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).

Superfans!

My little boy, Jack, celebrated his seventh birthday last month. For his party, he wanted a “Real Steel” theme.

For those of you without a little boy in your home, “Real Steel” is a movie released in 2011 that tells the story of a down-on-his-luck fighter, Charlie, who reconnects with his biological son, Max. Together, they tour the country with their boxing robots and eventually, their sparring bot, Atom, takes on the world’s champion robot fighter. Leading up to this big fight, Atom conquers other robot boxes, including Metro, Twin Cities and the like. It’s kind of a rock’em, sock’em robot movie.

My son and I don’t share the same opinion of this film. Jack loves it. For me, the film is a waste of 90 minutes. My problem is the main character, Charlie, who literally hawks his son to buy a robot, Noisy Boy. Charlie is played by Hugh Jackman and is the only thing I like about this movie. For me, if Hugh can’t save a movie, it cannot be saved.

Image

Hugh Jackman with Atom, the little sparring bot who could.

I rate “Real Steel” 1 out of 5 stars. My son, on the other hand, loves it. He gives it five stars. Six, if he had a spare.

Jack loves the robots, and I admit they’re kind of cool. At least the possibility of them. But I just find a father who sells his son to be an unredeemable character. Sorry, Charlie.

But my son overlooks this. For him, it’s all about the robots. In fact, he often asks me, “Mom, do you know how Twin Cities fights?” Twin Cities is a robot. I always say, “No. Show me.” And Jack does, jumping up and down, swinging his fists in the air and adding a “crunch” for sound effect. Then he whirls around and punches the air again. “Like that,” Jack says.

Apparently, I’m alone in my distaste. The film grossed $300 million and was nominated for an Oscar for best visual effects.

My son is what I call a Superfan. Jack, with his endless adoration of this movie, is a super fan of “Real Steel.” The day before his seventh birthday, we traipsed from one party-supply store to another in Spokane, asking if they carried any “Real Steel” merchandise, like paper plates or banners or any of that stuff. I don’t think anybody but Jack was surprised to learn that there were no “Real Steel”-inspired decorations available. Some of the store clerks didn’t even know what “Real Steel” was.

Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, tells authors to grow their own Superfans. In his book, The Secrets to E-book Publishing Success, he talked about the importance of these folks.

“A fan will review your book positively and purchase your other books, and will anxiously await your next books. A fan is also a potential evangelist for your books, and an evangelist will not only recommend your book to friends, they will command their friends to read it…. Fans create word of mouth, and word of mouth separates the poor-sellers from the bestsellers.”

Well, I don’t know if I’m there yet, but I do have a few Superfans. Some are my family – my Aunt Mary Rose, my brother, Kevin, and my mother-in-law, Edith. Others are friends and former co-workers in Alaska who buy my books and read my blog.

Then there’s the patients to whom I provide nursing care. One of them, Joyce, bought both of my books and posted Amazon reviews. Thank you, Joyce. Reviews on Amazon are vital to indie authors. Some book review sites won’t even consider promoting unless the author has at least eight reviews.

Another patient, Shirley, a wisp of a girl at age 86, fawns over the characters in Celebration House and eagerly awaits the sequel. She made me laugh a few days ago when she said to me, “And what the hell kind of name is Sunshine anyway?” referring to a naughty character in Celebration House. I don’t know why, but it makes me laugh to hear octogenarians cuss.

The husband of one of my patients told me, “Carrie needs to buy a generator,” referring to the main character in Celebration House and her struggles to keep the lights on. As they were leaving the clinic, his wife said, “He tells everybody about your book.” Superfan!

Thanks to Facebook, I’ve reconnected with high-school classmates. Recently, I posted a photo of the print version of Bone Girl. Teasingly, I asked “Who wants one?” To my surprise, my classmates do. One friend from long ago said she wanted to buy four copies. Four? What? Buy that many and I come to your house and read them.

I’m so grateful for these readers. Sure, there’s no paper plates or banners featuring the cover art from Bone Girl. Not yet.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: making mistakes a long the whey.

Fun along the way

A few weeks ago, I came across a post from Joel Friedlander, a well-known author who writes articles on self-publishing. He encourages writers to think about who is going to buy their book before they even write it.

Well, I can’t do that. That’s not how my mind works. I just want to tell my stories. But his comment did get me thinking. What demographic would buy Bone Girl? If you are one of the 15 people or so who has bought and read my book, you know that the main character is an 11-year-old girl who yearns for her mother, a meth addict. Okay. Well, that demographic is a pretty narrow one.

