Tag Archives: indie publishing

Heaven Lies East of the Mississippi

Much to my surprise, here’s a new (old) novel.  Written in 2012, updated over the years, I released Heaven Lies East of the Mississippi today on Smashwords.

I’ve classified it as a romance, although it easily falls under lit fic: When Kendall Schultz walks away from professional soccer and his longtime girlfriend, tragedy threatens to destroy the American superstar. In rural Tennessee, Kendall meets Sarah Dwyer, a widow whose son Heath reflects Kendall’s regrets. Can a sporting icon set aside catastrophe or will his chance at happiness be forever lost?

If you like to know more why this particular story took so long to reach publication, check out this page.  And if you’d like to read this tale, it’s available on Smashwords for free, like all my other novels.  And will be at other online retailers soon.

(Notes for) A Great Responsibility

A plus quilt top is arranged, now waits to be sewn together….

I’ve had the idea of this post since early August, but then it was time to go on holiday, and since my return, sewing amid revisions have usurped my attention.  Not to mention that this topic is somewhat daunting, ahem, but having dropped hints toward it in my previous entry, it’s probably time to follow up with some succinct explanation.

This little quilt will be heading to the UK, maybe as soon as today!

However, succinct is not my middle name, lol.  Instead I will try to expand the few notes I made before we traveled to the Midwest, in the hopes I get the basics of my sentiment down correctly.  Of course, my views are completely subjective, so take my musings with a grain or two of authorial (and quilter’s) salt…

Equate writing a novel to quilting in that the seams must last as long as possible – so a book must be written with the greatest of care humanly possible….

Why the Peach Tree conundrum matters – that while I don’t take myself too seriously, I do take into account the novels I write with all due gravity….

I’ve linked the peach tree note to a post I wrote about it, if you’re interested.  Okay, so writing and quilting aren’t life and death matters.  They are at best occupations, or simply hobbies, or are they more?  Just this morning I came across several quotes from Man Ray, which probably is why I’m writing this post, as he straddled the line perfectly between what was necessary and what was superfluous in art.  A good sense of humor struck me first, but underneath was the realization of just how our personal efforts, regardless of how widely they are embraced, demand the best we can give of ourselves.  Within a wider quote, Man Ray says: To create is divine, to reproduce is human.  He’s not talking biology, but art.  By now drama in any genre has been written and rewritten extensively, but our own twist on various themes remains essential, as does the duty to set forth those paragraphs (and comforters) with as much imagination and respect for those to whom we are presenting them.  I wouldn’t give away a half-finished quilt, nor should I publish a tale merely because I can do so.  Now, having said that, let me also state that some of my first indie novels are….  They aren’t of the same quality of what I now produce.  But at the time they were the best of my abilities, and released with honorable intentions, same as the first quilts I made.  Life is a constant learning process, and artistic growth is often cataloged for all to see.  So I won’t discount those early efforts, but I most certainly can exceed them.

Flannel-backed, it’s 34 X 40 inches, and should be handy year round in Great Britain, ha ha.

To me, the gift of publishing independently demands I do my utmost to provide readers with the highest level of my talents, and I feel the same about making quilts.  There can be no shortcuts permitted, for a quilt would unravel after so many washings, just as a novel falls apart if not properly researched and plotted.  I don’t want to waste my time, or that of whoever receives the spoils of my imagination, in doing a half-assed job, excuse my French.  Certain projects are covered by a caveat, like The Hawk for instance, as I note that it is a beta-version, and critiques are most welcome.  When I find a typo, I attempt to correct it as quickly as I can, and in the case of quilts, patches are applied when seams rupture.  My efforts are solely human in nature, although the inspiration is quite divine.  And I smile as I proceed in these tasks, for what a tremendous pleasure to craft stories and stitch quilts!  As Man Ray also says: I have been accused of being a joker.  But the most successful art to me involves humor.  This is essential in accepting responsibility, for it keeps me from taking too much pride in what I do.  As I noted, writing and sewing aren’t life and death.  Yet the intrinsic value remains and a fine line needs to be tread in keeping these gifts honest without my shadow overpowering them.

