Saturday, September 29, 2012

Care to Buy a Book?

The wait is over! 
For everyone who has been patiently waiting for the paperback version of my book, I am so happy to say the paperback is available for sale.  You can buy the book either on Amazon or visit my eStore and buy it directly from there.  For those who enjoy holding a book when they read, the print version of No Mother of Mine is a large paperback (5.5 x 8.5) and over 400 pages.  For those who enjoy eBooks, the eBook version is also still available on either the Amazon or Barnes & Noble website.
For anyone who has not yet viewed a preview of my book on or, I thought I would share the prologue of my book with you, to see if it piques your interest even more…

No Mother of Mine

She awkwardly carried the bundles wrapped in the sheet as she left the house by the back door. She partially stumbled down the stone steps before walking down the garden path. It began to drizzle but she felt nothing; not the rain, not the pain and no compassion for what she held in her arms. She was no longer any resemblance to the person she had been just a few days before. She was lost, both in mind and in spirit, and had no strength to stop the manic identity that had taken over her. She reached the back of the rose garden and knelt down on the ground, laying the bundles down as she rested her knees in the dirt. Her thin white cotton gown began to sag from the rain and her wet hair hung limp around her face. The sheet was now soiled from the garden dirt along with the blood she had earlier wiped from her legs. She used her bare hands to begin digging a hole between the red rose and the yellow rose bush, her favorite. Once the hole seemed big enough, she reached into the sheet to grab a tin filled with items she no longer wished to keep. She threw the tin into the freshly dug hole and reached for the sheet. A tiny hand suddenly sprang from one half of the bundled sheet and then a small cry rang out. It startled her. She thought her sins had been forced on the little ones and that they had not drawn any breath at all. The second bundle began to kick at the sheet and also began to cry. She felt confused but as insane thoughts rushed through her head, she understood from those thoughts that she would have to take responsibility for her sins. To take responsibility would mean to give back that which she should never have had in the first place. She reached down to pick up one of the bundles, never for a moment thinking a rational thought regarding what she was about to do. She wrapped the sheet more snugly and then held the bundle tightly against her chest. She could feel movement only slightly but as she held the bundle even tighter, the movement soon stopped.

“What are you doing?!” The rain muffled the sound of footsteps so that she was startled to hear the voice yelling at her from behind.

She turned to face her intruders, but in her state of mind she was barely able to recognize who they were. “I am taking responsibility for my sins,” she said to her father.

“Is that the baby? What do you think you are doing?” Her father reached down and forcibly took the baby from her arms.

Standing next to her father, her mother shrieked, “What did she do?!” Her mother began to cry as she turned to her and said, “My God, what have you done?”

She did not believe her mother’s question deserved a response, so she did not reply.

Her father grabbed her arm and pulled her up off the ground. She looked away from him as he questioned her. “What have you done?” Having already disassociated herself from what had been hers, she pulled her arm from his grasp and walked away to sit on a nearby bench.

Her father quickly opened the sheet to get a look at the baby wrapped inside. “Oh, please, God, let the baby be okay.” As he attempted to determine the fate of the one he held in his arms, he heard a cry from the other half of the bundled sheet still on the ground.

Her mother bent down to open the sheet. “There’s another one? She had twins?” Her father then spotted the freshly dug hole near the yellow rose bush. As his wife picked up the second baby, he held the first baby in a protective hug and quietly wept as he began to understand the horror of what his daughter had been about to do.

~  ~  ~
Whether the prologue intrigues you or even disturbs you in the slightest, I hope it piques your interest enough to review the book and possibly even purchase it.  Be sure to check out the reviews I’ve received so far on Amazon, they are quite nice and much appreciated. 



Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Learn-as-you-go Game

This week I was absent from posting because I was proofing the paperback version of my book.  It took what spare time I had after the hours each day were accounted for with work, and time spent with family, but I finally finished reviewing and correcting the proof and was more than ready to move on to the next step.  The plan was to make any necessary corrections to the original so that the paperback could be approved for print by this weekend. 
But plans do not always go as expected.

While the proof was ready to go, with a few corrections, I goofed when I tried to send the corrected proof back to the publisher.  How did I goof?  I clicked on the wrong button and ended up submitting the original proof back to them rather than the proof I had just spent the last week reviewing and correcting.
I blame my mistake on the fact that I was probably just too tired to pay attention.

