrug. “Well, I guess I still respond pretty well to chocolate.”
James caught her eye and smiled. “Good to know.”
He remembered the shy version of Sally at Randall, who was separated from her friends in class, and relied on him and his friends for some friendly interaction each day. He thought about how easy it would have been for them to ignore her, and how grateful he was now that they didn’t. She must have brought out the best in them, even back then.
“Sally has been a godsend for Andie too,” Derrek continued, “I was deployed in Germany for a year before I was assigned to Fort Benning, so Andie really needed her family. And when Josie was born, Sally was really there for her. She’s more like a second mom to Josie than an aunt. Sally, even if Andie had another sister, you would still be my favorite sister-in-law.”
James looked at Sally, and noticed her wiping a tear off of her cheek with the back of her hand. On the other side of the table, Andie sniffed. He was struck by how similar Sally and her sister looked, with their brown hair and sparkling pale blue eyes. They had similar facial expressions, and both appeared to wear their emotions right on the surface. “Well,” Derrek said, reaching out to take Sally’s hand, “now you’ve seen her crying.” They smiled at each other affectionately.
The entrees were served, and they all composed themselves to eat.
James took a bite of shrimp, and felt it melt like butter in his mouth. Everyone else was quiet as silverware clinked on plates.
Well, if that doesn’t make you hungry, I don’t know what will! Thanks for reading this far, and I hope if you buy the book, you will enjoy every scene!
…It’ will be fun, they said! Fun??? I am moments away from ripping my hair out! Or throwing my computer across the room! Or screaming! But I think the other patrons in the coffee shop where I am sitting would not appreciate that so much. So I will just stop what I am doing, take a few deep breaths, and chill. And write a blog post.
The good news is, I got my manuscript back from my copy editor this week, and it was in pretty good shape. I wasn’t expecting it back until March, and I was planning to release my book in early April. But now, there’s no reason to wait. I went through the edits and approved or rejected them, added in the chapter header images I wanted, and then I was all ready to upload my book and cover.
Except no. It was so easy to save my Word file as a PDF. This is so easy, I thought. So I went through all the steps on the Amazon KDP website, and pushed the button. Then I hit the “next” button, and ended up on the page where I was then told all of things that were wrong with my document and cover. Not much I can do about the cover, so I sent that problem to my cover designer. Then I went back into the Word document to change my margins. Saved to a second PDX. Then it was accepted. So I am supposed to review and make sure everything is okay before hitting publish, which I can’t do anyway until I get the cover fixed. So I look. And I find some blank pages that weren’t there before. Must have come from the margin changes. Back to the document. Fix. New PDF. Then, I found a spelling error in on of my headers. Back. Fix. PDF. This went on for 11 PDFs, and a miracle that I didn’t just fall on the floor and cry. So before I went to bed last night, I finally had the proper PDF in KDP. Yay. Still waiting on the cover, but that’s okay, because my designer is in a totally different time zone than me. I can wait until morning.
I woke up this morning feeling good about myself. I’ve finally got my book in pre-sale! Yay! What an experience! Now, I need to set up a launch party, visit local bookstores to see if they will carry my book, and then sit down and upload my PDF one more time, this time to Ingram Spark, a distributor, or the people who the bookstores order their copies from. I sat down on my comfy (read hard) stool at the coffee shop, get to the right location on the web site, and upload the PDF. Oh, for God’s sake. My fonts are not embedded! How does one embed fonts? They research it on Google. Ten minutes later, with the 12th PDF ready to go, I upload. And I get the same error message. Fonts not embedded. Yes they are! I did it myself! I was there! There are witnesses! But no. So back to Word, push one button, then push a different button, then save as a PDF, and load again. No change. Email everyone I know about what to do. What do they tell me? How to embed the text. Like I just did!
I wish this had a happy ending, but the story isn’t over yet. I’m still at the coffee shop. All of my hair is still strongly embedded (see what I did there?) in my head, my computer is intact, and I do not have a sore throat from screaming. But it’s still a good day (day ain’t over yet!). Why is it a good day? Because I can finally see the finish line. For book 1 of 7.
