Last week I had coffee with a woman who has read my book, The Summer of Annah, and she asked me ‘Why do you write?’
I almost blurted out ‘Because I like writing!’ However, I then took a moment to sip my coffee and pondered the question.
Here’s what I told her. I write because I love to create new worlds.
My companion seemed satisfied. We finished our visit and went our separate ways. During the drive home, I thought over her question and almost called her to add to my answer. This is what I would have said:
I write because I see the world differently than most people. In my day-to-day living I taste, drink, smell, and touch potential stories. Everything that happens to me, or around me, is fodder for my imagination.
I write because it is who I am within the depths of my soul. In my past life I was the person sitting in the glow cast by the fire, weaving stories for the other tribe members.
I write because it’s in my blood. As a young child I told stories to my classmates (much to the annoyance of the sisters at St. Francis of Assisi). Out on the playground, you would have found me surrounded by other children as I entertained them with magical tales. My words would take them flying.
I write because it is who I am and I am unique. No one else has my voice, my mind, my vision–my stories. I’m passionate about the characters I bring to life. There are days when I would love to drive to Copedale and share a Boston cream doughnut with Annah. Or, chat with Isabella about Under the Tuscan Sun.
I write because it’s a grand high when a reader tells me she stayed up all night because she had to finish my book.
I write because it’s what I do. It’s who I am. What about you? Why do you write? Why do you read? Share your thoughts in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.
While I wrote The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish, I constantly questioned myself whether a May-December romance could work between an older woman and a younger man. The book is more than a story of older an woman fantasizing about a young man. Moreover, it’s not erotica. It centers on an older woman coming to terms with her emotional scares, learning to trust her instincts, and recognizing love when it’s present in the soul of a man outside her comfort zone.
Tom Clancy is quoted as saying the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.
Even though my novel is based in fiction, it had to make sense. Had I been writing erotica, I believe readers would have accepted the age difference. What’s not to love about a romp with a younger man between the pages of a steamy book? However, a long-term relationship? Well, even Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher failed at that endeavor.
When I met older woman, I asked their thoughts on the topic. Many told me the relationship wouldn’t work because the younger man is unable to appreciate and understand the journey the woman has traveled. In other words, the younger man lacks maturity. An older man understands the woman’s intelligence and flaws. My response–if that were true, older women would be happily wrapped in the arms of their male counterparts.
Dating websites, such as Match or eHarmony, demonstrate just the opposite.
According to Susan Winter, co-author of Older Women, Younger Men: New Options for Love and Romance, younger men are looking for women who “…are stable and mature. They don’t want to be mothered. They want a woman who knows who she is.”
What can a younger man bring to the table? Aside from the obvious (wink, wink) he possesses a zest for life, a desire for wisdom—an urge to dance, laugh, eat, and love. No, it’s true that not all young men are this way just as it’s true that not all clothes fit the same body. A woman has to kiss a lot of tadpoles before she’ll find one with an old soul and young heart to complement her old heart and young soul. As Kathryn Elliott, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, explains, “The key to making older women/younger man relationships work is to match voltages. Choose someone who is your voltage type–has the same level of intensity about life.”
Social norms indicate the older man-younger woman scenario is accepted but not the flip-side. Hollywood glorifies this perception. When it comes to older women-younger-men, well, can you say cougar? Mrs. Robinson? Elliott goes on to say women “…are victims of inner-critic contradictions. We think we should only weigh 120. We should marry people within two years of our age. We pathologize anything that isn’t within those shoulds.”
The bottom line, as I see it, is the formula, or the lack of one. No one can say what makes a relationship work and what doesn’t. However, if a woman finds a younger man who shares her core values and outlook on life, someone who will embrace the hag that lives inside of her and watch her emotional back, she has found a rare gem. Why should she turn away just because he wasn’t born when JFK was assassinated?
When I started writing on a more serious level, which meant having my eye on publishing my work instead of writing and shredding the pages, I foolishly thought I was writing romantic drama. Why? Well, I used Nicholas Sparks as my go to guy for the types of books I wanted to create. His characters achieve personal growth, find love, and, oftentimes, survive to have a happy ending. Sometimes they don’t but I figured I would skip the death part and shoot for HEA (that’s writing lingo for ‘happily ever after’. I performed a Google search for Mr. Sparks’ and the result came back ‘romantic fiction, romantic drama.’