I’m adding a close-up of the back; the alphabet is essential to an author, and I just couldn’t resist this fabric….

My goodness, that’s quite a lot to say early in the week!  Yet these thoughts have been crowding my brain, and as I’m nearly back to writing, space was necessary, ha ha, just like clearing off the little quilt wall as the next fabric WIP cries for my attention.  Last night I finished hand-binding a baby quilt (photos included within this post), washed it this morning, and hope to send it later today.  Another part of the great responsibility is to see these projects through.  I’ve been graced with nimble fingers as well as inventive gray matter, so idle moments are rare.  I welcome your thoughts, and I thank you for reaching the end of this rather scattered but well-intentioned post.

So Much Beauty Along the Way

Five years ago this week I independently published The War On Emily Dickinson.  2011 seems a long ways in the past considering all that’s happened in my life since, but sometimes it feels like yesterday for how brief has been this foray into indie publishing.  I’ve been wanting to highlight that event, and not only in regards to my authorial existence.  By releasing books in this manner, I discovered many personal truths as well as realizing a long-held dream.

A selfie from our recent holiday; more vacation pics to come....

A selfie from our recent holiday; more vacation pics to come….

The family joke is that I’m not the ‘techie sort’.  However, ask any indie writer, and you’ll find our talents go beyond penning good stories.  There’s the formatting and uploading of manuscripts, which for me also includes slapping drafts onto various gadgets for editing purposes.  Cover design falls into this category, although a few of my covers have been produced by outside sources.  These are elements that traditionally authors have left to their publishing houses, but formatting a manuscript, either for an online distributor or one’s own smartphone, isn’t any more difficult than following a recipe.  Believe me, if I can do it, anybody can.

While the nuts and bolts are vital parts of the process, it’s the stories that matter most, not only the yarns spun, but the spinning.  Indie publishing brokered a new world for me; that I could release my novels spurred on more first drafts, most of which I’ll leave safely in flash drives.  Julie K. Rose, who has designed some of my covers, eloquently speaks about the democratization of art; what a blessing to have this outlet, not only for ourselves, but for how others are affected.

But first comes the storyteller; I can’t honestly say what I’d be writing now if not for taking the horse by the reins, yet the words have only increased since The War On Emily Dickinson was published.  I had lunch with Julie recently, and we celebrated how empowering were our decisions to go indie, even for all the work involved.  Our artistic souls aren’t bound by a marketer’s choice of genre, our methods aren’t scrutinized by anxious agents, our individual paths uncluttered by the fickle winds of finance.  To many writing is a business.  But it’s not that way for me.

Writing is liberation and creation.  It is messages of hope and love and joy amid drama and cliffhangers.  It’s reaching out far past where I can see as tales are extended to any and all.  Indie publishing has afforded me fantastic freedom, albeit with some rules to follow, also the pleasure of forging new vistas.  Five years along this road, I’m nearing the end of a most magnificent tale, releasing it in beta-form as I continue to write, what an adventure that has been.  What a gift to share all these stories, as well as realize a long-held dream.

Okay, one more shot, indicative to the nature of this post.

Okay, one more shot; the California coastline along Highway 1 just north of Fort Bragg.

I always wanted to be a writer; imagine how it feels to experience that goal on my own terms.  I am grateful beyond words, and there are many folks to thank; Julie Rose for inspiring and assisting, Mark Coker and Smashwords for facilitating, my family for putting up with this not-so-small obsession, readers for completing the circle.  Lastly my beloved husband for his endless support and patience, and my Savior for guidance in both the prose and purpose.  None of this has been by chance, much faith is involved.  But in any endeavor, conviction is essential.  Self-expression starts with courage, and bravery is independent publishing’s unspoken middle name.

