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.

    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

    Grateful: party of one

    Aside

    During the week of Jan. 4-10th, you probably saw lots of Facebook posts from me about my cozy mystery, Death Goes to the County Fair. You may have even read a review or two. All of this publicity is thanks to Lori of Great Escapes Book Tour. Lori and 10 bloggers generously agreed to help spread the word about my mystery.

    I now have six reviews and lots of new Twitter followersThank you2. Thanks to the book tour, I sold a pleasing number of copies. The tour also featured a giveaway of a $10 gift card, which I will award at the end of this week.

    I wanted to tell Lori and her blogging minions how much I appreciate the time and effort they put forth to promote me and my humble work. Thank you. Most of the bloggers are just that: they write reviews and post them. But a few of the sites belong to authors. So, in a small way, I’d like to repay their kindness with a little promotion of my own.

    Amy Metz, who hosted me on A Blue Million Books, also writes mysteries. Please consider visiting her website: http://amymetz.com/. Her two-book mystery series, Goose Pimple Junction Mysteries, can be purchased there or at Amazon: [amazon text=Amazon&asin=B00NE1H8FW]

    D.E. Haggerty, who blogs at Readsalot, is a fellow mystery writer and graciously reviewed my book. Here’s a link to her most recent work: [amazon text=Amazon&asin=B014IP8VRQ]

    Thanks again to Lori and all of the folks at Great Escapes Book Tour.

    Next: hands and arms inside the cart: remodeling Celebration House.

    Welcome to Ogallala!

    Picture for 10 15 15 blog post

    This photo was taken in May of 1988 when I graduated from Northeast Missouri State University, now known as Truman State University. My first professional job out of college was as news editor for the Pleasant Hill Times. This year-long stint provided much of the inspiration for “Death Goes to the County Fair.”

    Today, I join the ranks of mystery writers. My novel, “Death Goes to the County Fair” premiers.
    When I put this book together, I had to include a disclaimer. Mine looks like this:
    “This book is a work of fiction. All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation to anyone bearing the same name or names. Any resemblance to individuals known or unknown to the author are purely coincidental. The town of Ogallala, Missouri does not exist. It is a fictional location.”
    Most of that is true; there is no Ogallala, Missouri. Ogallala is a town in Nebraska that my husband and I drove through in May of 2014. I just loved the name of the town.
    The main character, Joni Harte, is a recent college graduate who accepts the job of photographer and reporter at the Ogallala Gazette. She is a figment of my imagination. Well, sort of.
    Almost 30 years ago, I worked as a journalist. My first job out of college was for a weekly newspaper in Pleasant Hill, a small Missouri town south of Kansas City. I did all of the things Joni does – I covered city-council and schoolboard meetings. I took photos of toddler beauty-contest winners. I had two amazing co-workers – one named Nancy and the other Ed. And like Joni, I was late for a parade and threatened with the loss of my job. I struggled to learn the intricacies of small-town life.
    As in my novel, many of the town residents reached out and welcomed me. The small convenience store next door started stocking my favorite beer: Lowenbrau. Do they even still sell Lowenbrau? A couple I wrote a feature article about invited me to be a judge at their BBQ contest. And like Joni, I lived next door to my landlords: Barry and Ann, who fed me dinner on more than one occasion. Barry used to call me a “greenhorn.”
    Any murders happen while I was the news editor for the Pleasant Hill Times? Nope. Not a one. House fires? Yes. Two. Including one house fire in which the old woman who lived there did not escape. I still remember standing by the remains of the house, sick with the sadness of it. That’s likely what inspired the book’s prologue.
    What about Sheriff Cletus Butane? He is, I admit, my favorite character in the book. I don’t remember the Pleasant Hill police chief’s name in 1988, but I do remember he was gracious and patient with me. I know. I know. We’re not supposed to like our police, but I do. I like to think Sheriff Butane is a mix of Andy Griffith and Marshall Matt Dillon.
    There was a small restaurant across the street from the Times office. It wasn’t named the Wagon Wheel though. That’s actually the name of a small restaurant that my aunt owned in Linneus, Missouri. And yes, her pies were amazing. My fictional protagonist, Joni, loves the banana cream, but I loved my great aunt’s chocolate cream pie.
    Like Joni, I made a few mistakes, including writing a feature article about a disabled woman and not getting her guardian’s permission to publish it until the day we went to press. I also misspelled a name or two. This is very frowned upon in the journalism world.
    No, sadly enough I did not drive an AMC Gremlin. I drove a 1970-something Pontiac Grand Am until the day a man rear-ended me and totaled it. Then, I bought a very old and beat-up Chevrolet Impala from my landlord. Like Joni, I longed for a car made in the decade in which I lived.
    This book is the first in a mystery series. I have lots of ideas for sequels, including titles like “Death Goes Spelunking,” “Death Goes Antiquing,” and “Death Goes to College.” Lots of ideas. Now to turn those ideas into books. Therein is the challenge.
    What’s next for me? Completing the two sequels to Celebration House. The trilogy will publish in 2016.
    Meanwhile, I wait to hear what readers think about Joni Hart and Sheriff Cletus Butane. It’s my strongest hope they will love these two characters and the others who live in my fictional town of Ogallala, Missouri.
    Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, learning how to manage Celebration House.