What else is there about this book that would call out to readers? One of my beta readers, Aarene Storms, gave me the answer. She wrote to me and told me to let her know when a printed version would be available because she wants to buy one for her dad. He plays the trombone, just as the main character does.

Got it! That’s one of the groups of people I could market my book to – trombone players, especially women. Because believe it or not, gender bias does exist in the music world. Just like the main character’s mother, some folks think a woman shouldn’t play the trombone.

So, I went online and stumbled upon a trombone forum. No, I’m not kidding. There is a website dedicated to trombone players. Here’s the link: http://tromboneforum.org

I created an account and have been asking questions of these experts ever since.

One woman, Sarah, wrote to me and said she played the trombone because it’s the instrument her family could afford for her. This is just like my main character. Sarah also told me she would be delighted to buy a copy of my book, but only in printed form. She said she’s old school. Because of her comments and my Aunt Mary Rose’s prodding, I tackled the task of formatting Bone Girl for CreateSpace, the company who prints my book. The proof copies are on their way to me.

Musing through the posts on the trombone forum is fun for me. And that’s part of the joy of this journey.

For instance, yesterday, one of the members responded to my query about choosing music for the book trailer. Yes, with the help of my husband, Chris, we are making a book trailer. My husband will play his trombone for the background music. He and I were talking and I asked him, what music should he play? What would be haunting and melodic for this 20-second movie? Chris suggested the William Tell Overture. No, I said. How about Camptown Races? No. He was kidding, of course. I think…

I posted the same question on the trombone forum. I received a bevy of suggestions, along with information that the trombone has a few names I didn’t know: slushpump, sliphorns, sackbutts and posaunes.

And that contributor, known as SilverBone from Portland, Oregon, ended his post with this limerick, which I share now with you:

“The nastiest fellow I’ve known

Smashed his trombone and ruined its tone.

There’s a simple excuse

For his slushpump abuse;

He was born to be bad to the bone.”

Love it! Thank you.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: Superfans!

 

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.

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.

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.

Formatting for Dummies

In three days, I will self-publish my second book, Bone Girl.

Unlike Celebration House, this novel required much more of me than just writing and editing. Because it’s self-published and I have a budget of, oh, let’s see, NOTHING, I did all of the work myself. When I say work, I mean writing, editing, revising, proofreading and my least favorite activity of all time, formatting. In fact, I’ve spent nearly every free minute of the last week learning to format my book. (Note – the amazing cover art was the work of Jason Gurley. Wouldn’t it make a great movie poster? I think so too).

Because I am naive. I believed all of the websites when they said how simple it is to self-publish an e-book. Easy! Just download your manuscript in a .doc or .docx format. Yeah. Well, no.

You start with Smashwords because they will distribute your e-book to many of the major retailers, such as Apple, Kobo, iBook and Nook. But Smashwords’ “meat grinder” as they call their computer program and no, I’m not making this up – forbids any extraneous formatting in the document. Thus, the first thing you must do is copy and paste your manuscript to a Notepad document, then copy and paste it back to a word document. The nearest I can figure, and I read those instructions many, many times, this “nuclear” treatment removes any underlining and thus problematic formatting. But it removes a few other things too like indents, italics, chapter breaks, line spacing, etc.

Then there’s Kindle. Be sure any words you want centered do not have an indent or they will look, well, weird, and, uh, off-center. Also, pages must be separated by a hard return, a page break.

Not so on Nook Press, which is Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform. Nook requires a section break, so kindly delete all of the page breaks from the manuscript for Kindle and insert section breaks for the manuscript for Nook. My Aunt Mary Rose is waiting for this book to be available on Nook, so by golly, I’m gonna make sure it’s there.

Oh, and then there’s the print version. That manuscript must be in a .pdf file. I haven’t even started on that project yet. You see, creating a print version takes money and I’m rubbing two nickels together. Because honestly, I could have paid someone to do much of the work for me. But, no. I’m too cheap.

Or perhaps, to be brutally honest, I’m too broke. Three days ago, I tiptoed into my bedroom and as my husband was just starting to wake, I whispered in his ear, “Honey, I just spent $275 on our ISBNs.” His response: “What’s an ISBN?”

An ISBN is a number assigned to every book, fiction or nonfiction, to help booksellers keep track of inventory.To clarify, Bone Girl requires three ISBNs: one for the e-book, one for the print version and one for the audio book. Oh, yes, it’s going to be available in audio format also. Exciting, isn’t it?

I know I sound whiny as I relate the ugly albeit boring details of how I’ve spent the last week, but I take this treasure away: I can do this. With patience and perseverance, I can learn to format an e-book. Maybe you can too…

Bone Girl is not going to be perfect. At least, not this first edition. There may be too much white space or a chapter heading that looks a little drunk, but my hope is that readers will be too engrossed in the story to say, “Holy buckets! She’s got an extra return on this page.”

