You can find my blog at Cavedweller!
I had an epiphany last year: I am a cave dweller! I am a writer, a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a friend but I am not a woman-about-town, gadfly, social animal. And I like it! So, I changed my blog to focus on what it means to be a cave dwelling writer in a social world: Cave Dweller: Alone in A Social World. It's a social site for the unsocial.
I don't get many comments which is understandable. I'm hoping to reach people like me who love the internet but who are not socially inclined, people who love to surf and look and read and enjoy everything the internet has to offer but don't feel compelled to reach out and touch everything they see.
Of course, everyone's welcome in my comfy cave so come on over. I don't blog every day or even every week. I try to write when the mood strikes me or I have something to say. The topics are varied and I hope touch on issues that are important to people like me: happy cave dwelling thinkers.
My son wants to buy a boat. I got a text message from him this morning at 6:54, which means it’s 3:54 where he is. “Nevermind why I’m up . . . the bottom of Hello is cut off!” he said from 2,000 miles away. I read this as I sat drinking my nth cup of coffee and wondering what else I could do to promote my book (which was released last night) besides send a tweet every five seconds and plaster Facebook with ads and promos and the usual pleas of “please buy my book.”
BTW: I found an app called Buncee that makes posters and invitations and all kinds of cool stuff on the fly and I wanted to give it a try. I’d seen a cool .gif of a cat doing a happy dance on Bing and was intrigued by the “make your own” tagline. So, I whipped up a little picture with a book announcement (alas, I couldn’t figure out how to make the cat or to make this one dance) and posted it at about 6:52. Come “like” me on Facebook to see my Buncee.
At 6:55, I repaired the truncated Hello (a very easy fix), thanked my son for the alert, and then read that he’d “spent the night reading about sailing certifications. Just need a boat big enough to carry the ‘Dragon’ onboard.”
My response? OMG!
The "Dragon” is his motorcycle, his escape hatch, his get-out-of-jail-free card. It is his parachute, his springboard, and his path to sanity. But now he wants to buy a boat. I’m wondering where on earth he wants to ride that requires three vehicles to get there: the car to haul the boat, the boat to haul the bike, the bike to haul his butt all over creation so that he can feel free and untethered.
This is Dragon. He is towed by Tug, my son's Prius. Dragonwrideradventures.comDon’t get me wrong! I love adventuring. I love my son. I love that my son loves to go adventuring. But I'm also wondering when my son will realize that he has already arrived. He’s there. He’s here! The adventure is happening all around him. Maybe he already has realized it and my worry is just a mother's frenzy over her son's desire for yet another dangerous toy. Or maybe it's just that I've been reading about and thinking about the art of staying put and contemplating how to find my own joy.
Martha Beck (www.MarthaBeck.com) has written an interesting piece for O Magazine this month: “The Grass Ain’t Greener.” (Sorry, I couldn't find a direct link to the article but it can be found in the "May We Help You?" section.) Beck's focus is FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out. What it really boils down to is this: from this side of the fence (or the computer screen), it seems to me that everyone has a happier, more exciting, more extravagant life than I do. And I want what everybody else has!
The article got me thinking. Being a fear-based phenomenon, FOMO creates all kinds of problems not the least of which is the anxiety created from rushing around from here to there and back again looking for a place, your place, the place where you will feel at home—even temporarily. It seems that almost immediately after arriving at our destination, the wheels begin to turn yet again and we plot and plan how to get to an even better place with barely a glance at the spot in which we’re standing.
I had a mentor back in the ‘90s who used to insist that the only way to find true peace and happiness is to “bloom where you’re planted.” Mildred Ramsey found inspiration and courage to live an action-packed life, traveling around the country giving seminars and selling her book, The Super Supervisor, wherever she happened to be standing. Mildred could carve out her own little piece of sacred ground, till the soil, and plant her seeds in a dusty parking lot while selling books from the trunk of her car. She’s one of the few people I’ve met in my life who could be on the move, rushing in ten different directions, and still be totally centered and at home wherever she stood. (And without a hair out of place, I might add!)
