Anonymous Soccer Mom

Musings from the Mundane to the Marvelous


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Simple Mistakes That Cost Us

I am not just a writer. I am a book junkie. When I finish a novel, I desperately need my next ‘hit’ of fiction before the high of the last book wears off. As soon as I reach the acknowledgements, I immediately go to Amazon and peruse that section in the middle of the page, you know the section, the one that says “Customers also bought this.”  I don’t look to see who the publisher is. I read the description and if it tickles my fancy, I’ll download a sample, and if it grabs me, I go right to “one-click” shopping, which, in my opinion, is the most dangerous phrase in the world.

So last weekend, I finished a book and was feverishly perusing descriptions. I picked a couple of novels that were thematically similar: split-second mistake and the aftermath that mistake causes within a family.

I poured myself a glass of wine and opened the first sample. The writing was actually quite good. Strong characters, proper word usage, nice vocab, etc. But I knew before I got to the end of the first page that I wouldn’t buy this book. You know why? Because of two minor problems: The quotation marks that led into the dialogue were backwards.  ALL of them. Every last one. And there were giant gaping spaces

 

between paragraphs.

 

Between EVERY paragraph.

 

Now, I am not a book-formatting Nazi. But these two mistakes scream SELF-PUBLISHED! Don’t get me wrong. I love self-published authors. I AM one. And most self-published authors are just as talented as authors published by the Big 5. But the difference is that a traditional publishing house would NEVER allow those mistakes—those two minor mistakes which caused me to close that sample and purchase the other book.

As authors putting our own work out into the world, it is our responsibility to our readers to give them the best book we can. They are paying for it. Our readers deserve properly edited, properly formatted books. If we are going to self-publish, we must BECOME a publisher in every sense of the word. Being a publisher takes time. And energy. And patience. Hiring a good editor and a formatter will cost a bit of money. But our readers will thank us, and you know how? By buying our books.

Isn’t that why we write in the first place?

Bonus tip: If you’re looking for a good formatting company for print and digital books, I use MCWriting.

 


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MY SUMMER SIX

I know that summer is just a faded memory, but as you can see by the date of my last post, I’m a little behind on everything. It’s okay, though. I’ve had kind of a tough year-and-a-half. But now things are getting back on track and I’m catching up with my life.

No matter how busy or chaotic my world gets, I never fall behind with my reading. Books are like a drug and I am an addict. A good novel is like a balm for my soul, an escape from grief, stress, screaming kids, crushing boredom. I can’t wait to finish this post just so I can get back to my latest download.

Over the summer, I purchased and read many women’s fiction novels. So many, in fact, that some of them blended into others, and sometimes I could barely remember where one ended and another began. The following are those that stood out to me.

 

one plus one1. ONE PLUS ONE: A Novel by Jojo Moyes. Part romance, part road trip, part dysfunctional family story, I loved this book from the minute I started reading it. I adored ME BEFORE YOU, but I never wanted ONE PLUS ONE to end.

husband2. THE HUSBAND’S SECRET by Liane Moriarty. Thought-provoking and powerful, this book interweaves three women’s lives, all of which are connected by an event that took place decades earlier and the awful secret one of them discovers about that event.

all fall down3. ALL FALL DOWN by Jennifer Weiner. Of course this would be on my list. Weiner can do no wrong. This story takes a hard look at how addiction masquerading as a ‘bad habit’ can impact our lives and the lives of those closest to us. (All Fall Down made me rethink my beer habit. I’ve since switched to wine. Kidding! Jeez!)

sharp objects4. SHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn. Okay, I know that Gone Girl is all the rage, what with the new Ben Affleck movie. And although the book was very good and very well-written, I honestly didn’t enjoy it. (Ironically, I did enjoy the movie. And no, I’m not just saying that to get back into Ms. Flynn’s good graces. I doubt my not enjoying Gone Girl will keep her awake at night.) Sharp Objects, however, really got me. Dark, disturbing, but unexpectedly filled with hope.

above 15. ABOVE by Isla Morley. I bought this book after hearing Isla’s keynote speech at the Southern California Writers Conference last month. Well-written, suspenseful and engaging, but the twist is what really made this book stand out.

don't let me go6. DON’T LET ME GO by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Great characters that leapt from the page and stole my heart. Funny and lovely tale of how one girl can transform a group of apathetic strangers into a close, caring family unit.

