Annette's blog

The Carwash Dragon

Yesterday, I abandoned the promotion of Celebration House to join my husband’s family at their annual retreat at Priest Lake, Idaho. The sun was shining; the water was warm. The food at the family potluck was amazing. Alas, with less than a week to go, I needed to be here, in front of my computer, coordinating publicity for my book.

But, I was fortunate enough to spend time with one of my husband’s cousins, Sarah, who a few weeks back opened her home to three young children in need of sanctuary. With her own two daughters, and a friend of one of these girls, Sarah took six children to the lake this weekend. I would need medication to do this, perhaps a Prozac patch. Just slap that sucker on and all is good.

While strolling to the restroom with Sarah’s daughter, Emma, I was asked, “Do you really write books?” And with a ridiculous amount of pride, I said, “Yes. Yes, I do.” I then launched into the telling of this short tale, which I share here for all to see, but especially Miss Emma. Please to enjoy The Carwash Dragon.




 Jack was afraid of nothing. Except dragons. And carwashes.

While riding his bicycle to the schoolyard to play, he heard someone crying.  He stopped pedaling and there, underneath a tall pecan tree, sat a little green dragon, a pink barrette in her hair.

Her wings were folded around her body like ear muffs.  Her tail draped around her neck like a lost scarf.  But despite tail and wings, Jack heard the little dragon crying.

Jack was afraid of dragons.  But who can pedal past someone who is so sad?  Jack had to stop.  He got off his bicycle and walked over to the little dragon, who sat sniffling and snuffling.  After a minute, she blew her nose on her tail.

“Are you okay, little dragon?” Jack asked.

Without even looking up, the dragon said, “I’m lost,” and cried even louder.  A puddle of tears pooled around her feet.

Jack didn’t know what to do.  His mom and dad would know what to do, but they were a block behind him.  They couldn’t keep up with Jack when he rode his bicycle.  They walked but he pedaled.

“Fly up high, little dragon.  You can find your house if you fly above the trees.”

“I’m afraid of heights,” the dragon said, pointing to the sky with her front foot.  Unfolding her wings, she looked at Jack for the first time.

When she saw Jack, she closed her wings back against her body.

“What’s wrong?” Jack asked, looking around to see what had spooked the dragon.

“I’m afraid of little boys,” she said, her sobs shaking her whole body.

“Everybody is afraid of something,” Jack told her. “I’m afraid of the carwash.”

The dragon stopped sniffling.  She unfolded her wings and laid down her tail.

“I’m not afraid of the carwash,” she said.

“You’re not?” Jack asked. He was surprised.

“No.  I like the cool water on my skin, and those big blue brushes scratch my back in just the right spot.  It’s a lot faster than a bath too.”

“What about the hot air that blows at the end?” Jack asked.  “Doesn’t that scare you?”

“No.  It blows my scales dry so I don’t catch a cold when I go outside.”

“But carwashes are so loud,” Jack said.

She shrugged.  “I guess I’m used to it.  Our lair is right by the carwash.”

“It is?” Jack asked.  “I know how to get to the carwash.  Climb on my bike, and I’ll take you there.”

“Well, are you sure it’s safe?”

“C’mon,” Jack told her.  “You can trust me.  Here, I’ll help you up.  My name is Jack.”

“I’m Olive.  It’s nice to meet you.”

Jack got off the bike and held the handlebars steady.  The dragon stepped up into the basket on the bicycle, right behind his seat.  Jack swung his legs back over the bicycle frame.  Her feet tucked into the basket, the little dragon rested her front claws on Jack’s shoulders.  Her breath felt warm on his neck.

“Okay.  I’m ready,” she told Jack.  “But go slow.  I’ll get scared if you go too fast.”

Jack started pedaling, the dragon perched behind him.  He pedaled this way and that, turning left and then right, until he got to the carwash.  Soaring high above the building were two huge dragons, their shadows crisscrossing the ground.

“That’s my mom and dad,” the dragon said. “Hey! I’m down here,” she shouted to them and waved.

Suddenly, the earth shook.  Sitting right in front of Jack were the two biggest dragons he’d ever imagined, their wings green and golden in the sunlight.  Olive jumped down from the bicycle and ran to her parents, who both looked at Jack curiously.

“Where have you been, Olive?” the first dragon asked.  Her voice reminded Jack of his mother’s voice when he was in trouble.

“I got lost, Mom,” she said, looking down at the ground.

“And who is your friend?” the other, even-bigger dragon asked, his deep voice booming in Jack’s ears.

“His name is Jack, and he’s very brave,” Olive said to her father. “He’s not afraid of anything.”

“He’s not?” her father asked. “How unusual.”

“Do your parents know where you are, Jack?” her mother asked.

“No, ma’am. I better be going.”

Olive stepped up to Jack and kissed him on the cheek.

“Thank you for bringing me home,” she said to Jack. “You are fearless.”

Jack turned his bike around and pedaled back towards home.  He heard both of his parents calling his name as he reached the schoolyard.

“Where have you been, Jack? We looked for you everywhere,” his mother said.

“I went to the carwash.”

“That’s a long way to pedal by yourself,” his dad said.

“I wasn’t alone. I took a friend home.”

“You rode all the way to the carwash, Jack? Weren’t you afraid?” his mother asked.

“Yes, I was. But it seemed more important to take her home than to feel afraid. And when I got there, I felt…”

What word had Olive used? Jack remembered.

“I felt fearless.”



Annette's blog

Hugh Howey! My hero…

Recently, I stumbled onto the May/June 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest. A young, good-looking man stared back at me and I saw his name: Hugh Howey. That name was familiar.

I turned to page 34 and read. What I learned may change my life.

