Category Archives: December 2011

End of the Year Gratitude

Mine is the last Black Ink, White Paper post of 2011. I want to dedicate it to all of the fantastic people in my life.

First of all, I’m so very grateful for the insistent voice in the back of my skull that told me I had to introduce myself to Katy. Without that introduction, I wouldn’t be writing this post nor would I have met all of you wonderful people. Katy is an amazing person, writer, and all around beautiful soul.

I’m grateful for my husband who is one of the most patient and supportive people I have ever met. He is my grounding stone and my guiding light. There are days when I fear that without him I’d be like that crazy cat-lady on The Simpsons.

And I’m also grateful for my biological family. I encountered some Facebook drama the day after Christmas which had a person I went to grade school with calling my family “white trash”. It really cut me deeply because, while my family is a strange mix of daytime soap opera and a Jerry Springer show, they’re all truly good people who go out of their way to help whenever and however they can.

I went out on submission to publishers in November and have received several very positive rejections. I wouldn’t have made it this far without my fabulous agent or my ever wonderful beta readers/ critique partners. I also wouldn’t have made it this far with my wits intact if it weren’t for Lisa DiDio. She has been a wonderful submission buddy. I know I can email her if I’m having a weird paranoid freak-out and she’ll *get it* and be able to say the right thing to calm me down.

My friends and family of the spirit have held me and comforted me and cheered me on through all of the ups and downs of this past year. They are all a bunch of really hoopy froods.

Thank you to all of the members of Black Ink, White Paper for welcoming me and making me feel like part of the group. I learn so much from all of you.

And lastly, I probably wouldn’t be writing if it weren’t for all of the great writers who came before me and who inspired me to emulate them. Here’s to those who dared to dream big and put their hearts and souls out there in the form of beautiful stories for us to read.

Ana Ramsey

You Don’t Always Get What You Want

I was reminded this morning that I had a blog due this Thursday. *laughs* Well I’m at my sister’s for the holiday weekend and the kids are demolishing the presents in the other room.

 As adults we tend to be more subtle (usually) about expressing our disappointment when things don’t turn out like we expected them too. Kids don’t really do that. *grins* When they’re disappointed about something they’ll let you know – often loudly.

 For Buddhists, suffering is the disconnect that occurs between our expectations of things and the way things actually are.

 The Rolling Stones said much the same thing in their famous song. Though they went one step further, asserting that while you may not get what you want … you get what you need.

 Think about that for a minute.

 How often do we pay attention when circumstances turn out differently from what we expected? Do we take a lesson from it, or do we waste the moment bemoaning our poor fortune? Do we use it to grow and flourish – like a vegetable garden under a layer of fertilizer – or do we just worry about the smell?

 Seek the brilliance in the pieces of shattered dreams.

 Find the opportunity in failure.

 Gather up your disasters. Use them to fuel your future plans.

 Don’t ever give up, or give in.

 Living in the present, being fully aware, is about learning to accept things as they are and using the situation you are presented with to its fullest. Letting go of expectations frees you to enjoy and flourish. Go at it.

 You might not get what you want, but I bet you’ll get what you need.

K.B. Wagers

 <i>Photo by K.B. Wagers

Pendant by the lovely designer at <a href=” http://www.etsy.com/shop/grigiodesign”>Grigio Design</a></i>

A Belated Christmas Carol

Many years ago when I owned a salon in Tiburon, California, I was thumbing through <u>The Ark</u>, the local rag, when I ran across an article about a client’s son, a noted real estate developer. I was surprised and pleased to see this pillar of the community was playing Santa for a group of children. Naturally, when later that week, my client came in for her regular visit, I said, “Polly, I see that David is playing Santa. What brought that about?”

“That’s what he does,” she replied.

When I gave her a puzzled look, she expanded. “Every Christmas he is Santa.”

Still not clear, I pressed for an explanation. She related the following story.

