Annette's blog

Yes! That “a-ha” moment arrives

This past February, I wrote a blog post about romance novels and questioned whether the books I write really are romances.
Because for a book to be a romance novel, “…the core story is the developing relationship between a man and a woman. The other events in the story line, though important, are secondary to that relationship…”*
I think my books, A Year with Geno and A Beautiful Day in Alaska do meet that requirement: the romance between the two characters is the focus of the story, though both of my heroines have other priorities.
But what about my debut novel: Celebration House? The main character has much greater priorities than falling in love. There are things she’s dying to get done…
If you glanced at the Goodreads page for Celebration House, you would see reviewers agree: “There is a nice romance element in the book,” and “It mostly concerns the renovation of a house, with a hint of romance.”
And then, it happened. Yesterday, the Romance Writers of America announced a new category of books (that’s me doing a drum roll): “Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance.” That’s it! That’s me! More importantly, that’s all three books in my Celebration House Trilogy. No, my female protagonists are not solely focused on finding and maintaining romance. They have other things to do. But, yes, the men who find a place in their lives are important. They are essential to the story.
I’ve thought up an analogy: The romance in my books is like the mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon and onion, and peach cobbler that are served alongside the roasted chicken. No. It’s not the entree, but damn, who wants to eat roasted chicken without those side dishes? Not me!
And maybe I’m still on a sugar high from all the birthday cheesecake I ate yesterday – thank you for the many birthday wishes, by the way – but I am so excited about this. Truly! This news has lit a fire under my fanny to buckle down and finish the first drafts of my Celebration House Trilogy. I’m not yet ready to announce publication dates for the three books, but I’m feeling like 2016 will be an amazing year.
Let’s get ’em done! Because now, I have a place I belong. I have a strike zone to aim for. I have “a category.”
Hands and arms inside the cart: Re-releasing Bone Trombone Girl.

*Quote from Leigh Michael’s book, On Writing Romance

Annette's blog

The good, the bad and the amazing of 2014

As the final hours of 2014 tick down, I take a few minutes to reflect on the good, the bad and the amazing of this year.

The good.
I published two books this year via my small press, Baskethound Books. The first, Bone Girl, is a middle-grade novel that tells the story of a young girl and a rescued stallion who together, save their world. The other, A Year with Geno, is a contemporary romance about two single parents who find romance amidst the chaos of single-parenthood.
Both books have sold tens of copies. I haven’t broken even financially, but I still have the delicious pleasure of going to my local library and seeing my books are available to be borrowed, but are checked out.
Also, much to my delight, both stories found their voice: they are available as audiobooks via Audible. Many thanks to Darryl Hughes Kurylo Darryl Hughes Kurylo Audible 2014for narrating Bone Girl and Julie KerrJulie Kerr for her tireless efforts on A Year with Geno. You are both amazing. Thank you.

The bad.
My relationship with the publisher of my debut novel, Celebration House, continued to deteriorate. My plan: buy back the rights to my novel, wish those folks well, and continue on my journey. Enough said.
As part of those plans, I launched a Kickstarter campaign. My goal was $2,500; pledges totaled $135. Wildly unsuccessful. But I learned how to make a promotional video, started a YouTube channel and began to brainstorm about promotional swag. Coffee, anyone?BHB mug

The amazing.
Rowan2Earlier this month, I spoke on e-publishing at my county library. During my talk, one of the attendees asked if I was comfortable making myself so public, so vulnerable to readers. I can’t remember my exact words, but I hope I conveyed this sentiment: “I LOVE hearing from readers.”
In May, a young girl reached out to me to ask a question about the setting of Bone Girl for a school book report. I wrote back and told her about Bennett Springs, Missouri. We made a deal. I would send her a Bone Girl T-shirt if she would send me a copy of her book report. Receiving this photo of her was the high point of my year.
A few days before Thanksgiving, A Year with Geno was spotlighted on Romancing the Book, a well-known blog for romance novels. I had all of my ducks in a row, sort of. I hadn’t made the time to promote the promotion. So, I turned to fellow authors who I had featured in my Author Spotlight on my blog and asked them to help me spread the word. Of the 20 or so authors I queried, nearly all said yes. They told their readers about my meager $25 Amazon gift card giveaway and about my book. Thanks, guys.
What’s next in 2015? I don’t know. My first novella, A Beautiful Day in Alaska, premiers on Feb. 1st. I’m working on the creation of a print and audiobook version of my picture-book manuscript, The Carwash Dragon. And I have aspirations of publishing the two sequels to Celebration House, but there’s a teensy problem: I’m spending most of my writing time on my cozy mystery, Death Comes to the Ogallala County Fair. I can’t help it. It’s so much fun.
Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: the mystery of writing a good mystery.