Reconciling Past, Present, and Future

When I was in my twenties, having had my third child, I suffered from headaches.  I went to see my doctor, an older chap not far from retirement.  He checked me out, then said, “Well Mrs. Graham, I think you have too many children.”

Photos are from summer 2005, in Helmsley, Yorkshire.  Some of The Hawk book covers are from this trip....

Photos are from summer 2005, in Helmsley, Yorkshire. Some of The Hawk book covers are from this trip.

Um, what, I have too many children?  My first thought was, “Well Dr. So And So, what am I supposed to do about that now?”  I don’t recall what I said, but obviously I didn’t have any serious issues, and now a good twenty years later, all seems fine.  But as I wrote today, fleshing out yet one more set of characters for The Hawk, I thought about that dubious diagnosis and how it relates to my WIP.

Yes, Mrs. Graham, I think this book has too many children….

Actually youngsters are on my mind, not the nietos, but a plethora of kids growing up in Karnack, Texas in the autumn of 1963 as well as an unnamed western town.   I’ve reached JFK’s assassination, which has taken a lot from me to weave into the story, but along with that tragedy has blossomed Luke and Tilda Richardson and Hiram Bellevue.  Let’s not forget Walt and Dora, the Richardson parents, which means I’m shoehorning another half dozen characters within a novel that seems to expand like some long lost galaxy finally turning up on properly equipped telescopes.

But you know what?  I don’t care.  There was nothing I could do two decades ago to answer that silly doctor’s retort, and again today I’m not bothered that this story spins further into something that thankfully doesn’t give me headaches, just some achy arm muscles.  But as I said to my husband this evening, quilting will be taking a back seat this year.  I’ve got a novel to finish!

(Do you know how GOOD that is to denote?  The last two years writing has felt like an extra within my life, coming and going as if I could set it permanently aside, dude!)

In the last few weeks I’ve added another 80K to this manuscript, whoo-hoo!  This book will be as long and involved (with as many kids and kitchen sinks) as necessary.  Since starting this novel, I’ve come to the distinct realization that a bigger story than originally assumed is being told.  And that too is just fine.  (Just fine!)  Having been at this writing gig now for over nine years, an independently published author for coming on half a decade, I have my feet under me.  This isn’t like the quilting, which at times feels utterly new.  With writing, I do know what I’m doing.

I wonder if this is from where I dreamed up the gate to the Snyders' property....

I wonder if this is from where I dreamed up the gate to the Snyders’ property….

I don’t say that to brag; I say it secure in my vocation.  This authorial stuff is a calling, don’t think it’s not.  And like anyone called to this or that task, confidence springs from experience, also from letting go of expectations.  So welcome Luke, Tilda, Hiram, Walt, and Dora.  Eric, Lynne, Sam, Renee, Marek, Laurie, Stanford, and Seth are happy to find room for a few more folks.  And while I’m still hoping to complete this behemoth by the end of the year, I’m also aware that deadlines in indie publishing are solely at my discretion.  However lengthy this story needs to be, so be it.  And however long that takes, okay.  Those headaches from my youth weren’t due to an overabundance of children, and this novel won’t suffer from a few extra additions; let the words, folks, and chips fall where they may.

Semi-retired

A relative long time ago there was a movie called Semi-Tough.  Back in those days, there was no internet, cell phones, iPods, or laptop computers.  But we all seemed to survive pretty well.

Not quite back that far, but not too many years later, I started writing poetry.  It was lousy poetry, teenage-angst to the gills.  But for a young woman growing up in the middle of nowhere, it tapped into a part of my brain, leaving marks on my soul.  After I met my husband I gave it up, because all I could write was depressing drivel that seemed incongruous with being head over heels in love.  But every once in a while, an event would lead me back to a poem, or two.  At that time I wasn’t writing much more than journal entries or lesson plans, a homeschooling ex-pat mum living in the UK.  Then NaNoWriMo invaded my life, and the rest is indie novelist history.

