Fristers for Life!

I LOVE this picture. I want to be at this party. When I received this email, I just burst out laughing. I hope the photograph makes you smile too.

It takes a lot of confidence to wear a hat like that! From left: Kristy, Kathy, Karen, and Deb. Kathy, who sent me the photo said, “We have all been close and so grateful for the love we share for each other.”

Best friends!

About two weeks or so ago, I asked readers to make a deal with me: if they would send me a photograph of themselves with their best friend, I would give them a copy of Return to Celebration House. Readers answered the call, and I received some truly lovely pictures.
The problem was, what to do with these treasures? Initially, I planned to build a collage, but because there are so many pictures, they would all be teeny tiny. That’s no good.
Instead, I decided to post one picture to my blog every day for the next two weeks or so. That way, the photographs are of decent size. I’ll share them in the order in which they were received.
It was a delight to receive these photographs. All of the women (and a couple of men) who were shown looked so happy. That in turn made me happy. My husband said I cackled with delight each time I received one.
My sincere thanks.
Annette
***

From left: Sue and her best friend, Annette. They vacation on Galveston Island, Texas, every year. Sue was one of the first readers to reach out to me.

Remembering my priorities

Currently, I’m attending a romance writers conference in Seattle. I’ve wanted to go for several years, but I’ve never been able to get the time off from my day job or afford to go. This year, I’m lucky enough to have both.

Romance novels come in lots of different sizes and heat ratings. Friday, I sat in on a session and learned of a new sexual practice: edge play. Do you know what this is? I didn’t either, so I raised my hand and asked the editor to clarify the term. She said it’s when lovers use knives –  yes, knives – in their sexual foreplay. Okay. I did not know this. I felt really dumb until I overheard one of the conference keynote speakers, a New York Times bestselling romance writer, admit she didn’t know what it was either.

Yesterday, during another session, a very successful author shared her experiences with the biggest publisher of romance, Harlequin. She said she knew her relationship with the publisher was over when her editor asked her to rewrite her manuscript seven times and then said she realized she had taken the author’s voice completely out of the book. This author said she had a book published (for which Harlequin owns the rights for 30 years) that she is ashamed of. She apologizes to readers for the poor quality of this book. Wow.

I came to this conference to pitch my Celebration House Trilogy to a film scout. And I did that. Will anything come of the business card I palmed off on her? Hard to know. She doesn’t represent women’s fiction, stories that would be a perfect fit for the Hallmark Channel. Her connections at Universal Studios and Paramount Studios are looking for edgy, dark stories. Ones that probably involve knives.

So, I returned to my hotel room and stared out at the amazing view of Lake Washington and Bellevue from my room on the 15th floor. And I’ll be honest: I felt discouraged. It’s like I told my husband, “I don’t fit here.” I don’t write stories where men rape men or molest children or partners use knives to find sexual pleasure. I just don’t. And I will never, never publish a book I’m ashamed of. I’d rather work a day job.

I felt like I just don’t fit. And this made me sad, it really did, until I checked my email. There I found two questions/comments left on my website:

#1: From Pamela, on my Return to Celebration House page: “How in the world can I get this book? I have been looking for months for it.”

#2: From Bonnie, also on my Return to Celebration House page: “Looking forward to reading book 3. Hope you’re busy writing.”

I wish I could convey to these two women who threw me a lifeline of encouragement how much I appreciate them for taking the time to send me a message. Please trust me when I say: this was just what I needed at just the right time.

These two simple messages prompt me to remember my priorities:

  1. I will write and publish books I am proud of.
  2. “Readers are the only validation that really matters.” It’s not just a stolen phrase. It’s my mantra. I think I forgot for a short time.

CelebrationHouse_Book3As I finish writing Return to Celebration House, I’m confronted with the idea of legacy. Melanie will do whatever she needs to protect Carrie’s legacy. And I ask myself, as I’m sure many of us do at one time or another, what’s my legacy? I think it’s time to make peace with the idea that I may never sit in a dark theater and watch my stories come to life as only Hollywood can do. I may never sit on my couch and flip to the Hallmark Channel and watch Carrie’s story unfold before me. But I will always, always be proud of my work, the books I publish. The stories I share. And I will always be grateful for the emails from readers that keep me going. Always.

ADDENDUM: Later in the morning after I published this blog post, I attended a session entitled, “Sexy but Sweet: The Art of the PG13 Bedroom Scene Done Just Right” by author Brooke Moss. Have you heard of her? I had not either. Brooke just released her 10th novel, some traditionally published and some indie published. None of her books contain graphic sex. She doesn’t write it. It’s uncomfortable for her. She doesn’t want her daughters embarrassed to read her books, just as I don’t want my Aunt Mary Rose to be embarrassed to read my books.  During this 60-minute session, Brooke and other members of the audience talked about the very reasons why they don’t want sex scenes in their books. I looked around at the 30+ members of the audience, and I thought, “Hmm. Maybe I do fit.”

