Composing a Writer #10. A Manuscript is Not a Book

Let’s say pigs fly. You’ve written the thing you always wanted to write. It’s a miracle. It’s been in your mind since reading that first book that stole you away. It means you’ve sat by yourself for untold hours and managed to commit the words to the page. You’ve edited it to perfection with an obsessive-compulsive love disorder that includes nurturing the idea like a baby bird, watching it grow feather by feather, only to hack it to bits with a meat cleaver so it can rise from the flames …a phoenix. Ta-da. You have a completed manuscript.

I don’t know how this would feel to a fresh young mind, but I do know how it feels in the second half-century of life. Fist-pumping elation and a happy dance complete with the backside shimmy that’s best left undescribed. This is where the story ends in the movie version. The End scrolling over my… um, end.

Meanwhile back in real life, I notice that I don’t actually have a book. I have a file in my computer. It feels marginally better than having a stack of paper that my prairie wind would surely find a way to plaster along the south fence line.

I’m feeling a strange combination of gosh-it’s-no-big-thing humility and I-did-it-I-did-it! pride for a thing stuck inside my computer, when a stranger saunters into my thoughts. Someone with a swagger and she might be wearing a push-up bra. At first I guessed her name was Kills Kittens for Fun but no, it was Ambition. I could tell because the word was lettered in cursive across the chest of her sweater… a sweater that might have fit her back when she was a high school cheerleader. And worse, a couple of inches of her midriff was showing. She set down her suitcase, drained her can of beer, and burped. Just kill me.

[Reminder: This is a series about writing; a map of the paths and stopovers that I made in my book process. I’m no literary expert but as a way of saying thank you, I’m sharing my attempts to navigate all the usual roadblocks.]


This Week: We’re ten weeks in and writing is vying for equal time as your primary language. Words flow like a conversation with an old friend. You have as many words to write as you have to speak; you have paragraphs and chapters, you have a book, a trilogy, a tetralogy, a pentalogy and even a hexalogy. You are filthy stinky rich in nouns and verbs and adjectives.

Assignment: Write about the day after an accomplishment or graduation or the birth or death of something. Write about the thing after the thing. Write your feelings about ambition; how does it fit you? What do you think of ambitious women? Men? Is it okay to make money from your art? Or write the hardest thing of all –write something intentionally funny. You can tell it’s working if you chuckle while you type. Then share whatever you like on our Writing Herd Facebook page. Or comment on what others have written. Or, just know we are your herd, no excuses necessary. Wait and jump in when it’s right for you.


It was my last chance to slide the manuscript in a drawer, or bury it in my tax return file on the computer. But instead, I had an overwhelming need. Nothing prepared me for how much I wanted my manuscript published. I thought writing it would be enough but each step in the writing process edited me as a would-be author. I changed as much as the manuscript did but I’d been so busy writing and studying the publishing world, that I hadn’t noticed. But now I was overtaken with an uncomfortable ambition to get the story out in the world and I’d worked on it so completely that I thought Stable Relation was worthy of that. It was like waking up with a weird kind of amnesia: I knew exactly who I was but I had no history to prove it.

There is so much attitude in the writing world about the publishing question. Some will say submitting to traditional publishers are the only way to get that genuine stamp of acceptance. Publishers are the gatekeepers to a literary career. That any less means your writing has no value because self-published books are trash. So, you worship the rich history of suffering, related by examples of famous authors whose work got rejected time and again before they became famous. Because we all know the very best artists wear suffering like war medals on their chests. It’s the Big Five Publishers or die!

But the Big Five Publishers are more distant and élite than ever before. Some say they are all going down because they aren’t keeping up with changes in their industry. But to get a manuscript to the big boys, they say you must be someone famous or know someone famous. You’ll need an agent because the very idea of traditional publishing is running the other direction. So, you attend conferences and try to network. And worry that you’ll always be a groupie for famous authors while paying off your travel debt and remaining unpublished yourself.

Small presses are a possibility. Genre publishing is booming and it’s a door open to authors of romance or Christian or children’s books. Opportunities drop off fast if you aren’t in one of those genres. And Stable Relation was every publisher’s ugly stepchild –a memoir. Even with a popular genre, small presses won’t invest in an author unless she can prove she has readers waiting. If you manage to hook a small press, they will promote your book for sixty days but it takes them twice that time to let you know if they will even read your manuscript.