Until last month, when a short story was pirated.  That incident peeled away a layer of skin that at the time I didn’t notice was gone.  Writers have pretty thick hides, or we should.  And while mine is darn tough in some places, it’s just semi-tough in others.  My heart and soul were burned by that thievery, but hey, crap happens.  Get over it.

I thought I had, especially since finding NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month).  It’s not affiliated with NaNo, but I’ve been having a blast in between rediscovering my poetic roots and starting an epic poem that has sort of taken over April.  “The Hounds of Love and War” is pretty melodramatic, but not all the output has been angsty; “Ninja Hat Poem” and “The Pancake That Saved Silicon Valley” spring to mind.

In April, I also wrote what turned out to be the very beginning of a series; I didn’t plan it, but sometimes sagas crop out of nowhere.  I completed the first of who knows how many installments of that tale, and plan to return to it sooner rather than later.

While still writing poems.

And snapping clouds.

Easter Sunday 2013

And gardening.

Newly planted petunias, snapdragons and one verbena

And watching baseball (rarely at the park, but Spring Training was a heck of a ton of fun).

Cactus League in March 2013

And…  All the other stuff that happens when I’m not seated in front of my computer or somewhere else with pen and paper in hand.  I adore pen and paper, how the poems are fashioned, even the LONG ones, like “The Pancake That Saved Silicon Valley”.  It was fourteen single-sided sheets from a legal pad, and I reveled in every ridiculous minute of it.  (Pancakes, aliens, Eric Clapton, blah blah blah…)

Amid all this faffing about, I learned something else; I don’t particularly want to publish novels anymore.  In part, yes, due to having been pirated.  I’m pretty damn tough when it comes to some areas in my life.  But in others, I’m semi-tough.  And until I can be tough all over when it comes to publishing…

I’m going to pull back.  I’ll be retired fully once I finish “The Hounds of Love and War”; I want to publish that leviathan, one of these days, as it’s part-poem, part-novel.  As for the rest of it…

It’s like baseball or football, which is what the film Semi-Tough was in part about.  Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson, and Jill Clayburg were a love triangle also involved with football and self-help movements.

(Remember, it was 1977.)

But whether it’s 1977 or 1999 or 2013, if one’s heart isn’t in something, what’s the point?  I don’t like admitting a pirate got the better of me, or maybe that’s not it at all.  Maybe poetry has been waiting for me to get over the angst, then return for new lessons.  Life is about learning, exploring, finding one’s true calling.  For the last couple of years it was publishing novels (and expunging a truck-load of melodramatic tendencies).  Now it’s something different.

As I begin this new adventure, I won’t be blogging about it; in part that I think I’ve said all I need to say about writing.  And that poetry is a wild, fleeting gift that arises without warning.  You can’t cage it, although you can revise, just as in noveling.  But the act of catching a poem, or being caught by one, isn’t the sort of treasure I could accurately describe in a blog post.  I’ve been blogging about writing since summer 2007, here at WordPress since last July.  Over the last six years I’ve met fantastic bloggers and authors who have enriched my life immensely.  Now it’s time to slip inside a poem and see what happens.

As I’ve noted on this site’s main page, I’ll consider myself semi-retired until “Hounds” is released.  Then I’ll be a fully retired author of novels or novel-like poems.  Indie publishing was a blessing that I’ll forever hold close in my heart.  But not everything lasts forever.  Some events are momentary, yet, unless I’m willing to sit quietly, those events might pass me right on by.  Thanks for reading this blog, and the books.  May all your authorial dreams be found, and may some of them sneak up behind you and say Boo!

50 Years Waiting

50 Years Waiting

Today I released a short story: “50 Years Waiting” is my foray into the world of smaller tales, although it is a pleasant eleven thousand words.  Originally I was going to flesh it out as a novel-length manuscript, but last summer I was encouraged by Suzy Stewart Dubot to try writing a short story.  This novella, if you will, is affectionately dedicated to Suzy, for her gentle arm-twisting, and was first released within the Why Me? collection by Top Writers Block.

