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It’s that time of year again. When we say goodbye to this year and hello to the next one. Happy New Year all!
I’m a firm believer in telling the universe what you want. It solidifies it in my mind. And who knows, she just might be listening.
So here are my resolutions for 2013:
- Lose 35 lbs and keep it off.
- Exercise 4-5 days per week.
- Follow a low-carb eating regimen.
- Self-publish my novel, The Six Train to Wisconsin.
- Find a full-time job and move back to a major or minor city.
- Submit my third manuscript to agents and publishers.
She is a brilliant writer but this is a tale of darkness. Of disturbing acts. Of broken people.
Stephen King blurbed her book and said it best: “…I found myself dreading the last thirty pages or so but was helpless to stop turning them. Then after the lights were out, the story just stayed there in my head, coiled and hissing, like a snake in a cave. An admirably nasty piece of work, elevated by sharp writing and sharper insights.”
The writing is top notch and the story unfolds perfectly on the page. It is the height of tragedy, the depth of depravity, the width of wickedness. All in one slim volume.
Read it, I dare you.
I wanted to thank all my blog followers for sticking with me this year through the ups and downs of my writer journey. You are the absolute best!
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. Happy Holidays! Seasons Greetings! And if your holiday is tomorrow: Merry Christmas! Here’s some pictures of holiday lights that I shot this winter. Hope they brighten up your holiday.
I was feeling pretty annihilated in October and November. As you’ve read, my life from 2010-2012 revolved utterly around my writing. And my writing was going nowhere. Which meant I was going nowhere.
At least in my own mind. And we all know how powerful thoughts are. Powerful enough to warp reality.
I got out of bed everyday. I did all the things on my to-do list. I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. I wasn’t feeling me anymore.
Things were losing their point and I was sinking into my own self-imposed unhappiness.
That’s when I went into the city for a week and read The Time Traveler’s Wife.
This book destroyed me emotionally. But it helped me find myself again. Reach inside and pull me back to the surface.
Remembering all the pain, the loss, the love, and the laughter.
Touching on the abandonment I’d felt so acutely that I had to disengage to survive.
And it all rushed back.
The emotions flooded my mind.
I cried through most of this book.
But I think it’s because of how beautiful it is. How evocative it became. How deeply I was sucked into their world and able to re-access my own.
I can’t talk about this book without getting choked up. I hope that never goes away. I hope it forever tugs at my heart and makes my eyes blur with tears.
Because this is the kind of book I dream of writing. The kind of emotion I hope to one day bleed onto the page.
This is a book that altered the fabric of my life.
It is because of this book that I am excited about my future again.
I get in the car with Grandma H and pull out my lip balm. (It’s in a tube)
Grandma H asks, “Is that lipstick?”
“No,” I say, “It’s lip balm.”
“You could put on a little lipstick.”
“I don’t like lipstick. It dries my lips out.”
“But you’d be so pretty with a little lipstick,” she insists.
“I’m good with chapstick.”
“But you could put on lipstick.”
“I could also have sex with ten men,” I say.
She giggles. “Well, sex with ten men sounds better than lipstick.”
I burst out laughing.
We are shopping in the mall at Sears in CT. She is drawn to a boucle tan sweater jacket.
“Oh, this is nice,” she says.
I check the price tag. “It’s 120.”
“No pesos,” I say.
She bursts out laughing.
We are in IHOP talking about my eating low carb again.
She says, “You look good, stick to it.”
“I plan to.”
“Maybe you can get a boyfriend?” she asks.
“Yeah, once I lose the weight. I’m just not comfy getting naked in this body.”
With extreme vehemence, she says, “Oh no.” And shakes her head.
“It’s not that bad,” I say.
She realizes how disgusted she sounded and starts to laugh. That silent shoulder shaking, going to pee myself kind of laugh.
I can’t help joining in.
I stop by Grandma H’s house and she’s sitting at the table drinking orange-red colored stuff.
I ask, “Is that tomato juice or sauce?” (This is a valid question with Grandma H)
“It’s something eight,” she says.
“Something eight?” I ask.
My mom jumps in. “V-8.”
“Ah,” I say.
We are at IHOP and I tell her how people keep asking me where my cousin has been. It’s annoying.
Grandma H says, “Tell them he has toemain poisoning.”
“Toemain poisoning. It’s a real thing. Google it,” she tells me.
I look it up. It’s spelled ptomaine poisoning and you get it from canned foods.
So I ask, “Where did you learn about that?”
She shrugs. “TV.”
Leon Shure has graciously agreed to share his experiences with indie publishing with me. This is Leon circa the early years. I met him at a conference a few years back where we suffered the slings and arrows of agents together. By then he was a full-grown adult, but neither of us escaped unscathed.
I see in your Smashwords profile that you’ve been very prolific at indie publishing, can you share your thoughts on the hardest and easiest part of indie publishing your e-books?