Unlike Mildred, I think most of us are constantly searching for the next thing that will bring us joy or happiness or security, searching for that little piece of ourselves that’s blowing on a breeze in the far off reaches of somewhere else. There is joy and power in being right here and right now. There is something adventurous about experiencing this moment, breathing this air, in this place of all places.
I think the magic of life, the cure for FOMO, is finding ourselves in the now, in this blink-of-an-eye moment of life, cherishing it, and then taking that joy into the next moment—no matter where we find ourselves.
As a writer, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to find my joy in the writing process rather than in the number of books I sell. I am happy at my desk with the world revolving right outside my window. I’m creating my own worlds, my own friends, my own experiences and finding pleasure in the sensation of living with one foot on the floor and the other resting on the haunch of the black lab curled up at my feet. Mind you, it took me 42 moves to get here and there were moments when I believed that the gods were playing some weird game of chess with my life, but I’m here. In this moment. Breathing this air. And I am thankful for it.
Life is what it is. And it’s ours. Here and now. Bring on the joy!
And Topher. . . Sweetie . . . don't buy the boat! :)
Learning the ins and outs of marketing has left me feeling mostly on the outs lately. Down in the dumps, defeated, overwhelmed. Just when I think I’ve mastered (don’t laugh) one platform, it changes or reformats or (gasp!) an even better one pops up and the process starts all over again.
Social media is an ever-changing, morph-addicted miasma that I have yet to fully embrace. Did I tell you that I am a loner by nature? Did I tell you that I would prefer to sit in my cave and write? If I didn’t, I’m telling you now. Not that it matters. Not that this is an excuse for not participating in the marketing madness that is the dark side of a writer’s life but having an adequate amount of alone time is the nature of the beast, or at least this one.
Sometimes I feel like a character from one of my own books (A Solitary Life), a woman who at the drop of a hat can come up with fifty reasons not to go to lunch with her best friend in the world; a woman who can hide in plain sight. But I can’t hide from social media. Well, I can but not if I want to sell books; not if I want to develop relationships with readers and potential readers and possible potential readers. I have to keep up with Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and every other new platform that appears around the next curve on the (information) highway.
I can’t keep up. Even with the aid of wonderful applications like Bufferapp and AWeber, I can’t keep my head above water.
So my choices are clear: 1) Learn to breathe underwater; 2) Fall by the wayside and hope that a million readers just happen to trip over one of my books on Amazon; or 3) invest heavily in cloning technology.
I know, I know, the answer is just suck it up and do the work! I tell myself that every morning as I look in the mirror and see the fading face of a writer looking back. Forget om mani padme hum. This has become my personal mantra: Twitter, Facebook, Google+. Twitter, Facebook, Google+. Fifteen minutes a day. That should clear my head, keep me grounded and centered. But strangely, it doesn’t. This morning, I found that I just might have to add Rebel Mouse to my morning chant. Yikes!
Or maybe I’ll become the rebel mouse, the one that steals the cheese and runs for cover. Better yet, a clone rebel mouse that will steal the cheese while I write. Yep, I like that idea. I really need to check into that new technology. Right after I Tweet, Facebook, and Google+.
Writing is as much a part of me as breathing.
My intent here was to continue, to say that writing is as much a part of me as a list of several or many other things or activities that define me, but there is nothing else that I do that adequately compares with what writing is to me, how integral a part of me writing is.
My morning coffee is a part of me, but I could stop drinking coffee if I had to. For me, coffee is more a habit than a stimulant. I didn’t start drinking it until I was thirty-five or so, and then I was a social drinker, not really liking the taste of it but happy to be a part of the small crowd that gathered in the kitchen at work each morning to gird our loins with caffeine before facing the dragon. I never got the rush or the jolt that my friends got or relied on coffee to work or study past midnight. Even now I can drink a pot of coffee all by myself at ten o’clock at night and count on being sound asleep by midnight—unless I’m writing. Writing often keeps me awake, yawning and blinking, strapped to my chair and keyboard late into the night or early morning. The need to write is, for me, a stimulant like no other.