And this sense of accomplishment, wow! It’s like a drug. Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but every time I learn one more technical step, even if it’s a basic one like composing a page on my blog with one column rather than two, well, I just glow. I’m so proud that this 45-year-old dog learned a new trick. I hope you feel this way when you overcome a tech challenge.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon templates that authors can purchase to help format their e-books and print versions. I plan on using one for the print version of Bone Girl. They’re fairly inexpensive – about $30-$40. Sounds like a real timesaver. Ah, heck, where’s the fun in that?

Hands and arms inside the cart, please. Next: Letting it go.

Revisiting beginning band class

When I first started writing Bone Girl, I knew it had been way too long since I’d sat in a beginning band class. But I felt to truly know my character, I needed to do so.

I contacted my children’s band teacher, Travis Harrington. I asked him if I could sit in and listen during his beginning band classes. Much to my delight, he said yes. Travis teaches band at Mirror Lake Middle School in Chugiak, Alaska.

It was intriguing to meet his students and find myself the object of their curiosity. Who is she? they whispered. What is she doing here? My memory is faulty, but I think one young girl even raised her hand and asked Mr. Harrington why exactly was I there.

I jotted down notes on what the kids wore, what they said, how they sat, how they held their instruments. Everything! I hid in the back of the classroom, by the trombone players, because my character, Josey, is a bone-player. Note: that’s the “bone” in the title. It’s nothing to do with human bones, and everything to do with Josey’s instrument.

As I sat and listened, I realized that Mr. Harrington, astute and experienced though he was, couldn’t be in every section at every minute. Who could? I heard kids whispering and giggling. I heard snippets of conversation, and I saw that band class can be about a whole lot more than learning to make music.

My favorite Mr. Harrington quote: “I do NOT want to hear anyone placing Hot Cross Buns. That song is so last week.” My second favorite quote is one he would start and the kids finished. I think it was meant to keep them on task. He’d say, “Meanwhile…” and point at a sign on his wall, and they would finish, “…back at the ranch.”

This was in the fall of 2011. Those students are now finishing up eighth grade at Mirror Lake Middle School. Bone Girl will be published in March, and as I revise and polish, I think of those kids and I relish the privilege of watching them learn to be musicians. Thank you.

Below is a snippet of Bone Girl with all credit due to Mr. Harrington and his students:

“Okay. We’ll stop there today,” Mrs. Casey said. She struggled to be heard over the noise of class ending. Mouthpieces plucked out. Horns dismantled. Brass banged against music stands. Cases slammed shut. 

“Remember, the only way to get better is to practice, so if you’re not practicing, you’re not going to get any better,” she told them.

“And one more thing, music should be performed, so don’t hide yourself away in your bedroom. Practice in front of your family so that when it’s concert time, you won’t be scared to play for an audience.”

“Mrs. Casey?”

She turned and saw Tommy Tipps holding his saxophone.

“The mouthpiece is stuck again,” he said, handing her the instrument.

She took it from him.

“Third time this week, Tommy. Are you sure you don’t want to play the cymbals?”

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, the glamorous life of an indie author, or how exactly do I format this book?

How would you describe that? I don’t know

In less than a week, I hope to send Bone Girl to my editor, Maudeen Wachsmith. Now comes the hard part. It’s time to fix the widgets. Or more aptly, to describe them.

I’ve got about six scenes I need to fill out in the manuscript and because I’m awful at writing description, I’ve procrastinated this task.

I blame my journalism background. When you work for newspapers, you learn to keep descriptions brief. Only the facts, ma’am. So, when my journalism professor critiqued my manuscript and wrote, “Describe Missouri during winter here,” he touched upon my biggest weakness: writing description.

The problem is, I can see it. I know exactly what Missouri looks like in the winter. Patches of dirty snow cover dead grass. The trees are bare, their branches encased in ice. Sleeping crop fields lay covered in snow, like great vats of chocolate chip ice cream. See. I’ve been there.

Or when he asks what Josey’s house looks like, I want to tell him: like my Grandmother Obermeier’s house outside of Lucas, Iowa. You know, you’ve been there lots of time.

But he hasn’t. I’m willing to bet that for all the millions (Hey, I can dream!) of people who read my book, maybe three will have been in that house: Aunt Mary Rose, Uncle Jack and my brother, Kevin.

Meanwhile, I see my author friends post on Facebook, “I wrote 5,000 words today! Woo-hoo.” And here I sit, searching for the words to describe a beginning band Christmas concert.