Annette's blog

Is it too late to blog about Thanksgiving?

The leftover dressing and gravy are thrown away. The cornucopia is boxed up to make room for the ceramic village on the holiday shelf. All of the brown and orange linen napkins are packed away. Thanksgiving is over.
thanksgiving-pilgrimI love Thanksgiving. For me, it is the calm before the crazy of Christmas. It’s the silence before the noise of shopping and school concerts and worrying about what to buy whom and how exactly do I pay for all of this stuff anyway?
And for me, there’s just something enthralling about the idea of taking a day, just one day, to be grateful. Look around and think, yes, I have enough.
This year, amazing things happened with my little business, Baskethound Books. In March, I published Bone Girl. I never thought I could self-publish a book. I dreamed of it. Actually doing it? That seemed crazy.
And then, three months later, I did it again when I self-published A Year with Geno. It’s like this publishing of books is starting to be a habit.
Of course, there’s the promotion of my books. It can be the greatest little novel on the planet but if nobody knows about it, nobody is going to read it. Ah, there’s the rub. How do I tell people about my book?
So this Thanksgiving, I hosted a Rafflecopter giveaway. My first. I asked entrants to share their favorite Thanksgiving memory with me in exchange for a $25 Amazon gift card. You can see these stories on my website under “Thanksgiving 2014 giveaway winners,” including my own.
There’s one Thanksgiving memory I didn’t share because the fellow to whom it belonged didn’t enter my contest. When I told him about my contest, he told me that when he was stationed in Vietnam and enjoying a diet of C-rations, the army surprised him and his fellow soldiers with a Thanksgiving dinner – turkey and all the trimmings. He still remembers that meal.
The experts tell me Thanksgiving is not the time to run a promotion. People are too busy shopping and cooking to read blogs. I’m sure they’re right. But I’ve never been easy to dissuade once I set my course. My mom used to say, “Don’t confuse Annette with the facts; her mind is made up.”
So…Thanksgiving of 2015, I plan an even bigger promotion for A Year with Geno, this one involving my YouTube channel. Here’s the idea: a dance contest. Whose husband is the worst dancer? I thought maybe I’d call it something along the lines of, “He dances like an idiot but I love him anyway…” That’s just a working title. Entrants send me a 20-second clip of their sweetheart dancing. I award the most entertaining dancer a $50 Amazon gift card.
Hands and arms inside the cart: Next: the good, the bad and the amazing of 2014

Annette's blog

Have I gone too commerical?

Last summer, overcome with more ambition than is healthy, I set up a page on my website where readers could buy books directly from me. My current platform, wordpress.com, didn’t allow this feature. So, because I am hard-wired with an abundance of optimism and scarcity of caution, I leaped onto wordpress.org. That’s a whole different and ugly blog post.

After moving my website, I spent at least three minutes researching what different e-commerce companies offered and chose Ecwid. They allowed me to build a store of sorts where I can sell my books. But after perusing other independent authors’ websites, I decided to offer more. To that end, I had a logo designed for Baskethound Books, the small press I founded. It looks something like this:

Logo version 3

Taking the next step on the path to my own destruction, I decided to offer small items – I call it swag – with my logo or the cover for my books. For instance, I think the cover for Bone Girl is a piece of artwork unto itself, so I offer a journal with the cover replicated on it. I also sell mugs and simple things like phone covers and tote bags with the Baskethound Books logo emblazoned on them, with help from Vistaprint. You are invited to peruse the shelves of Baskethound Boutique for yourself.