Who knew I was so far in left field I wasn’t even part of the game? Well, actually, other writers knew. I was just a little slow on the uptake. Whenever I told an author ‘I write romantic drama,’ she (or he) would look at me like I had just sprouted three heads. It wasn’t until a fellow member of my RWA group explained that I needed to get a handle on this and pronto before I got lost in the jungle of improperly-categorized books.
Allow me to straighten out the difference between romance and women’s fiction. If you already know this, skip ahead to the part where I promote my contemporary women’s fiction novel, The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish.
Ahem: A romance novel involves a love story between two individuals. Either a man and a woman; a woman and a woman; a man and a man; a man and a mermaid; a woman and an ape-man; a woman and a demi-god; a dog and a cat–pick your two individuals. The bottom line there must be a central romantic relationship. Also, and this is big–there has to be a happy ending. They can’t die, explode, part ways but vow to love each other until eternity. The lovers must ride off into the sunset, high on the bliss that comes with vanquishing whatever they vanquished to reach their HEA.
In closing, a pure romance love is the central theme, the defining thread that runs from the first page to the last and is the reason the two people (or dog and cat) are held together. A great romance will show conflict. There must be conflict to make the story interesting. But the conflict brings the individuals closer to that ahhhh moment.
The reason people tend to confuse romance with women’s fiction is that WF typically contains an element of love and might even offer a happy ending. However, neither is required. Love is not the binding that joins the story’s elements together. It’s the personal growth the heroine undergoes. Nicholas Sparks tends to write women’s fiction. His characters travel through intense growth arcs. Sometimes there’s a happy ending and sometimes not. But the growth is there.
In WF, the heroine’s journey can involve a relationship with a non-romantic character. For example, two sisters, a mother and a child, co-workers. There doesn’t have to an element of romance but, and this must be stressed, the main character must grow emotionally.
For me, I’m a hopeful romantic who writes contemporary women’s fiction. Thus far my books focus on romantic relationships between the main character and a man. I prefer happy endings but I’m not against shaking things up a bit. However, the heroine’s personal growth is prominent, along with a spark of true love.
What about you? What do you read? What do you write? Let’s chat. Leave a comment.
Blessed be. :}
Here she is!!!!! My contemporary women’s fiction novel that has a romantic element. Phew.
All writers have them. Those ah-ha moments when a plot piece falls into place or a saggy middle suddenly becomes a pivotal hill. Those brilliant words that threaten to explode in our heads. Ah, the joy!
Unfortunately, my words seem to click at the worst times. Take today for example. (Actually, it might be last week, or two years ago. It depends on when you’re reading this post.) I heard back from a beta reader regarding my new manuscript, You gave me wings!. She had lots of good things to say.
However, she also pointed out areas that still needed work. That’s okay. I got this! I needed to think through her suggestions. Time to take the dogs for a walk. If an ah-ha moment hits me, I’ll record it into my phone. Damn. Phone’s dead. Okay, no biggie. I’ll focus on relaxing and keep the ideas at bay. Breath, relax, and walk.
Who was I kidding? As soon as my feet hit the pavement the plot twists and turns flowed like the Nile after a monsoon. I was panicked. There was no way I would remember all the amazing, astounding, award-winning, awesome, (my, that’s a lot of words beginning with the letter a!) ideas until I got home. I had two miles to go! I started my mantra: remember, remember, remember, REMEMBER.
See, that’s the problem with forcing one’s brain to remember. The thoughts skitter away, frightened by all the intense shouting for them to stay put and new thoughts slide in!
For example, as I walked home I thought about all the times I have my ah-ha moments but can’t write them down. (Way off the topic of my manuscript.)
For example, I always seem to get a great idea when I’m just starting to fall asleep.
Or when I’m in the shower? Or, how about when I’m driving????
Why do the thoughts choose the worst times to spring on me? It’s like they’re lurking in the shadows of my brain, waiting for me to lower my guard.
‘Surprise! Ha ha, you can’t write me down. Boy, are you screwed!’
From now on I vow to always have a pen or pencil with me. Always! Even if I have to stick them in orifices that weren’t designed for the task.
I won’t need paper. That’s what hands are for–right?
Ah, a writer’s life. Full of… damn, what was I going to write? It was absolutely brilliant!
Blessed be :}
By the way. Ever wonder why I chose a younger hero for Annah in The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish, my contemporary women’s fiction novel? Watch my newest Interview with an Author! and find out.