(If I were a shameless self-promoter, I would also note that I read my own novel SAY NEVER fresh from the formatter, and even after God-knows-how-many times I’ve read it, it still made me laugh and cry. But since I’m more of a shameful self-promoter, I refuse to add it to the above list. It’s coming out soon, so maybe it will make someone else’s list…hint hint…)

SAY NEVER_FrtCvr r1

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES by Karen Joy Fowler. I’ve only just started it, but I have a feeling it’s going to make my Fall list!

What are your favorite reads of the last few months? Comment below. I’m always looking for suggestions!


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BLOG ROLL – WRITING PROCESS

As many of you know, my mom passed away last year, just before summer began. It’s been a tough year, not only because of my grief, but also because I was tasked with settling her affairs. This became a time-consuming and emotional business, and my writing suffered as a result. But recently, many of my writing friends and supporters have been contacting me, asking me about my new book, offering reviews and giveaways, help with marketing. etc. and I feel a little like Al Pacino when he said: “Just when I thought I was OUT, they PULL me back in.” Only in a non-drug-related and positive way. So, thanks, all, for the love!

The very talented Suzanne Redfearn invited me to take part in a blog roll. I was thrilled and flattered, especially since I read Suzanne’s novel HUSH LITTLE BABY in ONE DAY because I could NOT put it down. A blog roll is similar to a chain letter, in that if you choose to participate, you invite other authors to participate and so on and so forth.  All of us answer the same questions about our writing processes and it gives readers an opportunity to discover new authors and the unique ways in which we write.

Here goes:

1. WHAT AM I WORKING ON –

I am in the final edit of my mystery MURDER IN A MINOR.  This is the first novel in my musical murder mystery series featuring detective Samantha Wedlock. This is a bit of a departure for me, as my readers know me for SOMETHING NEW and SWEET NOTHINGS, which is humorous women’s fiction. But I have always loved mysteries, and am very excited about the upcoming digital release. I am also finishing the first draft of a romance novel called NOW AND THEN, which is loosely based on the Don Henley song HEART OF THE MATTER. (The awesome Emily Giffin already used that song title for one of her books, darn her!)

2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

My main character, Sam Wedlock, is a closet songwriter–she composes songs in her head based on things going on in her life–her relationships, her cases, etc. MURDER IN A MINOR has a strong musical element and contains snippets of her compositions.

3. WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I love to entertain and make people laugh. I’m never going to write anything bleak, because we have enough tragedy, conflict and stress in this world. I like to offer an escape from those things. Most of my stories involve strong women. I grew up with an extremely strong and amazing mom, so in some ways, all of my books are a celebration of her (although many of my characters have serious flaws which my mother did not!) I’m also a romantic at heart–a sucker for a happy ending. I love writing about relationships and the trials and the tangles and the Tango of love. I can’t recall ever writing a story–and this goes all the way back to my first attempt when I was six–that didn’t have some sort of romantic element.

4. HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

I haven’t figured that one out yet! I don’t really outline. Basically, I sit in front of the computer and hope the words come. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I drink.

5. AND THE OTHER PART OF THIS QUESTION, HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS NOT WORK?

Please see above.

WHO’S NEXT: All three of these women are amazing. I am grateful for their friendship and inspired by their talent.

Samantha Stroh Bailey, whose flirty, fun and romantic FINDING LUCAS captured my heart.

http://samanthastrohbailey.blogspot.ca/   and   http://samanthastrohbailey.com/

Julie Valerie, book blogger extraordinaire whose first novel debuts soon.

http://www.julievalerie.com/

Christa Yelich-Koth, whose graphic novel HOLLOW is a feast for the eyes and the mind.

http://christayelichkoth.com/

 

 

 

 


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As Seen on ScaryMommy…Thanks, Jill!

