Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thank You, Anne Rice

Edgar Allan Poe fascinated me in junior high and high school. Stephen King was natural progression. True, the dark themes were intriguing, especially at that age, but it was their writing that kept me coming back. The way they eased into every scene, taking care to reach all my senses, making it feel as if I stood right there. I found it hard to read anyone else, at least for pleasure. I doubted I’d ever enjoy any writer’s work as much. Then, in college, I was introduced to Anne Rice.

I didn’t simply read her book, INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, I studied it in Contemporary English class. We were covering existentialism. I loved her style and courage, and her plot and character development were flawless. She knew human nature so well, she could weave the supernatural into a story and make it completely believable. And, though at the time I’d never been there, she made New Orleans sound like a place I’d never want to leave. Thanks largely to her, I now spend most of my days wondering when I’m going to get back.

When asked, as a writer, who my influences are, I always mention King and Rice. No doubt the endless summers reading Nancy Drew had a hand in the creation of who I am, but I spent the majority of my formative years with the top horror writers of the 80’s and 90’s. I don’t read near as much as I like these days, but, in my teens and twenties, I gobbled up as much as I could. And it shows. From King, I learned how to craft a story, build suspense, and tell the truth. Rice added to what I’d learned, teaching me the importance of backstory, description, and emotion, and – because she’s a woman – gave me the confidence I needed to believe I could really do this. Her First Street Witches series cemented my love for New Orleans. Her Sleeping Beauty Chronicles took erotica to the next level, stripped away my fear of going too far or saying too much, and showed me how to write sex scenes like no one else. I feel her in almost every word I write. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Today, she inspires me with her Facebook posts. Through the articles she shares on the trends of the publishing industry, I’ve learned more in the past year than I did in the previous 45. Working in a vacuum as I do, she keeps me up on current events, makes me think about politics (even when I don’t want to), shares relevant, “insider” news on the Catholic church (which helps with the Malta book), and shows me every day that a successful author can still be accessible. I might never have considered self-publishing CKR had it not been for her in-depth discussion threads on the subject. If it sells, I’ll have that to thank her for as well.

If we are our heroes, I’m glad I picked good ones. My challenge, now, is to make them proud.

~ Dawn

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Preparing to Dive in 3...2...1...

DIVE! DIVE! DIVE! That’s all hear in my head these days. It might as well be DUCK! or JUMP! or RUN! for all the discomfort it’s causing – butterflies in my stomach, hitch in my breath, pins and needles jabbing at my insides AND my outsides. I’m trying not to look like a nervous wreck, but I’m not sleeping well, and hiding the fact that I’m about to publish another book is impossible.

The feeling reminds me of the hours before Mr. Blaine, our middle school principal, announced the winner of the student council president’s race. It reminds me, too, of the day he suggested I sing a solo at our 8th-grade graduation. It’s like the minutes before my wedding (the last one); the moment I learned I was pregnant; the day I received a publishing contract for IB; the hours leading up to a hurricane. Something big and scary is about to happen. It could end up being simply a wonderful memory, a lesson learned, or it could be a catastrophe. Regardless, it’ll probably change my life. And I’m not sure I’m ready for it.

Something had to give. I’m blessed with the ability to stay home and write because my husband works and travels his ass off. I’m also cursed with a constant guilt that, while I make myself available, 24/7, for him and the kids, I’m not financially contributing. When we moved into a house a couple years ago and took on a bigger mortgage, higher taxes, and totally unreasonable insurance premiums, the guilt became a nagging insistence. I’ve done some editing work, but a single novel can suck up 3-5 days of my time. Between the dog and kids, the husband and the house(s), I already have precious little to spare.

So, I’m diving in. (And yes, for those who’ve been reading a while and noticed, I use “So” a lot when I’m wrapping things up. Sometimes I edit it out, sometimes I don’t. It’s like “just” and “that” – people are creatures of habit. I bet YOU use a few words repetitively, too. So there.) My gut (instinct, little bird, angel on my shoulder) tells me I’m doing the right thing. Given the variety of predicaments I’ve found myself in over these past 46 years, I can’t testify to its accuracy. I have a kick-ass support group right now, though. You, Scott, family, friends, neighbors – for better or worse – are all riding this wave with me. Such an army must surely be victorious. And, with CKR, we’re well-armed; it’s like Kid Rock says:

If it looks good, you'll see it.
If it sounds good, you'll hear it.
If it's marketed right, you'll buy it.
But...if it's real, you'll feel it.

I might not be ready. But it’s time.

Take a deep breath … close your eyes … and listen for the splash …


~ Dawn

Monday, June 6, 2011

CKR: June 2011

(continued from May 2011...)