Many Decembers past, when David was still in college, he found himself at a bus stop near some apartments. I’m sure you know the kind: a row of windows below sidewalk level. One window was cracked and through it he heard a father berating his children.

“No, goddam it. There’s no Christmas. There’s no Santa. And you’re not getting any presents. Me and your Mom are going to the bar and you’re staying here. Shut up. I don’t want to hear any more about it.”

Outraged by what he had heard, David resolved to do something about it.

On Christmas Eve, he and some friends watched until Dad and Mom left for the bar. When he was certain they had vanished, he knocked on the apartment door. The children opened the door to see David dressed as Santa and his friends dressed as elves. They had brought a tree, ornaments, presents for the children, a gift for Dad, one for Mom and a complete Christmas dinner.

Once the place was decorated, Santa and his elves departed. To this day, he doesn’t know if, on their return, the sotted parents realized the profound gift they were given, or simply trashed everything. The one thing he does know: those children would never forget.

Although I am late in wishing it, whether it is a holiday you observe or not, Merry Christmas.

Raymond Bolton

Becoming a Publisher

This fall, I took the indie-publishing challenge and released my first book, Beneath A Silver Moon in digital format. I decided to try doing it myself, after less than spectacular results from my NY publisher and a small press. After all, the book had been sitting in my computer for years, wasn’t available in digital and only needed some work to get it into the correct format.
Actually, it took a LOT of work, because I had to retype the entire book. I now realize I could have paid someone to scan it and make it a digital document. But then, I wouldn’t have learned so much about my writing and how it’s changed.

So, I spent weeks retyping the book, made a few changes because I’ve learned a lot about action verbs and sentence structure. This book was edited by the way, by a big time NY publishing house editor. But there were things I wanted to change. And I could. One of the lovely things you can control when doing it yourself.

I also needed a new cover. I have a friend who is a graphic artist and designer. She’s very talented, (she designs stuff for True Blood), and when we met for coffee early last year she told me she would like to work on a cover design. This was a perfect opportunity for both us to learn together.

I decided to publish the book on Smashwords, which would put the book in Barnes & Noble, the Apple Store and several other outlets. They publish a FREE manual on how to do it, and my only advice is to follow every single step. That’s the key. Do all the things the manual tells you to do and you will be successful. Well, at least I was.

Then I joined Kindle Digital Publishing, which basically allows you to publish a book to the Kindle Store. Depending on the price of your book, you earn between 35% and 70% on sales.

I finally loaded the books in late October. I didn’t even check my sales for a few weeks. Not because I wasn’t interested, but because I didn’t know how. Thankfully, I found a Yahoo loop of Independent Published authors, and it was filled with great advice.
Sales started slow, but each week when I checked the report, they were growing. I’m now selling around 100 books per week, and last week I hit an Amazon best-seller list, (Western Romance), right between Nicolhas Sparks and Christine Feehan.
I also started to receive regular payments for the books, and I’m delighted to say while I won’t become rich, I am earning money on the book. And I’ve started the process for publishing my next book.

Indie publishing is not easy, there is a huge learning curve and you need to control a lot of things your publisher would handle for you. But, I enjoy that control and most of all I’m going to be able to publish the books I want to write.

One Little Word

I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t make them, haven’t for years. I’m great with setting intentions and making goals, but there’s something about the idea of vowing to make Big Life Changes just because it’s the beginning of a new year that smacks of desperation to me. If you truly want to make a change, you’re going to make it, regardless of what page the calendar is on.

I gave up the habit of making resolutions many years ago because I never saw them through, and I’m not a fan of setting myself up to fail! But I do love traditions and rituals, so I thought long and hard about what would work for me.

As the end of each year approaches, I think about where I’ve been, what I’ve done, who I’ve met along the way, and all the lessons I’ve learned. I think about where I want to go next and – more importantly – what energy I’d like to create/embrace/encourage in my life for the coming year.

Then I boil it down to a simple phrase or – even better – a single word.