So yes, please, everyone, even if you choose not to buy it, please take a look at my author page on Amazon! See my book sitting there in eBook pre-sale! Read the blurb! Read my bio! Hit the follow button! Because I’m going to do this all again in September with book 2! I even know the date. It’s the birthday of one of the main characters! Yeah, I know. I can’t help it. I’m just like that!
Buy my book! If you buy the eBook, it will be delivered right to your device on March 4th. The paperback will become available on March 4th.
Recognize that March 4th is the most optimistic day of the year! March Forth, oh warriors of peace and truth!
Follow me on Amazon.
When you read my book, leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Even if it’s just the stars, and even if it’s less than 5 stars. However, I ask that if you did not love my book, you don’t just leave one or two stars, but you tell me what it was that you didn’t like. If it’s just not your genre, that’s one thing. But if it’s something that is just off for you, let me know. I still have 6 other manuscripts. Maybe your feedback would help me to improve them before publication.
I’ve mentioned before that I feature a lot of 1980s music in my first book, “May I Have Your Attention Please.” Only back then, we didn’t call it 80s music. We just called it music. One of the songs that I mention is “Anxiety (Get Nervous)” by Pat Benatar. I had the album Get Nervous, which came out in 1982 and was awesome. It was part of the stack of albums on my record player that I listened to as I went to sleep. In retrospect, it might not have been the greatest thing to listen to before going to sleep: a woman saying “get nervous” over and over again. Maybe that explains all the nightmares! I didn’t know it at the time, but later, much later, I would be diagnoses with having generalized anxiety disorder and ADHD, which is also on the anxiety disorder spectrum, and these disorders were most likely the cause of most my childhood and early adulthood distress. That’s why it’s really easy for me to write about people dealing with anxiety. I have witnessed it both first and second hand. I have treated people with anxiety through therapy. Also, it runs in my family, and since I’m in my family, here I am.
I tend to inflict a bit of anxiety in the lives of my characters. In my first book, not as much, but in the next five, there is quite a bit. I also do a lot to try to eventually alleviate that anxiety, because in doing so, I help myself deal with my own fears and phobias! So I’ll share a couple of little tidbits of anxiety provoking situations that my characters go through. Remember, what causes anxiety for one person could be nothing for someone else. Think about it. Some people keep spiders for pets. Others would prefer to burn the house down if they found a single spider in their bedroom. I’m right in the middle, but I have to admit, I had a nightmare the other night about a spider, and it was 20 inches in diameter. I actually screamed out in my sleep and my partner had to wake me up! But most spiders don’t phase me. I just don’t want them crawling on my face while I sleep. So here is a small tidbit of anxiety that James and Sally are feeling during an interaction involving meeting family:
“James was feeling relieved that Sally had rescued him from the situation. He didn’t want to open the college can of worms with Sally’s grandfather. He had enough to worry about with his own family. Maybe the grandfathers were the reason that Sally was feeling so uptight about him meeting her grandparents. If so, he thought he may have passed the test.”
And here is how Sally feels after having a very disturbing encounter with a school bully:
“Sally tried to speak, but she couldn’t catch her breath. Michelle sat against the wall and put her arm around her shoulders. She sat with her like that until Sally’s chest stopped heaving. Sally took a few deep breaths and recounted the whole story to Michelle.”
As you can see, anxiety can affect not only your thoughts, but also what’s occurring in your body. For me, sometimes, I feel my heart pounding, and I am very aware of it. I might not even be thinking about something that makes me feel anxious, but just the fact that I feel like an organ is about to burst through my chest can make those thoughts accelerate. So when it happens, I start to perseverate over what it might be that is causing the physical symptoms. Could it be that there is something wrong with me physically? Could I be having some sort of heart event? Should I be more worried? Oh no, now I AM more worried! Or maybe, it’s just anxiety about something that I can’t recall. So what could it be? Then I come up with all sorts of scenarios, and pretty soon, my thoughts of anxiety are matching the sensations in my body.
Do you want to know what the weirdest thing it about all of this? I’m a therapist, and about 9 years ago, I taught a group about how to deal with anxiety. I know everything I’m supposed to do to counter anxiety. I know the tricks of the trade. So of course, the moment I feel anxiety, I just use all the coping skills that I used to teach my clients, right? Uh, more like, what coping skills? Oh, those are fine for everyone else, but they don’t work for me! Ha! It’s amazing how that happens. Once, I went to see a therapist in an Employee Assistance Program to talk about my anxiety. She ended up giving me a hand-out of some information about coping with anxiety, and guess what? It was the same stuff that I gave out in my group! I pretty much assumed that this woman couldn’t help me, because I already knew everything she knew. I was stupid.
But it is really hard when you treat people for something, and then you have to deal with it yourself. I think there is embarrassment and shame about it, as you think you should be able to handle this on your own, and sometimes you can’t. That happened to me last year, around the time that the Omicron variant of COVID had been identified, and all of the restrictions that had been lifted were suddenly back in place. My work had been giving approximate “return to work” dates for months, and finally the date was getting closer. But then, there was the announcement. We weren’t going to return to work, and they weren’t even going to project when the return was going to occur. I had been holding my own until that time, but one thing that you must understand is that I DETEST working from home. I do not do well when left to my own devices. I am not a self-starter. I do best when working among other people who are doing similar work. So I was really looking forward to returning to the office. So when that didn’t happen, and it looked like the pandemic was going to last until who knew when, I pretty much lost it. My stomach started to hurt. I lost my appetite. I lost my motivation. Things started to look blurry. I started to misunderstand the intention of others. I was getting hot and cold flashes. My heart was pounding, and I felt dizzy. And every day it got worse, not better. And it went on all day and night. Speaking of night, I stopped sleeping. And when I did sleep, it was not good. I thought up all sorts of reasons why this was happening. Menopause. I only have half a thyroid, so I was positive it was my thyroid meds. My migraine shots. Some sort of heart disorder. Anything and everything. I called my doctor. I had tests run. I went over my symptoms a thousand times. I was in Urgent Care twice in two days. I made medication changes. I did everything I could.
Finally, I was told that I was most likely “just” dealing with anxiety. I was resistant. If it was anxiety, I would have to do some work to make it better, and that sounded a lot harder than tapering off of medications (in retrospect, it’s not harder. Tapering off medications is very hard and can cause a new set of problems). But long story short (too late, I know) I did get help from professionals, and now, a bit over a year later, I am much better, I have tons of hope for the future, I am back in the office 3 days a week (still not enough, but no one comes in on Mondays and Fridays), I have knitted 42 hats, and written 6 complete books. And yes, the hats and the writing were crucial in my recovery. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t figured these things out.
Here are some other things I do to help with my anxiety, and I have encouraged others to do:
count to ten
Breathe. I mean, really breath. Become aware of your breath. Inhale through your nose. Feel the air going into your belly. Exhale. Count your breaths. Count how long your inhale and exhale last. Be aware of your breath. Breathe whenever you need to.
Change your surroundings. Go outside. Drive somewhere else. Go someplace that feels safe. Go to people who feel safe.
Move your body. When you go outside, move your body around the block. If you like to run, run. If you like to walk, put one foot in front of the other. If you have stationary equipment, jump on. Do it for seven minutes. Don’t push it. Just move. Tomorrow it will be easier, and you can do it longer.
Meditate. This one is the hardest for me, as I drift away from my focus and have to come back to my breath about once every 30 seconds. But it is the practice that is important. If you cannot meditate on your own, you can find videos on You Tube. Or take a class.
Yoga. It slows you down and makes you breathe. And move. You can go to class or use a video, or whatever practice works for you.
Keep a routine. Do the same things in a predictable manner. Go to bed at the same time every night. Get up at the same time every morning. Eat 3 meals a day. Maybe eat the same meals every day if they bring you comfort.
Do things you enjoy and that don’t take a lot of deep thought. It might be reading a book, writing a book, knitting hats, doing crafts, watching “The Big Bang Theory” over and over again until your family goes crazy, or something completely different. Painting, playing solitaire (with real cards or on the computer), going hiking, taking a train ride, building something out of wood. The list goes on and on. And make yourself do what you enjoy for a set amount of time every day. No matter what else is going on around you.
Alternative medicine: acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care, naturopathic medicine. Herbal remedies, but only as recommended or okayed by a professional to make sure there are no interactions with other meds.