This reminds me of the annual inventory of my father’s lumberyard when I was a kid. Talk about the devil being in the details. Everything, I mean everything, had to be tallied once a year.

Like writing this novel, it started great. I was paid the grand sum of $1 an hour, and we had doughnuts on the first day. But it quickly tumbled downhill from there. Because you would be amazed at how much stuff is in a lumberyard. Screws, tools, nuts and bolts, light fixtures, paint, paintbrushes, wooden dowel rods, nails…you get the idea. Lots and lots of stuff. All of it to be counted. By day 2, I looked for a place to hide. $1 an hour just wasn’t worth it. Alas, I was found and encouraged to return to task.

My father’s business is no more. The last time I visited my hometown, Drake Lumberyard was a payday loan office. But this need to focus, to stay on task, remains. And this time, there are no doughnuts or lucrative wages. Just a fierce determination to make this book the best it can be and send it out into the world.

Hands and arms inside the cart, please. Next: I go undercover at Mirror Lake Middle School.

Tonight, on the Stephen Colbert show…

My last two blog entries have been way too too serious. I thought I’d have a little fun. Here, then, is my appearance on the Stephen Colbert show. Please enjoy!

Stephen: “My guest tonight is Annette Drake, author of Celebration House, Bone Girl and A Year with Geno. She’ll tell us exactly what kind of bone Geno is celebrating.”

(Twenty minutes into the broadcast, Stephen Colbert jogs over to the small circular table and sits down. We shake hands. I smile broadly at him. Inside, I’m quivering. I just hope I don’t vomit.)

Stephen: “Okay, everybody, settle down. Settle down. Let’s get started. Annette, you’re the author of Celebration House, Bone Girl and A Year with Geno. All three have been optioned by Peter Jackson for development into motion pictures. What’s the deal, Annette? Can’t you write a book that doesn’t need to be made into a movie?”

Me: Laughter. “I don’t know. I wish I could. My problem is,” and here I take out Stephen’s book, America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, “my books don’t come with 3-D glasses like yours do.”

Stephen: “Well, you’re no Stephen Colbert.”

Me: I lower my head in shame and mumble, “I know. I know.”

Stephen: “But seriously, I’ve got a beef with you. In Bone Girl, you make unflattering comments about Wal-Mart. How dare you. They’re an American institution.”

Me: “I don’t say those things, Stephen. The character, May Ellen Jones, says those things.”

Stephen: “Oh, c’mon. Are you saying your characters say and do things you don’t tell them to do?”

Me: “As hard as it is to believe, yes. Characters do and say things the author doesn’t intend. May Ellen has some caustic opinions about Wal-Mart. I would never say anything bad about Wal-Mart, like how they built a store in my hometown of Brookfield, Missouri, and killed off all of the small businesses, including my father’s lumberyard. I would never say anything like that.”

Stephen: “Do you shop at Wal-Mart?”

Me: “I spend as much time there as you do, Stephen.”

Stephen: “Another bone to pick: your books are so sad. Frankly, they’re downers. Why can’t you write a happy book? For example, in Bone Girl, the main character’s father is laid off and he can’t afford groceries. Now. C’mon. Why do you need to be so melodramatic? Do you work for the pharmaceutical companies, marketing anti-depressants?”

Me:  Laughter. “I don’t, although I think that would be a great-paying gig. I suspect there are many Americans who have been laid off from their jobs and struggle to afford groceries. That’s why the food pantries are so vocal in asking for donations. I don’t think being unable to afford groceries is melodramatic. It’s a reality.”

Stephen: “Now, what’s next for you? What are you going to celebrate next?”

Me: “My hope is for the sequels to Celebration House to premier in 2015. These two books will finish the trilogy. Then, I’d like to write a cozy mystery novel, and I love time-travel fiction. Who knows?”

Stephen: “Not bad for a high-school dropout.”

Me: “It’s amazing what we high school drop-outs can achieve.”

Stephen: “But in fact, you’re not just a drop-out. You were terminated from your nursing job at a hospital in Spokane, Washington. After that, you finished your debut novel, Celebration House, which was published by Tirgearr Publishing in 2013. You blogged that if you hadn’t lost your job, you may have never finished your first book.”

Annette: “That’s all true. I owe that nursing manager a great debt. Thank you, Kim.”

Stephen: “Well, Annette, thank you for coming on. I wish you every success. Annette Drake, everybody. Oh, and one more thing, Annette, enjoy the Colbert bump.” He reaches over and we bump fists.

The episode ends with Colbert reading a printed version of Celebration House and crying, dabbing at his eyes with Kleenex.

Hey, I can dream. Hands and arms inside the cart. Next:  I disappear…