Behind The Book Loveyoubye

The following essay was published in “She Writes,” a community, virtual workplace, and emerging marketplace for women who write, with over 20,000 active members from all 50 states and more than 30 countries.

By the time I was ready to submit my memoir, Loveyoubye, for publication I was already burned out from my efforts to get my two YA African-based novels, Monkey’s Wedding and Mine Dances, published. A real sob story that one. At the last moment my publisher merged with another house and I was dumped. This was during all the changes taking place in the publishing industry, along with the advent of vampire and teen fantasies.

My agent and I parted company and I launched back into the fray to get published. But then my husband started disappearing for weeks at a time and I threw myself into writing Loveyoubye to try to make sense of it all. After I finished the book, I went through the whole rigmarole of querying again and got a few nibbles. But it was only after I was rejected by a well known agent, a solid recommendation (which assured me of at least a fair chance)—“the writing is excellent, but it would be a tough sell in today’s publishing climate”—that I decided to check out other publishing options.

As I’m sure anyone who has researched alternatives to traditional publishing knows it’s a mind-boggling, soul sucking process. Even the terms given to the various available options are confusing. Literary agent Jane Friedman breaks it down to “Partnership,” “Fully-Assisted,” “DIY + Distributor” and “DIY Direct,” while others contend that overall there are only two options: “Subsidy” and “Self-Publishing.” The more I researched the more frustrated and discouraged I became. The “subsidy/partnership/fully-assisted” publishing services were either too expensive, or in the case of Windy City, who published a friend’s book, very expensive plus they did a bad editing job.

And as for self-publishing. I’d read every how-to book I could get my hands on as well as all those online guides. I knew that if I set my mind to it, I could do it. But honestly, I really didn’t want to. The whole proposition made me want to take up drinking the hard stuff. And then there was the stigma attached to self-published books because of the generally poor quality of the writing/editing, along with the fact that unless you’re a marketing maniac like Amanda Hocking, et al, most self-pubbed books don’t have a long shelf life. I didn’t want to be another Wile E. Coyote charging over the cliff, beep-beeping all the way to the bottom of the canyon floor.

So while I agonized over which path to take, I had Loveyoubye professionally edited. Whatever I ended up doing, I wanted to make sure I started out with a scoured and polished manuscript. I chose Thomas White, a recommended professional editor and Pushcart nominee, who not only helped me tighten and clarify, he asked all those questions my mentor and other readers hadn’t; he made me dig clear down to my toes.

Enter She Writes Press. Something a little different. Although it called itself Partnership Publishing, SWP vetted submissions. That’s a biggie. It took three months for me to decide to sign. Still hoping for a publisher on a white horse to come galloping along with a huge advance in hand? Probably. But the fact of the matter is I needed to move forward, a big theme in my book. So I signed. Decision made. And then it struck me. I had committed to having my heart, guts and soul laid out in print. The final step forward.

In tailoring my essay as to how I made the decision to publish with SWP, I didn’t mention the recently added bonus of having Ingram Publishing Services come on board as SWP’s distributor. They usually only handle traditional publishers. It was a coup for SWP. And a coup for me. Now I’ll have a sales force behind me, as well as become eligible for reviews by Publisher’s Weekly, and similar outlets that normally don’t review “partnership” or self-published books. Loveyoubye will be coming out in March 2014. 

Something To Celebrate

It’s Celebrate The Small Things Day. Something I’ve achieved each week, no matter how small. If you’re interested in doing the same thing sign up here at Vicki’s blog.

So I finally sent that essay to L.A. Times Affairs, a first-person column in the Los Angeles Times chronicling romance and relationships. They want stories grounded in the present with a strong sense of place, rooted in Southern California.

I crafted the essay from my memoir, Loveyoubye. It’s a big scene, one I’ve been working on for awhile. The only thing is, it’s kind of a mixed bag sending it now instead of after Loveyoubye is published, which would allow me to give interested readers a link to buy the book. But according to my editor it’s a good idea to build interest before the book comes out as well. So I’m going with that and holding my thumbs that my piece gets published. My American friends, if you would cross your fingers for me, I would truly appreciate it.