Mother-and-Child-700x400

 

This week, I was honored to be featured on ScaryMommy.com, Jill Smokler’s amazing blog, of which I’m a huge fan. The following is an excerpt from my guest post. Please visit ScaryMommy for the rest!

THERE’S NO ‘ME’ IN MOTHERHOOD…OR IS THERE?

Something strange and insidious happens when you become a mother. And no, I’m not talking about stretch marks, although those suckers are truly strange and insidious.

The moment a woman becomes a mom — as soon as that screaming, slippery, wonderful, miraculous baby is pushed from her loins — her world suddenly shrinks down to those things that involve her child.

When I was younger, before I had kids, if people asked me about myself, I would tell them all the fantastic things I enjoyed doing, or had done, like singing in clubs around New York City, or jumping out of airplanes from 14,000 feet, or going on national tours with off-Broadway shows.

Now, when people ask me about myself, I talk about my kids. Not that they aren’t worthy of conversation. They are amazing and gorgeous and great and terrific and funny and bright and — oops. See? I did it again.

But sometimes I wonder, what happened to me? The me before kids who parasailed in Florida and closed a club called Tattinger’s in Atlantic City at 7AM, and chased owls and assorted oddly colored bugs in Joshua Tree, and walked on the ruins of the Acropolis.

- See more at: http://www.scarymommy.com/theres-no-me-in-motherhood-or-is-there/#sthash.VMKixKSp.dpuf

 

 

 

 


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NaNoWriMo

nanowrimo  NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November, during which hundreds of thousands of writers undertake to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I have a fondness for NaNoWriMo because I wrote my debut novel, SOMETHING NEW, during the 2010 competition, and it later went on to be published by Berkley Trade–a division of Penguin USA.

This has been a particularly tough year for me, as my mom passed away in May. My writing has suffered, a fact that would make my mom very upset with me. So I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo this month, not just to get me back on track, but to offer me an escape from my grief and the many pressures I’ve fallen under from settling my mother’s affairs.

Perhaps some of you reading this are participating in NaNoWriMo. If so, I would like to offer you some of my reflections about this month:

1) You are not alone. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people just like you parked in front of a computer screen wringing words out of their brains to meet their daily word count.

2) You are not crazy. Yes, 50,000 words in 30 days is insane. But doable. 100,000 words is doable if you don’t eat or sleep or go to the bathroom. Just saying.

3) Your kids will not starve. For moms like me who tend to do everything for their kids, like choose their clothes and brush their hair and stand over them whilst they do their homework, let this month be for you a chance to foster your children’s independence. And, really, if they’re hungry enough, your kids can find food all on their own.

4) There is no such thing as Writer’s Block. There is boredom and there is brain fry and there is ambivalence and paralysis. But you can always get the words out. They may not be brilliant, but you can always go back and make them brilliant later. If you’re stuck, write through it. Push yourself through to the next scene and the next. Pretty soon, you’ll get your groove back.

5) Stop reading this blog, or any other blog post, update, pin, or tweet and get back to your novel. It’s waiting for you.

I am 17,000 words in. And although I don’t think this novel will win any prizes, I’m proud of the fact that I am back to writing every day, and even prouder to call myself a writer. We’re a kooky bunch. We have the dialogue of made-up people swirling around in our heads, we journey to faraway places and alien worlds without ever stepping outside, we work hard to inject conflict into our lives, at least on paper. But we also get to create on a daily basis, and that’s pretty great.

To all my fellow NaNoWriMos, I won’t wish you luck. You don’t need it. I wish you the gift of more and more words!


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Dragonfly Mom

dragonflyI was in my sister’s pool doing laps when a large red dragonfly swooped down and started following me back and forth. My first thought was “Mom?”

I know how crazy that sounds—I don’t believe in reincarnation, and even if I did, my mom would never come back as a dragonfly or an insect of any kind, for that matter. She’d come back as a mighty lioness or a beautiful dolphin or Sophia Loren. And I was angry with myself for even having this thought.

