2016 – what a year you’re going to be

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You get what you focus on?”

This is Stanton Hall, an antebellum mansion in Natchez, MS. I keep a photograph of this magnificent home by my computer. It's how I envision Stratton House. Beautiful, huh?

This is Stanton Hall, an antebellum mansion in Natchez, MS. I keep a photograph of this magnificent home by my computer. It’s how I envision Stratton House. Beautiful, huh?

I think there’s a lot of wisdom in those six words. And in 2016, I’m applying them to my writing career.

Ever since Celebration House was published by Tirgearr Publishing in August of 2013, I’ve been talking and blogging and blabbing on about the sequels to it. Well, this is the year. This is the year of Celebration House.

I’ll admit there are some hurdles. To begin with, I signed a contract with Tirgearr Publishing in April of 2013. According to the contract, they have exclusive rights to the book for five years. That means, I don’t have the right to publish my own creation via Baskethound Books in any form – audiobook, print or e-book – until August of 2018 unless I pay them $500. Okay. $500. Got it. Let us shake hands and wish each other well.

Then, there is the task of writing the two new books. I’ve started and stopped several times. I’ve had a few diversions, such as writing a novella, A Beautiful Day in Alaska, and my first cozy mystery, Death Goes to the County Fair, as well as the screenplay adaptation for Bone Girl. But those projects are done. Or perhaps I should say done enough for now.

But there are some structural problems with Celebration House. I wrote that book years ago, and I don’t write that way anymore. So, I’m adding new scenes and deleting the passages where I tell and don’t show. I’m reworking the book so it’s clearly a romance and not women’s fiction.

And I’m having a blast! I love revisiting my heroine, Carrie, as she fights to save a falling-down antebellum mansion that was built 100 years before she was born. I’m happy to be back among the cast and crew of that book, including my hero, Maj. Stewart, who still looks so much like Hugh Jackman; they could be brothers. I love catching up with the other ghosts who demand Carrie’s attention, like Col. Stratton for whom the house is made, and his wife, Virginia. Violet is still my favorite.

And then there are my new heroines. Beth Kozera, the nurse who helped Carrie in Celebration House, stars in Volume 2. Beth, like me, knows nothing about running an event venue. She and I are going to learn together. We started by interviewing the manager of the Van Valey House here in Everett, Washington. That event venue is owned by the City of Everett, so now I’m querying owner-operated locales to ask my many questions.

The third, and last installment, stars Melanie, Carrie’s older sister. Melanie is the most complex character I’ve ever written. She’s the villain in the first book, so how I turn her from criticizing shrew to the heroine is going to be a writing feat. Fortunately, I’ve got a mighty tool: I’ve got grief. Oh, the things grief does to us. I’ve already written the prologue to Melanie’s story, and I still can’t read it without crying.

What? Tears? Oh, yes. Keep a box of Kleenex nearby. You’re gonna need them, my friend.

Can you hear how excited I am about this project? Honestly, it’s the best antidote to the winter grays that descend upon me every year.

I’ve got my cover artist lined up and my proofreader. I still need an editor who knows, really knows, romance. I haven’t found her (or him?) yet.

Any sex scenes in my books? Nope. Sorry. But I’m going to create so much sexual tension that the reader will wish there were sex scenes. I’m honing my skills. I’m joining a local chapter of Romance Writers of America, and I’m either going to find a critique group or start one. I’m busy!

And target reader, I know who you are. After almost three years since I first published, I finally know who my target reader is. How sad is that? You are my Aunt Mary Rose. You are my co-worker, Joelle. I’ll spare the demographics and just say this: Target Reader, you are going to love, love, love these three books.

So, when will they publish? I don’t know the exact month and day. I’m still working out those pesky details. But I know this: 2016.

Hands and arms inside the cart: Beth Kozera and I go looking for an event venue

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.

Exploring fiverr.com

Ah, the glamorous life of an independent author.

Unlike traditional authors – who have publishers and publicists and proofreaders, oh my! – indie authors do all of it themselves. Or they find someone who can.

Last summer, I attended a Romance Writers of America meeting and having just moved my website from wordpress.com to wordpress.org, I was hungry, some might say desperate, for IT advice from these experienced authors. One of them crinkled her little button nose up at me, narrowed her eyes and said, “I have no idea if my website is on wordpress.org or wordpress.com. I wouldn’t know the difference.” Oh, to be so naive.