"CKR" Diary Post No. 61, or Biting the Bullet
Monday, June 06, 2011
June 1st marked the start of hurricane season. It was also the day my husband suggested I commit professional suicide.

Since embarking on this journey toward authordom, I’ve maintained a strong opinion about self-publishing. True, not every self-publishing company is awful, nor is every self-published book. Some (a precious few) sell millions of copies. But the ease with which people can now present the world with their Great American Novel has flooded the industry with bad material, making it nearly impossible for a good, but unknown, writer to be recognized. To self-publish is to say, “My book isn’t good enough for a REAL publisher.” The practice has a bad reputation, and the odds of rising above the vanity print market and scoring a large, big-advance-paying publisher are slim. Getting that phone call from Random House was all I ever wanted.

But Nooks and Kindles are changing the world. And I need to be out there in it. Neither Random House nor Viking Press (or anyone else) has sent a check, and I can’t get an agent to open my email, let alone read and represent my book. Without someone to champion me, publication could take years. I’m tired of waiting – and you should be, too.

Someone from Amazon’s CreateSpace is calling me tomorrow to discuss details. The book was assigned an ISBN last week. I chose Amazon because I didn’t feel like wading through the endless sea of self-publishing companies to find “the right one” (how do you know that, anyway?). I also trust them and have already sold a number of copies of my first book through With “Immortal Bonds” out of print, it’s that much more important that something be out there. What could be better than CKR?

I don’t know, yet, what the retail price will be. That’s something I’ll determine with the help of the consultant who’s calling tomorrow. The finished product will likely be 250-300 pages, available in both trade paperback and e-book. The process takes about a week. I’m hoping costs don’t run north of $1,500. Too much more than that and I’ll have nothing for promotion.

To say I’m nervous about all this would be an understatement. I’m practically pissing myself. I’ve been talking this novel up since the summer of 2006. Professionally, I have a lot riding on it. But the Kid Rock-inspired, cocky attitude that carried me through the creation of this book has long since been replaced with frustration and doubt. What if no one buys it? What if no one likes it? What if – God forbid – Kid Rock finally reads it and doesn’t like it? What if, after all the hype, I finally put it out there and it bites me in the ass? What would that do to my writing career? What would it do to me?

Despite the doubt, there continues to exist a strong belief in this story. I was driven to write it and forced through one obstacle after another to finish it. Signs throughout the process – some more enjoyable than others – convinced me I was doing what I was supposed to do and, for lack of a better description, I’ve felt all along this project was bigger than me. CKR is a catalyst. What it’s a catalyst for remains to be seen, but the clock is finally ticking (and yes, you’re welcome to say, “It’s about fuckin’ time,” because it is); “Chasing Kid Rock” is coming soon…

(I picked a fine time to lay off the whiskey.)

“CKR” Diary Post No. 62
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Sitting here, wondering how Amazon feels about porn, it occurred to me that it might not have been a good idea to tell the world just now about my intent to publish CKR. “If you wanna make God laugh,” they say, “tell Him your plans,” or however it goes. I’ve already got Mother Nature kicking me in the nuts, I don’t need God’s harrassment, too. The cat’s out of the bag, though, so I might as well roll with it. If something goes wrong – and it wouldn’t be the first time – you’ll at least get to watch me fall on my ass. Again.

The cost to publish wasn’t as high as I thought it would be, and the rep I talked to yesterday made the process less confusing. I uploaded the manuscript this morning. They’ll call me in a day or two to talk fonts, formatting, and retail price. I’m leaning toward $12.95 or so for the paperback. By next week, CKR should be a real, live, click-here-to-order-your-copy book. Unless, of course, Amazon makes me write out the porn. And the irreverent scenes at Disney. And the cursing. And the frequent, unapologetic drug and alcohol use. And the underlying theme that threesomes are… Well, let’s hope they let me leave it all in, or this could take a lot longer than a week.

Yesterday, I took the “Devil Without a Cause” lyrics out of the manuscript (my only copyright infringement risk), tweaked my personal Facebook page to limit access, and created a “celebrity” page for Dawn Scovill – Author of CKR. I’ve always felt uncomfortable (excessively) marketing to friends, and I can’t imagine I’d be okay with strangers lurking around my profile and studying pictures of my house. And my dog. It’ll be a pain to have yet another place to check messages (in addition to email, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, ReverbNation, Kid Rock Community, Classmates…), but I’m deleting IB’s MySpace page and will eventually learn to incorporate it in my routine…whenever it is that I find one of those. Once the book’s available, promotion efforts will begin with and center around my author page. One of these days, I’ll get back to writing.

