Marketing…Again

I have a book getting published in March. I just remembered that today. Oh, silly me. I was just so relieved that the editing and publication process is finally over and done with that I let my mind get all mushy about other things. (Although I have a right to blame some of that mush on being sick with a lingering cold. <cough, sniffle>)

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I have spoken at two conferences about how to market and promote your book. I have pages of suggestions to fellow writers about what they can do in these areas. Now it’s time to remember what I should do and start marketing already. I should have started months before this.

Today I’ve been working on an overall strategy, my target areas,  a press release, and a few more specific ideas.

To add to my complications, I’m in the revision process of another book. I resisted, though, and only spent about 90 minutes this morning on a gotta-do-this-now bit of revision. I need to have an undivided mind. Marketing…marketing…marketing…again.

BTW, my March book is a mid-grade (4th grade) reader, a time travel with a paraplegic boy. It is family oriented with genealogy research tossed in the mix, and takes place on one of Michigan’s island gems. The Powder Horn of Mackinac Island will be available March 3.

On to do some marketing planning.

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Female Heroism on Lake Erie

In my research for stories, I borrow or buy or read many books. A non-fiction Great Lakes book purchased a few years ago, and only read portions of for my TALES OF THE LOST SCHOONER book, is now getting read, not for research, but for personal interest, along with a twist of related books and articles.

I was so impressed with one woman’s heroics that I can’t wait to write about her in a published story or book, although I’m sure there must be many already done.

She lived with her husband, a widower with six children, along a deserted stretch of Long Point, a peninsula reaching out into Lake Erie. The closest neighbors lived fourteen miles away.

On November 23, 1854, while her husband was gone for the day and a winter gale blew wildly across the lake, 6′ tall, 24-year-old Abigail spotted a broken yawl on the beach. Upon investigation, she spotted a schooner beached on the sandbar half a mile out. Seven men clung to the mast riggings in the storm. There had been incidents of sailors frozen solid overnight to the decks and riggings of stranded vessels. She was the only one who could help.

She rushed back to the cabin to tell her children she’d be gone for a while. She grabbed blankets and a tea kettle. She built a large fire on the beach for encouragement and direction to the sailors, and shouted, “Swim! I’ll fetch you to shore. But swim!”

One man listened, the captain, who’d told his mate that if he made it to shore to follow, otherwise to wait out the night for rescue. The captain nearly made it when he went under. Without hesitation, Abigail, who could not swim, waded chin-deep into the freezing water to bring the captain to the fire and blankets. Her own wet dress freezing to her body. She also stood barefoot in the snow, the family unable to afford shoes.

The first mate next attempted the swim, but also floundered in the water. The captain went in after the mate. When they both sunk, Abigail brought them to safety…and saw the other five crew members to shore as well.

The Canadian woman was given a gold lifesaving medal, a gift Bible, as well as 100-acres of farmland by the Canadian parliament, and $1,000 in gold from the Lifesaving Association of New York (because two of the rescued men were American). The owner of the shipwrecked vessel paid her a visit, measured her feet and those of her children, and a few weeks later sent a chest full of shoes for all.

It didn’t stop there, not in her rescues, not in her subsequent rewards and honors, nor even of her children. Besides the six from her husband’s previous marriage, they had an additional five. When her husband died, she remarried and had three more children, raising a total of seventeen.

Abigail Becker is called the Guardian Angel of Long Point Bay. She is called heroine to me.

DOCTORS – Past, Present, Fictional

I love history. I love fantasy. However, I do not have much love for doctors. It all started with my paternal grandmother who, when I was a child, at the end of every visit, gave me and my siblings a shot of something or other. “Who wants to go first?” She also was the one who delivered me, and my siblings, and my father, aunt, and cousins, too. Amazing female doctor back in the day. But scary, too.

My elderly maternal grandmother had trouble proving she was an American citizen because when she was born, her doctor made only monthly horseback trips to the county seat to record births and deaths. We didn’t discover until she was in her 80’s that he never recorded her birth.

In Clara Barton’s day (1800’s), nurses gained their training through experience.

I acknowledge that the medical field has come a long, long way through the centuries, an example being how butchers were surgeons because they knew how to cut meat. With all the advances in medicine, I would rather go to a dentist or doctor in 2017 than one in the 12th century. No contest. But I still don’t have to like it.

