Now what? It occurs to me that I’ve spent so long preparing these seven books that are still not “ready for market,” that I don’t know what to do now that I’ve given myself permission to “just write.” I’ve been ready to move on for years. Yes, I mean “move on.” This term, I’ve learned from a number of trusted friends and loved ones is shunned among the grieving. We do not “move on” from grief… but in this case, I’m ready to move on. I’m not grieving these seven books. These three, or six worlds I’ve created (depending on how you look at them) aren’t lost or gone or dead. There is no grief in “leaving them.” I’ve finally given them permission to be! I grieved and mourned when they were hidden away from the world. Not so anymore. They are alive and available for you or for no one and I do not care (but if you do read them, as always please leave feedback for me in an Amazon review so I know how to get better at my craft). I’m not an all-star advertiser, that ain’t my jam (if it’s yours and you believe in my work, let’s chat, I’ll split royalties!). I’m a writer and my job is done for these seven books! I created them. They’re out there. Now I move on to other worlds, words and stories!
I move on because only seven stories are out there. There are so many more books and Creations in my mind! I have an intentional non-fiction partially drafted, and a few more that could be manuscripted. I have who knows how many drafts of fictional work in various stages of doneness, or mostly finished. I have hidden ideas that have all of a sudden exploded in my mind again, tapping, knocking, pounding out their existence in my mind… “Hello! We are here. Will you work with us again? Will you please, finally make us come to life?” I’m ready to move on to them. They deserve shelf space and existence as much as the other seven do.
Really, then, the question isn’t, “Now what?” It’s more like… How do I choose? How many do I have to choose from? I don’t even know. There’s the first. We all know that nothing compares to the first! It’s still out there, stopped dead, ironically at a funeral scene. Letting Go… its working title. This first story of mine, this first awakening of a different place, time and world, these main characters are, have always been, black. Do I, a white woman, have the right to write this story? Appropriation comes to mind, “woke” comes to mind, “White Supremacy” comes to mind, and yet, this is the first for me. My first story was all about them. Kiera, Marcus and their family. How I loved shoving myself deep into Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Alex Haley’s world where Kunta Kinte endured so much and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a dead-too-soon mentor changed my life and opened my eyes even wider to the racial disparities that still exists and how I as a Christian must be against racism. I cannot forget the truck driving culture I researched too, the world of sleeper Mack Trucks and mobile existence, and families back home, the European boarder crossing drivers, the lot lizzards… All gloriously assimilated into Kiera and Marcus’ world. But … Do I dare tell their story? I’m white. That’s dangerous. But they were never white, always black, always. Who do I offend if I continue their story? Who do I betray if I change them to white because I am white? What happens to them if I don’t finish their story? Can I find a friend who is black who will give them credence. Ahhhh, yes, yes I can! I see her now, in my mind, this gorgeous dark skinned friend of mine! She will help… I’m sure of it! And so Kiera and Marcus’ story might come to life , but I will not make them white. They are not white. They are survivors of a legacy of slavery, atrocities put on them that built the wealth of this nation. Their heritage and story deserve to be told. I will not change them to white because I am white and it’s frowned upon for me to write characters any color other than white.
Why do I have to write just white anyway?! Why can’t I give presence to other cultures and colors in my worlds? Who dares say because I’m white, I can only write white characters. That’s rude! Maybe I only know the experiences of a white woman but I LOVE multi-colored, multi-racial spaces where other cultures can be celebrated and explored by my ignorant white friends who see only their world, and see it so blindly, they can’t even identify characteristics of their own white culture. I WANT racial diversity in my work. I do not want vanilla white power, assumption and privilege. It disgusts me. More than disgusts me, it saddens me. So blind, we whites, we are so blind. Why not give presence in my white womans’ novel to all the colors?