In the meantime, your job (should you choose to accept it) is to tell everyone you know who likes Kid Rock, Tony Stewart, NASCAR, talk radio, Daytona, Orlando, West Palm, Disney, Universal, hot, loose women, beer, whiskey, Skoal, or Burt Reynolds to run over and “LIKE” my Facebook page, because CKR is coming – and they’ve NEVER read a book like this.

I guarantee it.

“CKR” Diary Post No. 63 
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Writing IMMORTAL BONDS was a selfish thing to do from my perspective. Our youngest was 10 or 11, our oldest was struggling in high school, my husband had a long commute and a full time, white-collar job, and I worked part-time at an art museum. Sitting home at a desk for hours at a time meant a lot of housework got neglected. Not that I minded not doing it. At my core, though, I believe I exist to serve, to make the people around me comfortable. Seeing Scott come home from work night after night to needy kids, no dinner or clean clothes, and a messy house made me feel guilty and useless. I broke down more than once and declared I couldn’t do it anymore. Scott wouldn’t let me quit. Then the hurricanes came. By the time IB was finished, a year and a half after I started it, I’d grown to believe writing a book was the hardest part of being a novelist.

After nearly killing myself (literally) to promote my debut novel, I altered my opinion. Being my own manager, setting up book signings, ordering supplies and signage, sending out invites and thank you’s, took its toll. Traveling around the country and looking bright-eyed and interesting when all I wanted to do was curl up in a corner somewhere and sleep for a week was exhausting. Writing, it turned out, was the easy part.

The frustration that accompanies every step of the process pales in comparison, however, to the anxiety of the holding pattern I’m flying in now; writing, blogging, editing, promoting – after five years of pouring my heart and soul into something, NOTHING is harder than waiting for a publisher to say, “Here’s your book.” Last week, they confirmed receipt of the manuscript, and we chatted about interior and cover design. They said they’d get back to me in 7-10 days with two versions of both the interior and exterior. Once I choose, we’ll edit content, then hit print. Waiting for this phone call is…excrutiating. It doesn’t help that I’m not sure if 7-10 days means business days or calendar days. Today marks the 8th calendar day since we spoke, which puts them within calling range and suggests I could be editing CKR before the end of the week. It’s only the 6th business day, though, so my phone might not ring until next Tuesday. If they’re behind, it might not even ring then.

Since a week ago Monday, and completely out of character for me, I’ve been carrying my cell everywhere. When I notice I don’t have it, I panic and worry I’ve missed the call. At night, I lay in bed wondering how long it will take me to scan CKR for errors, and if I’ll be able to resist making changes, and thinking about all the stuff I need to do to prepare for the launch, like create still ads and a book trailer. I need to write a press release and send BBQ invitations to friends and family in Washington with info about where they can find the book. I need to decide if I’m bringing copies with me to Seattle or waiting ‘til next year, after interest’s gathered some momentum. I need to do a lot of things, some now, most after CKR’s released. It’s hard not to think about all of them while the minutes tick by as I wait for this call. (And I wonder why I’m not sleeping well.) I’ll get back to you once I have news…and lower blood pressure.

~ Dawn

“CKR” Diary Post No. 64
Monday, June 27, 2011
It wasn’t a phone call. It was an email…that sat in my inbox for two days before I saw it Friday afternoon. I immediately dropped what I was doing (if I had a nickel for every time…), logged on to my CreateSpace account, reviewed their interior and exterior layout concepts, chose the cover design (they obviously didn’t read the book, but … that works in my favor), and provided back cover text. Now I get to wait another 5 to 7 days for them to respond. This time, I’m checkin’ email.

Next comes the full manuscript edit (whenever they’re ready). I expect it’ll take two or three days to get through it. First thing I look at is overall presentation and format, making sure everything lines up the way it should, then I dig in and read from page one to “THE END,” hopefully catching errors (if any) that managed to elude five years of re-writes. I’ll also have to decide on retail price soon. Lucky for me, I stumbled on a Facebook post Anne Rice put up this morning, linking an article from the LA Times that discussed pricing for Amazon’s self-published books. Can’t say it enough: Facebook rocks. I feel more confident now heading into the next phase.

We had houseguests and a wedding over the weekend, and I’ve been busy working on a 30-second trailer, so I’ve kept my mind occupied with other things as I (again) wait for the publisher to proceed to the next step. Blood pressure’s still holding; my chiropractor made it official this morning. I didn’t care for the disapproving look on his face. Looks like I’ll be adding more to my daily routine than a cup of dandelion tea and a quick swim with the dog. Whoever thinks working from home is stress-free should consider spending a day with me…

Stay tuned.

~ Dawn

(to be continued...)