In July of 2011, Hugh posted an e-book novella of “Wool” online. In October, he realized the book was selling about 1,000 copies per month. He compiled all five sections of the book, and three months later, he was selling 20,000-30,000 copies of the book. “Wool” went on to become the Kindle Book Review’s 2012 Best Indie Book Award in the Sci-Fi/fantasy category. By the time the book had been out for about a year, Howey was selling 20,000-30,000 copies of “Wool” a month. His monthly salary: $150,000 from e-book sales alone. He quit his day job. The offers of representation poured in, as did the offers from publishers. But Howey did an amazing thing: he only sold the hardback and paperback rights to “Wool.” He kept the e-book rights for himself. This is revolutionary for authors.

I know it’s ridiculous to compare “Bone Girl” to “Wool.” They’re different genres. “Wool” is science fiction, and as near as I can figure, “Bone Girl” is a middle-grade novel.

But one Sunday night a few weeks ago, the financial pressure cooker that is my life darn near exploded. In desperation, I thought, hell, let me see if I can put “Bone Girl” on Kindle. And guess what? I did. I put together some cover art and lo and behold, I downloaded the first three chapters. Why not? That was the same amount of material I sent to all of the agents and publishers who rejected the book. How many rejections exactly? About 22 now.

Howey self-published his books because he was impatient. I am the queen of impatience. My former journalism professor, Les Dunseith, told me I was the most impatient person he had ever known. Flatterer.

But there was more to it than that. Howey wanted someone to read his work rather than let it languish on the hard drive of his computer. Me again. That was the reason I put Bone Girl on the Authonomy website. I never intended to fight my way to the top so an editor at HarperCollins would read it. I wanted anyone to read it, regardless of whether it propelled my writing career.

Here’s the scary thing about Bone Girl: it’s the best book I’ve written. I don’t know if I will ever write another book with such an amazing main character, and I can’t sell the darn thing. My rejection count stands at 22.

Self-publish it? I don’t know. Maybe. I’m sure thinking about it.

Annette's blog

The final edits are done! Oh, the final edits are done…

George Lucas once said, “Films never get finished. They get abandoned.”

After spending every spare moment over the last two weekends – adding more details about minor characters, finagling punctuation, inserting little hints so that a sequel is feasible – I finished Celebration House. And I knew what George meant.

I returned the manuscript to my editor. I couldn’t look at the book anymore. I felt like a high school student taking the ACT who finishes the test before time is up and goes back to change correct answers. My editor emailed me later that night. The manuscript was returned to the Tirgearr Publishing and was on its way to the proofreader.

I have so many worries about Celebration House. Did I give the reader enough description so that they can envision Stratton House? Are the renovations and the speed at which they are accomplished plausible? Will the reader empathize with my main character, Carrie, or find her annoying? Are people interested in what Civil War ghosts have to say? Ugh! I just don’t know.

But I will know after August 1st when Celebration House is opened to the public. In the meantime, I stew. I fret. It’s like sending your child off to kindergarten. Are the other kids going to be nice to her? Will they want to play with her or will they think she’s just sort of, well, weird?

The rational part of my brain knows that Celebration House is just one of thousands of books to be published this year. Thousands! Will this one small volume of 45,000 words really make any difference in anybody’s world? Probably not. But boy, I sure hope it does.

Hands and arms inside the cart: What I learned from Hugh Howey. Who’s that? He’s my hero!



Annette's blog

The land of book blogs

Finish writing my book: Check.

Find a publisher who believes in it: Check.

Promote it: Huh?

My journey into the world of published author continues. Next stop: the land of book blogs.

Now that my cover art is done and while the editing process winds down, I’ve begun the daunting task of promoting my book. My hope is that readers with $2.99 burning a hole in their pocket will know of its existence and buy it.

My publisher sent me a list of 315 blogs that review books and recommend or condemn them. My task is to write to these bloggers and ask them to review my book or consider an author interview.

Some bloggers say yes. My first was Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews. Some say no, like Jennifer Vido. Her blog spotlights well-known authors like Karen White. Not little-known authors like Annette Drake.

But I find myself taken aback by some of these blogs. For instance, many of them feature romance novels with lots more heat than my humble offering. Spoiler alert: there’s no sex in Celebration House. My main character can’t even touch her love interest until the part where… Oh, nevermind. I’ll let you read it for yourself. 

My goal is to write to five bloggers a night. Unfortunately, this begging of bloggers takes up my precious writing time.

Here’s how it works: I tuck my 6-year-old son, Jack, into bed. Oh, hell, let’s be honest, I beg my husband to put him to bed. Then I sneak up to my office, quietly close (and lock!) the door behind me, and I enter a world I didn’t know existed.

Some of these sites I’ve stumbled onto are hosted by women younger than my daughters. These bloggers are much more skilled at designing a blog page than I will ever be. Their sites sizzle.

My book has a paranormal element, so I thought it appropriate to query the blog Paranormal Book Club. Holy buckets! Is that blood splattered all over their home page? Are there three characters on that book cover? Jack isn’t seeing this, is he? I think you get the idea.

So I posted something on Twitter about looking for blogs to promote my book. A family friend told me to check out the blog, LadySmut, by author Liz Everly. Okay. You’d think I would glimpse the subject matter by the title, right? No. I’ve never been that quick. One of the books she reviews, Venus in Furs, features cover art that made me scratch my head and wonder, what part of the human body is that? I did learn a thing or two. Did you know there is breast milk erotica?

Now, if you will please excuse me, I still have my daily quota of five bloggers to write to and ask if they will review Celebration House. Hmm…there’s a blog on this list called “Pages of Forbidden Love.” Wonder what that’s all about?

Hands and arms inside the cart, please: Next, my final edits are done! Oh, my final edits are done…