But I realized that I was simply desperate to feel that Mom is with me in some way, that she hovers somewhere close by watching over me, that she’s STILL HERE. Because despite what others say (i.e. “She’s with you, Janis. She’s within you, Janis”), and whether or not what they say is true, Mom is NOT HERE. I can’t give her a hug. I can’t hear her musical laugh. I can’t receive from her the advice and wisdom I need. I can’t make her smile or listen to her sing a bawdy British drinking song or shake up a martini for her to enjoy. I can’t hold her hand and watch Bones with her.

And, quite frankly, that sucks.

My son, who is ten, often tells me that he will love me and need me forever. (And, furthermore, he says he is never moving out—gulp!) And I know that he means what he says. Because we do love and need our moms forever. I need my mom now, probably more than I ever did, as I try to navigate middle age and motherhood and menopause. I am constantly questioning my choices and worrying about my decisions and ruing my hormone-challenged, ever-changing (and not for the better) body.

If Mom were here, I know what she would say. She’d say, “Janis, you are wonderful. You’re doing a terrific job. I’m so proud of you.”

And maybe knowing what Mom would say to me is the way in which she IS HERE. And although it’s not enough, it’ll have to do for now.

Until the next dragonfly comes along.


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The Secret Shameful Sigh of Relief

Summer is almost over and the little darlings are headed back to school in about one hundred and thirteen hours (but who’s counting?).

I consider myself a good mom. Not the Mother Teresa of parenting, but, you know, solid. I don’t let my kids drink Dr.Pepper (which means that I have to drink my own Dr. Pepper whilst hiding in the closet) and I don’t let them juggle knives or watch Friday the 13th Part Gazillion.

I fall short all the time, like for example, I really wanted the kids to learn French this summer, planned to start lessons the week after school let out, 30 minutes every day.  However, I only broke the French cds out of the packaging yesterday. (With 113 hours left, no one is going to be parlayvouing any time soon, if you know what I mean.) I wanted to get them on a strict exercise regimen…I think they each may have done 15 minutes on the elliptical machine in June. I thought it would be good for them to read five chapter books this summer, but I had to settle for Ninjago comics instead. So, okay, best laid plans, and all. But, despite what my husband says, I make up for my deficiencies in other ways. Really I do.

The last two and a half months have been terrific. I managed to entertain my kids and stimulate them and offer them all kinds of frolicking fun. The loss of my mom in May made me a little manic about making sure they had a FANTASTIC summer. And they did. They had a great time! And do you know what? I am freaking exhausted!

mom drinkI love my kids, adore them actually. They’re smart and funny and entertaining, but they are also a lot of work! Not only are they physically exhausting (i.e. we were at SeaWorld and Aquatica from opening until closing two days in a row!), but they are also mentally exhausting. Now that they’re older, they argue intelligently. They debate with a canniness that keeps me on my toes (and makes me wish Happy Hour started at about noon).

So while I can say honestly—again—that we had a great summer, the impending start of the school year has me conflicted. Not because I’m not looking forward to sending them off into someone else’s care for seven hours a day, but because I am looking forward to it.

When other moms or dads or anyone, for that matter, ask me if I’m glad that summer’s over, there’s a little voice inside of me that whispers in my ear:

“If you were a really good mom, you’d say ‘Heck, no! I never want school to start again. I’ll miss my kids terribly. I want them home with me 24/7 because they are the best things in my life and I wish summer would last forever!’”

So  I find myself stuttering. “Uh…uh…uh…” thinking that if I say ‘Yes, I can’t wait for the freaking school bell to ring Wednesday morning!’ I’m admitting that I suck as a parent, at least to myself.

I know this is ridiculous. I know that all moms (and dads) have their own personal kid-tolerance level and that by September 1st, every single one of them is ready for an asylum. But it’s that darn voice. The voice of Miss Perfect-Mom who I will never be but who I strive to be and end up continually disappointing myself.

So, by way of answer, I say, “Oh, we’ve had a great summer!” Then I let out a little shameful sigh of relief. And the other parents, the ones who have their own Miss or Mr. Perfect-Parent living inside of them? They understand me perfectly.

But I envy the parents who just lay it all out there and, without hesitation, say, “I wish school started in July.”

September For-Fun Minute

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