Annette's blog

Sharing a review of Bone Girl

If you read this blog on a regular basis or perhaps know me personally, you know I struggle with insecurity. I think all writers do. We worry our stories don’t make sense or they’re boring and no one will read them. Last night, I was given a brief respite from my self-doubt.

I was sitting in the back of the room at my local writer’s guild monthly meeting when I received notice of a review that had posted to GoodReads. I’ll be honest, I was a teeny bit bored, so I opened the email. After I finished reading, it was all I could do to not openly sob, so I sniffled and snuffled and discreetly wiped away my tears. Here is what I read:

“I did a pre-publishing beta read of Annette Drake’s Bone Girl a few weeks before its recent launch March 1st. I was a little nervous about it since the book description and the age of the protagonist made me think of it as a book for middle school kids. It’s been years since I was in middle school. In fact, it’s been years since my kids were in middle school. Would I still be able to relate to it?

But I’d been happily reading a range of styles and genres since joining Goodreads. I’d enjoyed Ms Drake’s Celebration House despite not being a paranormal romance aficionada. (Quite frankly, I had no idea there was a genre called that before joining GR reading groups.) And so, I began Bone Girl with an open mind and was soon caught up in the story.

Josie was a very sympathetic and believable character and her father was a good-hearted long-suffering Atticus Finch type fellow who nearly broke my heart. Throughout the story, he quietly and stoically did what he thought was right without complaining or making a big deal out of it. (Can you guess he was my favorite character?) He reminded me of my own dad, and toward the end I wanted to shout for him to stop and let us help him. Let us hold some of that world that’s been weighing on your shoulders far too long.

And so, I liked the book despite my age. Maybe it’s because the story was a nice balance between real world challenges and a little hopeful idealism in which you just knew that somehow, some way, things had to turn out right. Or maybe it’s because Ms. Drake simply knows how to tell a good story. By the time I was done, I wanted to learn to play the trombone and be a bone girl too. I wanted to live on a horse farm.

Give Bone Girl a try, whether you’re in middle school or decades past it.”

All I can say is thank you, P.J. Thank you.

Annette's blog

Sing it with me, “Down by the bay…”

Last night, I crossed an item off my bucket list: I auditioned for a play.

Perhaps you wonder, why does Annette want to be in a play?

It’s all about the writing. I read an interview with Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey. He said being involved in theater fine-tuned his writing. Seems like a great reason to me.

Our local community theater is putting on a production of Gypsy, the story of burlesque performer, Gypsy Rose Lee. My husband and I had been talking about auditioning for Gypsy for a long time. But talking is not actually planning because to be truthful, I wasn’t really sure I would do it. When we got home last night, my daughter asked me why I hadn’t told her I was going to audition. The simple truth: I wasn’t sure I would.

My husband and I arrived at the Spokane Civic Theater a little before 6:30 p.m. I clutched my sheet music of “Down By the Bay,” tightly in my fist. I imagined a cozy room with the director, a piano and accompanist, and me. This wasn’t what awaited us. Instead, we were directed to a small stage and there were at least 50 people there. Ugh…

The auditions began at 6:30 prompt. The first to perform was a strikingly pretty young woman who obviously was not new to theater. She sang beautifully and that’s when I realized that although the website said newcomers were welcome, ages 7 to 70, I was the only newcomer there.

One by one, I watched all of the other hopefuls audition. My husband, always at my side, whispered words of encouragement to me. I always carry a small notebook, so I wrote notes to him, such as “They don’t pay these people, do they?”

When the director said, “Is there anybody else here to audition?” I knew it was go time. Fish or cut bait. This. Was. It. Did I have the courage to stand up and join the ranks of wanna-be performers? Or should I hunker down in my chair instead? My heart raced. My palms sweat. I stood up. I stepped over the pianist, who I believe is the music director, and gave her my one solitary sheet of music. At the last minute, I had chosen a tune sung by children’s performer, Raffi.

Then I stepped onto the stage.

“Hello. My name is Annette Poole, and this is my first audition.” I was greeted with applause. 