Or do you self-publish? Because technology has changed the publishing world. Because everyone knows a self-published book that broke the glass ceiling like Still Alice did. Because some published authors are now self-publishing after being dropped by publishers who won’t publish new books. Or do you find the statistic that says that only 10% of self-published books sell more than a hundred copies?

There’s no answer, so you spend a few thousand hours more, researching publishing and self-publishing online, and see that there is no more agreement than there was a month ago. You think no one wants your book. You think self-publishing could be a swamp filled with alligators, and one with particularly gnarly teeth could have yarns from a certain cheerleader sweater dangling like bloody floss.

(TBC)

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

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Nickers, brays, bleats, howls, and quacks. Now.

longear-approved

We are Long-Ear approved. A whole lot of books do not have this designation.

Barn Dance has been available for a week, and the race is on. But it’s an endurance race and not a sprint; perfectly suited for a contrary herd like us. The start was a bit uneven in an attempt to answer readers asking for a holiday release. I let Amazon have a head start. They are bigger and stronger and didn’t need it.

Independent bookstores are my love, and in order to have my books available there, I do a list of extra things. If you have a bookstore you love, you can get any of my books from them. Tell them Ingram has it; especially if you are located outside the U.S. In a day or two now, Barn Dance will be available from my personal favorite, Barnes and Noble. Support them when you can, but getting it there before the holidays is doubtful.

(Ebook versions are all available on Smashwords, iTunes, and all the usual online locales.)

And if you want to go old-school, you can still get a book from me, signed and with a sweet bookmark or two, by clicking here. There’s no extra charge for the Corgi hair that is bound to be included, as well.

If you like my books, please consider telling a friend or writing a review. You, sitting there with your coffee, are my entire publicity plan. Here’s the crazy part: It’s working. Thank you. I’m so grateful for the precious time you spend reading. It would be painfully dark and quiet without you!

And finally, to introduce my spokes-donkeys today, with Nickole in the photo: Ajax and Comet are here for some training. They are available for adoption through the Colorado Horse Rescue Network. And photos never lie. They are smart asses.


Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

A Word from My Publicist (Cover Reveal)

pr-barn-dance-cover-ebook

My name is Edgar Rice Burro. I’m the publicist for Prairie Moon Press. I got the job because I have the loudest voice, and I’m not afraid to use it. Also, I’m not afraid to tell humans what to do. I’m helpful that way. 

***

I am the human and I used to think I had a thin veneer of control on this farm. I might have been exaggerating.

***

My human finally took my advice and put my handsome face on a book cover. She’s slow on the uptake, but she gives a good ear rub, so I’m patient with her. This book will sell like cold carrots on a hot day.

***

I do the hard jobs for Prairie Moon Press. I wrote the book, for instance. I paid for everything. He just came in at the end and brayed about it. Like it was all his idea. Okay, maybe it was.

***

This book has stories about all of us in the barn. And the barkers and mouse-killers that live across the paddock in the human-barn.  Even goats, and if she let goats in, she has very low standards, but like I said–my human gives good ear rubs.

***

We’re a farm that also fosters and re-trains rescue horses, as well as rescue dogs. The book also includes memories of those who didn’t stay with us forever but are still part of the extended herd. The thing that they don’t tell you about rescue is that it’s an inside job–I think I’ll probably always need it.

***

And when my human wants to rant–and she does love a rant–about being an awkward age, whatever that means, she calls herself an old gray mare. Something I respect, by the way.

***

Final proofs are being finished now but publishing is slow this time of year. In order to expedite the process, I’m not letting the goat help. Stay tuned; I’m publishing as fast as I can.

***

Look into my eyes. Now it’s my job to say, “Buy this book!” But how can you resist? There are words and stuff, but the cover is the real deal–photos don’t lie! Intelligence, sincerity, and donkey scruples. I’m irresistible. 

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Equine Pro

The Devil Is In the Details

 

wm-lateral-lilith-fauxcoverHow to create a homemade project that looks professional and inviting and even artistic–that’s the dilemma.