Speaking of, how are sales? …Uh, you know, a little slow. Okay. I’ve sold a total of two books and those to my biggest fan in Alaska. Thank you, Dianne. On the Saturday she bought the books, I was working an extra shift in the urgent care clinic. Ecwid sent me an email informing me I had sold two books, and I was so overcome with joy and entrepreneurial glee that I forgot to give a patient his tetanus shot before he left. Oops. Also, I spent all of my profits on business cards and labels for Baskethound Books that very night. No sense in letting that money grow cold in my Paypal account. Who knows? It might spoil or something.

Okay, so if I’m not making tens of dollars, what does this little side business give me? A sense of accomplishment? Yep. And such hope. I look at the two books I have for sale now – Bone Girl and A Year with Geno – and I wonder, hmm…how many books will I publish in 2015? How about in two years? Will all three books in the Celebration House trilogy be on this shelf and ready for me to endorse and ship directly to readers?

BaskethoundBooks warehouse

I kind of think they will. This is hope. Its value? Priceless.

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, exploring the possibilities on Fiverr.com

Annette's blog

I go kickstarting…

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were listening to the radio and heard a story about two young men who had checked into a for-rent-by-owner condominium and after 30 days, refused to move out. The owner had to navigate the legal process of evicting them. And, the story went on, they had also been given funds from Kickstarter to develop a new computer game, which they had not delivered.

Kickstarter, huh? I first learned of this group in 2013 when I was trying to promote my debut novel, Celebration House. I had the crazy idea of traveling from library to library to give lectures about the wonders of e-readers. I hoped to apply for Kickstarter funds to cover my travel expenses and offer attendees a chance to win a free device. When I reached out to the staff at Kickstarter, I was told this project wasn’t quite what they were looking for. Okay. Fair enough.

Now, as I listened to the story, a thought occurred to me: maybe I should rethink my Kickstarter campaign. What if I could raise, say, a couple thousand dollars? I could buy back my rights to Celebration House, have the manuscript professionally edited and proofread, and then publish it via my small press, Baskethound Books.

I wondered, how much money would I need? I made a spreadsheet, then I queried Wendy Janes, the editor who works with Joanna Penn, one of my indie-author heroines. I also asked the cover artist who designed A Year with Geno if she would make a new cover for Celebration House. Both women said yes. They would be part of the team to relaunch my debut novel. Publishing it myself, I could produce an e-book, an audiobook, and what most people have asked for time and time again, a print book.

My next step was to peruse different projects on Kickstarter, taking a look at those which had successfully raised the funds they asked for and those that did not. One thing I noticed: the importance of a video, explaining to backers why they should support the project.

Harvey the rabbit was used to keep Eeyore's attention on the camera. No creatures were harmed in the making of this video.
Harvey the rabbit was used to keep Eeyore’s attention on the camera. No creatures were harmed in the making of this video.
So, using the video camera I borrowed from the local library, my four-legged business partner, Eeyore, and I made a short trailer. I completed the application, editing it probably one too many times, and submitted it. The campaign launched today!

Here’s the link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/97206383/baskethound-books.

Please take a look and consider supporting Baskethound Books. Every bit as important, share the link with your friends and family. Get the word out! That helps me every bit as much as your financial support. Now, if I can just figure out how to record a ring tone…

Hands and arms inside the cart, please. Next: Sprechen sie Deutsch?

Annette's blog

Let’s talk about sex

Please sit down. This heart-to-heart is long overdue. We need to talk about sex.

In fiction, and especially romance, there’s a smorgasbord available for you, the reader. Like at a Chinese buffet, some of the selections are hotter than others, which is to say, they contain more explicit sexual content.

Just to review, here’s the rating system that’s widely used:

Level 1 – Sweet (kissing and petting)
Level 2 – Sensual (kissing and at least one sexual encounter)
Level 3- Spicy (one or more ramped-up sexual encounters)
Level 4 – Hot (lots of sex, language)
Level 5 – Scorching (kink, raunch, language)

So, the question is, what level of heat do I write? I can’t predict what my future self will publish, but for now, I write books that stay at level 1.

I do this for a couple of reasons. As a reader, I flip past the pages with the sex scenes. I’m sorry, but what intrigues me most, what keeps me reading until 2 in the morning, is the connection between the characters: the banter, the conflict, the silliness. Sex? Not so much. Also, and perhaps more importantly, my family members read my books, and frankly, I don’t want to publish a novel I would feel embarrassed for my Aunt Mary Rose of Rogers, Arkansas, to read.