Today, when I go to a doctor for an annual visit and feel terrific going in, I end up feeling depressed as the doctor finding unrelated things physically wrong with me.

In my fictional stories, mostly my characters are fit and healthy. Oh, there’s the occasional black eye or broken bone, and a post-battle hospital tent, and even (spoiler alert) characters who perish. But all these are all only briefly touched upon for the adventure, the story, goes far beyond, for health care providers are in every age and every location.

Are your characters perpetually healthy, or do they get injured or ill? What does their response say about their character? What sort of medical care do they receive? By whom? Or what?

Keep on writing.

My Favorite Cemeteries – How and Where Do You Bury Your Characters?

A Facebook friend recently asked what my/our favorite cemetery was. Ooh. Cemeteries. There are too many to narrow down to just one. But here are my top five I’ve been to:

5. An unnamed cemetery on top of a hill in southern Ohio, where there are about twenty graves, all related. I nearly died myself getting to it, as a man in his 20’s agreed to drive my mother and me up there – to the spot near where the old still worried the children when Mom was little. We cleared the fence posts with about an inch on either side of the pickup, going about thirty miles per hour, through the fields and woods where if I’d stuck out my hand just past the side view mirrors, I wouldn’t have a hand as we whipped by. The wooded lot was on top of a hill, twined with poison ivy, “and keep an eye out for rattlers.”

4. Concord Quaker Cemetery near Colrain, Ohio, where numerous relatives and ancestors of mine are buried, including Josiah Fox, designer of the U.S.S. Constitution, and Julia Berry, who was born around the Civil War, but has an unmarked death date on her gravestone. Julia never married and was buried with other Berry relatives, under a very huge now and messy berry tree.

When our boys were young, Jeff and I took them here. Jeff was quiet and respectful, especially of seeing Josiah’s grave. The boys, on the other hand, were a little restless. There’s only so much of interest in a cemetery to little kids, after all. I pointed out that since Julia didn’t have a death date, she might still be alive at well over 100 years old. We then started joking around (not something I’d recommend in a cemetery), saying, “Juu-l-ia? Oh, Juu-l-ia? Where are you, Julia?” When suddenly the cemetery metal gate swung wide open. There was no breeze. Not in the least. The three of us scurried (quite disrespectfully) over the graves of the dead to reach the safety of Daddy-Hubby Jeff.

This cemetery also holds the unmarked graves of many runaway slaves, who had made it to the safety of the Ohio Quakers, only to die of sickness. I always say a prayer over them when I go there.

3. Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood, SD, where sheriff Seth Bullock, Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried. There is also the Chinese section with a stone oven. Not only is this cemetery a historic wild west resting place, but just getting to the cemetery is an adventure – driving up a nearly vertical road, then climbing up and up and up through the cemetery to reach the highest grave, that of Seth Bullock.

2. Author’s Row in the Concord, MA, Cemetery, where the likes of well-known authors have been laid to rest, like Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorn and Henry David Thoreau.

1. I realize there are numerous European cemeteries, like within the walls and floors of Westminster Cathedral, or under St. Martin’s on Trafalgar Square in London where you can eat lunch in their basement overtop of tombstones. Both very cool. But I made Jeff take me on a cemetery side trip not far from our hotel: Highgate. There is a wide paved path going through the center, but it’s the off-the-beaten-path ones I *liked* the best. The gravestones in these areas are generally overgrown. But more. You may even happen across statues of stone angels, who, if you blink, you’d swear they moved a step closer to you.  (If you know the answer to this spine-chilling-as-I-write-it reason, please dare to comment below.)

So where is your *favorite* cemetery or cemetery experience? Have you buried any of your characters in a similar place?

New Year’s Writing Goals, 2017, and Critique Groups

Happy Pagan New Year!

The month of January is named for the Roman god Janus, the two-faces on one head keeper of the doors, of transitions, of ends and beginnings, of looking at the  past and the future. Through the years I have come to appreciate this concept more and more. For me, each January first is a day of renewal,  a time to set goals, a time to dream, a time to hope.

Like with diets, I know I can’t accomplish much writing without the encouragement of friends. My biggest encourager is my husband, Jeff, without whom I never would have honestly pursued writing.