Decrease sugar. I have found that this helps me a lot. The less sugar I eat, the less my heart pounds, and that’s a good thing. Sugar increases inflammation, which can cause all sorts of issues. I am not saying to cut it out completely. Just lower it and see if it helps. Give it several days.
Talk to your support people. Let them know what is going on, and what you need them to do to help you. Sometimes, you just need a hug, or maybe someone to take care of your pets (scoop the cat box) on the days that you cannot. Maybe someone can come sit with you and watch tv. Or maybe they can take you out. Also let them know your boundaries. Maybe now is not the best time for people to come to you for support. Not now, but soon.
Talk to your doctor. Rule out anything medical that might be going on. Never ignore chest pain. If anything feels different from what you are used to, get it checked out. My father had panic attacks, but he also had a heart condition. Ignoring the signs and symptoms can be dangerous. And if your doctor can’t find anything wrong, they can refer you to someone else who might be able to help you, such as:
A therapist. I am a therapist, so I think therapy is great. But I’ve also been to see therapists, and I can tell you from both sides, therapy helps. If you have had a different experience, it might not be the therapy; it might have just been the wrong therapist for you. Give it another chance. Sometimes, you can find the root of the problem. But if not, you can still come up with a personalized plan to help deal with the anxiety. There is not a one size fits all solution to any mental health issue. Googling might give you information, but Google can’t get to know you the way a therapist can.
See a psychiatrist. If your doctor does not want to prescribe medication for you, as some primary care providers do not feel comfortable doing this, have them refer you to a specialist. When I say psychiatrist, I really mean anyone who is authorized to prescribe psychiatric medication. That includes psychiatric nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. They are also fantastic and know what to do. Just don’t expect any miracle drug. If a medication makes you feel better on the first day, I can promise you that it is not something that you will be allowed to take long term. The effects wear off over time, and you will just have to take more and more. And then, someday, you’ll be taken off of the med, and it will not be a good experience for you. Or anyone around you. So be patient. As patient as you can be with anxiety! But seriously, sometimes, you need medication. Maybe just for a short time, or maybe longer. Remember, it’s just like any other medical condition. If you had Type 1 diabetes, no one would fault you for taking insulin for your health. It’s the same way for mental health medications. They are there, and they can help. They can’t fix everything, but they can take the edge off for sure.
I hope that some of this information is helpful to some of you. I know that it’s hard to talk about mental health in public. But I think the more we do it, the less of a stigma it will be to share our stories. I know it helps me to talk to others with similar experiences. Last year, I was referred to an ADHD group through my insurance, and it was great. I learned so much, and it really helped me. That, along with the help of my professional team, my family, my friends, medication, and time, really brought me back to myself, a place where last year, I could never see myself again. Someone told me last year, “Next year, you’ll look back at this, and you won’t be able to believe that you were even feeling like this, and you’ll feel so good to know that it’s over and you feel good.” I didn’t believe them at the time, but just last week, I found myself doing just that, and the only thing I could say to myself was “Wow. Just wow.”
And so the games begin! I am getting much closer to my goal of self-publishing my first book, May I Have Your Attention Please. I am hoping I can push the publish button on KPD in about six weeks if everything goes as planned. As I may have mentioned before, writing the book is the easy part. Editing is tedious, but it is necessary to perfect (as much as possible) my art before I get it out to the public. Formatting seems like kind of a bear, but I’m figuring it out. So what is the hard part then, Debby? Please do tell?
It’s that part where you know that some time soon, your book is going to be released into the wild. And wild it is. No one knows what’s out there in the dangerous world of books and book sales. What becomes a best seller? Will people read my book, and if they do, will they like it? Or will they find out the horrible truth about me: that I am an imposter.
Imposter syndrome is a real thing, and it is very common in writers and authors. According to Wikipedia, “Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism, is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud…Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon do not believe they deserve their success or luck.” Yes. Who am I to believe that others could like words that came out of my brain? But I do have one thing on my side: I have enlisted Beta-readers, several wonderful people who have read my first book and given me feedback. And guess what? They didn’t hate my book. As a matter of fact, they really liked it, and some of them weren’t even people I knew or family members, and I wasn’t paying them to like it! So, I know I have some good stuff, but now I have to convince millions of people out there that I have good stuff, and they should shell out their hard earned money to buy and read it. I mean, I could just give it away for free, but to be honest, if you pay for a book, you are much more likely to read it. Seriously. A lot of the time, I don’t even read the books I do pay for. You should see my To Be Read pile. It’s up to my waist.
