Disposable or indispensable?

Recent headlines in The Seattle Times illuminate the importance of the American worker:

  • Microsoft shuts down last major piece of Nokia purchase, cuts 1,850 jobs (May 25, 2016)
  • Boeing plans hundreds of layoffs in local IT unit (May 25, 2016)
  • A few weeks ago, my employer reminded me of my importance. I received a text message that told me because I had not completed an annual competency, which I last completed in August of 2015, I was taken off the schedule and not allowed to work. I thought, this must be a mistake. My cellphone chirps every day with my supervisor asking me to come in on my day off to cover a co-worker’s shift who called out sick. Again. Or there’s a hole in the schedule: did I mind working extra? Now, with no warning, I’m told I can’t work. Hmm. I later found out I was one of 18 employees in my department who was made to clock out, finish the competency, and then clock back in.

    But this actually proved to be a blessing in disguise. Because this sudden “You’re off the schedule; we have no need of you,” spurred me to think about my future. How secure is my job? I wonder if employees at Boeing or Microsoft asked themselves the same question on May 24th.

    When I told my supervisor that her text made me feel disposable, she was quite surprised. But I recognize this as the harsh truth it is: for all the extra shifts I work and all the times I cover for co-workers, I am disposable.

    But I don’t want to be disposable. I want to be indispensable. Where can I be indispensable?

    Well, I think I’m pretty important to my husband and our little boy. And there’s one other place where I cannot be replaced: as the CEO of Baskethound Books, the small press I started in 2013. No one else can give life to the characters who inhabit my mind. No one else listens to their stories, cries with them and laughs with them. Just me. In my little office with Dean Martin crooning and my basset hound snoring, I do what no one else can do: I write my books.

    This got me to thinking: what are the obstacles to moving forward with Baskethound Books? Well, frankly, money. So, feeling bolder than I should, I took out a small loan and bought back the rights to my debut novel, Celebration House. I’ve wanted my rights back for a long, long time. Probably since I received my first three-month royalty payment of $31. Yep. That’s three months of royalties. And it was the biggest payment I received. So, last week, I did it. I made payment to Tirgearr Publishing and my rights are just that: mine.

    I also contracted with Melinda Wade, a professional actress, to narrate A Beautiful Day in Alaska. It’s really empowering to hear a professional storyteller tell you how much she loves your writing. I heartily recommend it to my fellow authors.

    I approved the sale of my third audiobook, Death Goes to the County Fair, and got busy fine-tuning the print version. It’s available now. The narrator, Daniel F. Purcell, and I delight in updating one another with sales figures.

    I’ve also decided to rename my novel, Bone Girl. For too long, I ignored all of the folks who told me the title dissuaded them from buying the book. Some would-be readers thought Bone Girl was a horror story; one reader suggested it was an erotic version of Gone Girl. Nope. Neither. So, working with the audiobook narrator, Darryl Hughes Kurylo, I retitled the book Trombone Girl, The Josey Miller Story. The new title and cover art will premier on July 1st. (Here’s a sneak peek at the cover. Beautiful, huh?).

    Cover by Elizabeth Mackey

    Cover by Elizabeth Mackey

    Can you hear the excitement I feel? Trust me: I never feel this excited when I trudge off to my day job. Maybe that’s the difference between disposable and indispensable.

    Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, defining the “romance” novel for myself.

    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.

    Defining success one reader at a time

    Every author must define success for himself. For some, it’s the ability to write full-time and support themselves with their storytelling. For others, a coveted spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Or perhaps it’s sitting in a darkened movie theater and watching as the beautiful people in Hollywood say and do things that first happened in the writer’s mind. That’s my favorite fantasy.

    And we have to feel some measure of success. We have to feel that someone out there is reading our story and gets it. Gets us. It’s a way to silence the voice that whispers in our ear, what dribble you write. How can you call yourself a writer?

    I’m new to the publishing world. My first novel debuted just a little more than a year ago; the money I receive from my book sales does not support me. So for now, I have other definitions of success to quell my insecurities.

    Simple things, like this email I received from Darry Hughes Kurylo, the actor who narrated Bone Girl:
    “We got a nice book. A nice performance. Let’s hope some folks find this and download.
    I miss it already!
    To all girls everywhere: “Play it….play it as loud as you can!”

    Or praise from Kat Brooks, the administrator of Indies Unlimited and the author of 22 books:
    “I’ve been judging novel-writing contests for a very long time – and I have to say – your first chapter is killer. Congratulations.”

    Or maybe it’s an email from our readers. In May, I received a message from Rowan, a young girl who wanted to know more about the setting of Bone Girl. We began corresponding, and I told her if she would mail me a copy of the book report she wrote about Bone Girl, I would send her a T-shirt, which I had made especially for her.

    A few days ago, I received the book report. She received a B+ on. Rowan also told me that she would wear her Bone Girl T-shirt to school on the first day. I can’t think of a higher honor. Now if I could just get her to send me a picture! (Hint, hint, Rowan).
    Please enjoy Rowan’s book report: (Spoiler alert: if you haven’t read the book, please stop reading here)

    “Bone Girl
    By Annette Drake
    Oral Presentation/Report by Rowan

    Title: Bone Girl

    Author: Annette Drake

    Setting: Bennett Springs, Missouri

    Main Characters: The main antagonist is Rebecca Miller, And Josey Miller, her daughter.

    Plot: In the beginning of this book, Josey’s mom was taken to jail for DUI. Later, she comes back on leave to see Josey’s concert, trying to get Carl, (Josey’s dad) to let her move back in so that she could be released from prison. Then, in the middle of the book, Josey and her dad were going low on money and food supply, so they sent Chief, a wild and untamed stallion from a well-paying horse boarder, to a 50-mile endurance race. During the end of the race, Carl and Chief never reach the end line. Multiple search parties wander the forest and trail in the dark to find them, without success. Josey starts playing her trombone to call for Chief. Then, the search party finds the horse by following the sound of his whinnying.

    Conflict & Resolution: There were two major complications in Bone Girl. The first one was the fact that her mom left her, and Josey desperately wanted her mom to be her mom again. To solve this, Josey joined the school band to give her mom a reason to visit her. In the end, Josey realizes that her mom doesn’t care about her, so she stops wanting to be around her. And the other complication comes near the end of the book, when Josey’s father and Chief go missing during a 50-mile endurance hike. To fix this problem, Josey remembers that one time when she was practicing her trombone in the stables, Chief would whinny and act excited. So she plays the instrument while search parties follow the sound of the horse’s whinnying.

    Opinion: I loved this book because I feel a deep admiration at Josey’s resilient nature. I also love horses. and the fact that even though her family was poor, her mother left her, and she felt like she didn’t belong anywhere, she still bounced back and solved problem after problem. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes horses, or heart-warming stories.”

    Ah, success. You taste wonderful.

    Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, I go kickstarting.