So, writing is as much a part of me as breathing. Regardless of the words that actually find their way onto the page, the act of writing, of creating, is like listening to my soul singing. I write what I write because it’s what I hear in my head, the stories coming to me word by word to form a melody I didn’t know I knew. My stories flow through me like music from the ether and I feel blessed.
Writing is following my bliss. It may not make sense to anyone else but it doesn’t have to. Each soul creates in a different way, loves in a unique way. Writing is my soul singing. And it is a song of life.
Inspiration calls. . .
A peek into my office on a recent rainy afternoon.
It’s all semantics.
When a writer writes a novel or a short story or pretty much anything, poetic license is often taken regarding truth and fiction. Most of us write what we know, manipulating personal experience, extrapolating situations to meet the needs of our story—ours and the one we are writing. It’s pretty much a given that those moments that made us laugh and cry or rant in anger will seep into our writing bit by bit in unrecognizable dribbles or in seemingly whole-cloth narratives that have absolutely nothing to do with reality at all. Yet if the story hangs together in a textural, gut-wrenching way, there can seem to be a reality to the story that transcends the fiction, a blurring of the lines between what feels real and what is purely imagination. For me, this is what makes writing meaningful and cathartic and fun.
Does this mean that everything I write is grounded in truth? Absolutely not!
Does it mean that I am the characters I create or in any way hold their truths to be self-evident? That’s absurd!
Does it make me happy when a reader finds him/herself within a story or a character or a situation? Oh, yes it does! To me, it means the story feels real. Not necessarily true, but real.
Writing can be a mystical and magical experience much like life. Words can cast a golden light of promise or a dark shadow of doubt over any given scenario. Doing both simultaneously, hinting at truth while remaining rooted in fiction, is this writer’s aspiration.
And for inspiration, I turn to the master. Joyce . . . James Joyce.
Welcome to my new blog home!
Please excuse the chaos. I'm still unpacking boxes, figuring out how to best utilize this space, and obsessing over what to write. I'll be publishing another new post just as soon as I figure out how to add all of the elements I need. Right now, I'm knee-deep in code.
In the meantime, I hope you'll check out the rest of my new website. Leave me a comment or message and let me know what you think.
You can also read earlier blog posts by clicking on "Old Blog Posts" in the sidebar on the right. And don't forget to sign up for email notifications!
I look forward to seeing you again soon!
At this point in my life as a writer, I find myself in the midst of a major paradigm shift. As a woman who would prefer to simply stay in my cave and write, connecting with readers through social media on the internet is a new and life altering concept. I’ve always known that there is a need to reach out, to build “a presence” out there, but until recently, I haven’t really understood the value of the internet or what it really means to connect with it. Where do I begin?
At the suggestion of my marketing mentor, I’ve begun sharing photographs and posters that are representative of emotional scenes from my books. I‘m beginning with A Solitary Life which lends itself to a wide spectrum of feelings as it moves through the life and childhood memories of my heroine, Mary Margaret. I’m hoping that the snapshots will resonate with readers and begin to make the connection I long for. And I do mean long for. I didn’t realize until I began posting the photos how important it has become to me to share Mary Margaret’s story. And I had no idea how readily people would respond to the photographs. My post views on Facebook went from a high of 53 to 25,480 from one day to the next. I have to admit, I was surprised--and happy.
Inside all of us is a child who needs a hug and an encouraging word.
Today I wish you hugs, love, and happiness.
Tapping into the emotional side of my work has opened up a new way for me to look at marketing as well as the internet. I’ve been thinking along very hard and clinical lines, looking for ways for readers to see my books rather than feel them. I’ve come to realize that my thoughts have been old-school when it comes to the internet, too. I’ve been thinking about it and using it as an information-gathering tool, as a place to find recipes, movie times, and directions rather than as a place where people gather to share ideas and feelings. The information highway of the past has become a stopping point, a place of rest and friendly faces, a place to discover scenes from a life and the stories they tell. So, I’m redesigning my website with an eye toward connection rather than information and putting more feeling into my posts.