That reminds me of the saying:  I’m so broke I can’t even pay attention!
I’ve always liked that saying. 

Anyhow, moving on…since I submitted a file to the publisher, it had to be reviewed again by them to verify I meet submission requirements before I could move on.  Because a file had been submitted for review, even if it was the incorrect file, I was pretty much locked out from making any changes. 
So I had to wait.  I had to stay away from the computer to avoid going batty from constantly checking for a message to confirm I was no longer locked out and could upload the correct file.  I puttered around the house, went to a movie with my kids, cleaned up my gardens, put away the garden decorations and other summer items and even organized items stored in my shop.  After that job, I decided I may as well organize my office now that boxes of files had been moved out to the shop.  Of course, this meant being near my computer so before I began to clean, I checked for a message from the publisher.  Seeing no message, I had to ignore the feelings of impatience and I got to work organizing. 

Organizing…it is a great task and an excellent way to take your mind off things.  After about two hours (yeah, the office was way overdue for this chore), the task of organizing my office was finally complete and I again sat down at the computer. 
I checked my e-mail.  And still saw no response from the publisher.

I tried to remain positive and decided to check on my account update directly on the publishing website. 
Ah ha! 

There was a message informing me the file had been reviewed, no issues had been found and the proof was again waiting for my approval.  I dislike the fact that I have lost a day and had to wait until now to upload the correct file but it has been done.  I received a message shortly afterwards informing me that the file was reviewed and no major issues were found.  Now, I must wait for the second message to inform me I once again meet the submission requirements.  Since the corrections I made were minor, I know I’ll meet the requirements but until I receive that message, I have to wait before I can submit the final proof for print.
As I have said before one way or another, the learning curve in this business is huge.  One new tidbit I learned from this process was that once my paperback is up and ready for print, I am automatically provided with a Kindle version of my book to upload as an eBook on Amazon.  Considering the fact that I paid to have the original manuscript converted to an eBook (for Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook) and it took some time to complete that process, I was surprised to receive a completely formatted file for a Kindle eBook immediately upon completing the final steps required for the paperback.  Since I already have an eBook for Kindle available on Amazon, it’s not a file I need at this time but it is good to know for next time. 

And there will be a next time, or many next times, as I continue to write and publish.
I just hope I remember all the little tidbits I learn when it’s time to do this all over again with the next book.  While this blog is for anyone who knows me and wants to keep up with what I’m doing or for anyone who also might wish to publish a book, I’ll admit this blog is also going to be a reference for me as I continue to write and publish.  I will no doubt make use of these posts as a reference in the future to remind myself of the little hiccups that pop up here and there.

So now that I’ve recorded my publishing hiccup of the week, it’s time to wait just a little bit longer.  But we won’t be waiting long.  You’ll be hearing from me again very soon.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Look Who Came to Visit!

Jorja Matthews, that’s who.
I hope by now, if you’ve either read the book blurb for No Mother of Mine or, hopefully, you have already read the book, you know who Jorja Matthews is.  She is my protagonist.  She is what my new book and mystery series is all about.

Jorja (say, ‘Georgia’) is someone who I hope you will enjoy being introduced to, along with her best friend, Taylor, and her loyal companion and furry sidekick, Piper, as well as a host of locals who live and work around the small, quaint town Jorja now resides in.  I thoroughly enjoy writing about them and I truly hope you will enjoy reading about them.
As I have stated earlier, now that the eBook is available, I have been working on making the paperback available for sale.  I finished those preparations a week ago and once I received word from the publishing company that the book was ready for review, I ordered a copy to proof.  That was on Monday and by Friday the yellow slip had arrived informing me a box too large to fit in the post office box was available to pick up.  I was elated until I realized the post office was already closed!

Thankfully, we have nice postal workers here in my town.  After a few furtive raps on the glass from me, the postal worker was more than willing to help out once she saw me holding my yellow card, most likely with a pitiful, pleading look on my face, hoping to exchange it for the box being held hostage within.
Once I was handed the box, it took all my effort not to rip it open right then and there!  But, I knew my family was at home waiting for me and they would enjoy nothing more than taking part in this exciting step in the process.

