Thursday, December 29, 2011

Following Directions, Mine and Kindle's

The new year inspires the setting of goals for me.  Besides eating healthy, exercising every day, and weaning myself off Perry Mason, this year I’ve added a new category:  obsessing, the stoppage of.   It wasn’t until I tried publishing an ebook or two on my own that I realized the presence of this flaw in my otherwise stable persona.

My fingers need no signals from any part of my body to type “kdp” to get my Amazon account. They get active the moment I get up in the morning and continue twitching throughout the day as I walk by my bedroom door, hear the siren call of my iMac. I have published  The Solarium many times, then unpublished the various versions, then cried Help Me at Kindle (Is my helper’s name really Rahul?  And wouldn’t it be easier if he would call me once in a while instead of passing on instructions from the Kindle guide which I can’t decipher past HMTL and zip before breaking out in a cold sweat? I could have told him that the directions he sent were for PCs not an iMac.  Not that I might have interpreted them any better, but at least they wouldn’t advise me to right click on something, an instruction that does not speak Apple language.)

I’m ranting like an old woman. It’s my right. And while I’m at it, Christmas didn’t help matters. Talk about obsessive behavior. Cooking strata three days before we would even be interested in thinking about it; rushing out for the last-minute gifts that ended up being crushed in the wrapping paper they came in and sent out to the recycle bin; pushing the Boma mop over floors that have never seen the light of day under their layers of dust and wouldn’t again for at least a year; polishing the silver and setting a table so early I should have run the Boma mop over the plates before we ate.  I ran out to find a pc string of lights that lit up after a day in the sun despite the fact that we might not have any sun and if we did, the lights were so small we couldn’t see them anyway from the ground level.  In a final frenzy, just before people were to arrive I threw an expensive crab dip everyone used to love on Christmas Eve into the oven only to discover that everyone was on a diet.

And in between all this stirring, sweeping, running down the street, feeding the dog his anxiety pills and being tempted to try them myself, in between all this, Kindle lets me know that I won’t have a picture on the version (#9) that I’m publishing because I still don’t get zipping and never will.  Rahul began, I think, to realize he was working with a electronically-disadvantaged  old person and he sent two pages of instructions, all for the PC again.  The same day, Lulu let me know that Nook didn’t like the way I’d set up the chapters in Graffiti Grandma. I emailed and explained I’d done everything they’d told me to do, as far as I could understand their instructions, so now what? They haven’t answered in four days. I think they need a Rahul, only one that understands iMacs.

Then in the evening the family came in, hugging, smiling, noticing the faint Christmas lights on the terrace, the drinks on the counter, the cheese ready for melting in the wine-filled pots. We settled into our usual program:  drinks, the Christmas readings and songs in front of the electric furnace, Nana at 96 reading with the youngest grand daughter The Night Before Christmas, all of us humming and singing “White Christmas” just as we did when Gramps’ tenor voice led the way. I stirred the fondue, listening, watching, glad.

When my fingers finally got back to the waiting iMac, I had a message from a friend.  She loved my book.  She wishes it and me well.  She’s telling everyone she knows about it.  And Amazon informs me my earnings to date are $l8.94.  And that’s with the first glitchy version.  Wait until the perfect one comes out!  Once I figure out what a zip is. Damn. I’m getting obsessed again. Happy 2012!

Jo Barney Writes
Website: www.jobarneywrites.com
Blog: breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com

Monday, December 5, 2011

OLD DOGS, NEW TRICKS

Well, I apparently have taken the first step on my path to fame and fortune.  My efforts to format The Solarium have resulted, after weeks of swear words salted with hot tears, in my book being offered by Amazon.  Two friends have downloaded it, unfortunately at the point when it was published indentless. I’m hoping that reading whole chapters as one paragraph doesn’t make them as annoyed as I get when I try to read Kafka.  But for $2.99, maybe they’ll be willing to struggle a little.

I managed to get a Kindle helper to put the indentations in for me after I had tried to do it myself five times over three days.  I think my pathetic email got to him. Seeing them magically appear lifted the heavy cloak of obsession that I had worn for week.  The sunlight almost blinded me.