One of my critique partners for the past many years is Samantha. Today she sent a Happy New Year’s message to the group. She wrote, “I wanted to start the year by thanking you wonderful ladies for all your support, encouragement and patience (and of course, thoughtful and skillful critiques)! I cannot imagine traveling this writing journey without you! Love you all!” Everyone in the group agrees with her.

Writing may seem like a lonely journey. I mean, individuals must do the sitting down at the keyboard and typing away alone. But I cannot conceive of a time without the support and encouragement of critique groups, people at conferences, listservs, my husband.

My two writing goals this year is to write, and to show my appreciation and encouragement to my fellow writers.

Happy New Year. May this year be full of completed hopes and dreams.

The Trouble with Having No Agent

       There’s the most obvious two troubles of not having an agent: 1) someone to offer revision suggestions to make your story stronger; and 2) someone to negotiate contracts for traditional publication, etc. But the biggest one to me (as least I think it would be, not quite knowing for sure since I don’t have an agent), is the time and focus bit.

       An agent often gives revision suggestions, then expect you to have it cleaned up and back to her in a timely fashion. The getting it back to her is the time factor. The focus part is not wandering off, thinking about or actually working on writing other stories. Once I was given a week to complete editorial revisions, this deadline was emailed to me the night before we left for a week’s vacation. And, yes, I did revised it.

       A couple days ago I spent several hours looking over some of my NaNoWriMo blabber file. I deleted many words, but got tired of the mess on my screen. I finally stopped and sat down with pen and paper to organize the plot, in three acts, with rising and falling tensions nicely placed.

       I hate this part of “writing.” I’d much rather just blabber away in raw writing on a rough draft. Blah, blah, blah. But after seeing the clutter I’ve write as rough drafts, I find myself wanting to start from the first word and rewrite the entire story. Perhaps I shall.

       But with no agent pressing me onward to complete revisions by a certain time, I’ve decided to stop, take a Christmas and family break until January, and then dive back in – with a plan! That is, as long as I don’t have the story of the next book waving flags through my brain cells demanding attention. BTW, I already have a pile of notes on that story, too.

Oh, agent! Where are you, I need someone to give me time constraints and focus.

Blabber File – Raw Writing

From mid-November into the first week of January is the hardest time for me to find time to write. (Exception: visiting family or vacations) Why, oh, why does NaNoWriMo fall in this time? But any time is a good time for fellow writers to give each other a push, even busy times.

Yesterday our company left. Today I’m doing a ton of laundry and also setting up Christmas decorations. YET, this morning, I found time to do some precious raw writing – that is, rough draft blabbering –  on my WIP story. It felt incredibly good! Maybe that’s one of the reasons I write. When I’m thinking about the story, or typing madly away on it, knowing that about 3/4 of the stuff I think or write will be deleted, I get so excited about the story and the characters.

I actually look forward in January to looking over this (unfinished) WIP and chopping away pages and pages. Mind you, I don’t feel those deleted words were a waste of effort. Sometimes going off-track frees my brain to be thinking outside my box (story outline), and often very strange and wonderful things happen.

So I hope you are blabbering away, doing your raw writing, knowing that soon the bad will be tossed and the good, kept.

Keep on writing.

Historical Research, Storytelling, Mayflower Pilgrims

It’s not even what I write about. Yes, I write historical fiction, but I’m usually fixated on either 1800’s America or 1200’s European-type fantasy world. Three years ago, when PTO President Pam contacted me because she saw on my website that I did storytelling, I agreed to storytell the Mayflower Pilgrim survival tale to her kindergarteners. Of course, I needed a costume, so bought the basic black shirt and long skirt, and then hand-sewed the white parts, just to see how long it may have taken a 1600’s woman to do the same. (Twenty-seven hours, BTW.) I’ve presented the Pilgrim bit to eighteen classes, and have enough information, with props, to keep 5-year-olds entertained for more than an hour, although it’s usually for either twenty- or thirty-minute time periods.

I show-and-tell props. Talk food. Stress the no-electricity bit. And I have four volunteers help me with a Pilgrim skit. Yep. All done in twenty minutes.

I also don’t keep the uglies back, like the fact that when they were starving that first winter, the Mayflower Pilgrims found sand mounds nearby with baskets of buried corn, and took them for themselves. (They later “paid” the Indians for it, but part of me cringes at that. What would you accept as pay back for someone taking your winter supply of food which you’d planted, weeded and watered for months, and then harvested and stored into baskets you’d made by hand?)