That’s my word (or phrase) for the year; my personal mantra, if you will. I write it in my journal, on the whiteboards in my kitchen and my office, put it on the virtual sticky pad on my computer monitor. I get to live with it, work with it and explore it for an entire year, and it quite often takes me places I never expected to go.

I’ve spent years in the company of mindfulness, compassion, joy, acceptance with gratitude, playfulness, creative flow, focus and balance. I’ve been fearless and followed my bliss. Each of these taught me invaluable lessons about myself, my relationships and my work. They brought me here, to this place, the cusp of a brand new year.

2011 was a landmark year for me in many ways, and I’m ending it with my book out on submission. I’m hoping 2012 will see things move to the next level, whatever that may be, and I look forward to the new experiences and new writing projects the year will bring.

So what’s the word for 2012?

I considered going back to joy, because I want to be mindful of all the wonderful things in my life and not get caught up in projections and expectations, but that didn’t feel quite right. I wanted an action word for this year, something that implies movement and participation, not just an emotion (even if it is an incredibly delicious one). As I sat sipping coffee and staring at the Christmas tree early one morning last week, my eyes landed on the ornament up near the top – the silver scrolled word JOY – and it hit me.

Enjoy. [from the 14th century. < Old French enjoïr < Latin gaudere "rejoice"]
To like, love, revel in, relish, delight in, appreciate, adore, benefit from, be blessed with, take pleasure from, savor.

YES!! That’s exactly what I’m after! I don’t know what this next year holds (who does?) but I want to relish all the moments along the way, to appreciate each and every one of them as they happen, to truly benefit from all my blessings (because I’m staying vigilantly aware of them), to savor the company of those I love and take delight in my creative pursuits and the writing, which I adore.

Enjoy. It’s my word – and my plan – for 2012. What’s yours?

Something to be thankful for

Bad things seem to come in multiples, or at least that seems to be the way with me. I recently came down with a nasty case of the flu, and somewhere near the bottom of my low ebb, my trusty old printer finally coughed and gave up the ship. I called my friend Bill, “The Computer Wizard” and begged for help. He laughed at me and then proclaimed I had but two choices. “Buy a new one!” I informed him that, “Buy a new one!” was only one choice. He laughed at me again and told me the choices were ink-jet or laser. His parting words were, “Try Costco.”

It was 40 degrees outside and pouring rain. I did not want to go outside. Hell, I didn’t want to get out of my recliner. But being self-employed, I do not have the luxury of calling in sick. Besides, I had printing waiting that had to go out. I pulled my flu ridden body from the warmth and comfort of my chair and dressed in my warmest clothes. Where to go was the next dilemma. Then I remembered that my grandson had mentioned I could get things printed at the library, and a certain amount free of charge. Being of Scottish ancestry, the free part immediately solved the decision on where to go to get my printing done and I could stop by Costco on my way. “Two birds with one stone!” I saved my print files on to a thumb drive and headed for my car. I was already starting to feel a little better. But that feeling was fleeting at best.

Costco is only about two blocks from our apartment. But, due to the chilly weather, drizzling rain, and that I was headed to the library, I chose to drive. I finally found a parking place on the outer edge and in the back row of the over-large Costco parking lot, after not one, but two rude parkers zipped into parking places I was waiting to get in while the other car was getting out. The rain pounded down as I made the (no exaggeration) two block walk to the store!

The store was a mad house, packed to the gunnels with shoppers. I dodged my way through kamikaze grocery cart-wielders, finally arriving at the department that displayed printers, only to discover there was no one who could fill me in on the important facts, other than price, certainly not ink and toner costs, they were short handed—probably a lot of people home sick with the flu! I gave up, and made the rain-soaked, two block trek back to my car and bid farewell to Costco.

I ruminated on my frustrating wet and futile trip to find a printer replacement on the short drive to the library, arriving in an even fouler mood. However, much to my surprise, my mood immediately began to soften, even brighten when I made the turn into the Library parking lot. I found a parking place, less than a hundred feet from the entrance and the rain had faded to a sprinkle.