Five Top Regrets of Dying People

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called  Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called  The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Here they are.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

None of these resonate with me, well, not exactly. Here’s my response:

1. I’ve never lived my life according to what others expected of me–sometimes to my regret. As for having the courage to live a life true to myself, I don’t think it was courage I lacked, I just didn’t know know what was true for me, I was always looking to others to tell me.

2. I liked working hard. Perhaps I didn’t work hard enough.

3. For the most part I’ve always expressed my feelings, not always well but it has been important to me to try to do so.

4. I have stayed in touch with friends. Plus I’ve regained Donna and Joan, a couple of old school chums from Zambia, who might never have been in my life anyway, but thanks to Facebook they are.

5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” I don’t get this one. Perhaps because I’m a glass half full kind of person.

Right out of the gate, I could spew regrets all over the place. But when I give it serious consideration, I don’t think I have as many regrets as others. Perhaps because I’ve always believed that an unexamined life is not worth living and I’ve gone through some excruciating self-evaluations, culminating in the latest episode that prompted my memoir Loveyoubye.  All I think about now is making the most of tomorrow. Perhaps when the time comes at the end, the very finality of leaving life will bring regrets I’m not aware of.

WordCount Blogathon 2013

Okay, so I signed up to blog for the entire month of June! No Sundays off like I got for the A-Z Challenge. Thirty blogs in a row! Seriously. But you know what, I really need to do this. I need to sharpen my focus. I need to have that little nagging voice telling me to hurry it up, to run with that idea . . . and that one . . . and the one I want to dismiss. I need a sense of urgency. My energy is scattered and I feel frustrated.

First of all there are the proofs from Loveyoubye to finish (really? I missed all those commas and wrote “laid” instead of “lay?”) And then there’s the dratted “Buzz Your Book” program I’m creeping through. It’s all about marketing, including how to hone the perfect buzz-line that will target my audience. That whole arena has me by the short and curlies.

I’m also trying to finish laying flagstones in my front yard, along with a whole range of other smaller yard projects. I’m just flitting from one task to another instead of prioritizing.  Part of it I think is that I’m afraid of finally being done with Loveyoubye. Suffice to say for now, I need a deadline. I need to move forward. That’s where the blogathon comes in.

T is For Tablier

Tablier – Apron; part of dress resembling an apron.

It’s French. Of course.

I wrote about apron-wearing rickshaw “boys” in my memoir, Loveyoubye, but I think the word tablier is more apt, except how many people will know what I’m talking about?

Wearing layers of intricately beaded and tasseled aprons, tabliers, quills and feather boas, along with animal hair leggings, the men tow customers in garish large-wheeled rickshaw carts up and down Marine Parade. Their outrageous headdresses are vast beaded displays worthy of Rio carnival.”
Click here to read others’ A-Z blogs or to enter your link to join in the fun for the month of April.

Damn The Torpedoes!

Okay, so I’ve been quite remiss in posting to my blog for the past . . . Wow! has it been three weeks already? Quelle horreur! (Haven’t a clue how I knew that meant “that’s terrible/how awful!” Mr. Oppenheimer, Kitwe High’s French teacher’s doing?)

The truth is I’m not always thrilled about blogging, well, once I get in there and do it and hit my stride, I soar and it feels so good, but getting there can be agonizing. However, this time I’ve got a good excuse for being otherwise occupied. I’ve been consumed with getting my memoir, Loveyoubye ready for publication with She Writes Press. It was such a relief to finally make that decision. And so far I’m finding they’re a class act. Plus I like the idea of having their “stable” of writers, with whom I can compare notes. (I haven’t done that yet, but it’s available.)

I had to get an author photo taken–painful–write a bio, a book description, and come up with ideas for the book cover. The latter, my friends has been interesting. Once I primed the pump, all these ideas for images came up. The book cover is a major deal.

But here’s an even bigger issue, committing to this final stage of getting my story out there brought back all those worries I had in the beginning and along the way. Will my story, the writing of which was a life raft at the time, hurt anyone, and do I honestly want the world to see me naked and vulnerable? It’s an uncomfortable place to be. But I find myself pressing forward. Is it my Taurean nature at work here, to persist because that’s what’s next? Or is there something else? Do I need to lay it on the line because someone else, maybe just one person can relate, can see herself, even himself in my experience, and feel a kinship and find comfort and hope? Lofty ideals, I know, but I believe that if you’re turning yourself inside out to find your own truth, you will touch someone else.

