I'm so excited:) Thanks to Gemini Judson at Whiskey Creek Press. Blood In Trust will be available in April.
Four stars for my short story collection, Time Immortal: Tales of Marcus, The Blind Vampire http://bit.ly/tCJ0wW :)
Mom considered work secondary in her life to being a wife and mother. None of that feminism stuff for her; I never heard her tell Dad that she was disappointed in him because he couldn't possibly earn enough money so she wouldn't have to work. Quietly, patiently, with each crappy job she put up with, my parents were able to dig themselves out of debt and rebuild their credit. However, Mom never hesitated to express how much she hated her various jobs. From my parents, I heard them make fun of their bosses and imitate their co-workers at the dinner table. I learned that hard work was one of the 'true' things in life, so hard workers should be respected, even if the boss was an asshole or a co-worker was lazy or an alcoholic. Everyone had to work, unless they were rich and famous, like the Ewings on Dallas or Erica Kane. Or Elvis.
The Great Recession has taught me a few things. I've learned to value my relationships and peace of mind over material things. However, I've learned to take pride in my work, no matter what my job or how much it pays. I feel the same way about my writing; even if I offer The Last Girl for free, a good review still makes me smile, because I know I'm connecting with a reader, most likely a stranger, and they're getting pleasure from the page the same way I do when I'm reading a new favorite author. What a privilege, when hard work is its own reward:)
I had a supervisor who once said that working for a living makes a man old before his time. The source of my frustration has been that, no matter my skills or education, I've never been able to make a decent living. I could blame myself for being lazy or having low self-esteem, but my flaws can't be the only reason. I obviously love to write, but I haven't earned a dime from my writing so far. I've held a variety of jobs in restaurants, factories, stores, and offices. I always wanted more, but it stayed out of reach. As I near forty, I'm getting tired of the lack of security and my body aches more. Sometimes, I wonder if I made the right choices by staying single and childless, but I always wanted to follow a dream.
I remember those cold mornings when my dad would leave for work. He drove a dump truck for a local company. The morning he died, he was working. An accident, the impact breaking his neck, crushing him. My mother was at her housekeeping job when the police came, informing her that her husband was dead. Married twenty-five years. He was forty-four years old. Mom's boss gave her a ride home, and Mom had to tell me that my father was dead. I didn't see him again until he was in his coffin at the funeral home that afternoon. My restless, thoughtless, charming father, nothing more than a well-dressed, mannequin version of himself in a box.
My mother quit working months later, preferring to stay home. We were all right financially; the house was paid off and all of my brothers had moved out. I was the only kid left at home, a sixteen year old who was still trying to figure out what the Hell happened. Confused, insecure, bored, and afraid. My dreams of acting and writing became more important because I wanted something to look forward to, something that would fill the hole in my heart. I didn't care about school or a job or friends. I froze in place for awhile.
I didn't get my first 'real' job until I was almost twenty-one years old, washing dishes at a restaurant. A summer job, so I didn't plan on sticking around, but that was my first encounter of meeting women who were trying to survive on their wages and tips. I always knew that women worked hard, too, but something had changed with my generation that had nothing to do with how our parents had lived their lives. Those babies from the 1960s and '70s, now grown, already knew they were going to earn less money than their parents, experiencing a lower standard of life. More of us were doing time in jail and, along with drug addiction and HIV/AIDS, were the crosses we beared. A solid work ethic could hardly flourish where there was no work. I could hide behind the role of young slacker, much to the disappointment of my mother, who had expected me to get married before the age of twenty-five.
My paternal grandfather was born in 1919, making him ten years old when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began in 1929. One of twelve children, he learned that there were two ways to feed your children-hard work or welfare. Grandpa saw nothing wrong with hard work; it was a way of life for my great-grandparents. Four generations later, maybe I had taken on a sense of entitlement as a college graduate. I grew up in the 1980s, when kids were still being told that they could have a bright future if they went to college. Over the last twenty years, I've seen so much change regarding the education-work connection first hand, because I have the education, but I've never earned more than eight dollars an hour in Michigan.
Muskegon, my town, is not the land of plenty. For one thing, the area has the highest rate of unemployment in the state. My parents used welfare and food stamps for a time when I was a little girl in the 1970s. My father was unemployed for two years and my mother tried a variety of jobs, including working in a laundry, a plastics factory, and as a nurse's aide. She still likes to tell the story of how she would use food stamps to buy steak at a local grocery store. She knew the people behind her in line were staring. As she pulled out her food stamp book, featuring the multicolored vouchers with the Liberty bell that looked almost like Monopoly money, she could feel the smirks and disapproval. But Mom didn't care; she had a family to feed, and why should we eat hot dogs or pancakes for dinner every night? She only recently told me about a dark time when all there was to eat in the house was a box of rice and cold cereal. Yes, we ate Hamburger Helper(which I hate to this day, just as Mom hates Spam, like the Monty Python lady)and the frozen sliced meat and gravy in the plastic bags(Banquet or Swanson?)