Inside, where the atmosphere was quiet and relaxed, I realized it had been a very, long time since I had actually been in the library. And Things had changed a bit. The truth is, I had no idea of where to go or how to get done what I wanted to do. That’s when the lady, who appeared in front of me, asked, “Can I help you?” I latched on to her, like a man-over-board latches on to a life preserver.

She not only escorted me to a computer and walked me through the process, but stuck with me until I had successfully finished my printing. And much to my surprise, it cost me nothing. As I exited the Library, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. We in Seattle should count ourselves blessed in having the King County Library system—one of the nation’s best. I know I can’t say enough about the service and how much I appreciate all those who work and volunteer there. They certainly saved my day!

Wally

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

My kids are waiting for the snow to fall. It’s almost Christmas and all of the movies and television shows they have been watching have snow in them. At ages four and six, they think that without snow, Santa won’t be coming. This year, they will learn a valuable lesson—what they see on television and the big screen isn’t always reality (at least that’s what the weather forecast is showing for Seattle—a green Christmas).

The same holds true for the on-screen portrayal versus the reality of being a writer. Think about some of the movies and television shows about writers. Here are some that come to my mind:

· Castle (tv)
· Studio 60 (tv)
· Misery (movie)
· Funny Farm (movie)
· Secret Window (movie)
· Her Alibi (movie)
· Romancing the Stone (movie)

In each of these shows, we don’t see the writers sitting at the booksigning table, feeling horribly awkward while people avoid making eye contact as they pass the table. We don’t see the writers chewing on their knuckles as they wait to see how a newly released book is accepted by the reading world. Nor do we see them dealing with rejection and negative reviews. We don’t see them trying to decipher the complex math in royalty statements or going back and forth with their editor about cutting or adding a scene. We don’t see the reality of being a writer.

What we also don’t see is how amazing and determined writers often are, slogging through hell and back to make sure a book reaches the reading public. How supportive the writing community is when the critics hate the story and the rotten tomatoes are flying. How other writers are there to console when the sky seems to be falling. How sometimes just a single fan email or letter can inspire leaps of joy and make the world seem like a great place in which to live once again.

I was recently asked what I thought were the best and worst parts of being a writer. I answered: “Let’s start with the bad stuff. The worst part is the constant struggle to find time to write, not to mention do all of the promotion and marketing needed to find new readers. It’s not a marathon—it’s more like a triathlon. Some days, I just want to hide under the covers. As for the best part, it’s the peers, the friends, and the fans. I love meeting new people (even if it’s just online) and building new relationships.”

What is the best and worst part of being a writer in your opinion?

Until next time, let it snow and happy holidays!

Ann

The beauty of the book

Sometimes, for me, the beauty of the book is in its cover, in the font that’s used, in the way the chapters are introduced, in the way the paper feels in my fingers, in the pure physicalness of it. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why I don’t yet have an e-reader – because there’s nothing I love more than the feel of a book in my hands.

It might be a paperback I’ve read over and over again, whose pages are yellowed with time and leave a faint residue of the past – my past – on my fingers.

It might be a book like this one – a book I read first in my grandmother’s basement almost forty years ago when it was already at least fifty years old. I can still remember turning those pages for the first time, engrossed not only by the beautiful illustrations, but by the fact that the pages in my hand were already so much older than I was at the time, fascinated by the fact that my grandmother, who felt so ancient to me at that time, had read this book when she was a child.

Or maybe it’s a book like the book I finished reading this weekend – Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. The cover is amazing but… lots of books have great covers (I’ve bought a whole bunch of them myself). The writing is brilliant, the story blew me away, but today I’m talking about the BOOK, the pages, the ink, the design, all the things that add to the experience of reading.

Look at this inside cover –

It’s brilliant.

Or this –

The cover underneath the paper cover.

Every single piece of this book is perfect. It works with the story, it draws you into the story, it stops you in your tracks and makes you realize what you’re missing with the ordinariness of most of the books we read. Yes, we’re engrossed by the story – but we used to be engrossed by the book itself.