So how do I let people know to buy my book, and the right people? First, I have to decide who I think the right people would be. My book takes place in a high school, with high school kids. Does this make it appropriate for high school students? Well, maybe. I mean, they can relate to the kids, even though the setting is the 1980s. Kids are kids. But not all kids might like it. I think a lot would. There is some, shall we say, intimacy, in my books. It’s not explicit, but it’s there, and it’s clearly implied. That is why you never let your family read your books. Just kidding. They did, and I was horrified. But I digress. So high school kids, young adults. Ok. But as my series progresses, my stories start in high school, move out of the high school setting, into college, and in some, beyond college into adulthood, with adult issues. And my books start delving into some pretty serious subjects, like grief and loss, mental illness, substance abuse, religious abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse. Not graphic or horribly described, but the topics are there. They are a main part of the story. So new adults might enjoy these books as well. What are new adults? They are part of a new genre of readers that have turned or passed the age of 18. They are learning their way out there in a world full of responsibilities. They are coming of age, just like my characters. Who else can relate to my characters? 1980s kids. Generation X. My characters were mainly born in 1968. If you were born around that time, and you read my series, you will get a nostalgic feel from them, and you might be thrown back in time for a short while. Hopefully your 1980s were not filled with angst and pain. If so, maybe skip my books, or rewrite your own 1980s story, like I did with mine. And the last group of people I know enjoyed my books? Men in their late 40s-late 50s! I had four of these men read my book, and they all enjoyed it. That was a pleasant surprise. So maybe my books are for everyone (over the age of 14).
But to be honest, when people look at my book cover and read the blurb on the back, I am guessing they will think teen love story, and they are not wrong. It is a sweet love story about Sally Bachman and James Newell. And it has a happy ending, at least for the main characters. So it’s probably best that I market toward young women, YA and NA genres, Coming of Age Romance readers. And hope that their moms and dads pick up their copy someday and get hooked. So here’s the 15 million dollar question: where to you find these young people who would maybe want to read my book? And the most obvious, and truest answer, is TikTok. I mean, all social media, but have you been to TikTok? I hadn’t. I knew my teen child is obsessed with it, and always has their eyes glued to something on the screen, but I wrote it off to being a kid magnet, and never even bothered to look. But then I did. And you know what? It is a kid thing. But I’m absolutely hooked now! I love it! I found Booktok, a group (millions of people) who love books and reading and love talking about books and reading. And these people? THEY BUY BOOKS! Lots of them! And they review them! And they have thousands and thousands of followers! So if you can tap into these people (primarily young women) you have found a gigantic door to best seller heaven.
But the 20-million-dollar question is how do you tap in? And that, my friends, is where TikTok loses me. I have posted videos of me talking, of funny things my pets do, of text, and now, today, I made one of me coming to the coffee shop to show my writing process. Some of my posts have gotten 600-700 views and close to one hundred likes. Some others, which are similar have gotten around 100 views and maybe 15 likes. I know some of the formula. You need to use hashtags. You need to find out what is trending and get on that trend. Ok. Each time you put in a hashtag, you get to find out how many times that hashtag has been used by others. So you want to choose the ones that have 13.4 million uses, as opposed to “created a new hashtag.” So I do that. Then, there is the music. You can attach a clip to your video or post, or not. TikTok will automatically attach one if you don’t, and then you will have to either switch it to one you like or delete it. So again, you want songs that are trending. What do you do if your brand is the 1980s? You want to use 1980s music. It is very distinctive, and as soon as people hear it, they know where it came from. But unfortunately, most of it isn’t trending. I tried using “Running Up That Hill,” which I never even heard in the 80s, but apparently was very popular. It was trending due to the show “Stranger Things.” But I guess I missed that bus, because it didn’t seem to help me much. But, seriously, the music that’s trending? Like my mother used to say about my Eric Clapton CDs back when I was a teen, “that stuff hurts my ears!” Ugh. I’m old, I know. But 2020s music does not go with a pitch to sell a 1980s themed book, and series. I asked my followers what they thought would help. I was told little snippets from my book. So, I’ve been doing that. And I included the first few in this post so you can see and be intrigued, in case you are one of everyone, and might like my book. And I did the “behind the scenes at the coffee shop” that I am going to post later in the day, after I attached a trending noise song, but turn the volume all the way down so it can’t be heard, a trick someone told me about yesterday.