The job isn’t finished, of course.  I now need to let more than a couple of friends know that the book is out.  The social network awaits my hesitant entrance.  Since I write in this blog about once a month, not five times a week like some writers who know where they are headed, even the concept of tweeting, facebooking, and searching other folks’ blogs for an opportunity to insert my URL sends me into a communication coma.  All I want to do is begin my next novel.

No, I’m lying.  All I want to l do is get someone else to take care of all this stuff so that I can take long walks again without falling over curbs worrying about whether I should have priced my book at $0.99 and  what is a URL anyway?

But I do have to admit that seeing my story in print in a computerized pseudo-book was a powerful ego booster.  The miserable hours spent getting those indented words onto their fake pages morphed into what I began to call a positive learning experience.  I resisted the urge to continue editing the book, an urge felt by even the most successful of writers when they first see what they have produced.  Instead, full of hope, I moved on to Graffiti Grandma.

I’m quite sure this hopefulness is a sign of senility.

This time I am working with LuLu which is somehow connected with Nook and iBooks.  The formatting  and language are completely different.  The fine print has given me a permanent squint. I forget to eat. A familiar obsession burgeons, the swear words billow, the need to Christmas shop fades.

The Solarium resides at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006NTSM70

Jo Barney Writes
Website: www.jobarneywrites.com
Blog: breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com

Monday, November 21, 2011

NEW RESEARCH: RESULTS STILL OUT

If keeping one’s brain active with new challenges fends off senility, I won’t go dotty until I’m one-hundred-ten years old. 

About a month ago, something, probably the falling economy and my own retirement fund, got me worried, not about senility but about eating in my old-old age. When a friend, tired of rejections and silences that were to be interpreted as rejections, started hiring people to edit, format, publish, and publicize her novel as an e book, I perked up.  I could do that.

I meant I, alone, without the spendy staff, I could do that. I had scores of articles telling me how, telling me that I would be making thousands once Graffiti Grandma got out into the electronic world, telling me to be brave.  So I began.

Editing.  A week of discovering miss-numbered chapter pages, characters with pseudonyms, plot points leading to nowhere.  Grandma got all cleaned up and ready to go. Felt kind of good.

Then formatting.  Different companies have different formatting rules.  I went with Kindle and plunged in.  Single space, justified margins, one of only three acceptable fonts, two spaces after titles, subtitles, no pages numbers, and even in fiction, a table of content to help the e-reader.  Cover, watch your pixels; preview, don’t mind if it doesn’t look like you imagined.  But if it is incorrect, do it all over again.  And, oh, don’t forget about a copyright and your ISBN #.

In these weeks of compulsive-obsessive disorder, I sat in front of my iMac for hours each day.  My eyes burned and the screen was fuzzy no matter which part of my glasses I tried look through. I took up spinal twisting and stretching to relieve my dead derriere and swearing really bad words to relieve my blinding frustration. My husband learned to retreat to a nearby coffee shop. The dog quivered under my chair and licked the rug. 
                                               
Adrenalin still spurting, the day I finished with Grandma, I decided to try Lulu to self-publish my other novel, The Solarium.  Same scene, different  rules,  even worse swear words. Dog-soaked rug under my feet.  Husband in and out so quietly that one day I ran into his den thinking he might be dead the way he hadn’t answered me when I yelled at him to do something about dinner. “Out to a movie,” his note on the microwave read. “I’ll get pizza. Again.”

Well, it’s about time to start marketing. I have a book about it, but I may have to rest a bit before I stir up any more brain cells.  It advises me to tweet, and right now I’m not sure I’m up to it, whatever            tweeting is.

Jo Barney Writes
Website: www.jobarneywrites.com
Blog: breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just Depends on How You Look at It: Age

Going to a foreign country should stir up the creative juices. At first, my trip Turkey this month only stirred up the understanding that I’m still getting older. I understood this the moment I tried to fling my right leg over the side of the air balloon and felt a kind hand on my butt and another on my ankle.  As I perched on top the leather padding and teetered for a moment wondering what I’d do with the leg still inside the basket, another set of hands encircled my waist and lifted me up and onto the platform.    