Here’s where to find Brooke: Brooke-Moss

Hands and arms inside the cart: finding a way to get the work done.

 

 

 

Thank you!

Hey, guys.
I just wanted to say a sincere thank you to the many readers who have emailed me or posted a comment on my blog. I so appreciate your passion for the characters of Celebration House! I’m glad you enjoy the books and amazed at how fast you read them. Seriously. You all read fast!
Return to Celebration House was originally scheduled to publish on May 1st. But Melanie and I had some challenges. Let’s be honest: she’s not the easiest person to get along with. (I’m just kidding).
We’re making great progress now, and my plan is to publish the book at the end of May. And yes, Nook and iBook readers, it will be available on your devices. (I learned that the hard way!)
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you, and again, thank you so much for your praise and enthusiasm.
Annette

And the results are in…

Hey, guys.
I’ve been crowing and crowing about the BookBub promotion that ran yesterday, so I thought perhaps I should share some results. About 23,000 readers grabbed a copy of Celebration House!
I’ve already heard from a few readers: where’s the third book? So, here I am, at 5:15 a.m., working on Return to Celebration House.
To be honest, it’s hard to get excited about writing a third book when no one reads the first two! Much easier when you have two emails first thing in the morning with the question: where’s the third book?
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Grateful: party of one.

BookBub promotion starts tomorrow!

Hey, guys.
I just wanted to send a quick reminder that Building Celebration House will be featured tomorrow in a BookBub promotion. It’s currently priced at FREE!
Free is good, right?
So far, more than 900 readers have downloaded it. Reviews have begun to trickle in, including a five-star left yesterday. Thank you.
All of which makes me say: YIPPEE!

Bring it, mountain

Yesterday, I attended a writing seminar near Seattle. An editor from Harlequin, Susan Litman, spent most of a day telling authors how Harlequin could help them become hybrid superstars, which is to say writers who both self-publish their works, as I do, and sign a contract with Harlequin to publish their work.
I really wanted to attend this seminar; I really didn’t want to drive there.
You see, I live in eastern Washington state. The conference was held in Seattle. Between them and me is a mountain range. And it’s February. And we’re enjoying a robust winter with lots of snow and ice.
I left Friday morning about 8:30. I made it to Seattle shortly before 3 p.m. Not too bad. The mountain pass was mainly just wet. But, all day yesterday, I watched the state cameras and saw this message: “Eastbound I-90: Chains required.”
I have never put chains on a car. I didn’t even own a pair of chains until yesterday afternoon when I went to a Les Schwab and bought a pair. The salesgirl – and I’m using the word “girl” because I’m pretty sure she was twenty years my junior – made it look so easy. You just wrap the chains around the tire. Snap here, here and here, and voila, you are road ready! (Just don’t go faster than 30 mph).
My plan was to enjoy the writing seminar and then start the 300-mile drive home. But by mid-afternoon, they had closed the highway due to heavy snows and, my favorite, avalanches. My anxiety only grew.
So, I stayed another night at the hotel, spending the evening at a Barnes & Noble and shopping at my favorite Seattle grocery store, Whole Foods. And my anxiety grew.
Last night, I studied a map of Washington and looked for a way to get from the hotel to home without crossing the mountain pass. No problem. Just drive south on Highway 5, turn left at Oregon and drive east to Richland, then a few more hours of driving north to Spokane. No problem. Except the 300-mile trip becomes a 550-mile trip. The five hours of driving becomes nearly nine hours of driving. Oh, and the Seattle news station kept showing this amazing footage of semi-trucks skidding out of control on ice just north of Portland. So, my long detour offered no guarantee of safety.
This morning, I awoke about 3:30 a.m. Insomnia has its uses. I was completely awake and just dreading this drive. So, I checked out of the hotel and at 4 a.m., sitting in my car in the parking lot, I made a decision: I would face this mountain. Whatever it had to dish out, I would take it. Bring it, mountain!
I hit the worst part of the pass about 5 a.m. The few cars on the road at that time had pulled off to the right and the drivers began to put on chains. I did the same. Did I put on my own chains? Uh, no. A good Samaritan with a thick Hispanic accent put the chains on for me. But then I was off at a speed of 25 miles per hour, determined to put Snoqualmie Pass behind me. There were no cars behind me. Even fewer cars in the oncoming lanes. But mile by mile, I climbed that mountain. At one point I saw a state transportation worker. I slowed down and asked him if I needed to stop. He said, “You keep going, girl.” So I did. Further down the road, I realized the snow on the road was lessening. I pulled over at a gas station and took the chains off. By myself. No help. I found out later they closed the pass by 7 a.m. Too many wrecks.
I’m at home now, wearing my cozy pajamas and listening to my basset hound snore. But the sense of pride I feel for conquering Snoqualmie Pass is with me still. I did it! I told that mountain, “Not today, Mother Trucker!”
This reminds me of writing the first draft of a novel, which I’m struggling to do right now. The first book of my trilogy, Building Celebration House, is with the proofreader. I will make my deadline. But the second book, Stay at Celebration House, is giving me trouble. I can’t convince the heroine to do what I need her to do – forgive her cheating ex and accept his marriage proposal. She’s fighting me. But in order to give her the satisfying final scene I want for both she and the readers, she must do this. Just like I must get over that mountain. And we’re gonna get there, she and I. One mile or word at a time.
Hands and arms inside the cart: Rebuilding Celebration House