So, why a short story?  Well, for one thing, I have more plots than I could shake a stick at.  This idea seemed suited to a more compact delivery, and once I started writing, the saga tumbled forth over several evenings last summer, when my husband was away on business.  What better way to kill time than by spinning a yarn?

Not that Andrea is bored; on her seventy-second birthday, she celebrates with family, worming her way out of joining her daughters on errands by saying she’s going fishing.  She has no plans to do anything of the sort, yet, an even bigger surprise awaits.  Andrea’s party is broken up by an old flame, yet that man, previously ten years her senior, has not aged a day since she last saw him, five decades in the past.  Thom Sugerman is still thirty-two, baffling himself, Andrea, and her grandchildren, who are just a bit younger than Thom.  How Thom managed to stay so young is one query.  The other causes Andrea great consternation; how could he still be in love with her with so many years passed in the interim?

Writing this tale, I pondered just how love remains, not for Thom, but a woman who suffered his disappearance, then married, raising a family.  A widow for ten years, now Andrea faces a lover never forgotten, also unchanged from when she last saw him.  How Thom slipped through time isn’t half of Andrea’s problems; her eldest grandson Justin harbors deep suspicions, as does his sister Laurel, who is a ringer for her grandmother as Thom remembers Andrea.  Yet, Thom only has eyes for one woman; he doesn’t see Andrea’s age spots and wrinkles, but her memorable smile and familiar hands.  Thom sees Andrea, or Andy, as he always called her, as the woman he loved, then somehow lost.  Andrea is baffled by that far more than how in the world he has shown up at her door.

Next week I’ll be taking off some time, and hopefully not losing any of it; a belated anniversary holiday is in the works that will see no writing, but probably some plotting.  And perhaps a wee bit of blogging, if something intriguing occurs.  I am in need of some days with just the hubby in warm climes amid our second favourite sport; football is long over, but baseball season looms.  If I happen to snag a moment with Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, or any other San Francisco Giant, I’ll post the evidence here.  In the meantime  if “50 Years Waiting” catches your fancy, head over to Smashwords and download your free copy.  This short story won’t be distributed via other online retailers, but is available in all ebook formats, so no matter what ereader tickles your fancy, “50 Years Waiting” is waiting for you.

Endless Boogie or: How I learned to stop worrying and embrace indie publishing

Endless Boogie in Santa Cruz, California  February 2011

Endless Boogie, February 2011 in Santa Cruz

Two years ago a couple of intriguing things happened to me.  I decided to go indie, and I met Paul Major, lead vocalist and guitarist from the New York rock-jammers Endless Boogie.  The latter occured in Santa Cruz, but not where my husband and I had first seen the band, opening for Yo La Tengo a year before that in a comparatively posh Santa Cruz theater.  This was in some divey industrial section of town, where we learned that Boogie, and the other bands, would be restricted to twenty-minutes sets to avoid breaching the local noise ordinance.  My husband and I laughed with Major and Boogie’s then bassist, whom I believe is known as Memories of Reno (which I gleaned from the band’s Last.fm page, as it’s hard to come by information) as all four of us stood in the cramped second floor hallway, waiting to use the bathroom.  We got to tell them of first seeing them with Yo La Tengo, and it was probably one of the most enjoyable restroom queues of which I’ve been a part.

Now, what does chatting with a Canned Heat-like bunch of rockers have to do with independent publishing?  Well, Endless Boogie’s third album was just released, and while previously I wasn’t a big fan, listening to Long Island has turned my head.  And made me consider just why people of any age (Major is fifty-eight years old, and guitarist Jesper Eklow looks at least my age) decide to let their hair down and make art, be it musical or written or whatever floats one’s boat.

As Major tells this month’s Uncut Magazine, describing Eklow’s talent: He’d been in bands before, but for the love of music, not with the ambition of ‘we’re gonna make it’.