Years later, when both of my parents were working, they were like everyone else's parents, but they had managed to stay married. Many of the kids I knew from school had single mothers who were on ADC or worked full-time. The conservative 1980s frowned on this; the plight of the latch-key kids, how divorced damaged kids, how kids from conventional homes were happier, blah, blah, blah. Single mothers were not a new invention, and they still couldn't support their children on minimum wage, so these women either went back to school or took jobs doing shift work at whatever local factories were hiring, trying to earn a man's wage. Some did both, their children looked after by relatives, friends, or left to their own devices. I have only known a few women who earned a good living on their own, with enough income to buy a house or a car without the help of a man. All of the single women in my family were poor, public assistance only provided if they had children. My maternal grandmother survived on her husband's Social Security check, five hundred dollars a month, until she went into a nursing home. She ate a lot of soup and baloney sandwiches but, as another Great Depression survivor, she didn't complain. Amazing generation of people, those born in the 1910s.
As I said above, another nice review. I'm getting spoiled:) http://bit.ly/ufAGI3
I was proud of Karma House, but had known very little about how to promote it. I needed help, but didn't know how to ask for it. I only joined Facebook a year later because my new publisher, Whiskey Creek Press, strongly recommended all of their authors have a Facebook page to help promote their work. I discovered Smashwords.com through a Facebook friend, and I found a home for The Last Girl. Publishing a book is always a gamble but I felt I had nothing to lose. I had to figure out the formatting used at Smashwords, and reformat my manuscript, along with designing my own book covers to save money. Upon publication, it was slow going at first, but when I offered the book for free, I had sixty downloads in one day. By this time, my depression had started to lift. I added my short story collection, Time Immortal, to my Smashwords list along with a short story, A Foreign Body. The response has been good, over five hundred downloads combined. Good exposure, if not big bucks. But who becomes a writer just for the money? If it was all about money, I'd take a second job, which I might have to do, anyway, considering my debt. My advice to writers? Don't pay self-publishing fees using a credit card, unless you have a manuscript made out of gold. I can imagine Suze Orman giving me a big DUH; I'm no alchemist, or a competent witch, only a writer who is learning by trial and error. There is a story from my mother's side of the family. Supposedly, one of my female ancestors owned some property on Wall Street. She sold this real estate to finance a move out west. The story goes, she was killed by Indians before she reached her destination. No one seems to recall her name, but the tale gets recycled often. I like to imagine that maybe she survived, met a handsome Indian brave who made her his wife, and they lived a life of adventure. Maybe she was abducted by aliens, became a time traveler. When the imagination heats up, the mind becomes a compass. I'm sure the settlers used both out there, on the wagon train:)
Two years ago, I completed my fifth novel-length manuscript, The Last Girl. The story was special to me, and I continued to work on it. When I felt the book was ready, I sent queries to various agents; a long list, over fifty. The response was harsh in its coldness; the sound of crickets chirping. Most of these agents didn't even bother with a standard rejection from themselves or their assistants. Nothing. Zip. The agents who asked for pages promptly rejected the book. One agent commented that the main character, Sonya, was too far removed from the action, the book lost its momentum after the first chapter, and Sonya's interaction with the adult characters was dull. This agent had asked for the first one hundred pages, but I doubt if she read more then ten. When does an agent have time to read one-third of a manuscript when they already represent many other clients? The rejection was starting to get me down, but I was willing to consider other avenues. There are many wonderful writers who publish independently, making very little money for their work, if any at all. Karma House, my first published novel, was printed through an independent publisher, James A. Rock and Co. Snobbery dictates that only 'real' writers or 'good' writers make the cut with the big agents and publishing houses, but times have changed. The mid-list quality can now be found on the Web, mixed with the lesser quality stuff. A writer can spend hours searching for ebook publishers via the Web and get published that same day. Their work, rejected by agents and publishers, can now reach millions. I had been through the wringer with my five manuscripts over a ten year period but, at the same time, I had learned how to write a good query letter and work my way through the e-mail query process. I also attended my first writers conference, where I met live agents willing to answer my questions. However, self-doubt was drifting in. I started to wonder if The Last Girl was really any good and this depressed me. This book was an emotional investment, and I felt hurt and beat up. I didn't write anything new because I couldn't concentrate and this depression was leaking through other aspects of my life. Trying to get started, I'd make it to ten pages or so, then run out of gas. I had ideas, inspiration, at work and home, but no desire to run with the fire. The gods had a right to punish me, I was a failure.
When I was a teenager, I wanted to be an actor. Over the next few years, I met only a few people who were pursuing that same dream. I would ask for advice, and received the standard,'Go to drama school,' or 'I went to Juilliard, try to go there, its a good school,' or 'Forget drama school, they're full of shit,' or 'Go to New York, not L.A,' or 'I like L.A., but I have an agent and a green card.' All of the advice started to sound the same-confusing. After I turned my attention to writing, the advice was less contradictory, but I found myself dealing with the same thing all serious writers face-finding an agent. This was a real education. Actors have to face much rejection during the audition process; for the writer, the rejection is a little less direct, but the process can be exhausting emotionally, even effect the actor or writer creatively, and self-doubt can creep in. I listen well to advice, but I wonder, during all those years, if I should have been asking these accomplished actors and writers how they learned to believe in themselves. Does Yale Drama School teach a class to their students about how to deal with rejection? My college did not make teaching confidence or self-esteem part of the creative writing program. Can you imagine Self-Esteem 101? The class would be filled to capacity with eighteen year old freshmen girls, including myself in those days.