I will admit to a few longing glances at the box while I was driving and I even reached over to pick up the box a time or two, just to make sure it was still there and not my imagination.  I’m very thankful the ride home from the post office is only five minutes because even a handful of minutes seemed too long.
I thought seeing my book for sale as an eBook on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites was exciting but opening that box to expose an actual paperback with my name on it and my very own creation inside?  That experience is completely beyond description.  It is very surreal.  It is any and every emotion you might imagine and then some.

So what do I do now? 
Well, I need to read the book to proof it, which I have been working on over the weekend.  I need to make a few decisions regarding any changes I might like to make.  I’m sure it’s no surprise that there are a few steps in this process where I’m still learning.  As much as I research anything and everything that has to do with publishing, I’m still coming across issues I have not yet heard or read about.  Even something as minor as the color of the paper inside the book or the size of the font.  The paper is white (versus off-white), which I chose, not realizing just how bright it would be.  But, in contrast to the book cover, it actually looks good and I’m going to keep it that way.  And then there’s the size of the font.  It is larger than I expected and from the initial reviews on my computer, was not something that was obvious to me at the time.  Now that I see it in print, I’d prefer the font be an 11 rather than a 12, but to change it means to change the number of pages in my book.  Considering others factors and decisions I’ve had to make, less pages would be better except that the cover has been created specifically for the size of my book (a large 5.5 x 8.5 paperback) and the number of pages existing at the time it was initially approved for the first printing.  I don’t want to delay the process by having another cover formatted so for those who care, although it is not considered large print, you certainly won’t need to worry about squinting to read the words in my book.   

Even as new issues pop up, I know what I’ve learned from this book will help me with the second and the third and beyond.  I’ll continue to learn, which is okay.  I will never be at a point where I will know everything and I would never expect that to be the case.  But as I learn, I hope that for anyone who is also thinking about writing and publishing, maybe what I’ve learned will also help you.
It’s time to get back to proofing the book but look for information soon on how to purchase the paperback, if that is what you’ve been waiting for, as it is on track to be made available before the end of the month.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Grow Where you are Planted

We’re only a few days away from the beginning of fall and each morning lately I can feel how much cooler it has gotten overnight.  However, even with the chilly mornings, we have been enjoying beautiful weather during the day.  After about fifty days without hardly any rain, it is apparent we are stretching our summer weather right up until the beginning of fall and possibly beyond.  I don’t mind, since any lack of rain during the summer is always made up for the rest of the year. 
Even with the lack of rain, I saw something recently to prove even plants have a determined spirit of their own. Just down the road as I was heading to work the other morning, I saw a sunflower.  It was fairly small, maybe three feet tall.  But it was a perfect little sunflower, facing directly towards the uprising sun.  The sunflower wasn’t perched in a pot on someone’s porch.  It wasn’t in a garden in someone’s back yard.  And it wasn’t growing in the grass in someone’s front yard.  It had somehow found its place of rest on the side of the road.  It wasn’t in the ditch where the dirt may have been soft, but in the middle of the gravel on the shoulder of the road.
That sunflower did not pick the easiest spot to grow.  It is not tended to by anyone with constant attention or water.  It is in a precarious spot where harm might quickly shorten its season of growth.  And it is not standing beside other, larger sunflowers which might protect it from the wind or other forces of nature.
The sunflower found itself in its resting spot and had no choice but to grow where it had been planted. 

While it may be just a flower, this little sunflower is a good reminder of what we can achieve even if we do not end up exactly where we believe we should be.  This little sunflower did not end up in a cushy garden with soft, moist dirt and heaps of tender loving care.  It ended up in hard, sharp gravel, with no protection and up against the force of wind from constantly moving traffic.
But the sunflower continues to thrive.  It continues to grow.  There is no reason for it not to.

I think we can all be like this little sunflower.  We should always strive to grow where we are planted.  When we work to achieve growth in our lives, we can thrive.  We can blossom.  We have to remember that the possibilities in light of any hardships are always attainable. 
This little sunflower is a tiny ray of sunshine in my day but the message it brings means so much more to me.  I look for the little sunflower every morning now and it brings a smile to my face every time.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Grandparents Day

Today is Grandparents Day, a very special day for members of the family who probably do not receive recognition often enough.  After all, if it weren’t for them, we would not be here.  Grandparents are a special breed; some are overly affectionate, while others offer what they can, based on what they learned from their own parents and grandparents.  Those in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s are a much different generation than the younger grandparents of today. 
I always felt fortunate to have grandparents, even great grandparents, while I was in high school.  Many of my friends did not have grandparents and there were quite a few whose parents were close to the age of my grandparents.  Obviously, my parents had me when they were fairly young.  While it might not be an ideal situation for young adults to have children, it did give me the advantage of having my great grandparents around for much of my younger years. 