Ten years ago I would have said I can do this myself.   That time I said Thank you three times.
           
The hour just previous to this display of dotage, we had floated over the pale dystopic terrain of Cappadocia, with its pale fairy chimneys, blankets of stone, green patches of vineyards, a world thousands of years old, pockmarked with the doors and windows of the homes of people who had dug into the soft stone to find peace: the early Christians monks, the Islamic families, and the Whirling Dervishes who trudged up the narrow white paths to safety and contemplation. 

        

That afternoon we were led through a few of these cave-homes and cave cities hidden within the rock formations. ”Here is the winery,…the kitchen with its black ceilings…the bedrooms,…the airshafts,” our guide Mustafa told us.  “Here is their church.”  We followed his feet up and down the uneven stairways.  “Careful here,” he said, looking my way.
           
I not only had my doubts about my ability to manage the dark tunnels but also about the whole story he was spinning. How could he or anyone tell about what happened in these rooms fifteen hundred years after the fact? I wondered, as I groped my way, sometimes on all fours.

            On our last day, our van wound its way over graveled roads and stopped in front of a fairy chimney, one that was bound by a garden of zinnias and tomatoes, an open wooden door greeting us.  “A surprise,” Mustafa grinned.

 Inside, a man and his wife offered us tea in the traditional glasses.  “Apple or Turkish?” they asked.  We settled on carpet-draped benches and on the soft rugs covering the uneven rocky floors.  Blue shutters at the one window let in the sun.

The husband was a stone mason he told us, the wife, her hair covered with a lace-edged kerchief, kept the house and the children.  In her spare time, she knotted carpets, the thick red one I sat on, the one hanging on the wall.  “My wedding dowry,” she said. “That one,” she pointed to the loom behind me,  “is being made by my daughter who is fifteen.  It will be her wedding rug when the time comes.” Then she added, “First, college.”

            After tea, we were invited into the kitchen, where one of the cupboards displayed an iron like a trophy behind its glass door.  Propane fueled the stove and refrigerator, the toilet was in a small building in the back yard, the bedrooms up the stone steps.  The wife smiled at our questions as we took it all in, the rooms, ancient tool marks roughening their surfaces, the wool rugs, the life.

            “Come back again,” her husband called when we made our ways down the rocky trail taking us away.  I will, I promised myself.  On a page as white as this ancient landscape, as the walls of a house perhaps a thousand years old.

Jo Barney Writes
Website: www.jobarneywrites.com
Blog: breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

EPIPHANY AT THE BOOK CLUB



 The title got our attention.  And the fact that it had won a Pulitzer, which in my book club’s estimation is even better than a Booker. We made that decision after reading three English–accented winners in a row and several of us have sworn off of them for a while.  So we voted okay to a Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.

            We have a rule that at least one of us has to have read a book before we choose it, and Allen said he had.  So had I, but it was a while ago and all I could remember is that it had raised my hackles.  I couldn’t remember why.

            I read it a second time. Usually in re-reading, I discover things  I missed first time around, but this time I recalled what had irritated me about this book.  I didn’t much like most of the characters, the story was not told in a  linear sequence, beginning to end, I never found an arc of any kind in the narration,  and the point of views switched so often I had to think before I assumed I knew who was talking.  The changes from past tense to present made my head swim.  Not only that, one complete chapter was a sixty-five page power point presentation.

            Seemed as though this author broke just about every rule I’ve ever known about writing a novel.  Did she do it on purpose?

            One critic called the book ‘post modern.” I knew about post partum, post menopause, post traumatic stress, post bikini-bathingsuit-ability, but I had to look up in Wikipedia to discover what post modern literature is.  Turns out, Jennifer Egan followed all of the po mo rules, if post modernists actually have rules.  And her story, Pulitzer in hand, walked away with reviews like  “A new classic in American fiction,” (Time) and “At once intellectually stimulating and moving,” (San Francisco Chronicle).  And many more even more effusive.