So. Damn the torpedoes. Off I go.

The Next Big Thing

Remember that trip I took to Santa Barbara to meet up with my tribe (five women writer friends I’d met on-line but never in real life?) Well, as a result of that hook-up, I got tagged by the fabulous Deborah Batterman, whose Leonard Cohen quote on her blog—“there’s a crack in everything . . . that’s how the light gets in”—first drew me in to read her posts.

What she did by tagging me is to give me an opportunity to strut my stuff, to showcase my memoir, Loveyoubye. Is my “stuff” good enough to be the Next Big Thing? You be the judge. In turn I’m tagging three other authors to take part. By the way, I welcome questions or comments on my answers that will help me hone this kind of presentation in other venues when the time comes.

My answers to the questions:

What is the working title of your book?


Where did the idea come from for the book?

I needed to make sense of the break-up of my marriage

What genre does your book fall under?


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

My girlfriend/best reader thinks Meryl Streep should play me because the woman can transform herself into anyone (she’s also thinking Oscar, more attention on my book: bless her); other suggestions: Jennifer Grey, Nicole Kidman and Helen Mirren (my son’s suggestion). For my ex, Sam Elliott would be perfect, same looks, same easy drawl and charm. My brother would have to be played by someone who could do Forrest Gump justice a second time around

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A journey home to South Africa gives a woman the key to her past and her future allowing her to move forward from a disastrous marriage

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m seriously thinking of going with SheWrites Press, an independent publishing company is how they list themselves. I want to get the book out there. Going the agent/publisher route would take at least two years 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I can’t answer that because I rewrite as I go. Actually, one of my goals in life has been to write an entire first draft all the way through, without looking. Loveyoubye has taken me five years (during which time I was still going through the break up)

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

 Breakup by Catherine Texier with a beloved dog as go-between, meets Nature Lessons

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

 It was a matter of survival. I had planned to write a memoir of my childhood, but got high-jacked by what was happening between me and my husband. And so I wrote through my feelings of anger, disappointment and rejection, and tried to make sense of how something like this could’ve happened to me at this point in my life

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

 The settings and the funny, poignant interactions with a dog of great character. Thirty percent of the book takes place in South Africa, ten percent features said dog (an essential part of the story), and the rest takes place in a quintessential beach town on the coast of Southern California

 Now it’s my turn to tag people:

Please visit their blogs. They will be publishing their answers to the questions in week 12 (between the 10th September and 17th September)

Message for the tagged authors and interested others:

Rules of The Next Big Thing

***Use this format for your post

***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress)

***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?

Where did the idea come from for the book?

What genre does your book fall under?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

Be sure to line up your five people in advance.

Moving On

For the past two weeks I’ve been sitting on the second round of edits I need to make to my memoir Loveyoubye and then it will finally be done.

Five years of working through all the emotions, the tears and anguish. Five years of waking in the middle of the night, filled with doubt that I had the right to tell my story. Five years of sorting through what to put in and what to leave out. Five years of memoir writing classes and workshops, learning how very different memoir is from fiction, getting past fiction’s iron clad rule to “show don’t tell.” In memoir, it’s tell, tell, tell.

I spilled my guts. And then I sent the manuscript to Thomas White, an editor recommended by my memoir writing mentor for a comprehensive edit. I didn’t realize just how comprehensive his edit would be. He picked up each line, turned it over, examined the bottom, sniffed it, held it up to the light. And asked questions. Difficult penetrating questions that made me realize that I’d held back, that there was still more to tell. His questions took me down paths that unearthed tiny pieces of the puzzle of my experience I didn’t know were missing.

And now all I have to do is make those last few changes. Easy ones, especially after what I’ve been through. But there’s been a force field around my manuscript. I haven’t been able to crack that file. I’m anxious and miserable. I think what’s happening is that I’m afraid of finally being done. I’m afraid I will have nothing more to write. I’m afraid of sending Loveyoubye out into the world where others will get a peek into what I’m about. But you know what, I have to do it. Writing this book revealed a whole lot of me to myself and provided a healing I wouldn’t have found any other way.

Maybe now that I’ve been able to write about it in this blog, I can make those changes. And get on with writing.