So, my plea to you is check out my TikTok, see my pitches, and buy my book, for your teenage niece, your Gen X sister, and your 55-year-old male coworker. But if you give it to him, maybe put in a discrete brown paper bag. He has an image to maintain, you know!
Here it is at long last! The cover of my upcoming book, “May I Have Your Attention Please.”
I am hoping to release this book into the wild by the end of March or early April. I will post a link to the Amazon location as soon as it becomes available.
I thought I might drop a little excerpt here just to keep you entertained until the book release. Please enjoy!
“What do you think of the Great Gatsby so far?” Sally asked, glancing at the novel as she set it down next to her tray.
“It starts off a bit slow,” James admitted. “I’ve never been much of a reader, so I hope it picks up the pace soon.”
“That’s one thing I’ve always been,” Sally responded. “A reader. I have always loved to read fiction. I get in the zone and sometimes hours go by before I know it. Like on Saturday night. I read before bed, and next thing I knew it was almost two am!”
“That’s exactly what it’s like for me when I play my guitar,” James said. “In the zone is a good way to describe it. When I learn a new song, or a new chord, I stay on it for a long time, until I get it just right. My parents know not to knock on my door when they hear me playing in my room.”
“I can’t wait to hear you play,” Sally said. “I wish I could play an instrument. I tried to play the flute when I was younger, but I never practiced. I wanted to, but I couldn’t seem to figure out how to get started. I’d be watching tv, and get anxious that I wasn’t practicing, but I still wouldn’t do it. My mom finally told me that if I didn’t get with it, she’d stop paying for lessons, so that’s pretty much what happened.”
“I was like that with karate in third grade,” James disclosed. “My friends were all doing it. I liked the idea of doing it, but at each class, it was obvious to the teacher I hadn’t practiced since the last class. He told me practice was a discipline I had to develop, but in the end I decided not to. It was too hard for me to stay focused.”
“It’s so weird we both do that,” Sally said, shaking her head. “Some things we can totally focus on for hours without anything stopping us, and others, we can’t even get started on. I wonder what that’s all about?”
Here it is, my first teaser for my upcoming book, “May I Have Your Attention Please,” which will hopefully be available for sale in late March or early April. It all depends on when it gets back to me from the copy editor, and how many corrections need to be made! Then I have to fumble through the formatting for both e-book and paperback and hope it all turns out the way I want it! But at least, by the end of next week, you will all know what to look for as far as a cover when you are searching for my book on Amazon. Soon.
So not a long post today. I am busy writing away on book 6 in the series, and I also completed a 5035-word side story for book 5. It was fun! Now, I am concentrating on making videos for TikTok and posts on my face book author page, to promote the cover reveal. My designer made some nice graphics for me, and I look forward to sharing them. I am also spending an ungodly amount of time on TikTok and Facebook following people, so they follow me back. I am close to 500 followers on Facebook, which is hard to do, because Facebook puts restrictions on you when you try to follow pages too quickly. They think you’re a bot. I mean, it’s great that they check for these things, unless it’s happening to you. I get logged off of my page at least 20 times per day lately. Find followers, Facebook tells you. But don’t do it too fast, even though we didn’t tell you this before you started! TikTok limits how many people you can follow, but you can come back shortly after and follow more. I’m at about 2200 followers on TikTok. Please be one of them! Oh, also, I was restricted from Instagram, and I have no idea why, except for not using it for months. I had to send them a selfie of me holding a paper with numbers on it to prove I was actually me. Ugh, I hardly ever post anything on there anyway, but I thought it might be fun to put my cover reveal teasers there. Not so fun after all!
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!