            And I was jealous.  When I break the rules, would-be agents tell me they didn’t fall in love with my novel(s), that the arc is obscure, that maybe I should just try writing from one POV, or linearly, or  (now I’m reading between the lines) I should forget about writing about old women.

            However, while I didn’t fall in love at first sight with Goon Squad, upon the second read, I realized that Egan had captured real people acting badly, and sometimes quite unexpectedly well, loving and not loving, failing and occasionally succeeding.  She had a firm grip, even in the power-point pages, on the anguish of being human in a unsteady world that changes before our very eyes.

            I’m beginning to understand that breaking rules, when done with purpose, can open a story like a whacked water melon, its characters and their lives spewed willy-nilly all over the place like slilppery black seeds.  It’s up to the reader to pick them up, toss some, plant a few. Who knows who or what will come up green and new next spring?

            Graffiti Grandma is not quite there.  Not even close.  But I am inspired to take another look at her,   at what makes her human, what makes her universal.  Thanks, Jennifer.

Jo Barney Writes
Website: www.jobarneywrites.com
Blog: breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

STEAMPUNK IS NOT FOR ME

         Graffiti Grandma is out to three agents.  Wednesday Club, the script, is entered in a contest and is sent to two producers, and Solarium just got its twentieth rejection, one more to go.  I don't know where Mom, my hockey novel, is.  Its cards have escaped my card file.  Marshall, the miniature horse, has not made it into the cardfile yet.  He's romping around in SASE land.  I've thrown all of my literary children to the winds.  Likely, they'll never return.  "Just not right for me," their epitaphs will read somewhere out there in the ether.

         The only thing for me to do now is write something new. Margaret is shuffling in the wings of this computer.  She's seventy-six, straight bodied, aching in only several non-essential parts, and she doesn't know what she's in for.  This old lady is going to be manipulated, mulled, cut into pieces, disdained, wept over, and then, if she's like the rest of my literary offspring, laid to rest in my Zip for someone to find when I myself lie in the same sort of quiet place.

         I sometimes think how angry I will be if my human children, posthumously for me,  discover my Zip storage system, send out its quiet occupants, and make a million dollars in movie rights, and at just the right time for their retirements. I'll really be pissed.  If one can be in that condition sans bodily components.  

         My timing has always been off. I wrote of sad divorces in the early 80's, a few years after most of the debris from the free love decade infiltrated stolid 50's marriages. Then Umarried Woman and Jill Clayburgh took all the wind out of my muse’s sails.

         I described of the travails of being single with children just after Jane Smiley’s Ordinary Love  came out and said it all for me.  Elizabeth Berg covered the drives of singleness:  sex, loneliness, missteps in choosing while very needy, even as I was being driven all over the map and not writing.

         One of my novels dealt with foundering young sons when my own sons  headed out into the world.  Research into the genre  revealed that not only Salinger but Brad Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney, even if I disliked their books,  got into a young man’s psyche a lot better than a mother could.

         Remarriage, oh god, with children, led to six unpublished articles, right about the time Joanne Trollope Viking wrote Other Peoples’ Children and dissected a stepmother role as precisely as it can be done.

         I can write as well as a few of these authors.  I just need to find my niche before someone else does. What will sell three years from now?  What will be at the front edge of the next wave?  I don't do vampires and I get too depressed with dystopic scenes.  Who wants to eat a friend's finger?  Or sacrifice a person you've just had sex with?

         Wait!  I can imagine that, sort of.  Perhaps I can create a new genre, a hybrid combination of romance, mystery, fantasy, dystopia, and  chick lit.

         I Googled genres and found one that might be work, slightly adjusted: “Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story. The modus operandi seems to be the use of a normal story to simply explain difficult and/or dark parts of human life.”

         I will call my new genre Geriatric Bildungsroman.  Coming-of-old-age stories.  I know it’s been done, but not by me yet, not the way I’m thinking about Margaret.

Jo Barney Writes
Website: www.jobarneywrites.com
Blog: breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com

Friday, April 22, 2011

THERE'S REVISING AND THEN THERE'S MARSHALL

So here we are, three women who think of themselves as writers despite a paucity of publication successes, promising to not talk from nine o’clock in the morning until three in the afternoon, even though we’ll be sitting only a few feet away from  each other for much of the five days we’re in the cabin. A little like being in a nunnery, except that as evening approaches each day, so does the wine, the good food, and the glow that comes from knowing that what you have just read aloud has been really listened to.