Now, does this mean I look down on authors who write romance novels with a heat factor of 5? Absolutely not. Do I snub erotica authors? Nope. It’s just not what I write.

Folks who follow my blog know that every Sunday, I offer my website to other authors to talk about their writing journey and showcase one of their books. I don’t limit that website to any specific genre. I recently featured Sabrina York, who writes erotic romance and sells a lot of books. I congratulate her and wish her every success! It’s just not what I write.

So why has all of this come up, you ask? A few weeks ago in one of my blog posts, I mentioned that I used the word “vibrator” in a scene. I also confessed that I had to look it up because I didn’t know how to spell it. This comment has come back to haunt me. So, I offer to you the scene I was referring to.

Here’s the set-up: Caroline, our heroine, has just come home after attending a disastrous Valentine’s Day party to find her slutty neighbor, Kelly, aggressively courting Geno.

WARNING: THIS IS A LONG SCENE

“…Once upstairs, she saw Kelly pressed up against Geno against the kitchen cabinets. Kelly giggled, and seemed to be trying to kiss him, pressing her weight against him. He moved his head away from her, as though to avoid her kisses. He held her arms at the wrist, but she squirmed and got loose.

Caroline cleared her throat, and Geno looked up, startled. The expression on his face changed from surprise to pure relief.

“Hello. Hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Caroline said.

“You’re not,” he said. His eyes shifted between the two women, and he frowned. “Kelly was just leaving actually.”

“Oh, Geno, you’re no fun,” she said, faking a pout. Her bright red lipstick reminded Caroline of a circus clown’s makeup. She narrowed her eyes and glared at Caroline. Kelly inspected her from head to toe. “Look what the cat dragged in.”

“Hello to you too, Kelly,” she said, stepping into the kitchen. She grabbed microwave popcorn out of one of the cabinets. “Excuse me,” she said, gesturing at the microwave behind the entwined pair.

“Oh, sure. I’ll just walk you out, Kelly,” he said, pulling himself out of her embrace and bolting to the front door.

“Did Caroline just get home?” Caroline heard Chris ask, and his dad told him she was.

Kelly sauntered over to Caroline and hissed, “You think you’re so smart, but I know men like Geno. You’re a little too vanilla for their taste.”

Caroline said nothing. She put the popcorn bag in the microwave and turned it on. Then she looked at Kelly and asked loudly, “How’s your boyfriend, Kelly? Miss him much?”

The younger woman smirked at Caroline. “Tom is gone, and I’m a firm believer that if you can’t be near the one you love, you love the one you’re near.”

“Oh, that’s so profound. Did you think that up all by yourself or did you read it in Cosmo Magazine? Can I get that embroidered on a pillow?”

“We’ll see what happens here,” Kelly said, sneering at Caroline.

“I know what’s going to happen here. You’re gonna take your size two ass out of this kitchen, and I’m going downstairs to be with my sons. Now good-night. Happy Valentine’s Day,” Caroline said sarcastically, waving good-bye with her fingers.

“Hi, Caroline,” Chris said, coming into the kitchen a few minutes later. The microwave dinged, and Caroline took out the hot buttery popcorn. She poured it into a large bowl, then offered it to Chris. Anthony surfaced as soon as the smell of the popcorn wafted down the hallway.

“Hey, guys. Happy Valentine’s Day. My boys are downstairs watching movies. Want to join us?”

“Sure,” Chris said. She handed the bowl to Chris and both he and Anthony disappeared downstairs.

She heard the front door close. Caroline grabbed an armful of plastic cups from the counter. Geno walked into the kitchen.

“Sorry to interrupt your… whatever,” she said, taking ice cubes out of the freezer.

He leaned up against the counter. “I don’t understand women. Tom has been gone less than two months, and she comes onto me like that.”

“Yeah, looked like you were really struggling. Must have been awful for you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Caroline shrugged. “It’s none of my business. Do what you want. I just think you could be a little more discreet when your boys are home. And by the way, wear a condom. That’s the best example of ‘rode hard and put away wet’ I think I’ve ever met.”

He studied Caroline. She practically threw the ice cubes into the red plastic cups now.