Because as an indie author, I do know the difference. Oh, yes. Earlier this year, I chose to join the ranks of writers who publish their work themselves. I’ll never write another query letter again. The days of going to conferences in hopes of meeting an agent or an editor who sees a glimmer of value in my work are over. Done. Kaput.

Oh, sure. Some days I fantasize about getting “the call.” The phone rings. It’s an editor from HighBrow Publishing. She’s calling to offer me oodles of cash if only I’ll sign a contract and allow them the divine privilege of publishing my novel. Thousands of dollars can be mine with the swipe of a pen. I can kiss the lean days goodbye. Quit my day job. Buy a box of bon-bons. I’ve moving into a house on Easy Street.

And with that phone call, I no longer need worry about typos in my books or cover art that doesn’t look quite right. Nope. All of those mundane tasks will be done for me by people way smarter than me who live in New York City.

You can tell I’ve spent time thinking about this, can’t you?

But the problem is, I don’t write books that HighBrow editors want to publish. When I queried my debut novel, Celebration House, to Kensington Publishing, the editor wrote back and said the idea had promise but I needed to get rid of the ghosts. Okay. I queried a publisher with my picture-book, The Carwash Dragon. Again, I was told the idea had merit if only I would rinse out the carwash element.

And I’m okay with my slightly off-kilter storylines. For example, I want to write a Civil War romance with a hero who is an amputee. Think HighBrow Publishing would touch that one? Yeah. Me neither.

Okay. So if my choice to be an indie author requires me to learn how to navigate social-media sites like Pinterest and MailChimp and use software I can’t even pronounce, I’m going to need help. Enter fiverr.com.

This website, as the name implies, lists artists and folks of all backgrounds from all over the world who complete tasks for $5. When I needed a logo for my small press, Baskethound Books, I hired an artist from this website.

Recently, I wanted to add a Christmas touch to my logo, so I went back to fiverr.com and asked the artist for a Christmas version. While I was there, I perused the different skills offered. I saw an artist, Jolie from Hawaii, who would illustrate children’s books. I reached out to her and asked if she would work with me on bringing The Carwash Dragon to fruition. She said yes. Here are two of her first sketches:


When I mentioned that I was using fiverr.com, I received a warning from a fellow writer. He said some authors use fiverr.com to pay for book reviews or to add fake Facebook followers. I’ll steer clear of that. But if I need help with WordPress.org again, I have my fiverr connection – Jacob from the UK. Likewise, when I launch my first MailChimp newsletter on Monday, Nov. 24th, you’ll see the work of Paul from Canada. All hired via fiverr.com.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: why I love Thanksgiving Day.

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

Remembering why I write

A few months after my debut novel, Celebration House, was published in August of 2013, I received an email from my older brother, Kevin. He and I had lost touch over the years and hadn’t seen one another since the late 1990s. Kevin said that he and his wife, Kathy, had purchased my ebook and would like to have a print version. Where could they buy one?

My response to my brother was something along the lines of, “So, you’re the one who bought my book,” and that there was not currently a print version available. For my brother and I, my small success in writing was the catalyst, I think, for us to reconnect. A few months later, as 2013 came to a close, my brother wrote to me again to tell me that he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and was fighting for his life. He died July 30th.

And so began my journey into grief. It’s a private trip into one of the darkest places I’ve ever known. Unlike other struggles, like my divorces or child-custody battles, there’s no villain for me to attack. No one person against whom I can wage war. My mother died 12 years ago, but losing a sibling is a different genre of grief. Please forgive me if this sounds cold, but most of us expect to lose a parent. We don’t expect to lose a 51-year-old brother.

In August, I began working on the sequel to Celebration House. If you know my novel, you know how it ends. You also know that the heroine of the second book, Beth, walks a similar path to mine. Like me, or perhaps because of me, Beth feels overshadowed by sadness, remorse and perhaps guilt. She has little patience with the bridezillas who rent out Carrie’s house – she still thinks of it as Carrie’s – and doesn’t always know what to do with the tidal waves of emotions that pummel her daily. One of my favorite scenes is when Beth relates to a friend that her sadness has sat outside in the hot summer sun and rotted, turning into anger she can barely contain.

I stopped writing Beth’s story. Who would want to read it? Instead, I began working on a cozy mystery called Death Comes to the Ogallala Fair. My reasons for doing this are, I’ll be honest, a little financial. Cozy mysteries sell. They’re fun. They’re lighthearted. They’re not, well, sad.

I wasn’t sure I could do this. I mean, the death of my brother moved the foundation of my mental health a good three feet. So how could I kill people?