Why my doctor would recommend I stop eating it is beyond me. Without a daily hit of Ben and Jerry, The Summer of Annah would have never been published. My recommendation for aspiring indie-publishers–stock up!
#2: A thick skin is a must.
Everybody and her sister are going to make comments about your work. If you’re lucky enough to have a publisher buffeting the world, rock on. But for those of us who publish indie, we wear a large target on our backs. And while you’re growing that skin, learn how to roar. Because you’ll need that talent for number 3.
#3: If you roar loud enough, some one will hear you.
How else will the world know you’ve published a book? Over 10,000 books are uploaded to to the big three: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks, each day. (This is on a global scale but I’m still not convinced the data is correct. However, I do know that in 2014 Claude Nouget estimated that a book was uploaded to Amazon, every five minutes, 24/7.) Regardless of the numbers, there’s a whole bunch of books out there. Roar, baby, roar!
#4: Develop a marketing plan BEFORE you publish your book.
You wouldn’t go to Disney World without a plan, so don’t published your book without a plan. Know ahead of time what you’re going to do and when. Nail that sucker down to the last minute and be prepared with contingency plans when things don’t work out, because, they won’t. See #1.
#5: Tweet your ass off!
Twitter is a great way to develop an author platform. But, and this is a big BUT, make sure you’re tweets are relevant. Tweeting about your cat barfing on your comforter has nothing to do with your book, unless the book is about locations where cats prefer to barf, then, well you get the idea.
#6: Dive in. The Facebook waters may be shark infested and full of the remains of despairing authors but at least you won’t be alone.
An author page on Facebook is a must for every aspiring indie author. Why? Well, how else will you pass the time while your waiting for your book to sell?
#7: Invest money. And when you think you’ve spent enough, borrow some and invest more.
To date, my debut novel has cost me… a lot! Let’s see, there was editing, cover art, formatting, marketing, more marketing, a website, web hosting for the website, more marketing, triage for when the reviews stopped, requests for reviews, book purchases to send to reviewers, postage costs, ice cream, wine, larger clothes. The list just keeps growing. I recommend a second, third, or perhaps fourth job to help pay for your book. And the ice cream. And the wine. And the larger clothes.
#8: Find a good therapist.
Either Jack Daniels will do or someone with a degree who can help you figure out why you wanted to self-publish in the first place.
#9: Ignore the hordes of other authors pumping out books.
You’ll be one of millions but your book is yours. It’s unique because you wrote it. Cheer for the other authors and bless their success but stay focused on what you’ve written. Unless you’re getting trampled by the other authors. Then, I suggest revisiting lessons #1 and #9.
#10: Be true to your calling.
Writing isn’t for everyone. It takes courage to put that pen to paper, or key the letters into a computer. Courage and tenacity. When the voices in your head refuse to speak to you, it takes a gentle hand to get them to play along. If you want to write and publish your book, stick with it. But remember, when in doubt, follow rule #1.
My marketing plan for my self-published book, the contemporary women’s fiction The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish (shameless plug) continues to be a raving success. At least I think it is. I’m ticking items off my list and spending money like a drunken fool, so it has to be.
The newest task was to schedule a Goodreads giveaway for four books. Another item I can check off. The promotion opened last night, July 15, 2016, and closes on July 31, 2016.
So far, as of 2:07, EST, on July 15, 83 people have entered. Get in there while the getting is good. Click on this link and register for your autographed copy of The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish (another shameless plug).
What’s next on the list? Hmm, let’s see. Contact local newspaper – check; contact the Boston Globe – check; contact independent bookstores – check. (The Summer of Annah is now in three stores in Massachusetts: Willow Books in Acton, Bookends in Winchester, and Wicked Good Books in Salem. Happy Dance time.)
So what’s next on the list for my women’s fiction, The Summer of Annah? (Yup. Another shameless, beating you over the head, plug.) Oh, yes, argh!!!!! Learn how hashtags can help me market my contemporary fiction novel.
This is what I’ve learned so far. A hashtag, #, before a word or string of words, can link my posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to all sorts of locations. In other words, I’ll be one person floating in the wide-open sea, hoping someone will find me, or rather, my book.
To make matters more interesting, millions of other people will be floating in the same sea. Kind of like Where’s Waldo without the striped hat.