There’s that, and then there’s “my” people... the “conservative Christians.” Sex and Jesus, my non-fiction work, will surely piss them off. I’ll be a heretic for sure! Let’s be honest, it’s going to piss off the LGBTQ+ sector of the population too. And just now it occurs to me, maybe it was better to get bogged down in the seven books of yore than face ridicule from all sides and sectors because I want to honestly explore sex and sexuality for myself and with my God and my Bible. The “Safe Seven” … Can I call borderline erotica and books that discuss child abuse, drug addiction, suicide, and abortion and highlight Korean and blind characters “safe” and get away with it?! I didn’t have to worry about anyone calling me out or ridiculing me too badly with the Safe Seven (but that’s probably because they weren’t properly marketed haha).
Who cares if they’re offensive? They scream to exist so, in boldness I must press on, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations… ohhhh wait… that sci-fi world already exists. I digress. In boldness I dare to step into deeper waters. It’s where I’ve always longed to go, but it’s dangerous. I can’t touch bottom if I go too far in my fiction and non-fiction. There is deep, thick, eddied water out there that just might pull me under. But again, what does it matter? I don’t market. No one will read it anyway right?! I mean without big dollar marketing I’m a no one and a nothing. I can write whatever I want and it won’t exist in the real world at large. So… why not write what my mind creates?! If I’m white and I want to give space and presence to black main characters, I will! If I’m conservative Christian and want to explore polygamy and homosexuality I will! If I’m happily, faithfully married and want to write about a polyamorous soul, or middle class and want to dare to enter the world of the unencumbered rich, or dwellingless destitutes, I will! I’m doing it!
I feel it’s only right and fair to dust off the old stories down in the cellar first (Anyone else hear Creole Williams just now?) Let me take them down off their long forgotten shelves, blow off the cobwebs, wipe down the sides and surfaces, pour out the worlds I’ve hidden away for far too long, breathe in my creation, celebrate the skills, however unrefined they are that God has given me, and offer them up and out into this world we all share so you may share in my world. I think sending them out first is the right thing to do. In theory, the more I write, the better I’ll get at my craft and if I leave these firstlings to fester, I’ll never move on. I’ll always hear Marcus crying for Kiera, and Lewis and Clark beckoning me to explore. Yeah, there’s dust and inexperience, but these half-crafted come out first. Fiction and non. I’ve got four days of mornings to write, I’ll give two to fantasy and two to reality. I’ve got an inventory to work with for a couple years at least, I’m sure. Fair enough… hello worlds, how ya been?! It’s good to be here again! Fingers flying across the keyboard, ideas filling my mind. Hello you, hello me! Let the new adventures in old worlds begin! As always, whoever you are, enjoy!
My current inventory of unpublished, unfinished or somewhat started stories for reference and planning:
Sex and Jesus – and all the others that come in this explorer’s series of the Bible
Sailing with Russell (do I still call it that?!) - maybe that too is where reluctance to “move on” comes from
Missing Matea – is it more than an idea anywhere in any manuscript, this “Missed Connections” creation or mine?!
And then of course there just must be a book for Ashlee and Jake, since the other kids have one!
Manalysis and Date-a - because if I charted my dating adventures, I can publish them right?!
The Leaving – because there is something there to share
Dementia Land – but that story isn’t over yet is it?
Letting Go – the first world I ever created, paused at a funeral
Eleven Lives of Evelynne – Ohhhhhh to be skilled enough to take on her 144 overlapping years, do I dare?! Maybe it’s fear keeping me from moving on and into the complexity here
The Big Y – my Nanowrimo of favorite people’s favorite songs! Oh I love this HEA!
Sugar Shack – because oh what a dreadfully transformative place this is!
Cardboard testimonies – I can’t even begin to imagine how this world will change mine!
Ladies of the Loop, or Let’s get Loopy, or some other sweet sisterhood story that centers here in Wenatchee on friends who meet for walks and runs on the Apple Capital Loop Trail
How Church Girls Get it On! - because that’s a purely shameless endeavor!
Parens Patriae – the dystopian world born in Kaihla’s mind, that’s gestated in mine for all these years now
Exotic Teas, The Sunrise Guy, The Amazon Adventure, and The Safe Story – none of my own, but if he who shared them with me doesn’t do something with them… I just might!! - hint, hint!!!!