I also had the advantage of having more than the normal amount of grandparents.  When my parents split up and my dad remarried, I will still pretty young when I gained a step-mom, as well as two additional grandparents.  For the remainder of my childhood, I not only had great grandparents still living but also six grandparents. 
As time happens to pass, so do our loved ones.  I was a young adult when the last of my great grandparents passed away but I have been so fortunate to have had my grandparents through most of my adulthood.  It has also meant that my boys have also had the benefits of getting to know their great grandparents.  Although I have lost four of my grandparents over the past decade, I feel blessed that they were able to be a part of the earlier years of my boys’ lives. 

I wish to dedicate this post to my grandparents who are still living and also to those who have passed on: 
My step-grandmother who was the first to pass away was a very independent soul with a tough attitude, never taking guff from anyone, young or old.  My maternal grandfather saw many, many things throughout his long life and probably grew up believing he had to always be strong but I will forever be grateful for the caring words he offered me before he left us.  My paternal grandfather was a kind and caring soul, he was a good listener, and he was a constant joke-teller, oftentimes making you laugh before he got to the punch line because he was already laughing so hard himself.  Just being around him made you feel special and I truly miss that about him.  My maternal grandmother was someone who never seemed to change in appearance throughout my childhood years and even now when I view old photographs it still amazes me.  She was a tough cookie during my younger years, seeing many things throughout her 94 years but as she aged, she also became more affectionate and eager to be a part of my life and my sons’ lives.  She was a sweet, caring and very cute grandmother and I am thankful for the time we spent with her in her later years.

Now that I am feeling very nostalgic about the grandparents who are gone, I will move on to talk about my grandparents who are still very much with us:
My step-grandfather is a quiet and gentle man who, now in his 80’s, is still very active socially and physically.  He could probably put some men half his age to shame not only in stamina but also in bowling skills.  If only everyone could age as well as him, the younger generation might look at their elders in a much different light.   And then there is my maternal grandmother.  She is one of the most loving and caring individuals you might ever meet.  She has a calm spirit and is someone who will always be there if I need her.  She is such a wonderful grandmother, other kids would want to call her grandma when she was a cook at my elementary school; something I was always jealous about when I was a kid.  Well, who am I kidding?  I’d probably be jealous now if anyone else wanted to call her grandma!      

Here’s a quote and a cute snapshot of my grandparents before my grandfather passed away:
The history of our grandparents is remembered not with rose petals
but in the laughter and tears of their children and their children's children.
It is into us that the lives of grandparents have gone.
It is in us that their history becomes a future.”  
~Charles and Ann Morse~

Grandparents are very special and a precious part of our history.  I wish all grandparents out there a tremendously Happy Grandparents Day. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My First Week as a Published Author

It has been a week now since I first uploaded my book with Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s websites as an eBook.  I took a few extra days off work to set aside time with my boys, as my youngest is starting high school, and also to work out any kinks that might come up with the book.  It’s a good thing I did because I have been too sidetracked with the start of a new school year and my book to even think about work.
For anyone who has ever published an eBook, I’d love to hear about your experiences.  It might seem like a fairly simple process but there are many elements to the whole concept.  From the conversion, to the review, to the approval and once you receive the final document to be uploaded, you hesitate…wondering if the book (or maybe just yourself) really is ready.  After shaking off any doubts, you finally hit the “publish” button to upload the book and wait for it to go live. 

Then you wait.
You receive word that the book is live.

You check out the sites and there, in full color, with your name on it, is your book cover with the blurb along with a preview of a few chapters.  The book is waiting for anyone to “like” it, buy it and rate it.
And so are you.

Then the sales reports come in.  What an exciting feeling to know you are now an author who is earning an income for their work! 
But regardless of what you think of your work as the creator and regardless of the sales reports you receive, what you really want to know is…do others like the story?  Do they like the characters?  Did they enjoy the book as a whole?  Will they look forward to reading more of your work as you continue to write and publish books?