Oregon Writers Colony Retreat. None of us know what to expect, but we have goals.  Peggy will smooth out her mystery and write a couple of short pieces.  Elizabeth will set aside her career as a technical writer and begin a journey into personal writing.  “Is it all right if I make up a few things in a memoir?” she asks at one point. Peggy snorts.  “It wouldn’t be a memoir if you didn’t.” And I have brought with me three critiques I’d hidden in a drawer after I glanced at them and got mad. And an idea about a horse.

The critiques have to be met face-to face, not out of the corner of one angry eye. My novel Solarium has been read, critiqued, and rejected by an agent who, in my post-rejection depression, I referred at “my teenage almost-agent,” a title based on her first name, popular in 1990. “We need to get inside your four women. What are they feeling as they begin their risky task? Do they even like each other? Are they afraid?” Amberly is right, I discover as I read my novel one more time, her words clearing away through the fog of loving one’s writing too much. I make notes, including one to myself to stop being so snarky to people just because they are fifty years younger than myself. 

Then I look at a critique I paid for when I bought a screenwriting CD. This critic wrote that my plot point in Wednesday Club comes ten pages too soon, that the turning point, if there is one, needs to come about two-thirds into the script, and I need many more reversals. I had set this critique aside because it exhausted me just to read it. I have Cynthia Whitcomb’s book at my side, and with the help of my two advisors, I spend a day cutting up scenes, rearranging them (like cleaning messy drawers, satisfying) and throwing in a reversal or two (I think).  

On the last day, I file those two old projects for future attention and pick up a pen and write Marshall, a Hero.  It is a picture book (or will be, maybe) about a tiny horse who wears Adidas and learns to guide Jim up escalators, down New York streets, through all aspects his owner’s life. A true hero.  Getting Marshall on paper makes me feel like a writer again.

When I get home, life is in full advance, as usual, phone calls, appointments, the dishes, me compulsively clicking onto my email hoping for good news about queries.  At odd moments, I savor the remembered silence of three writers in retreat, writing.

Jo Barney Writes
Website: www.jobarneywrites.com
Blog: breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com

THERE'S REVISING AND THEN THERE'S MARSHALL


So here we are, three women who think of themselves as writers despite a paucity of publication successes, promising to not talk from nine o’clock in the morning until three in the afternoon, even though we’ll be sitting only a few feet away from  each other for much of the five days we’re in the cabin. A little like being in a nunnery, except that as evening approaches each day, so does the wine, the good food, and the glow that comes from knowing that what you have just read aloud has been really listened to.

Oregon Writers Colony Retreat. None of us know what to expect, but we have goals.  Peggy will smooth out her mystery and write a couple of short pieces.  Elizabeth will set aside her career as a technical writer and begin a journey into personal writing.  “Is it all right if I make up a few things in a memoir?” she asks at one point. Peggy snorts.  “It wouldn’t be a memoir if you didn’t.” And I have brought with me three critiques I’d hidden in a drawer after I glanced at them and got mad. And an idea about a horse.

The critiques have to be met face-to face, not out of the corner of one angry eye. My novel Solarium has been read, critiqued, and rejected by an agent who, in my post-rejection depression, I referred at “my teenage almost-agent,” a title based on her first name, popular in 1990. “We need to get inside your four women. What are they feeling as they begin their risky task? Do they even like each other? Are they afraid?” Amberly is right, I discover as I read my novel one more time, her words clearing away through the fog of loving one’s writing too much. I make notes, including one to myself to stop being so snarky to people just because they are fifty years younger than myself. 

Then I look at a critique I paid for when I bought a screenwriting CD. This critic wrote that my plot point in Wednesday Club comes ten pages too soon, that the turning point, if there is one, needs to come about two-thirds into the script, and I need many more reversals. I had set this critique aside because it exhausted me just to read it. I have Cynthia Whitcomb’s book at my side, and with the help of my two advisors, I spend a day cutting up scenes, rearranging them (like cleaning messy drawers, satisfying) and throwing in a reversal or two (I think).  