That’s it?! Really?! Only these works or worlds of my own and a handful of borrowed concepts? They seem like an endless universe inside me, ever expanding, galaxies and solar systems to explore, chart and share! Here I boldly go!
That’s the thing about summertime romances…” she mused out loud to herself as they sat wrapped up together on a ridiculously large, lush lime green beach towel. She sat between his outstretched legs, toes in the sand, tracing her hands up over his hairy knees and back down to his shins in time with the cerulean ocean waves. Cerulean, with a “c” not an “s” and deep blue like the color of her heart knowing he was going to leave again. She watched them gobble up the beach before their retreat into the burnt orange horizon. As the waves pulled back into the water, her fingertips slid up his legs, languidly, repetitively, occasionally flicking sand from her fingers or his leg hairs.
She didn’t finish the sentence. She didn’t need to. She knew this part of the summertime too well already. The thing about them was that the page turned, or the credits rolled, and the guy or girl left with well-meaning promises, but the two words, the end, sealed it all into a melancholy memory of what had been and will be no more. Evidently he did not remember how this part of summertime romances went.
“What’s the thing?” he asked, tightening his embrace around her shoulders, drawing her back further into him. He shifted forward suddenly and grabbed the other towel still folded neatly beside her and wedged it between his back and the abrasive volcanic rock he was leaning against. He wiggled a little to find the right position, and she wiggled a little to tease him, then remembered his injury.
“Oh, sorry. Are you OK? Is your leg OK?” she asked, finding and tracing the still-fresh rigid scar that ran the length of his knee.
“So OK,” he said into her ear in his sexy lover’s voice before nibbling at her neck.
“Mmmm!” she sighed, closing her eyes and exposing more of her neck to him. She couldn’t put a finger on what made that tone more arousing than his normal voice. It wasn’t deeper, it was maybe almost higher but with a want in it that melted her. She leaned her head back onto his shoulder basking in the bliss of the moment, letting out another audible sigh of delight. She arched her head back a bit more and looked up at him wistfully. She stared, wishing, hoping, willing this to be anything more than what it was always fated to be. He stared back caught up in the passion of the moment. She knew what they had was special. There was definitely some kind of love that passed between them. They couldn’t have spent all these summers for all these years together without it meaning something… even if it was only ten or fourteen days of each year. She was probably still too young to know what true love was, but maybe this was it.
She turned her face into his cologne and neck. She breathed every bit of his essence into her soul, stealing some of who he was right then and there. Keeping it just for herself. She wanted to remember him, here and now, mixed in with the color of the sunset. Not the water. He was too much like the earth to mix with the water. He was warm and hard and bold. Orange, yes, orange like the fading sun in front of them, leaving so beautifully she almost forgot to be sad about it even though she feared their summertime romance would end once and for all this summer. She worried about it every year but his letters always promised he’d return and so far he always did. But things were changing for them both and something inside told her the sun was setting for them. She feared more than ever before, even more than that first summer, that this would be their last summertime romance.
He was gorgeous. A ripped, stacked and muscled guy from a far away place, and to the place he belonged he would return. He was here, now, with her on a beach in paradise. They shared so much history together in their brief summer visits. It was a bittersweet but true, honest connection and in all truth and honesty, she knew their lives were nothing alike. He was too old and idealistic for her, she was too realistic to see how it could ever be more than this. He was away from home and real-life for two weeks and she was home. This was her real-life. He found a lovely distraction in her like a lot of guys found in the local girls and vice versa. She didn’t mind being a summertime escape, but he was lying to himself and her when he said it could last longer. He told her that their love could conquer all the obstacles they faced and overcome all the odds. He promised that one day, some way, they’d live happily ever after… or maybe he was only telling her that because he thought it was the right thing to do.
She supposed, as she mused over telling him the thing about summertime romances, that he could really think this would last. She remembered their first summer together, oh how magical that summer had been, fresh and new and full of fun and exploration. For all his big tough football exterior, he was a pure romantic. She knew he’d fallen hard and fast for her. Maybe she helped him notice her at first but she didn’t have to work very hard to keep his attention. Maybe she lied about how old she actually was at first but she couldn’t help it, he was great and she wanted to be with him. If he’d known the truth upfront, maybe he wouldn’t have pursued her, but it didn’t matter now. Here they were years of summers later and in some kind of love that made sense to them both every time they reunited.
