Tag Archives: publishing

TOP 5 Questions I have been asked about writing a novel

1.   Are you going to quit your job and just write books?

This is probably the question I get most often, and my writer friends are laughing right now. Reading for pleasure is on the decline, and overall reading ability is declining with it.   In the era of binge-watching Netflix, social media, and youtube at your fingertips, books can’t keep up.   Even if they could, there’s very little money in book publishing for all but the handful of super successful authors.     I was very grateful to earn enough with the sales of my last book to buy a new laptop and pay for a few nights in a hotel as I traveled for book promotions. So, no. I will happily be keeping my day job.

  1. Which character are you? (or worse: Am I in your book?)

unprotected was fiction, as is my new novel unattached.   Neither of the main characters is me. The social workers, cops, foster parents, and attorneys in the book aren’t based on anyone I know.       And the clients in the book are definitely not based on any of my former clients.   Data privacy laws are strict and I didn’t want to do anything that would put me in HIPAA jail.

  1.  How did you come up with the story?

I never know how to answer this.   I wish I could say that I had a grand plan with an elaborate outline, but I didn’t have anything of the sort.   It took me 12 years to write unprotected and three years to write unattached, and both times I had only a vague idea of where I was going with the story.    The fun times were when an idea spilled out, landed on the page, and worked.

  1. Do you enjoy book signings?

I will say this as graciously as I can: no.   I expected book signings to be exciting, but the truth is that I feel like the salespeople at mall kiosks selling perfume or cell phones.   Book store customers know what they are looking for, and they recognize that I’m there to sell them something they never intended to buy.    Honestly that’s fine with me.   We all work hard for our money, and if someone doesn’t want to buy my book then I don’t want him to.    But publishing is a business, so selling books is part of the deal.   Most of the time at book signings people avoid eye contact and shuffle by my little table at the front of the store.   At one of my signings, another author was there with 3 large boxes full of books. He huffed at me that he would sell out in two hours, and the jerk was right.   He approached (accosted) everyone who entered the store saying, “Are you a mystery reader? Do you enjoy reading about local settings?”   Some people wandered away, but his pushiness worked as his pile dwindled while few of my books moved.   So I am learning to stretch myself, plaster on an uncomfortable smile, and have awkward conversations in order to sell a few books.

  1. I’ve always wanted to write a book….do you think I could get published?

I have been surprised by how many people have confessed to me that they have a secret, half-written novel on a laptop at home.   Usually when people ask me this question they are stuck either because they aren’t sure how to finish, or they don’t think what they have written is good enough.   My answer is always the same (borrowed from Dory in the movie Finding Nemo):   Just keep writing!

That's me at a book signing at the Mankato Barnes and Noble
That’s me at a book signing at the Mankato Barnes and Noble

For most of us amateur writers, the fear of it not being good enough is what keeps us from moving forward.      I’ll be honest:   there are parts of both of my books that make me cringe.   I am well aware that I will never be known for my lyrical prose, and a writing instructor would put her red pen to work with my overuse of adverbs.     Lyrical prose was never my goal.   I write because I have stories in my head that I want to get on paper, and the process of writing is what I truly enjoy.

And in that spirit, stay tuned.   My second novel, unattached, will be released in September, 2015 by North Star Press.

An Announcement

The first time around it took twelve years.

I wrote paragraph by paragraph with only the vaguest sense of where it as all going. I was eighty percent done without realizing it, and forced myself to finish because I actually thought I could.

And so my first novel, unprotected was released in September, 2012. I have never forgotten the great privilege and honor it is to have my novel published, and to have people actually buy it and read it. unprotected can be found on Goodreads and Amazon, and at select local book stores. When it was released, I had an incredible book launch, held book signings at half a dozen book stores, attended scores of book clubs, talked at libraries, and gave a few newspaper interviews. While book promotion has been a crazy ride, the part I really enjoy is the writing.

So I got to work on my Next Book.

I was attached to the social workers at Terrance County, but I wasn’t sure how much more I could add to Amanda’s story. She had her happy ending, and I wanted it to stay that way. So I turned my attention to another worker at Terrance County–Leah.

Leah is a little older than Amanda, but I’m not sure I could say that she’s wiser. She’s only been at Terrance County for about 5 years after spending her early 20s in a drunken haze. She sobered up by attending AA meetings with her anxious, needy mom, and then got her social work degree and found herself a place at Terrance County Social Services as a child protection investigator. Leah is edgier than Amanda, cynical and lonely, but also a fiercely loyal friend. Leah is also a gifted, intuitive interviewer who helps kids feel safe enough to tell their stories, and can coax an admission out of the most reluctant abuser.

But outside of work, Leah is a hot mess. She doesn’t trust anyone but her closest friends, and sometimes not even them. She insists on being alone, refusing to get to close or trust anyone. She is desperate to remain unattached, despite the best efforts of her friends, family, and a certain police investigator named Pete Kemper.

Unattached….not a great approach to life, but it makes a pretty cool book title.

I am thrilled to announce that my second novel, unattached, will be released by North Star Press in September, 2015.

New Girl

I am rarely the New Girl any more.
Eighteen years ago when I was a newbie social worker, I was always the New Girl, and I went to embarrassing lengths to convince people that I was a grown up. One of the first times I went to the local high school to meet with a teenager about a report, a secretary, thinking I was a high school student, asked if I had a hall pass.
“Um, I’m here to interview a student.” I was indignant. How was my new, early 90s, mushroom-shaped short haircut not convincing her that I was an adult?
Being the New Girl meant feeling incompetent most of the time. I was 23 years old talking with my elders about how they treat their children. Scary.
The New Girl at the office got the old stuff, including the mint green metal desk with a treacherous, skin pinching crack across the top. I was lucky enough to be able to pick out a new desk chair, but my director trumped my choice in color and decided on the teal green fabric that “matched” my desk. I could only nod, as he was my superior and thus had office-decorating wisdom that I must not have had.
As the years passed and my twenties ended, there were other New Girls, and my stock slowly went up. I graduated to a better desk and some increased responsibilities. My life evolved as well. My husband and I bought a bigger house and had kids—four of them by my 10th anniversary at the agency. The mint green chair remained, growing worn and stained, but held me through pregnancies and transitions in the office and out.
After 18 years I have become one of the senior members of the child protection staff. I am rarely intimidated any more. I can write a 5 page court report in an hour, if I have to, and I am confident in my ability to respectfully but firmly speak with most parents.
Then I wrote this book and got lucky enough to have it published. Suddenly I’m a newbie in a world of writers, publishers, and book store owners who speak a language I don’t understand.
And while I thought the most challenging aspect of my new authorhood would be writing the book, marketing my novel has brought out a level of neediness and insecurity that I didn’t know I had.
My publishing company is small, so promotion is my job. And thus I walk the line between persistence and stalking.
With about a gazillion books out there, persistence is the name of the game. Earlier this summer I mailed and emailed promotional flyers to dozens of bookstores. Response: nothing. I was a New Girl. So I was largely ignored.
So I followed up with phone calls. Trying to sound upbeat and professional, (while feeling incompetent and pathetic), I left messages with a great many stores, and this time I had more success. If I spoke to an owner directly, most were generous and helpful. Several stores have given this New Girl some much needed experience and exposure.
I recently attended a book fair aimed at independent booksellers, my job was to promote my book to store owners. My publisher had a table, so I had a 30-minute slot to chat up anyone who stopped at our table. More established authors have been reviewed, so their covers have flattering quotes from reviewers or other authors on their book covers. First novels rarely get reviewed, so my book looked a little naked next to those with quotes and stars across the covers. Many owners stopped by our table, their eyes washing over my unfamiliar cover and title. “Can I tell you about my book?” I blurted to anyone who came close. Again, people were generous, nodding and smiling and politely accepting their complimentary copy with my decidedly unknown signature.
My New Girl status is another commonality I share with Amanda, the newbie social worker and star of “unprotected.” Amanda feels incompetent and insecure most of the time. Those feelings were raw when I started writing the book twelve years ago, and they are back now that I am a New Girl in the publishing arena where I am small and insignificant.
Being new can’t last forever, and in the mean time I want to thank everyone who has already read and enjoyed “unprotected”. It is available on amazon and barnesandnoble.com and at area book stores. Thank you for your support!

It’s here!

I held my book in my hand.    There isn’t much in social work that is tangible.       Finally it felt real.

In human services, we so rarely have outward evidence of our accomplishments.   If I help a woman with a crippling addiction stay clean and sober, the proof is in her steady job and clear thinking.    Exciting, but certainly nothing I can hold in my hand.

As child protection social workers, we struggle to make our work into something that can be observed.   We need to write outcomes-based caseplans with concrete results.   We can’t just say that a parent is going to attend therapy as part of his case plan—we need to try to measure progress in therapy.   The glow of more stable mental health isn’t easy to quantify.

With all this abstractness, there are times when I wish I were a professional baker.    I could work with my hands, mixing and blending and folding, and at the end of the day I could point to neat rows of cookies or cupcakes as proof of my efforts.     Many times at the end of a day of social working, I can point to hours of phone calls, documentation and frustration, and I don’t want to hold any of that in my hand.

But my book—that I could hold in my hand.     Is this accomplishment more valuable or notable than the 18 years I have worked as a child protection social worker?   I have to say that it can’t be.   My book is a work of fiction.   My efforts as a social worker, at the risk of sounding dramatic, can be life changing.

So in a job full of (yep I’m going to say it) fifty shades of gray, I’m pretty dang excited to announce that my very tangible book is here!    Please check out unprotected on amazon.com.  And if you like what you read, please “like” it on amazon, recommend it on facebook or pass it on to your friends.  Thank you for your support, and happy reading!