However, if done correctly, according to the sources I read, hashtags can be a powerful marketing tool to help give me, the self-published author, recognizably. Or, as I like to say, findability, which is a whole different topic for another blog post.
Before I go nap, let me leave you with this final thought: Enter my Goodreads giveaway for an autographed paperback copy of The Summer of Annah (Plugs galore in this post.) AND buy a copy of the ebook to help support a struggling, self-published author who wrote a magical story and isn’t afraid to throw shameless plugs into her blog post. (Correct. That was, in truth, two thoughts.)
Allow me to put Hemingway’s quote in perspective. He didn’t ball-up a sheet of paper and throw it into a blazing fire as he screamed what was to become an infamous piece of prose. He eloquently inserted it in an explanation regarding the writing process. Here’s the entire quote:
‘Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. There is, and you can’t get out of it. I rewrote the first part of A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times. You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he had read but something that happened to himself.’
He’s also quoted as saying, ‘There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.’
Remember the scene from Superman III when Superman, aka Christopher Reeves, turns a piece of fossilized carbon into a diamond?
True, not the best movie in the Superman series, however, that’s not the point. The point is how does one create a lump of coal that CAN be turned into a diamond. I’ve been told by many writing coaches to not worry about my first draft. ‘Let it be shit! Get the idea out. You’ll clean it up later.’ Unfortunately, this is difficult for someone who suffers from OCD, as I do. (Okay, it’s self-diagnosed, but still…) I want my first drafts to be good. No, I want my first drafts to great!
And, that, my dear blog reader, is the conundrum I face each morning–a dance between my fingers wanting to type coal and my brain wanting to create diamonds.
It’s often said there is no great writing, only great rewriting. This quote belongs to Justice Louis Brandeis and I love it because it gives me hope that my piece-of-coal first draft will, eventually become a diamond. If I have the perseverance of a superhero.
I’m a self-published romance author. To be exact, I’ve published my novel, The Summer of Annah: A Midsummer’s Wish, a contemporary women’s fiction. I’m in the similar sub-genre as Nicholas Sparks (although not as successful), which, interestingly enough, brings me to the topic of this post–how should I measure my success as an author?
How does a person measure success? Money? Fame? Glowing accolades? Affording a new boob job? Having Ben and Jerry name an ice cream after them? Hmm, how about Sexy Shortbread Author or Tinthia Toffee Nutty Swirl? I’ll have my marketing manager work on that as soon as she figures out how to market my book. (Don’t rush me, I’m still trying to figure out how to market your damn book.) Sigh, the voices in my head are starting to annoy me. Where was I? Oh yes, success. There isn’t a yardstick that a person can use to determine success. It would be great if there was. I could say, ‘Yup, I’ve reached success. See here. I’m at this little bold line. Sure thing. I’m successful!’ And success isn’t a one-shot occurrence. A person will have many successes and, sadly, many failures, in her (or his) lifetime. For simplicity sake, however, I’m focusing on my success as a debut author.
Allow me to reword my original question: How will I, a newly published author of contemporary women’s fiction, determine when I’ve reached success with my debut novel, The Summer of Annah? My son posed this question to me just the other day. I almost blurted out, ‘When I’ve sold a million copies!’ But then reality took hold, I paused, allowed his question to register, and pondered it a while. How will I gauge my success? What will be my yardstick?
While contemplating his question I thought about birds and flowers. Here on the Concord River I have an abundance of both and I often draw wisdom from watching how Mother Nature uses them for her own success. So, as I sat and considered my son’s question, I thought about a robin’s nest I found this past spring. Like all birds, American robins will lay more eggs than can survive. It’s just one of the many laws Mama Nature set in motion eons ago. (Stay with me, I’ll get back to books in a moment.)
This particular nest contained four eggs. A few weeks later, by the time they were ready to hatch, only one egg remained. Two eggs had been eaten by a pair of grackles and, sadly, one resembled Humpty Dumpty. Not even the king’s men could have helped it. The parents were left with one egg, resulting in one fledgling. Were they successful? Think about it for a second. Seventy-five percent of their progeny died!
However, as far as Mother Nature was concerned, the parents were successful. Evolution granted them a large clutch to allow other animals to continue their own survival while allowing the robins to continue their genetic line. Get it? It’s a number game.
Now, let’s consider plants.