Today I wish for you (and me) a new vision and a renewed sense of connection to the world be it real, fantasy or virtual. (And happy writing!)
My sixteen year old granddaughter got her driver’s license last week. Her mother, my daughter, is finding out the hard way that having a license and being prepared to drive are two distinctly different things.
My granddaughter is a very smart girl. We were all convinced that she would be a good and safe driver, her only faults being her tremulous fear of pulling out into oncoming traffic (at a safe distance rather than waiting until there’s not a car in sight) and erring on the side of caution at crosswalks (as in realizing that she doesn’t have to wait until the person walks safely all the way into the mall before pulling ahead). What my daughter was not prepared for was her daughter’s absolute lack of a sense of direction as well as her inability to find her way to such seemingly simple places as say, SCHOOL! Consequently, my daughter has spent this past week tied to her cell phone as she waits for her daughter to call to say that she is, once again, lost.
When my daughter called me to share her frustration and ask for advice, I admit that I laughed. But I also suggested a quick lesson in map reading as well as a proviso that my granddaughter’s cell phone be banned in the car at all times, including while riding as a passenger. It is my firm belief that a huge contributing factor in her inability to find her way around her own home town is that my granddaughter has had her nose buried in her cell phone for the past five years. She, like every other person her age—all new or soon-to-be drivers--is so consumed with texting and tweeting and updating her status that she pays no attention at all to her surroundings. And paying attention to your surroundings is one way to stay safe while also being able to find your car in a crowded parking lot.
I can imagine that at this point you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about my granddaughter’s driving travails, wondering if I, too, have lost my way. Well, it occurred to me this morning as I sat at my desk pondering my next marketing plan that my granddaughter and I have a lot in common. We are both newly minted drivers with no sense of direction.
While it’s true that I have no difficulty driving from my house to the grocery store, I am a published author with a book to market and I have absolutely no idea how to drive it from point A (Amazon.com) to point B (my target audience). Just as my granddaughter has been driven to school day after day for nearly a decade, trusting that the driver knew the way, I’ve been buying from Amazon.com with no thought for how to market using the same site, trusting that I would figure it out easily when the time came for me to drive. But it’s not that easy. Just because I know how to use the site to buy doesn’t mean I know how to use it to sell. The roads look different from this side. They lead to unfamiliar territories of marketing and I find myself driving in circles looking for an interesting place to park; or driving up and down the interstate looking for road signs with a big flashing arrow pointing to Success.
For the past fourteen months, I’ve had my own nose buried in book after book, my own or someone else’s, and while I’ve been reading and contemplating literary success, the scenery right outside my window has been shifting and changing and speeding by. For instance, I received scores of emails and invitations from Pinterest, all the while reading funny or clever posts, pictures, and posters from friends and wondering where they’d found them. So I finally checked it out and created a few boards of my own. Now I find that what seemed like an innocuous shiny new internet toy is actually a powerful marketing tool. Who knew? (Savvy marketers, that’s who!)
So, like my granddaughter who has a new car and photo ID, I have all the right tools to market at my fingertips and the publishing license to drive my own sales. But having that license doesn’t give me direction or navigational skills or prepare me for the lines of traffic that clog the highways and byways on the road to success. I’ve taken a few wrong turns and ended up on a lonely deserted website with nary a reader in sight. I’ve lost my way a time or two and wondered if it might be easier to just hire a chauffeur or ask someone else to do the hard work. Instead, I’m taking my own advice. I’ve bought a map and I’m learning to read it correctly this time--with a little help from an expert. I’m adjusting my focus while driving and watching out for changes in directional flow. And I’m making a pact with my granddaughter that if she keeps her nose out of her cell phone while driving, I’ll keep my nose out of my next book--at least until we figure out a route that will bring us safely home.