This time they’d spent ten glorious days of the summer together. They were nowhere close to inseparable because of her work and his play, but as often as they could be together they were. This was his last night in paradise, so she snuck away from home and responsibility and brought him here… to do it! They were miles away from the mountain village she called home, and cuddled up together at the edge of the ocean for one last long good-bye and her first time.
He had never pushed her, though it was obvious he wanted her. She had never been ready before. She hated her parents and preacher’s talks about waiting to have sex and her being too young to even think about it, but still they sunk in. She always kept him at bay each summer, not quite ready to go all the way. All those times before she was afraid he’d either never come back, or find some other girl that put out. But he kept writing her letters promising his return. He kept coming back summer after summer to this mountain place… and to her. Even after he found out her real age he stuck around. This time, though, she was sure he’d never come back and just as sure that she was finally ready and she wanted her first time to be with him. She might be young but she was old enough for that and she wanted it to be with him even if this was the end.
“What’s the thing about summertime romances?” he whispered, lips on her hair, rocking her a little, snapping her out of her forlorn conclusions. He scooped her even closer, nestling her head under his chin. Ever attentive, he wouldn’t let the musing go ignored. He wouldn’t make her bring it back up, he would draw her out. Yeah, it was definitely some kind of love. Should she tell him or let him live in a make believe land of “this-will-last-once-I-leave” mumbo jumbo.
“They don’t last.”
“Why do you always have to be such a downer? Ours can last.”
“Are you going to give up everything you have and come down here?” she asked, “Because I can’t leave.”
She heard him breathe in, felt his shoulders sag. There she went, Miss Realistic, killing his sweet summer fantasy along with the sexy vibe they had going on. That’s not what she meant to do this time. She meant to make it the most amazing memory ever, better even than that very first summer. She turned around quickly, kneeling right into his face, leaning closer and closer and closer until their noses touched.
“Never mind,” she said playfully nipping at his lips, “I didn’t mean to say it out loud. We’re here now and I want it to be perfect. I want to remember you just the way you are right now.” Wispy, straight strands of her thick dark hair shrouded their kiss, though there was no one on this beach to hide from. The tourist beaches were elsewhere. This one was too remote to find easily, locals made sure of that. She knew this beach, this time of night would probably be deserted, or close to it. It was too tricky to amble out of in the dark. Considering his leg, she wondered if it was the best idea but ignored the caution and moved on with the plan. Her mouth covered his. Their kiss, more than familiar to the both of them, tasted different mixed with the salty brine of the ocean on their lips. She willed him to know she was ready without her having to say it and make the moment awkward.
His hands cradled both sides of her face for moments of delicious tasting and teasing, but then he pushed back her face ever so slightly and looked at her with all the love and sincerity she’d ever seen come from him, or anyone. Gorgeous brown eyes searching, penetrating her, willing her to love him, to want him forever.
“I don’t think this has to end.”
She knew the truth but she wanted the moment so she smiled and made him lie to her, “Promise me Preston.”
“I promise,” he answered and bucked her backward deftly and laid her down on the towel and sand under them. She giggled at the maneuver and their kisses deepened. She loved feeling the weight of him press her down and into the sand under the towel. She was smothered in all that was him and she pulled him into her soul. Maybe he could keep the promise and there would be more summers and moments, but just in case not she gave herself to him this time fully and completely.
“Are you sure?” he asked when she didn’t resist. He looked at her in the dusky dimming light, gauging her movements and response.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” and she was pretty positive she was sure. No matter what preachers or parents said, she needed this memory with him. As the sun went down and the orange darkened to twilight, she promised herself she would never regret this moment no matter how it ended.
It was a chore to amble up and out of the rocky local beach, but their kisses and giggles and half caught stumbles kept them amused along their way. Neither wanted to say goodbye, but it had to happen. Ever the romantic, he fished a letter out of the back pocket of his soft surfer shorts and gave it to her at the smooth wrought iron and stone gate to his opulent hotel.