“What’s wrong with you tonight? I couldn’t care less about Kelly, and you know that.”

“Really? Then why did I find the two of you in such a compromising position? Part of your anatomy cared about her.”

“No. Not really.”

Caroline set the ice cube tray down on the countertop. She turned to face him. She stepped close to him, half a foot away and placed her hands on either side of him. She looked up at him, her green eyes studying his face. She leaned forward and smelt his aftershave, but did not touch him. She lowered her voice to mimic Kelly’s whisper. “So you’re telling me that despite being entangled in her, you felt nothing. Not the slightest stir of desire? Is that the load of bullshit you’re trying to sell me?”

Geno looked down at her and grinned, then stepped closer to Caroline, the slightest contact of his jeans against the front of her. She stood up straight and stepped a foot back. He pursued her until she was backed up against the countertop. He leaned in and whispered back, “Men like to do the chasing, Caroline. And we like it even more if we have to work for it.”

From downstairs, Caroline heard a long “Mom, we need more popcorn…”

Geno jumped back. He looked guilty, like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He leaned back on the opposing counter.

“Why do you care about Kelly? She doesn’t usually get this much of a reaction from you.”

“I don’t. Do whatever you want,” she said, looking away from him. She pulled another bag of popcorn out of the counter and plopped it in the microwave. She punched the buttons on the keyboard. The microwave turned on. “I went to this single parent potluck tonight. Yuck! The men I met there make Earl look good.”

“Really?”

“Well, not that good. It’s…” her words faltered, and she sighed. “Sometimes I miss being married. Valentine’s Day seems to bring home the fact that in a world of couples, I’m single. Do you ever miss being married?”

“I miss the sex.”

“Spoken like a true man.”

“Okay. Do I miss being married? Sometimes. I miss having someone to come home to talk to, to tell about my day. But towards the end, Cheryl-Anne and I didn’t talk much, just long periods of silence interrupted with screaming matches, followed by more silence.”

He was quiet for a minute, lost in his memories.

“And of course, my guys were always right there to see – the screaming, the door slamming, dishes breaking against the walls.”

“Really? You threw dishes?”

“Not me. Cheryl-Anne. She thought I was having an affair with someone at work.”

“Were you?”

“Are we still being honest? Because I wanted to, but I have to look at myself in the mirror every morning. I don’t think I could if I added adultery to my weekly confession. Plus, she and I worked together. It would have ended my career,” Geno said.

He looked at Caroline. “What about you? What’s your story?” he asked.

Caroline shrugged. “A bad relationship that got worse. I think we packed our problems in the boxes along with our dishes when we moved to Alaska. When he started working out of town, things got worse. Then he met Mindy. That’s all she wrote.”

“Do you hate her?”

“God no. I felt relieved it was finally over. Mindy is what Earl needs – a young, adoring woman. I was too at one time, but just so many disappointments over the years. During the last year of our marriage, we slept in separate bedrooms. I played the ‘nightlight game.’”

“The what?” he asked.

“When Earl was out of town, I’d sleep upstairs in the master bedroom, and I’d plug in a nightlight by that room so the boys could find me in the middle of the night. When he was home, I’d sleep downstairs in the guest room, and I’d plug the nightlight in the outlet at the bottom of the stairs so the boys would know to go downstairs to find me. Kind of pathetic, huh?”

“Maybe we’re both a little pathetic,” he said, smiling at her.

“Mom, are you coming? We’re starving,” Bobby yelled. The microwave dinged.

She tucked a two liter of soda under her arm and started to grab the stacked cups of ice. “Gotta go. I got a hot date downstairs.”

“Can I join you?”

“Sure. But just don’t let my landlord know. He gets nasty when I entertain male guests.”

“Sounds like a real asshole.”

“Oh, God yes. He is,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“Here. Give me some of those cups,” he said, before taking them from her.

“By the way, how did you and Kelly wind up in the kitchen tonight?” Caroline asked.

“She came over here and asked me to change the battery in her…”

“Vibrator?”

“Smoke alarm, thank you. Why? Are you jealous?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at her.

“I think nauseated is a better adjective.”

“Ouch! That’s hurts. During your marriage, did Earl ever call you a shrew?”

“You know, suddenly, I feel the urge to throw something.”