The fact is that if we read a book like this on an e-reader, we’re missing a big part of the experience. What if I’d bought this book on an e-reader?

I would have missed the beauty of the cover beneath the cover – and I would have missed a way into the story that would have changed the experience completely for me.

I’m becoming more and more attracted to books that have that little something extra – that have design aspects that contribute to my reading of the book. I don’t think this makes me a Luddite, but it does make me somewhat of an eccentric.

What about you?

Kate

Procrastination Station

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the stores, Ana was still shopping for presents, gotta find just a few more. Some years this is a true story. I am a world-class procrastinator when it comes to shopping. Especially shopping for holiday presents. I just started my holiday shopping this Wednesday and, like I do every year, I’m kicking myself in the pants for waiting so long.

With thirteen young nieces and nephews and two more on the way for next Christmas, I know I should spread the shopping out over the course of the year, but that means making a concerted effort to actually… **gag**… go shopping more often! I hate shopping. I hates it! The people, the noise, the

Thankfully, I have my sister in law who is practically a professional shopper. On Wednesday, we hit four stores in under three hours and bought enough toys to fill the back of her Explorer. And it didn’t cost me a fortune either. (I even found a couple of books for myself. Shh… don’t tell Santa.)

The funny part of all this is that I LOVE the gift-giving season. I love watching all the kids open their presents with their eyes wide and their mouths hanging open. Their giggles and cries of delight. The eventual mini-skirmishes as one of them inevitably wants to play with somebody else’s toy.

If only my favorite stores had online presences so I didn’t have to leave the comfort of my house. Or, maybe next year I’ll just hire my sister in law to do my shopping for me. Now there’s an idea!

Ana Ramsey

Words, words, words

“If you want to be a writer, write a million words.”
Ray Bradbury

Last year, Lisa and I were talking about that quote and I got curious what my total was since I started “seriously” writing. I only bother with the quotes because I think there’s a definitive delineation between writing as a hobby and really trying to make it into a career. For me the separation started in the late ’90s so I figure the numbers I’m about to give you have accumulated over the last 12 years or so.

One point four million.

One million, four hundred sixty thousand, three hundred and seventy-six words … and counting. *grins* Give or take the numerous blogs, fanfiction, the odds and ends and bits of stories in files on my computer and elsewhere. That is the total word count of some thirteen novels I’ve written since about 1999. (In some cases written and then rewritten. ;D )

The funniest thing is that the words aren’t the point. As I mentioned in my last blog I think writing for the word count can cause problems for a writer in regards to their ability to craft good sentences, plot, character development, etc. I wasn’t trying to write more than a million words, I was just writing. One book here, another there, two complete rewrites of a story that I just can’t get to come out on paper the way I see it in my head. (And there’s a third on the way because it’s still not right.)

All I was doing was telling a story, somewhere along the way I wrote more than a million words.

So what have I done with that first million? Nothing and I don’t have any plans for them. Because the other thing Mr. Bradbury suggested was “burn them.” You throw them away, let them go, call it exactly what it was – practice.

A person improves their craft (any craft) through practice, through repetition, through constant striving for improvement. The revision I just finished last week is far better than the original version and tens of thousands of times better than the very first novel I completed.

That first novel? It was a great story, but there’s nothing to be done with it. Some of the characters might be resurrected and I’ll probably steal a plot idea or two, but it’s not something that can be redone. Sometimes you just have to let go of stories and trust that they’ve already served their purpose – in this case teaching me how to not write god awful dialog. *grins and winks*

I look at my writing as a practice (there’s that word again), the same a yoga or kung fu. It’s something that requires daily effort on my part or I’m just not going to get any better at it. If you want to be a writer, write every day. It doesn’t have to be much, you just have to put fingers to keyboard or pen to paper every single day and never look back.

Unless you’re doing it to see how far you’ve come. :D

(burn photo by Don Branum of PhoenixBlue Photography)