“Do not open this until next week,” he demanded, holding it up between them and whipping it out of the way when she tried to swipe it.
“Give it to me,” she smiled.
“Not until you promise. Don’t open it until next week.
“I promise. Not until next week.”
He relinquished it to her eager grasp and pulled her into his bare chest, his big broad arms enveloping her, one hand threaded into her hair. She was in heaven, at least for a few more seconds. She wrapped her arms around his waist and they stood in the light of the entrance amidst the muted evening bustle of the other tourists and town. His heart beat slow and steady in her right ear and she could actually hear the air enter and exit his lungs. It sounded hollow-ish and reverberated through him. It was an interesting sound she doubted could ever be visually represented or reproduced. She refused to let go and evidently so did he; but it had to end, all of it had to end and so reluctantly she eased back out of his embrace to look up at him. One last perfect kiss on his lips. One last kiss on the letter as she walked backward away from him promising again to wait until next week to open it and then she was gone. Page turned. Credits rolled. Summer ended.
Here's my struggle; I’m a writer and I think my words and stories should be shared. They were never intended for me. With the exception of diaries, I’ve always written with an audience in mind. After I had legitimate books, the idea of “sharing” my stories somehow morphed into “selling.” It seemed to me that if I had books, I needed to sell books. I started to daydream about winning the book lotto. I fantasized about each one, or just one, hitting it big! I dared to dream that writing could be a job that sustained me. I would say good-bye to whatever title I held and my profession would from then on be: “Author!” It was a dreamy dream and I was quite caught up in it... until I realized books don’t magically sell. Like any product they need to be marketed, and a salesman I am not! I will more often talk people out of something than into something. Selling makes me queasy and uneasy. I needed help!
I interviewed and researched marketing companies and chose one. Next thing I knew it was a whirlwind of money out, and things to do on my checklist, and projects to get done. It overwhelmed me, it confused me, and on Independence Day, it stopped me. This is nothing new. Other things have stopped me dead in my writing tracks. Other things other than writing. Always “something” gets in between me and creating things to share. Doubts arise: What am I doing all of this for anyway? What is the point, the purpose, the reason? Do I even have a right selling? Surely I’m not good enough, the stories aren’t good enough. But why? Why would these thoughts, ideas and stories come to me, if not to share?! Why, God why? I’ve prayed over it, agonized over it. I’m currently on a private spiritual journey that revolves around future writing. Yes, I’ve been here before, and since I’ve paid so much to have my website resurrected, really, rebranded, I might as well dissect and post my newest writing dilemma here!
Ugh! Marketing! First and foremost have I said that I hate selling?! I do. I can list off plenty of personal strengths, I’m not self-deprecating, but selling is not my strength. I am 43 and getting older every day. I’m not interested in pouring time into pursuits that do not give me pleasure or fulfill the call God’s given me. At this stage in life, I’d rather focus on and refine my strengths and honor the strengths of others by trusting (and paying) them to do things I do not want to do. I don’t want to “do” marketing or sales, so, I hired it out. In my head marketing is selling. Turns out it’s not! Marketing is a different beast, another one I’m not interested in pouring time into learning. Instead, I poured money into my marketing company. It was probably a laughable amount of money to them, but to me it was a lot of our household disposable income each month, honestly more than I could realistically justify. Rebranding was in full swing, but no sales were realized. Four months in, I started stressing about the money. I felt like a thief robbing my already financially strapped household to fund a fantasy that “my books will sell!” We needed that money for “real-life” and I was playing make-believe with it. I *thought* book marketing was like hiring an editor; you give them a manuscript, they correct your mistakes and send you a bill. I thought the job I was paying marketers for was making and posting ads. It’s not. It’s other stuff to get these darn seven books I’ve already created "ready" to sell, before actually selling them.