Oh, the anticipation you feel as you wait! 
While you should always write for yourself, and while you cannot please everyone, you are only human as you wait to hear how others will respond to what you have created.  I had not realized just how anxious I was as I waited for the first person to finish the book and tell me what they thought.  If no one really liked the book, would I continue to write?  Sure I would.  I would continue to write what brings out the passion in me as a writer and I would always remember this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

~Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.~
But while I believe writing for yourself is the key to a good book, there is no denying you still want others to enjoy your stories and you hope they continue to want more from you.

And so I waited until someone responded with their thoughts after finishing my book.  I love the book, of course, because I created the story and the characters.  But I am a bit biased, to say the least. 
The wait seemed long to the point of agony but the relief I felt after receiving my first review was pure delight.  If you visit the Amazon website to view my book, you will see a rating and a customer review.  It is wonderful.  Here is a portion of the review:

“Here comes Jorja Matthews…Howell has created a character that is smart, caring and fearless. Her view of small town life is true to form…Her best friend, Taylor, and her best companion, the loveable, if always in the way, Piper, provide some normality to balance the darker souls of her little town.  It is a satisfying read......can't wait for the next book!”
Since that review, I have heard from others who have finished the book or who are still reading it and I have heard more positive feedback.  Not that I need my ego stroked, mind you, but it sure is good to hear that not only have others enjoyed the story and characters I created, but that they are looking forward to reading additional books in the series.  It shows me that my passion has brought out a passion in others and that alone is enough to boost my so-called ego.

Overall my first week as a published author has been satisfying, if a bit emotionally exhausting.  I look forward to what each coming week after this has to offer.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A New Season

It is Labor Day weekend; a long weekend for most.  Many are enjoying the last holiday weekend before the fall season sets in, either by relaxing at home, camping at a park, vacationing in luxury or possibly taking in all the sales many stores have to offer.
Although summer is not yet technically over, this holiday marks the end of the lazy summer schedules our kids wish would never end and it sparks the beginning of a new school year.  While our days are beautiful still, with blue skies and sunshine with no rain yet in sight, each evening and early morning seems to feel chillier than the day before. 

Yes, the seasons are changing.
I personally love the change in seasons.  I enjoy spring and fall the most.  Spring brings about hope and possibilities as the relenting cold weather from winter finally releases its grip and each blooming flower and the sight of newborn wildlife bring us wonder.  Fall might begin the end of warm sunny days with the crisp cool mornings as the sun comes up, but the expectation of coziness our own homes and family can offer gives me a warm feeling no other season can tender.

For me, this time isn’t just about the end of summer, the beginning of a new school year with my kids or the start of one of my favorite seasons.  This time also marks a new season for me as a writer.  As my last post noted, short as it was, I have finally published my book.  It has been just over a year since I began this journey and there were times when I wasn’t sure when or how I was going to get to this point. 
But I did get here.  I am a writer, I am an author and I am now a published author, albeit an indie author. 

Anyone can write a book and anyone can publish a book these days.  But it is a difficult process.  I am still learning and I will continue to learn.  The hurdle for me is the eBook, which I had never been familiar with because I like to hold my books when I read them.  I like to feel the weight of the book, flip through the pages, and I like to smell the pages as I fan them (yes, people like me do this, especially with new books).
My book has been published as an eBook for four days now and it is hard to describe the emotion I felt when I first saw my cover on the Amazon website.  A day later it became available on the Barnes& Noble website.  It truly is something else to see your work out there for anyone to see and read.  It’s exciting but even a bit scary.  You hope for the best but you know there might be some hurdles to cross when critiques are received as others read your work.  I’ll try to take it all in stride and learn from it, making the next book better and the next even better after that.  It’s all I can promise at this point.  I just truly hope those who do read my book will enjoy meeting the characters and will appreciate the story all together.  These characters have taken on a life of their own and I look forward to what they have to offer me and others as I continue to write their stories.

Again, for those who are like me and enjoy holding a book rather than reading an eBook, a print book is in the works.  It will be made available as soon as I can finalize the final product.  Seeing my book available on line as eBook may have produced emotions I’ve never felt before but I can hardly wait for the emotions that will hit me when I hold my book in my I flip through the pages, fan it and yes, even smell it.