It was easier than I thought! Because to quote Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie, True Lies, I only kill bad people.

Something happened as I struggled to write my 1,000 words each day and piece together characters and a setting for the mystery. I began to have fun. Real fun! I would laugh out loud at the outrageous things happening in the small town of Ogallala, Missouri. (Yes. I know there is no such place, but I just love saying it: Ogallala. Ogallala. Say it with me. Ogallala.

The town itself is based on Pleasant Hill, Missouri, where I had the privilege of being a newspaper reporter for a year before taking a job with The Sedalia Democrat. Oh, did I mention I set it in 1988? Yep. No cellphones. No internet. Somebody break out the George Michael cassette tapes.

The novel is complete fiction, but like my other books, the people who live on the pages are based on people I know, including my former bosses and co-workers at The Pleasant Hill Times. I’ve elaborated on the sheriff because, well, I wanted to. And the ultimate villain? It’s…wait. I intend to finish this book and hawk it for $2.99. I better keep that to myself.

I am reading the Amazon bestselling books in this genre, and I purchased two e-books about how to write a cozy mystery. Right now, I’m crafting the characters. I want to create a protagonist who the reader cares enough about to stay up until 2 a.m. to see what happens to her. I want to intricately plot this book. I want to whittle my storytelling with my sharpest-edged knife. And I want to laugh, or rather, keep laughing at the things these new people in my life say and do.

The few pages I’ve shared with my critique group have been well received. They like the idea of this small town where a killer is loose and the sole reporter for The Ogallala (See! Isn’t it fun to say?) Gazette stays just one step ahead of the murderer. Or perhaps, murderess?!? Oh, this is going to be fun. One of my critique partners compared it to the Mark Twain’s The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. I would never go that far, but I will say this: it helps.

Kevin and PoppyWriting dilutes and on a really good day, dispels my sadness. And sitting on the desk next to my computer is my favorite picture of my brother, Kevin. He is with me still.

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, have I gone too commercial?

Sprechen sie Deutsch? No. I’m afraid I don’t.

Last month, feeling far bolder than I perhaps should have, I reached out to a German editor and we talked about the possibility of Bone Girl being translated into German or perhaps made into a German audiobook. I was beside myself with excitement! I couldn’t believe it. My humble book would be available to readers in Germany. My mother, Louise OBERMEIER Drake, would have probably been just as excited as I was, God rest her soul.
So, I sent the manuscript to the would-be translator, and I waited. And waited.
Meanwhile, riding the excitement of this possible translation, I put together a Kickstarter campaign to reclaim the rights to my debut novel, Celebration House, and bring to fruition what many readers have been clamoring for: a print version of my debut novel. With the $2,500 I hoped to raise, I would pay off the Irish publisher, hire a professional proofreader and cover designer, and before the end of the year, Celebration House would be rebuilt.
But the writing journey is a long one, and this time, I encountered a few obstacles I could not go around.
My Kickstarter campaign ended last week, and I’m sorry to report that I did not meet my goal of $2,500. I didn’t even come close. I raised $135.
And today, I learned that to have Bone Girl translated into German would cost far more than I can afford. It’s not likely to happen soon.
Okay. So these are ideas that did not bear fruit. Got it.
But there’s always a silver lining, right? Always a lesson to be learned? I kind of think so.
Let’s start with the Kickstarter campaign. It’s the first time I put together a public project like this. I borrowed a video camera from my local library and turned a spare bedroom into a studio. Because my basset hound is my mascot, Eeyore was in the video with me. Note: hounds love hot dogs and rabbits. Both were used to entice him to focus on the camera. It was fun! Also, because we made a video, actually several, I put together a YouTube channel, where I posted a few of our out takes. Dare I say mistakes?
Part of the project was to offer prizes for those who backed my project. I dreamt up the idea of a cell phone ringtone of my hound’s magnificent bay. In fact, I found a local studio which will record it and convert it into a downloadable file. That may yet happen.
I also put together what I am calling Baskethound Boutique. It’s an online store on my website where I sell my books and merchandise, like T-shirts and coffee mugs, for those who might choose to support my small business. Yesterday, a girlfriend in Alaska reached out to me and said she wanted to buy three copies of Bone Girl. Which distributor would pay me the most? I sent her to Baskethound Boutique.
As for my German translation, I’m not giving up. I’m convinced that when Bone Girl finds an advocate in Hollywood and takes to the big screen, the German translation will happen. That’s called hope. For now, it’s enough.
Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, remembering why I write.

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).


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.


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.

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.