Some of these books have been published either as indie, or under my former publisher for over 6 years... I understand why one book isn't worth advertising, because there's nothing else to sell. I *thought* once I had an inventory of stories and series it would be time to sell. Unfortunately, right when my 7th book/second series was finished, the infringement lawsuit happened. I finally paid that off and *thought* again that it was time to sell. I really thought that's what I was buying. If I’ve learned anything out of this, it’s that marketing isn't putting a book up for sale and paying for ads... it's thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of prep work "first." The reality is I will not have that kind of time until I retire. Hopefully at some point in my life before retirement, I'll have enough of a disposable income to pay someone without hurting our household finances, but I don't right now.
What's more, and what's bigger, and what stopped me in my tracks on Independence Day is that I genuinely LOVE the process of writing and making up worlds and stories! It's therapeutic, it's refreshing, it's meaningful to me. Writing makes me feel good! Writing is my reprieve, my oasis, my confidence, my make-believe playground to run and be free and create in. It’s also a humbling honor. I know everyone can’t write. The fact that I can and that stories evolve in my head is an honor. I try not to sound all woojuu-y spiritual, but sometimes it feels like a Divine gift. I can create worlds and concepts with words! I don’t take it lightly. Writing is my calling. It gives me purpose. It helps me understand why I’m here. All of the sales and branding and marketing and hullabaloo turns something I adore and do for stress relief into drudgery, confusion, disappointment, stress, frustration and pain. No matter how much I'd like to see my books make money, I'd rather not sell or “market.” I just want to get back to writing for fun like I used to. I'm not "me" when I'm not writing. I feel like I have to have things "just so" with these seven before I can get back to being me, and they're never right! They’re never ready! They’re never enough!
I'm tired of these stories! Don't get me wrong, I love them all for what they are and where I was in life when I created them, but I'm ready to move on. I have so many other thoughts, ideas and stories bubbling inside me or drafted and waiting for revision and polishing. Even if I only write for myself, I want to get back to writing. But there’s that struggle again, it’s not only for me. Writing has never been only for me. That, to me seems selfish. Spending money on marketing also seems selfish. I’m depleting our finances for my silly dream. Equity is somewhere between stroking my ego and hiding the stories away from the world because someone has deemed them “not ready.” It's fair that these seven stories have space on an Amazon shelf. I can give them that honor and move forward with my writing. And... who knows... if God wills, and the wind blows the right way, maybe those who are meant to read them will happen upon them, forgive the covers, and the unknown author with no newsletter or platform, and slide into a world I've created for them!
Marketing isn't for me, not any of it! It stresses me out, confuses me and takes time away from the loves and joys in my life. If you tell me I can pay someone or some company money and not have to do anything BUT write... I'm in! I thought that’s what I was paying for, but it turned out I had to do so much "other" than writing and paying (and I over estimated what I could pay). So, I’m out! Maybe I'm lazy, or ignorant, or stubborn, but I don't want to learn the skill of marketing. I just want to get back to writing for joy. I need this escape back in my life; reality is too much!
Now, three days later, I'm embarrassed that I misunderstood what I was buying into and what writing is to me. I'm mortified because I made a fool of myself to a reputable marketing company and highlighted my ignorance. I’ve been surly and sour with my husband and my grandmother because I’m embarrassed about spending so much without realizing what I was paying for. I've agonized over all of this BUT I learned some things. I figured some things out. I processed, I refreshed, I accepted… all in written words. I got dirty, dug deep down to the roots. At the core, I am a wrtier! If all of this is good for anything, it’s that I’ve worked up fresh new words to share. This is my first blog post in over a year! THAT makes me happy!
I'll never “give up” writing. The truth is I can’t! Writing is part of me. I do think I’ll give up “marketing.” No more “please oh please buy my book,” no more embarrassing launch parties, no more ego stroking. I'll just write. I’ll share the words and stories that God, whimsy, the muse, or life prompt. I’ll hire an editor, hire a formatter, hire a cover designer, share on social media, pay for ads I can easily understand, release what I’ve created, and write some more (with pictures I know are royalty free haha). Whatever will be will be and at least this way peace can return to my soul because I can get back to the craft that calls to me. May you too find your calling and your peace!
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