I’ve been self-publishing since September 2010, about two years and a quarter ago, and have six mysteries and two books of puns for sale at all the e-book stores.
I’m prolific because I’ve given myself permission to write. I’m a big believer in learning by doing. I am an imperfectionist. If I waited for my books to be perfect, I’d never publish. The ability to write evolves. Each book is better than the last. Because I can make mistakes, I can write a lot. If I’ve written something really dumb, I know I’ll catch it in the second draft. Also, I know that no matter how I try, I will never catch all the grammatical errors. I do my best with spell-checkers in the word processing programs. I spend a lot of time unscrambling my sentences so that they don’t draw attention when I don’t want them to stop the reader in his tracks. I believe the reader would rather read something authentic than scrubbed.
I think most writers go through an initial period where their work is awful and should never see the light of day. Then one day, it just seems that your writing is good enough. I started to publish the day after I realized that my work was ready for public inspection.
Did you format the e-books yourself or hire a company to help you? If you did it yourself, how hard was it to do? Any tips you’d pass along?
Self-publishing isn’t hard and, above all, it is not expensive. If you can bear to do your own formatting and editing, it’s free. My only cost of publishing is the money I pay to get a decent cover.
My advice on self-publishing is not to allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the technical requirements. I’ve been using Smashwords (www.smashwords.com) and, if you follow the clearly written directions on the website, you can format your own work. If it turns out that your book has some internal formatting problems that can’t pass the “meatgrinder,” you can always use the “nuclear option” of copying your book into Notepad to remove all formatting and to begin over. The hardest part is doing the formatting the first time. After that, you can copy your latest novel into the format you created, then delete the previous book from that. Then it’s only a matter of putting the correct number of spaces between chapters.
If you need help in formatting, many people can be found on the internet to help you. Besides Smashwords, there are many other “aggregators” on the net, which will distribute your books to the various e-book stores in the correct file type.
I want to say a few words about the marvelous program, Scrivener. This cheap, $45 program makes organizing a novel much easier and allows you to keep track of your characters and plotting. It is possible, although I haven’t tried it yet, to format from Scrivener directly into the file type used by Amazon.
Your covers are very eye-catching, did you hire someone to design them or did you create them on your own?
Many artists are available on the internet to create a decent cover, and some will charge $50 or less. I was lucky enough to have a personal friend, Gabi Ladowski (www.gabiladowsk.com ), who will make me a cover for $100. When I’m three-quarters through a second draft, I send him an e-mail with the plot and describe several of the most dramatic scenes in the mystery. He sends me a few sample covers, and there always seems to be one that is best.
Just like there is no perfect novel and no perfect blurb, etc., there is no perfect cover. One of the great things about self-publishing is you can go back after awhile, and redo the cover, if it isn’t working for you. When it turns out that I’m writing a series, I like to go back and have covers that look somewhat similar in theme.
What sort of marketing plan did you use to get the word out about your books? What do you wish you’d done differently/what worked out better than you expected?
I have never advertised and I’m selling books.
The common advice to create a platform is true. If you can do a blog, great. I personally don’t have anything interesting to say each day or even each month. I used my Twitter account to write puns, then published my tweets. I now have two books of puns for free on Amazon. The price is right and I’ve had thousands of downloads worldwide.
The trick to selling books is having people come to your pages at the e-book stores. If they’ve read my puns, I’ve reached my market: smart people with a sense of humor who are trying to understand the world. I believe there is a market for every writer. Among the billions in the world, you can find 1000 readers who appreciate what you write. I’ve found readers in Australia, Wales, Ireland, Canada, and everywhere else English is spoken.
Readers read series, and everyone tries to come up with a character that can be used again and again. This isn’t anything new, of course. For example, Sherlock Holmes. To attract readers, I make the first of a series the cheapest, often free, at least for a while. A whole network on the internet exists to spotlight free books. Google my name for examples. Every time a free book is mentioned on one of these sites, I get multiple hits on my pages at the e-book stores.
Another thing about free books is that they get multiple reviews. Readers seem to really like my books or to really hate my books. It’s important to keep a good attitude about this. Even the worst reviews can be helpful. My first long review was from a lady in New Zealand. I couldn’t believe anyone would actually sit down and review, at length, what I’d written. Even though she only gave me two stars, she had some valuable things to say. I’ m trying to write books that are read, and any feedback can be useful.
Knowing what you know now, would you still indie publish your e-books?
Self-publishing has been a wonderful experience for me. It’s totally unique. When else in history has a writer had a world market? Never and never one where you can reach a reader in his own home. I feel like I have a connection with people I would surely never meet in life. I’m not going to make a lot of money in self-publishing, but really, only a few people make money in any of the arts. There may be 25 stars in Hollywood, a few hundred who do supporting roles, then there is the rest: the travelling stock companies and unpaid weekend actors. It’s like that in writing too. A few stars, and the rest of us. Even the stars aren’t going to be read in a generation. Not to be depressing, but only a tiny number of books that are published are read in the following century. I always get a kick out of the old movies based on a then current best seller no one has ever heard of today.
It’s better to be out in the world and doing your best.
Leon Shure has published four mysteries, all taking place in the wealthy and diverse North Shore suburbs of Chicago. These are “Fatal Sisters,” “The Baba Yaga, a Dr. Adam Karl Mystery,” and “Screams and Bleeds, a Vanek Mystery,” and “The Search for Hanson Sted, a Cal Hodges Mystery,” Another of his books, a free collection of his Twitter tweets “#Conversationstopers: Puns, Non Sequitur, Impossible Scenarios” became a ebook best seller, with almost 10,000 downloads and a second collection of his #Conversationstoppers has been published. A new series, the Kate Wehring Mysteries, will be published this summer, starting with two books.
Shure is a life-long resident of the Chicago area, and has lived both in the city and in the North and Northwest suburbs. A bachelors and masters graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Shure worked for the Lerner Newspapers (a chain of weeklies in the city); the Day Newspapers, a suburban daily newspaper chain owned by Field Enterprises, now the Chicago Sun-Times;, and Paddock Publications, a chain of daily newspapers in the Northwest suburbs, where he worked as a police reporter. He received the Jacob Sher Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting.
I could not see the malevolence in his face.
My “seeing eye woman” flung her body against my side, knocking both of us to the cold airport terminal floor. I instinctively struggled to rise. Kayko recovered faster, fell off me, sat up and, straight armed, used all the weight she could leverage to push me back down. “Just stay there!” she whispered.
An explosive discharge echoed off the sides of the airport walls. I heard robotic outbursts I could not interpret.
The gunman turned and ran, pushed hard against a non-automatic door, exited into daylight and kept running. Men in blue shirts, running just as hard, banged the door against its casings as they rushed to follow.
I looked behind me to see if anyone was hurt. I saw only blank faces, but no one was on the ground. Security guards from the nearby gates surrounded us, lifted us to our feet, held us by our elbows and pulled us towards an office about 50 feet away. “Stay here until you are debriefed,” one guard said and closed the door.
You can purchase Leon’s books via:
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A good friend once told me you have to go backwards to go forwards.
And I do think a lot of the answers are in the past.
Or at least the perspective I craved.
Being somewhere I lived for 8 years, I kept expecting to run into younger versions of me. Like we all still coexist there.
And on some level we do.
The me that consulted in midtown, I almost glimpsed her through the glass doors in her white Mad Men-esque suit.
The me who commuted to Times Square every morning for 3 years, I traced her footsteps into the subway of Wall Street.
The me who first moved to the city in 2000, I swear she was just across the street in Grammercy. I almost waved.
Each place invokes a memory, a time past. A me that once existed as surely as this one does right now.
And each version had her strengths and weaknesses. But she was there. Marking time and living a life.
The greatest blessing was my trifecta of friends (A, Z, and B). In their eyes, I saw who I had been. Who I still was to them. Who I could be again.
Lately, I feel like I’m stuck. Waiting. Like I hit the pause button and my life hasn’t restarted yet.
I want it to. I’ve given two years to the dream of writing. At the expense of everything else in my life.
At the time, it felt necessary. Required to be become a better writer.
But now. Things are shifting inside me.
I want more.
It doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing, but it means writing will be a priority. Not my only priority. And I think I’ll get closer to happy for it.
With just a few weeks left to 2012, it’s time to turn to that annoying task. Holding myself accountable for my resolutions. Upside, the ones in bold are completed. Downside the rest are in some state of incomplete.
- Lose 30 lbs and keep it off. —Currently lost 8 lbs.
- Exercise 4-5 days per week. —On and off throughout year. Usually 3-5 days a week.
- Follow a lower carb eating regimen.–Just committed in December. It’s a lifestyle.
- Edit my YA manuscript and submit to 30 agents.–Edited the YA manuscript and submitted to more than 30 agents.
- Submit my adult manuscript to 50 agents. –Submitting adult manuscript to over 50 agents.
- Finish drafting my third manuscript.–Completed draft in July 2012.
- Edit my third manuscript.–Halfway through revisions and should be done in early January.
- Spend more time playing with my dog, Emerson.–I’ve been playing with Emerson more. Score!
- Go to Hawaii or Germany.–Doesn’t look likely this year. But I got to CA which is beachy and warm and has good wine.
5/9 completed. 4 to carry into the next year. It was ambitious goal setting last January. Now to contemplate the next round of resolutions.
The potato pancake with apple sauce and sour cream. The highlight of my Sunday.
Lunch fried tofu appetizer at the Pad Thai Noodle Lounge on 8th Ave.
Chrysler Building from Midtown on way to Yama.
Yama’s for sushi.
Fried green tea ice cream.
Wall Street X-Mas tree.
Grand Central Station.