A single dandelion can produce over a thousand seeds in a growing season with each flower generating close to 200 seeds. If even one tenth of the seeds germinate, that translates into loads of dandelions, which will probably find their way onto my lawn however, that’s another story for another blog. Back to success. Even if one dandelion plant produces two additional plants, that’s success in Ma Nature’s eyes.
Most sunflowers will generate up to 2000 seeds from a single flower! Again, if a one sunflower plant results in two additional sunflower plants producing their own seeds, success has been achieved. Have I lost you? No? Good, because not it’s time to come back to the whole reason for this post–measuring my success as an author.
My book, The Summer of Annah, which is available on Amazon in ebook and paperback, (Granted, that was a shameless plug but since I’m paying for the web hosting of this blog and this is my blog, I can damn well plug anything I want. This blog post is full of shameless plugs.) is, as already mentioned, on Amazon, the largest virtual book warehouse in the world, possibly even the universe.
Placing The Summer of Annah on Amazon‘s virtual bookshelves is similar to scattering thousands, no, tens of thousands of seeds into the wind. How many do I need to germinate to represent success? Well, if one person buys my book, that could be construed as success. Correct? Does the reader who purchased my book have to enjoy it? Well, dah! So, my success will not only be measured by someone buying my book but actually enjoying the story I wove. Okay, how about leaving a review? Does the person have to leave a positive review on Amazon before I’ll admit to myself that I’m a success? Yes… No… Perhaps…Wait, most people don’t write reviews. The reader could still enjoy my story, so… no. Then how will I know she enjoyed the story without the review. So… yes. Emphatically, yes! The reader must buy the book, enjoy the story, AND leave a review.
According to Amazon, six people purchased my book and they’ve left great reviews.
Therefore, more than one person has purchased my book, enjoyed the story, AND left a review. Translation–I’m a success. Hooo Yeah, time for a happy dance.
Then I thought about it some more and came to a different conclusion.
When I saw my son later that day I told him all I needed to be a successful author was to write a story as best as I could. If my readers like the story and leave reviews, that would be gravy on the mashed potatoes of life (or ice cream on the cake). “I’m 60 and I want to start a career as a storyteller. I may not be as successful, financially speaking, as Nicholas Sparks, or as popular as Nora Roberts, but if I write true to my heart, I’m a success.” (By now my son’s eyes glazed-over and he was probably thinking about his next snack.)
In closing, The Summer of Annah is my first book. Oh, I’ll grow as an author. (Goddess willing I have enough years left in me to remember the difference between a dangling participle and modifier.). For now, though, I’ve written the best I had within me.
I want to thank those of you who have journeyed to Copedale, New Hampshire, to share the love story of Annah and Eric. Thank you to the readers who have left reviews on Amazon. In addition, thank you to my future readers, whoever you are, for taking a chance on a debut author of women’s fiction. Youare my yardsticks to the success of my journey into storytelling.
Today was the day I planned on the paperback version of Annah hitting the virtual bookshelves of Amazon. I even arranged a celebration. Okay, in truth it wasn’t much of a celebration–a lit candle and some ice cream.
Sadly, the printed pages of Annah remain in Amazon limbo and the virtual paperback shelves remain empty. So, no celebrating for me. However, I still plan on eating the ice cream.
When Midsummer arrives, though, watch out! A Midsummer’s Wish will be a real book by then and thatwill be cause for a massive party. I’m calling it my Virtual Open House Launch of a Real Book (VOHLRB), or Open House for those of you who are alphabetically challenged. We’ll have virtual music, virtual party streamers, virtual horns, virtual cupcakes, virtual laughter–the list goes on and on for virtually miles. All you’ll have to do is show up, virtually that is, and have some fun. What could be virtually easier?
Watch for your virtual Facebook invitation (like my page to get on the list) and bring lots of virtual friends for some really cool, really real prizes. One lucky winner will walk away, virtually of course, with a magical grand prize. I’m not giving any hints but think Thor meets Ben and Jerry. Oh baby.
Before I leave you to go attack my confectionery delight, allow me to mention a common new moon ritual. Some people plant a seed; some plant an actual plant; some just whisper a wish or prayer–whatever your desire, having a pure and strong intent is all you need. Think it and the Universe will do the rest. That’s the power of the new moon. My desire? To see The Summer of Annah a successfully published book.
I have a second wish but that will have to wait for the next new moon. Tonight belongs to Annah. Blessed be :}