On the last day, I file those two old projects for future attention and pick up a pen and write Marshall, a Hero.  It is a picture book (or will be, maybe) about a tiny horse who wears Adidas and learns to guide Jim up escalators, down New York streets, through all aspects his owner’s life. A true hero.  Getting Marshall on paper makes me feel like a writer again.

When I get home, life is in full advance, as usual, phone calls, appointments, the dishes, me compulsively clicking onto my email hoping for good news about queries.  At odd moments, I savor the remembered silence of three writers in retreat, writing.  

Jo Barney Writes
Website: www.jobarneywrites.com
Blog: breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 6, 2011

WILDFLOWERS

I’ll confess. For the past three weeks, I have not been writing, revising, or querying. I have been spending my time in a much more productive way. With a manic surge of energy, I have spread hundreds of photos, and dozens of albums, the flotsam and jet-sam of our marriage, on the bedroom floor. The piles grow in front of me, Paris in one pile, grand children in another, my first attempt to organize twenty years of prolific if not artful scenes and faces. I tell myself that I’m doing this for our children. So that they won’t have to sort through this mess after we’re gone.

Except that I’m lying to myself. I huddle on the carpet at the end of my bed, Willie sleeping amongst the debris, because I don’t want to write. Now and maybe forever. After the albums and the photo boxes are lined up like totems on an high shelf in the hall closet, I turn to the next project.  My recipes, tossed for years into folders or scrunched in wads at the back of the cupboard, are calling to me. 

“Oh, god,” my husband murmurs as he makes his way to his side of the bed and pauses to pull fragment of scotch tape off the sole of his left foot. “Another disaster scene. What’s next?”

“My left-over glass, I think.” A box of large and tiny shards of Bullseye glass wait for me in the storage unit. It’s difficult to give up a hobby that has left me scarred but fulfilled. It is also hard to throw away glass that cost a small fortune just because I decided to become a writer. Now that I understand that my novels aren’t going to be discovered, won’t bring me fame and fortune, or even an agent’s request to read the whole manuscript, the glass beckons. At least I may get a wedding present for a nephew out of the effort. And I’ll have created something that someone will say is wonderful even if he doesn’t know what it is. “It’s a deviled egg dish,” I’ll whisper.  I begin to get inspired.

The recipes are now back in the cupboard, all in folders, Meat, Vegetables, Bread, etc., and I begin to clean up. The vacuum doesn’t fit under the bed and I lie flat on the floor and scootch until I can reach the papers hiding there. When I have them between my fingers and pull myself out, I see that I am holding four pictures of myself, pictures I set aside and forgot in my relief at finishing the photo project.

Me, forty some years ago, dark-haired, red lips grinning, holding a three-month old baby who stares, mouth open in surprise, at the camera. Me, twenty years later, grinning through a veil of sadness at the end of marriage, retreated to a beachhouse deck, Dino the Dog, my faithful companion, panting next to my knee. Me, my graying hair trimmed and stiffened as befits a professional photo session, grinning so broadly my gold tooth glitters because this picture will appear in an anthology along with story of mine. Me, only few years ago, sitting in a field of blue and orange wildflowers, grinning at how good life has become.

No, I guess I won’t stop writing. I’m just taking a break to acknowledge those four women who were me.  A pause to consider the story the next photo will tell.  

Jo Barney Writes
Website: www.jobarneywrites.com
Blog: breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TRAINS, RABBITS, WATERMELON SEEDS



A friend went out of my door the other day saying “What’s a girl to do?”  I had just said something like how happy she seemed despite a few downturns in her fortunes lately. We both laughed.  Neither of us are girls and our realities are, for the moment, out of our hands.  No doing by either of us for a while.  Just being done to, not that great a feeling, actually.

Then I started thinking about the question. Who asked it the first time, before it popped out of my friend’s mouth like a watermelon seed?