I said, “I didn’t realize I had to sing to be an usher. I’ll be performing “Down by the Bay” from Raffi’s Greatest Hits. Join in if you know the words.” (More applause and polite laughter).

The pianist played a few notes and looked at me. I looked back at her. She played the same note again and looked at me. I looked at her. Finally, mercifully, someone said, “That’s your cue.”

Oh.

I began to sing.

“Down by the bay, where the watermelons grow…”

And then it happened. I forgot the words. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this song. I played that Raffi CD for my children over and over again. I knew the words to “Down by the Bay.” Except at that precise moment, I didn’t. But the pianist kept playing, and I kept standing there, and thankfully, she got to the part of the song I remembered, and I belted out… “Down by the Bay.”

A roar of applause. I think I forgot to bow or maybe I didn’t know to do so in the first place. My first audition was over.

Later, the director gave me a script to read for him. In this scene, Rose tells one of the young performers to “Go to bed.” I’ve been a mom since 1990. Trust me when I say, that is a phrase I can deliver. And I did. It was one of four lines I was given to recite. I told the other actor who played opposite me, “I’m hoping for a non-speaking part.” He’s probably never heard anyone say that.

The great thing about this whole experience was what a breath of fresh air it was to sit in that theater and watch as the written word came alive. What a change from my real life. If I apply the litmus test of asking myself if I would do it again, the answer is yes.  

And I know you’re wondering: did I get a part? I don’t know yet. Callbacks are tomorrow night. But I think I did. Here’s my line: “Please allow me to show you to your seat.”

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, the beauty of failure.  

Annette's blog

Writing from a man’s point of view.

I was stuck. I didn’t know what to write. I didn’t know how to finish A Year with Geno.

So, I called in an expert. I called Geno, the male lead in my novel.

I’ve written most of the scenes in my current work-in-progress, A Year with Geno, from the viewpoint of the female protagonist, Caroline. If you’ve read my other two novels, thank you. You probably realized that Celebration House, and my most recent release, Bone Girl, were mostly written from the prospective of the female main character. So far, that seemed to work out.

But last week, my writing screeched to a sudden halt; Caroline didn’t have anything more to say.

So I decided to go around her. I sat down at my computer two days ago with the sole intention of writing from Geno’s perspective. Wow. Now that character had a lot to say. To begin with, he admitted to me that he cared for Caroline way before she realized her feelings for him. In fact, for much of the book, she overlooked him, or at least, that’s how he saw things.

This was huge for me. Because to be honest, I’m much more comfortable with my gender than the other one. It’s that “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” thing. Growing up with two brothers and four male cousins, you think I wouldn’t have this blind spot, but I do. I’m just more comfortable around women.

But I heard Geno’s voice loud and clear near the end of the book. I don’t want to give too much away. No spoiler alerts for those three of you that read this blog, so I’ll keep my show and tell at a minimum.

In the third-to-last scene, Geno hits his stride when Caroline spouts my favorite Emerson quote: “I cannot hear you words, sir, for so loudly do your actions speak.”

Here’s what Geno said back to her:

“‘You’re real proud of that quote, Caroline. My actions? My actions speak? Okay. Lets take a minute and listen to what they have to say. I move you into my house. I treat your sons like they’re my own. I make your problems my problems. I can’t keep my hands off you even when you make it pretty damn clear you don’t want them on you. I beg you to date me, but you tell me no. I do whatever I can to make life better for you, but you don’t see that. Because you don’t want to see that. So I watch as you date Alaska’s finest and find them wanting. Even then, you overlook me, and I put up with it because I think maybe, just maybe, there will come a day when you will see what’s right in front of you…’

At this, his voice broke and Caroline watched as Geno struggled to hold back tears. ‘I’m just sorry Trevor beat you to it.’

Geno let go of her arm and stomped down the hallway. He slammed his bedroom door so hard the molding broke.”

Wow. Okay. Note to self: spend more time listening to my male characters, especially you, Geno.

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, the beauty of failure.

Annette's blog

The boss speaks. And I listen.

Last week, my husband and I stopped by his work place for a quick look at some gardening materials. While there, my husband made a point to stop and talk to his co-worker, Tonya.