Major further describes the rhythm guitarist as Danny Witten to Major’s Neil Young front-man status.  Now, that’s pretty rock nitty-gritty, but then so is Endless Boogie.  The new album is one I can enjoy while editing, endless guitar jams with Major’s growly vocals or just the hypnotic musical wave.  And on the new record Major employs his incredible voice more as gong, reciting names from the past in “The Artemus Ward” and “The Montgomery Manuscript” as if recalling history in a Ken Burns’ documentary.  If I was Robert Christgau, I’d give Long Island an A-.  Nine out of ten stars if I was reviewing for Uncut,  four and a half out of five if for Rolling Stone.

The new album cover, quite intriguing, I believe.

The new album cover, quite intriguing, I believe.

But this isn’t just about rating an album.  It’s about how letting it all hang out changed my writing life.  Major and Eklow aren’t looking to be rock and roll superstars, they just love jamming, their guitars as extensions of themselves.  Long Island is the band’s third record, but they’ve been playing together since before 2001; in 2001 they performed at the Bowery Ballroom, but their first full album, Focus Level, didn’t come out until 2008, when Major was then fifty-three.  Age is irrelevant when it comes to the heart.

The heart of an artist is ageless, just waiting for the right time to do its thing.

I’ve been listening to a fair amount of Endless Boogie over the last week, since Long Island was mailed to our house, along with a bonus EP, what my husband was trying to record onto the laptop recently.  Right now “Coming Down The Stairs” from their first album is pouring through my computer speakers.  It’s never too early in the morning to rock, although I do need time to warm up for the writing.  But once I was ready to start letting my own hair down, boy, there was no time like the present.

Taken from the back of the room; to the left is where we paid.  The stairs to the loo were just to the right of that little table.

Taken from the back of the room; to the left is where we paid. The stairs to the loo were just to the right of that little table.

Everyone has their own reasons for how and what and why they write; the same can be said for publishing.  Maybe it’s the performance artist in me, as if I was Paul Major on a stage, letting those long brown locks fall where they may as a guitar conveys my pounding heart.  Except it’s a pen in my hand, fingers on the keyboard, a cuppa close to provide sustenance.  Size of the stage matters not; Endless played with just as much tenacity for hundreds as well as in that tiny space where maybe a dozen people wandered.  Yes, the second time we saw Endless Boogie there were probably twelve others wafting through the room.

Sometimes the crowds are big, sometimes not so much.  But the rock and roll emerged without regard to capacity, except for obeying the noise ordinance.

Two years ago I cut myself loose from queries, baggage much heavier than I had imagined.  A blessed lightness graced my shoulders, or was it freedom?  I have a hard time distinguishing as that seems like a distant past.  Now it’s a lively endless riff that weaves in and out of my ears, all in prose.  And hard work too; Endless Boogie played their short set, then dissembled their equipment, no roadies or stagehands nearby.  An indie author does their own grunt work, but even the most tedious formatting doesn’t feel like backbreaking, soul-crushing, good for nothing drivel.  It’s done while celebrating artistic liberty, accomplished from the sheer love for writing.

Time to close up shop, don't want the Santa Cruz cops on the tail.

Time to close up shop, don’t want the Santa Cruz cops knocking on the door.

Now, this is just how I like to publish.  Endless Boogie isn’t for everyone; it took time for the guys to grow on me.  Or maybe it’s my love for jazz that opened my mind to traveling rock riffs, an appreciation that life moves in unpredictable ways.  Did Paul Major think he would be fronting a rock band when in his fifties?  Maybe he dreamed about it when younger, but sometimes dreams stay trapped under lock and key.

Sometimes dreams are just simmering for the precise moment when they are fully formed, like butterflies escaping from their chrysalises.  Indie publishing freed my inner butterfly, and now listening to “The Montgomery Manuscript”, I’m feeling about ready to close this post, start adding to my own WIP.  Music gets made, books are written.  If these pieces of art, these parts of our souls are to be shared with others, no longer is that path long and treacherous.

It’s just a matter of unlocking the chest and letting the dreams fly free.