I had just done a Google search on dog diarrhea and knew if that very special subject was included in the lexicon of Google knowledge, so might the phrase, “What’s a girl to do?”

It is.  It appears that the question has nothing to do with two older females  moaning about finances and query rejections. It concerns rejection of a different ilk.  A young girl, who is at best thirteen, sings  a song as she rides a bike in the dark and rabbits (big ones) run behind her. She doesn’t love her lover anymore. How will she tell him?

Perhaps I’m missing something. My speakers only whisper at me when I listen to YouTube. So I find the lyrics. Maybe I will learn a little more about what I am to do, or at least get inspired for the short story I am thinking of entering in a local contest.

“When you love so long/ That the thrill is gone/ And your kisses at night/ Are replaced with tears/ And when your dreams are on a train to train wreck town/ Then I ask you now, what’s a girl to do?” (Bat for Lashes, 2007)

Well, I’d advise her to get off the train. Quick.

Shit, did I really say that?  I mean, this girl and the rabbits are not really singing about love, are they?  What do rabbits know about love? They’re singing about failing dreams, about deflated hopes, loss of self esteem in those ridiculous costumes.  Maybe about rejection slips.

Am I advising myself get off my train before I wreck?  To quit while I’m still alive?

As I type this,  a “ding” sounds.  I have an email.  I have two more agents and a publisher to hear from. .  I click on the email symbol. I’m not quite ready to get off the train


Jo Barney Writes
Website: www.jobarneywrites.com
Blog: breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com

Monday, January 17, 2011

SO, NO RESPONSES TO MY QUERIES YET. I SHOULDN'T BE SURPRISED


         
              Last week I heard an agent speak about the number of queries that landed on her email desk in a year.  One hundred thousand, she said, and her audience  looked up from their scratchpad notes aghast.  “Of those,” she added, “I was able to take on twenty-three as clients.” A hiss spread across the room, a silibant echo of one of my favorite swear words when I am disappointed or have stepped in something.

            April Eberhardt went on to describe the new age of publishing in which the author is in total control of getting his/her book out of the computer and into the hands of potential readers.  Self-publishing.  Used to be another dirty word, but by the time Ms. Eberhardt had finished, a number of us, including the three women sitting on either side of me were wide-eyed and grinning at each other. Hopeful our faces were, the way I feel when I have sent out a really good query and I know I’ll be asked for pages shortly.

             As I walked home, the doubt set in.  A memory of a friend’s mother’s autobiography came to the surface.  The book detailed her many trips off the main road of widowhood into the beckoning woods of sex and libido.  Her stories all began with “I” and we didn’t really get to know any of the men, but what made me finally put it down unfinished was the book’s great need for editing, both line and content. 

            Similar books have created a bad name for self-publishing.  Vanity presses have made millions for themselves, seldom for the authors, producing books that moulder in the back of car trunks or garages after the first twenty copies have been handed to friends and relatives.  This particular book went to few relatives, its contents a bit purple for most of them. Her daughter recycled the remainders when she emptied her mother’s home, saving a copy, along with the cut lead crystal pitcher she held back from the estate sale lady, to bring back memories and smiles.

            However, now, with Kindle and other e-readers, the agent assured us, all that is changing.  We writers have to become knowledgeable about the new technology.  Give up the vision of a book in hand for the reality of a book in the ether.  Besides, she said, if our book is successful (that is, sells a few thousand downloads), we’ll make more money than we would have with an agent and a contract. 

            But first, we have to hire other experts to help us get it all together, she said.  A good editor, a graphic designer, a marketing consultant.  My seat partners and I had left the auditorium convinced we could do all this.

            Why is it, then, that I continue to check my email twice a day?  To wait for word that a stranger wants to see the whole book?  To say no to a husband offering a Kindle after he’s listened to me describe this meeting?  Is it that I need to be validated by some sort of judge before I can believe in my writing?  Or is it my hope that when my home is cleaned out,  a grand daughter will pick up a book with my name on it, will say, “I want  this,” and will put it on her book shelf and think of me once in a while.

Jo Barney Writes
Website: www.jobarneywrites.com
Blog: breakoutnovelarace.blogspot.com