There’s also the fact that about half of the passengers and crew of the Mayflower died that first winter.

And what about twice-kidnapped Squanto, forced into European slavery, once escaped, once set free? Since he knew how to speak English from his years of captivity in England, he was the perfect translator for the lost Pilgrims who’d intended to land and live at the already established English colony of Jamestown. Squanto taught them how to plant corn the Indian way, and how to communicate with the people, how to survive.

After the successful harvest the following fall, when the Pilgrims invited their Indian friends for a meal to celebrate, they didn’t realize that ninety men would walk two days to come. Normally, just a handful of Indians checked in on the newcomers. The Thanksgiving Natives ended up, after their two-day walk to the invitation, having to build their own shelters, and even shoot four deer, to provide enough food for the feast. Oh, and there’s also the fact that the four adult English women did all the cooking.

BTW, John Bradford did not list turkey or potatoes in that first shared Thanksgiving at Plymouth, nor marshmallow-topped candied yams. We know they ate venison and corn, of course, as well as duck and shellfish, squash and beans.

What does/will your present Thanksgiving meal look like? Have you invited friends to eat with you who have helped you this past year? Are you thankful to God that you have survived for yet another season?

Wishing each of you food and friends and life at this Thanksgiving remembrance time.

NaNoWriMo Young Writers Group in Battle Creek

I know. I admit it. I did it. I volunteered to facilitate a NaNoWriMo Young Writers Group at Willard Public Library in Battle Creek for this month. I love doing anything I can to get others to write, as long as that is their ambition, too. So besides participating in the regular adult NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – which challenges people to write a 50,000-word rough draft novel in 30 days, or 1,667 words per day). The middle school and high school kids have listed their own word goals. We meet once a week to see how everyone is doing. I was hoping for 5-7 participants. Fourteen signed up and set goals.

Two have come regularly each week where we discuss their stories. One likes to just tell me what’s happening in his story and gets upset with me if I ask for clarification (details). The other is open to lots of “what ifs.” Other kids have dropped by just to have me look over their pages (I rarely read what they write, unless they ask me to), check their word counts, and figure out and mark the percentage done of their goal. Teens have a lot going on in their lives. I’m honored that they care enough to stop and show me what they’ve accomplished. Keep writing!

A girl came just once to “meet a real author” and confessed that she didn’t know where her story was going since it had so many twists and turns. She hadn’t signed up to be part of the group. I suggested she write out the goals for her characters, and maybe try some outlining high points on how those characters can reach (or fail to reach) those goals. She seems pleased with my answer. I wish her well. I felt like a writing doctor. I wish them all well. Keep on writing.

Why I Drag During NaNoWriMo – The Sloppy Copy Stage

It’s always about now – midway through November – when I tend to drag during NaNoWriMo, trying to get in my 1,167 words written each day on my project. Of course, there is the natural panic that about ten of my November days are packed with non-writing stuff. So right off, 50K in 20 days seems impossible.

Over the years of doing this, I’ve learned to make my story outline ahead of time, as well as resist the temptation to write on it at the moment (pre-NaNoWriMo). I’ve also learned to “bank my words.” In other words, I write more than the expected, steady 1,167 words each day. That way I won’t feel so badly on non-writing days. But now I’m in that awkward teen-age test out everything stage: the sloppy copy stage.

Years ago, I’d heard that phrase connected with rough drafts. I told my second graders that I didn’t expect that this sloppy copy would be their best-final copy, that there would be scratching out of words, different sized letters, squished words in the margins, etc. What I got back from even my best students were…works of art. They’d intentionally scratched out and smudged words, and made some letters small including some within the same word huge. Totally unreadable. They’d done as I’d asked, but not as I’d expected. (Bad teacher!)

Now I find myself in the actual sloppy copy stage of my NaNoWriMo project, and I feel like those second graders – intentionally creating sloppy work: writing in this character’s head, going off into a scene which will happen at least a year or two from the end of this book, rambling out on the keyboard about where I think the story is or should be going.

I am so off-outline at this point. It’s going to take me months into next year just to figure out all the paragraphs and chapters to shuffle around, or to simply delete. BUT AT LEAST I’m getting some words down, sloppy-sloppy-sloppy as they may be.

So all of you participating in NaNoWriMo, keep going! Don’t worry about your sloppy copy. Not until next year.