Blame Dad

I blame my dad.
I blame him for a lot of things, most of them not really his fault.
But for this one thing, I blame him.
Once again, I am unemployed. No, I wasn’t fired. I left voluntarily. Really, I did.
Since mid-September, I have worked as a nurse in a recovery room at my local hospital. This is an environment I am quite familiar with; I started working in the post-anesthesia care setting in 1995. So, you would think this would be a comfortable setting. Not so much.
Because like most hospitals, this unit has been chronically short-staffed. The work load was back breaking. Really. My back hurt after every shift. And while I was told during my job interview that the schedule would be managed by the, uh, manager, that was not my experience. Surgeons added on elective cases all evening long, regardless if there was enough staff or not.
Nurses in this unit were asked to care for much more than just surgical patients. We were asked to care for patients from the cath lab, from the GI department and from labor and delivery. I kind of felt like we were the toilet of the hospital. I leave you to infer from that what you will.
I have been miserable since September. And I’m not a quiet miserable person. No. I’m a noisy miserable person.
This past Christmas Eve, I was scheduled to be on call. I was at the hospital from 9 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. while my family waited at home for me to start the holiday. This is hospital nursing. You work holidays. You work weekends. But somehow, when it came time to submit those hours to payroll, they were overlooked. I’ve yet to be paid for that day. When I queried my manger, she informed me I needed to watch my timesheet more closely. Okay. Got it.
In response, I gave her two weeks notice.
I really liked my paychecks. They allowed me to care for my family, and at the same time, helped support Baskethound Books, through which I publish my stories. After three years, my little business still does not generate enough income to support itself, let alone me and my family.
But I had an epiphany one evening. I was sitting in the hospital cafeteria, taking my dinner break, and I realized how much I did not want to return to my job. I thought, I would give up five years of my life to walk out of this hospital and never come back. Five years! That’s a long time.
I made a good living as a registered nurse. After 22 years or so in the field, I made six figures. A naughty little voice inside my head says, “Yes, and you can buy the highest quality of rope with which to hang yourself.”
This morning, I told my husband. He took it well. At breakfast, I told my son. He took it pretty well too.
What now? My daughter once told me, “Mom, you always have a plan. It may be terrible, but it’s a plan.” That’s the nicest thing she ever said to me.
Okay. Here’s the plan: I’m going to write full-time for the rest of 2017. Baskethound Books will release a new book every month in 2017. We start in March with the first installment of the Celebration House Trilogy. And when I say we, I mean me. You see, Baskethound Books is my own small little business.
When I look back on my employment history, and it’s a long one as I’ve been working since the early 1980s, I recognize these unpleasant facts:

  1. I change jobs a lot. A lot. I’ve had 22 nursing jobs since I entered the profession in 1995. 22! That means I’ve changed nursing jobs every year.
  2. Since I graduated from Truman State University in December of 1987, I’ve had an additional eight jobs. That brings my grand total to 30.

The question is asked, were you fired from all of these jobs? No. I quit all but three of them.
And here’s where I blame my dad, and before him, my grandparents. I grew up watching my dad run his own small business, Drake Lumber and Building Supply, in Brookfield, Missouri. My parents bought it from my grandparents in the mid 1970s.
Was my dad successful? I don’t know. I don’t think his heart was in it. Plus, Wal-Mart opened a store in our town in the early 1980s and destroyed nearly all of the businesses there. The local merchants just couldn’t compete with Sam Walton, then or now. When I hear that Amazon is hurting Wal-Mart’s sales, I do not shed tears. I did enjoy using Wal-Mart as a villain in my novel, Trombone Girl. I called it Sam-Mart. It was just plain fun.
Too, I think my dad felt shackled by the lumberyard, by the constraints of being open 8-5, Monday thru Friday, and then 8-12 noon on Saturday. I think bookkeeping took up a lot more time than he would have liked. I remember seeing him at his desk late on a summer evening, trying to reconcile the day’s sales. I like that memory. I plan on using it in one of my books.
After my father sold the lumberyard – I think it became a payday loan office – he took to the road as a truck driver. He did this for some years, and then – wait for it – started a small trucking company. My dad, the ever-determined entrepreneur.
Are my dad and I close? No. Honestly, I think we are two porcupines who determinedly avoid one another. I think I’m an enigma to my father while I simply cannot forgive him for his treatment of my older brother. I think we are both happiest when we do not interact.
But I’m left with this fact: I come from a line of small-business owners. People who work hard but work for themselves. And the truth is it’s way easier to quit others than to quit yourself.

Hands and arms inside the cart: I’m having a blast revisiting Celebration House!