She has the weekend off so she was buying supplies for the snow storm we are expecting in Spokane. Tonya said she planned to reread Celebration House this weekend. I was surprised at this. Reread it? Huh?

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “I want to read it a second time so when the sequel comes out, I’ll be ready. You are working on the next book, right? When will it be done? Shouldn’t you be at home writing now?”

I felt a little taken aback because to be honest, Celebration House hasn’t sold well. While I write this, the book is 616,310 in the Amazon ratings. If I am reading my royalty statements correctly, and there’s no guarantee I am, about fifty people have purchased the book since it debuted in August. So here’s the math:

The royalties I have received minus my expenses of promoting it equals  -$5.

But you wouldn’t know that to see Tonya’s enthusiasm, which I can sum up with one word: hungry. She is hungry for Celebration House to resume and for the characters she met on those pages to once again share their struggles and triumphs with her. One of Tonya’s comments hit home for me. She said she liked the book so much because she related to these characters. Yes! (Fist pump).

Indie authors only have one boss: our readers. Tonya reminded me of this. Thank you.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: A man’s point of view. Specifically, Geno’s point of view.

Annette's blog

Letting go

After two and a half years, hundreds of hours spent staring at a computer screen, countless Wednesday nights reading pages aloud to my critique group, after all this time, it’s done. Bone Girl is finished and made available to anybody with $2.99 and an e-reader.

I began writing this book in 2011. From the beginning, the beauty of this story took my breath away. I don’t know where on earth the main character came from, what corner of my imagination gave her breath, but wow. If any author ever loved a character, I love Josey Miller.

I have so many doubts about this book. I think that’s probably a common feeling for writers. I wonder if anybody will read it, and if they do, will it inspire or offend?

I’m currently listing it as a book for readers ages 9-12, but I don’t know if that’s accurate. Because to be honest with you, I don’t have anyone in my life that fits in that age group. All of my readers have been adults. And does the fact that the main character is 11 years old necessarily make it a kids book? I don’t know. I find myself using those words a lot: I don’t know.

This book takes place in small-town Missouri, a fictional town I created called Bennett Springs. Ah, yes, the Missourians among you say, Bennett Springs is real. It’s a state park and one of my favorite places on this earth. I love Bennett Springs State Park. I often watch their web cam while I write. Yes, they have a webcam, or to be more accurate, a trout cam. Here’s the link: http://mostateparks.com/content/trout-cam

Horses play a huge role in this book. I named the leading horse, Chief, after an American Saddlebred gelding my grandparents owned. I was afraid of this horse and with good reason. He injured my grandmother, who was an experienced horsewoman, and she spent a night or two in the local hospital because of him.

Some of the scenes I wrote, including the first time the farrier trims Chief’s hooves, were based on experiences with my own horse, Lacy. She struggles with the farrier too. Her front legs are deformed, and she has difficulty balancing her weight. The patience and kindness shown to her by my farrier, Jay Healy, is recounted in my book. And like Chief, she loves peppermint candies and eats an apple one bite at a time.

There’s no story without conflict, and I’ve included two bullies, both an adult and a child version. The child, Andy Barton, gets his comeuppance in one of the latter scenes of the book. The adult bully is the banker who owns Chief and holds the note to the family farm. I don’t tell the reader exactly what happens with this character. I leave that hanging, but by the end of the book, Josey’s father find himself in a place where he can tell the banker to please go away now.

On Thursday, I received an audition snippet from a voice actor who may narrate Bone Girl. He is reviewing the manuscript now. As I sat listening to him read my words, I was struck by how this small dream of mine is growing wings and wants a life of its own. Without me.

Meanwhile, I rise at 5 a.m., make a cup of coffee and sit here at the computer, writing and revising A Year with Geno, my next novel. After this book is finished, I return to Celebration House to write the sequels. But I can’t move forward with these projects until I let go of the book that’s occupied my imagination for so long. I’m ready to do that today. I’m letting go.

This is Bone Girl.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: a reminder why pleasing the reader is all that matters.