Annette's blog

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!

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

It’s time to be honest

Yesterday, I bought a romance ebook from one of my favorite writers. It was on sale for $1.99, and years ago I read and loved her other books. I started reading it last night, and bam! The hero raped the heroine on their wedding night. Foolishly, I kept reading. And bam! He accused her of being a whore and assaulted her. I made it to maybe 15% of the book, and I was done. I couldn’t finish it. This morning I asked Amazon to return my money. I’m tempted to write to the author and ask, “What were you thinking?”
So, as a writer, this makes me question my own boundaries. Do I write rape scenes? Am I willing to have one of my characters physically or emotionally abuse another? I mean, those books sell, right? Didn’t E.L. James make more than $90 million on Fifty Shades of Grey? Give the reader what they want, right?
Nope. Not for me. I will never write a book where the hero rapes, assaults or verbally abuses the heroine. Never. I will not write scenes like the ones that tortured my eyes last night. As for Fifty Shades of Grey, I do not write erotica. I never shall. I don’t write scenes where men bully women or if I do, it’s because he is the villain. I think many women, myself included, make enough bad decisions on our own. We don’t need an “alpha male” to create obstacles for us. We can do that just fine on our own, thank you.

I made this chocolate cake last night. Yes, there is a slice or two missing. My husband and I cut into it last night while watching Downton Abbey.
I made this chocolate cake last night. Yes, there is a slice or two missing. My husband and I cut into it last night while watching Downton Abbey. Speaking of honesty: would you like to know the calories and fat grams for one slice? No. Me neither. I’ll take my honesty in measured doses.

I’m going to come clean with you: after studying the genre as I write my Celebration House trilogy, it’s time to confess: I don’t write romance. I don’t. Because the definition of romance – “the core story is the developing relationship between a man and a woman*” – isn’t really what my books are about. My books are about, well, a lot of things, but my heroines’ happiness doesn’t hinge on a successful romance. It’s more of the frosting on the cake, rather than the whole dessert. It’s time to be honest: I write women’s fiction.
And there’s one more thing I’ve recently come to realize: I really enjoy writing for children. Earlier this month I attended a Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference. It was held at a hotel where I attended a children’s writing conference in 2010 and 2013. I sat in that classroom, desperately fighting to stay awake, and I remembered past conferences where I felt alive with the idea of writing books for children. This gave rise to the idea of Louisa, a little witch who is allergic to cats and afraid of flying (we share this attribute). It’s a series of chapter books meant for first and second-grade readers. Louisa feels like she’s a misfit. I get that.
Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: Sharing an “aha” moment.

*Quote from Leigh Michaels’ book On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells