Tag Archives: writing

To Self Publish or Not … One Writer’s Positive Experience

WofGrace

Today I met with a talented poet and artist who self published her first book in 2017 with Amazon, for less than $2,000. That’s amazing. And it’s gorgeous. Shani’s Whispers of Grace is a delicious compilation of paintings and spiritual poetry, inspired by her time in silence “with Shiva” at the holy hill of Arunachala in Tamil Nadu. Mystical, lyrical and emotional, Shani could have sought out an agent and tried to publish traditionally. Instead, she chose to self publish and to hire a friend to create her cover. As we chatted today about her next book, now in the works, we both began discussing the pros and cons of the self publishing route. As most of you reading this know, I’m pitching agents and have written three novels, now working on my fourth. Intrinsically, I worry about the costs of self publishing and managing all the self promotion, printing costs, pr costs, platform management and search elevation, contractual issues, etc. by my self. I’ve always held agents in high regard and read experts advice such as Shawne Coyne (who published this article today lauding what good agents can do: What it Takes: Art + Commerse = Better Art.).

 

But after speaking with the kind-hearted and spiritual Shani today, I see that in the end, whether a writer decides to self publish or pursue traditional publishing, it all boils down to expectation and time. Shani is happy to let her book grow organically through word of mouth referrals (including mine, buy it please!). She allows placement to happen organically within appropriate settings, such as spiritual book stores, or yoga and meditation retreat centers. As Shani said: “if I touch one soul, I am happy.” She isn’t bogged down by what frightens me: all the time consuming PR, self promotion pitching and travel and speaking engagements. And her work is doing just fine since she kept creation costs relatively low.

I love her perspective and choices. Because in no way does her choice to self publish affect the quality of her craft. In fact, I think this journey of Shani’s has allowed her to focus 100% of her time on her art, and perfecting that art, without worrying about the business side. She lets her art speak for itself—and it does.

I love this last line of her poem Song of the Self: “It is only the Supreme non-dual “I” that destroys ignorance and pure Knowledge shines forth as Self.”

I think all of us writers could learn from Shani. When one continues to write for the sake of writing and for the gift it gives us by honing the craft—while enjoying the journey—the writing will intuitively and intrinsically get better. And it is more likely that an author will make deep connections with her readers as well. From the heart-felt intention of creating an inspiring piece of art, for the sake of art, that art, in turn, will flourish and the right organic opportunities will arise.

Thank you Shani for your words of wisdom today. I can’t wait to see your paintings and your next book!

Namaste ~

Laura xo

 

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Finished your novel? Think again. How the editing process is endless…

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So I naively thought I was DONE editing my third novel Between Thoughts of You. Lets just say today was humbling and frustrating. On a happy note, a publisher in the UK agreed to read 10,000 words. Yay! Right?

Sort of.

My freshest version of the manuscript was saved via pdf. The publisher didn’t want to receive a pdf format or my entire novel. That caused a little anxiety. See, after editing my novel four times and sending it to beta readers, I had saved the final version in pdf form back in February before going to a writers conference. I think I edited the word docs of each chapter so many times that I actually have 3 of every chapter saved. Don’t ask me why, but that’s how it turned out. I like to have the option of seeing and re-visiting they way the longer chapters feel, so I keep earlier, longer drafts. To give the UK editor what she wanted, I had to highlight the first three chapters within my pdf version and then copy and paste it onto a fresh word doc. Sounds easy right?

But then the editor in me, couldn’t let it go. I read the three chapters upon pasting them and realized there were formatting issues. AND a few words were missing. To add to my mounting anxiety, I found one tense that didn’t quite work. Of course, I decided at the last minute, that one entire sentence of the final paragraph of Chapter 1 had to go. Then I decided, what the Hell, I really need to re-visit the ENTIRE manuscript.

Why? WHY? WHY am I like this? Seriously?

Two mocha’s later (which I had given up last month) I’m in a complete caffeine panic. I’m thinking: “No wonder one of the agents at the conference passed on my book! She saw the tense problem. She didn’t like the last paragraph of my first chapter either.”

Dread entered my heart and anchored my ass to the chair. I had to fix this.

“Wait!” I screamed out loud in my empty house. It dawned on me that I had sent the exact same three chapters to two other agents—my top choices—before making the changes I made today. That was bad. Really bad.

I need a rewind button.

A mild version of PTSD crept into my veins. I couldn’t breathe. And I’m a damn yoga and meditation teacher. So I started deep yoga breathing and mentally repeated “This isn’t 2015, chill out.”

In 2015 a friend who has written 10+ novels introduced me to her agent. This agent, who works at one of the largest agencies in the world, loved the synopsis and first chapter of my 2nd novel Uriel’s Mask. But I had made the rookie mistake of thinking my novel was ready for a major agent to read in its entirety, before I had edited it many, many times, and with only a few friends as beta readers. This agent had me sign a contract that I wouldn’t submit to anyone else for six months. I was beyond ecstatic. And then seven months later, she passed. It was too long. The word count needs to be under 90,000 words for first time writers. Why didn’t anyone tell me that? And, it had too many characters. Uriel’s Mask is a southern, semi-historic family saga. First time authors today need short books, with short chapters and with few characters. Again, that wasn’t told to me in my MFA program, and my favorite authors often have long, deliciously complex novels. Sigh.

When I was getting my MFA in New York, it was a completely different publishing landscape. My first novel, Lucifer’s Laughter, a psychological murder mystery inspired by my days as a newspaper crime reporter, had been my MFA thesis. And it got accepted by the first agent I pitched after sending only a few chapters. That agent was the amazing Anita Diamant Berke, who had rep’d VC Andrews, author of the Flowers in the Attic series. A few weeks after she signed me, she died of a heart attack and her entire agency went into a tail spin. I was broke and owed more than $40,000, so took a job as a magazine editor in Atlanta, met my husband the first week there, and then life got lifey with kids, editing jobs, etc.

Enter today. I’ve returned to writing fiction. But in 2015, I had the mentality of someone submitting to agencies in 1996—thinking my work didn’t have to be perfect before going to an agent. It does. Today’s submissions need to be ready for publication. And first time authors should be warned that agents like to pitch short novels with character-driven, not-too-complicated plots. They are easier to sell to publishing houses who don’t want to invest and lose too much on first time authors. It makes sense. But I didn’t completely understand that in 2014/2015. I do today and am grateful to the handful of agents who let me know.

My third novel is shorter and with two main characters. It has tight, easy-to-read chapters. I paid attention to the agents’ advice. So today’s discovery of a few missing words, a wrong tense and a lengthy sentence, sent me into a complete panic. Sigh.

I have to let go. I will not re-send up-dated chapters to the two agents now considering the work. That might send a red flag. Or be confusing. But maybe I should?

The kids are in bed and I feel the urge for another mocha and an all night editing binge.

HELP!

 

 

The Gift of Goddess Wisdom

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I promise you this isn’t going to be an essay from yet another preachy yoga teacher espousing spiritual truths or pretending to have it all figured out—while confusingly showing off a sexy body. I’ve literally had it with all of that. I don’t have it all figured out. Not by a long shot. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve been so depressed that I didn’t know how I’d continue on. So I share my truth: I know, with all my heart, everyone has a struggle that you may not understand, or realize, so BE KIND. Compassion is the greatest gift any of us can give. And it doesn’t cost a thing.

AND for those struggling in silence this holiday season, find the courage to ask for help. You are a gift upon this Earth. Even if no one has ever told you that. You are. Even if you have been in environments where others treat you lesser than, they are wrong. You are a gift. Even if you are stuck in victimhood, you can get out. Find the strength to be compassionate toward yourself. Set boundaries with those who have hurt you in your life-or who you allowed to hurt you, it is the same. It can be as easy as just not texting back, not reaching out, not being available, without any drama. The Goddess wisdom I received in Greece this summer during my first yoga & writers retreat, came from simple thoughts, simple messages, while I meditated: Be love. Be compassion. Be open. Drop judgement. Be honest. Be yourself. Be playful. Be strong. Be consciousness. Be patient. Be creative. Dream. Dance. Jump. Swim. Stargaze. Sit in silence. Be grateful. Be more grateful for the lessons. Laugh. Hug. Kiss. Cry. Let go. Accept. Love harder.

So even if you’re doing all the right things and someone unloving enters your life and is hurtful, yet again, just know this is a loving nudge from the Universe, sending a growth challenge: do you accept this treatment? Or can you bless them and BLOCK them? We teach people how to treat us. Even family members (later in life.) We can choose compassion and choose to go where the love is. Love isn’t saying I love you. It’s compassion. It’s encouragement. It’s showing up. It’s presence, not presents. It doesn’t put you down. It doesn’t feel bad to be around. It doesn’t say you can’t, or you aren’t worth it, or you aren’t enough. It’s not constantly trying to change you, or lie to you, or use you, or impatiently push you to do things you don’t want to do. Love never physically hurts—EVER. It’s not frightening. It isn’t unconsciously abusing substances either.

Make an intention this holiday season or New Years, like I have, to receive (or create) the gift of only allowing in those who are loving.

If the idea of Goddess wisdom seems too far-fetched for you, or too narcissistic, fake it until you make it. You are worth others making an effort for you. Don’t you make an effort for those you love? Why should the scales be so unbalanced? We have to give AND receive to balance our Chi. You are worth others being kind and honest and considerate and loving toward you. And if they aren’t able to, the Universe will send along others, if you block the unloving ones and LET THEM GO.

With Love & Compassion this Holiday season ~

Laura xo

 

 

 

 

 

Sneak Peak of my next novel: Between Thoughts of You

I am infinitely curious about love. What defines love? Is it a feeling? Is it action? Can it truly last a lifetime? Why do some with a lukewarm type of love stay together for a  lifetime—yet others, who seem to have a more passionate love—fall apart? And can someone truly love another, yet lie and belittle that person at the same time? What kind of love is that? If behavior is hurtful or disrespectful, how can love still exist? How can we trust that the person we choose to love, we choose to be faithful to and to build a life with, really loves us in the same manner—or will continue to choose to love us during hard times?

People who rush into marriage say silly things like, “I just knew!” But for those of us who ‘knew’—and years later were cheated on, lied to, disrespected—we come out of it on very shaky ground. Can we really trust our intuition and gut feelings about another person again? How do we know our next partner will keep his/her promises? How do we know we can trust what we think is real? Maybe it’s all a sham, in the end. When reality suddenly shifts dramatically, it’s hard to trust. When lie upon lie upon is revealed, the person who lied and cheated may feel relief to no longer be living a lie, yet the person cheated on sinks into a despair, questioning everything. “Was he really on the phone with his dad when we were lying in bed after making love?” … “He said he loved me every fucking morning before work. It’s such bullshit. Our whole life was bull shit.”
Questions and maddening thoughts swirl. After the questions fade, a deep malaise can settle in.

That’s where the main character of my next novel, Between Thoughts of You, is when the novel begins. She is numb. She feels hopeless. And she has no idea that her life is about to change forever by an old man—by the secrets kept by an old man. His trust in her—his choice to let her be the only one to hear his deepest secrets kept from friends and family for more than 55 years—will literally transform her.

But first, let me introduce Lulua ‘ina, aka Lulu, to you in this mini sneak peak of the novel I’m writing. I’m obsessed with Lulu. I hope you will be, too. 🙂 This tiny scene is told through the eyes of the old man she takes care of. Six months earlier in Honolulu, her baby suddenly died. Three months after, her husband left her for her best friend. To say she is disillusioned and heart broken is an understatement. Lulu fled Oahu at her first opportunity. It was also her first time leaving Hawaiian soil. She felt as if she had nothing to live for, so taking the job as the sole hospice nurse of an old man wasn’t a hard decision. She has no resentment for the round-the-clock care she now gives, because she no longer has any needs or expectations for her life. Right now, she wants to fulfill an old man’s wish to die on Tuscan soil. That’s what she thinks. Little does she know, that his dying wish is really to find the one person he can tell his deepest secrets to.

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“The old man leaned onto his left shoulder, as if sizing her up with a better view. Lulu had a round, pale and yellowish face with eyes that were both almond shaped and long, slim at the same time. These were her genetic features given to her by her mother who was half Japanese and half Hawaiian.

With moss green eyes, a tall forehead, a pointy chin and freckles she was named for, Lulu was clearly a genetic mutt. The day she was born, her grandfather named her “Lulua`ina [loo loo (w)ah’ ee nah] which means freckles. Lulu grew to have long, thin black hair (also like her mother) but was tall, angular and boney, unlike the rest of her Hawaiian family. These traits, she was told, were thanks to her German father, whom she never met.

Her appearance fascinated the old man. The moment he saw her picture on her application, he demanded that his sons fly her out so he could meet her. Her resume wasn’t terribly impressive, they argued. She’d get homesick and want to run back to Hawaii. Their arguments fell flat. It didn’t matter that there were nurses in Italy, he had to meet her. And when she walked into his bedroom that afternoon, with all his boys sitting around his bed, the old man knew she was the one. She was who he wanted to die with. She was the one he would tell. Just like that, he knew. Partly because of her Asian traits. And partly because he sensed the sadness beneath her calm demeanor, like a storm that needed to brew. And the old man loved brewing storms. He loved drama of any kind. And he especially loved beautiful women who needed to be rescued.

“You’re heart-broken,” he spat out. “Anyone can see that.”

She blinked in response.

“Dreams will come back to you, when you start to heal. Then, you’ll be ready for their messages.” He rose an eyebrow before saying, “You know what I mean?” His signature catch phrase.