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!
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!