“Good thing these are plastic cups,” he said. He opened the microwave door and grabbed the hot bag of popcorn. In the other hand, he picked up two cups of ice.

Together they headed downstairs where their four boys waited for them.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: redefining success one reader at a time.

Annette's blog

Making mistakes a long the whey

Now that I’ve sent A Year with Geno to my editor, Les Dunseith, I can turn my attention to a few neglected projects that have been waiting for my attention. Specifically: correcting all of the typos in Bone Girl.

Yes, you faithful readers, I know you overlooked the misspelled words and the clumsy sentences, but I can’t any longer. So, this morning at oh-God-early, I sat down at this desk and began correcting them.

I published Bone Girl directly to three platforms: Smashwords, Kindle and Nook. So, I have to submit a corrected version of the manuscript to all three companies. I can check Smashwords off my to-do list; I finished that today. Tomorrow, I tackle Kindle and then Nook.

MistakesHere’s the thing: I know I am going to make mistakes. Big, fat ones that smell like rotten meat. That’s not the problem. The problem is forgiving myself, accurately assessing the damage done and then moving on. You know the saying, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” Well, I amend it a little and conclude with, “To forgive myself is not really my thing.”

But I have to. I have to acknowledge I am going to make mistakes during this journey. I’m going to take wrong turns and follow bad advice. That’s part of this indie author gig. Maybe I learn more from those…

Last month, I decided to leave the warm, safe home I had made at WordPress.com and move my website all the way across town to WordPress.org so that I could sell my books directly to readers. You’re probably thinking, why is that a big deal? Well, it’s a big deal because all of the ease and comfort that the IT gurus built into WordPress.com for beginners like me is now, uh, GONE! Me, with teensy bit of computer wisdom, am now required to do pretty much everything.

This morning, I couldn’t log onto my website. After trying far too many times and sending a nasty email to the support staff, I gave up and stomped off to my day job. Only later in the day, when the support people responded to that email did I realize, oh, Lord. I entered the name of my website incorrectly. No wonder I couldn’t log on. Is it too late to suck back that email? Why, yes. Yes, it is.

But one thing is for sure: I know how to log onto my website now. Yep. Cross that lesson off. And along the way, I also figured out how to download askimet, which blocks spam comments from my site. No more remarks about how great Viagra is.

Take a deep breath, I tell myself. Tomorrow is another day. Just imagine the caliber of mistakes I’ll make then, hopefully, learning from each and every one.

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next: redefining success one book at a time.

Annette's blog

To: Kathy. From: Annette

Time for a confession: I’m a procrastinator.

I’ve been this way my entire life. I remember writing a French paper in 1985 the night before it was due. I even taught this bad habit to my children – putting together more than one science fair project the night before the competition.

Master cover artSo, with the long road trip to Missouri to see my son graduate from high school and visit family, I thought, ah, heck, I’ll just postpone publication of A Year with Geno. Why not? Maybe I’ll publish it in July.

That was until I visited my brother, Kevin, and his delightful wife, Kathy. These two have been my biggest (dare I say only?) fans since my first book, Celebration House, debuted last August. They are my cheerleaders.

On Saturday, when I spent time with them, Kathy told me that reading Bone Girl made her cry, so she put it aside. My big brother is facing a serious illness that requires a series of difficult treatments, so when Kathy was reading Bone Girl during one of these sessions, she started crying because of an event in the book. Well, she didn’t want folks around her to see her cry and think she was upset about Kevin, so she stopped reading it.

I’m happy to report that A Year with Geno is a completely different book than Bone Girl. It’s a contemporary romance meant for adults. I even use the word “vibrator” in it. (Author’s note: I had to look it up in the dictionary to be sure I spelled it correctly). Unless you’re a true wimp like me, you won’t cry at all when you read it. But, you will (I hope) laugh out loud and think, “Oh, my God! I can’t believe she just said that.” That’s my goal.

So, for my dear sister-in-law Kathy, who takes such amazing care of my brother, A Year with Geno will be out in, let’s see, 24 days. On Kevin’s birthday no less.

Damn! I better get busy.

Hands and arms inside the cart: Making mistakes a long the whey. (Yeah, I know I posted this teaser last time. But, really, that’s the next blog topic).

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

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.