You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out,
You put your right foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about!
Sounds a little like book marketing, doesn’t it?
You put yourself out there, tentatively at first, one foot in, one foot out in an effort to keep yourself grounded and balanced. You join a few groups, you test the waters, you float a few comments, and you find yourself among friends. You step back and think, “That wasn’t so bad!” So you put your foot back in and shake it around a little, update your profile, take out a Facebook ad, join a few more groups and learn how to tweet, still with only one foot in--just in case you find yourself in over your head.
Now let’s try the left foot: You buy and read the self-help books for self-published writers. You scan your groups and forums for thoughts and ideas on how to market, how to build readership, how to network, how to find your niche. Then you thrust your foot back into the circle and give it a good shake -- just to see what happens. You make a few contacts, you retweet a few tweets, and you find that you’re connecting with other writers and poets and aspiring artists who are also furiously shaking their left foot while trying to learn to dance.
Right arm, left arm, in and out, shake and spin. At some point, the whole body becomes engaged, daring to jump into the circle to shake it all about in a wild frenzy of exultation (or frustration, I guess, depending on how well you’ve learned to perform). By the end of the dance, you should have it all together, each appendage working independently and in concert with all of your other appendages. Your website, blog, author pages, review pages, groups, connections, networks, fan base, clubs, personal appearance schedule, readings, launches, and every other conceivable body part of your marketing persona should be shuffling along in a smooth and graceful dance of success, doing the Hokey Pokey on auto-pilot while you get back to your real job: writing.
I’m not sure which part is the hardest part for me: the Hokey or the Pokey. In any case, that’s what it’s all about.
Since hearing that Random House is accepting submissions for their new digital-only imprints, I’ve been thinking about submitting two of my novels, Ripple and A Solitary Life. Having now completed my submissions, I have two words for the process: Yikes! and Yikes!
I should clarify, I guess, what I mean by the process—or more accurately, my process. I looked at their website http://www.atrandom.com/eoriginals and had to think long and hard about submitting to imprints with titles like ALIBI, HYDRA, FLIRT and LOVESWEPT. I don’t mean to say that there’s anything wrong with the titles, but how do I gauge which imprint is the right one for me? HYDRA is for science fiction, fantasy, and horror so Ripple feels like a good fit. At first glance, I don’t necessarily think of A Solitary Life as LOVESWEPT, but it is marginally romantic and falls in the women’s fiction genre, although I would like to think that men will find it enjoyable and relevant as well. Nevertheless, I followed my own advice for once, closed my eyes and JUMPED! In this case, I hit the submit button at the bottom of the page and then squelched the desire to throw up.
Now I’ll wait the two to four weeks to hear from them, to find out if Random House would like a full manuscript for consideration, and during that time, I’ll second guess every word I wrote on the submission form.
I’ve been reading Noah Lukeman’s How to Write a Great Query Letter in preparation for my search for a literary agent and now I wonder if I should have paid closer attention before submitting to HYDRA and LOVESWEPT. The online submission forms for both imprints have blanks for basic information: Short description of book/genre, Publishing history/writing history, Bio, Additional Notes, Sample excerpt, and Query letter (please tell us something about your book and why you think it would be right for us). Query letter? Does this mean they want a real, formatted letter, which would be a repeat of the information given above, or as indicated, just a quick, down-and-dirty reason for inclusion in their imprint? I opted for a simple explanation as to why my work appeals to my readers. In retrospect, I’m thinking my answer might have been more effective if I’d focused on why the publisher might want to read my work rather than my potential readers. (And there it is again: I won’t throw up! I won’t throw up!)
I will now focus on the next two to four weeks with positive thoughts and return to my writing with a renewed sense of exhilaration. I’ve never submitted my work to a publisher for consideration. I’ve never thrown myself out there and I realize that it is well past time that I took the plunge and jumped head first—or feet first—into the deep end of the pool. Either way, I’m all in.