I would love to weave a romantic tale about my dilettante author life; that my groom delivers my horse while I pose on the mounting block in my baby-seal-skin riding boots. That I write at dusk by a sapphire pool while owls perch on my shoulder. That my personal masseuse/bodyguard/Corgi wrangler travels along in my Lear jet, as I flit to book talks in Paris, Rio, and Commerce City.

Can I just say there is nothing romantic about writing? It’s more like a bad habit. I start at 3:30 in the morning because I actually have a real job. If you can call horse training a real job. I’m not great company by dinner time, either. But if there is something less romantic than writing, it might be publishing. A friend suggested I write about this part; she thought it would be interesting. I’m dubious.

I’ve spent hours this week laying on the ground in pens here on the farm. I’m trying to take a photo for the next book cover and there are new power lines from a huge wind farm that cross-hatch all my backgrounds, not to mention miss-matched fence panels and a flotilla of wheelbarrows. So I was trying to get an angle where there is little background (like the llama in this photo) and just sky behind. Of course, when I lay on the ground in a pen I get dirt in unforeseen places. Then I wait, while the animals all tilt their heads at odd angles. Eventually, they saunter over to begin the C.S.I. work. In this photo, Lilith thinks I might be a bit unbalanced, but she doesn’t want me to die before lunch. The activity behind the camera makes her look absolutely sane.

If the devil is in the details, then so is the art.

I’ve done the same thing with a few different animals, at odd times of the day for a couple of weeks now. I’m not sure who be on the next cover. There are a few hundred photos. The photos have to have the right kind of spacing so the title works. Remember the cover for Stable Relation? Hundreds of shots there, too. Nubè was catatonic by the time I gave up.

It wasn’t my intention to use my photography at the beginning. I have friends who are professionals and I respect their work. Besides, I’m not very sophisticated. I use my phone and if I need a tripod, I use a donkey. My books are as homemade as canned beans.

I do work with a book designer in the UK; she started with the first book, Stable Relation. I gave her some random ideas–like I liked the original cover for Wild with the hiking boot. I told her the covers I liked in her portfolio, and sent a couple of “kinda like this” photos. She did six mock-up covers, five of them with commercial photos and one of my photos. I shared them around to friends for their opinions. I loved one of her ideas especially… but eventually decided on the black and white idea because the “feeling” was right. I also learned that I could disappoint people (friends) before the book even came out.

When it was time for a cover for Relaxed & Forward, I was all set to skip the group-vote folly and just use that spare cover from the first book. My designer sent me six mock-ups again, different colors and fonts on that first image, along with similar images from online photo stock. Then she pulled one of the interior chapter photos out, did a mock-up, and, well, she was right. It was perfect.

UPDATE: I’m a little over half-finished editing the final draft of Barn Dance. Then I’ll read it one more time, trying to pretend I’ve never read it before. I’ve set up the ISBN numbers for the new print and ebook, I’m wrangling interior photos, and chanting bad would-be tag lines. I have to write one small perfect paragraph describing the book, making it sound so indispensable that strangers will buy it instantly, form a cult, and send me all their goats. And then there’s the matter of the cover… I’d like Edgar Rice Burro, but he shuns the spotlight. Clearly, some of these tasks are more challenging than others. I’m hoping for a publish date in January for Barn Dance

I’ll be collecting an award at the Miami Book Fair International in mid-November. Anyone else going? There’s book shopping!

And one more time, I want to thank everyone who posted a review online, at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads. It means the world. Literally, people around the world read them. Now that you have a view inside of my fabulous publishing dynasty, it’s probably obvious that readers are my publicity budget. Thank you for poking the search engine into a grinding, squeaking rattle with the question, “Anna who?” Thank you! The reviews that slowly trickle in now are from people whose names I don’t recognize. It worked!

Now I’m down to details on the new book. Idiosyncratic editing. Numbers, dimensions, and abbreviated descriptions. I’ll head out in early light in the morning and hit the dirt again. No baby-seal-skin boots. No Lear jet warming up. And if I had an owl on my shoulder, she’d be checking my hair for mice and grubs. Romanic, isn’t it?

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Equine Pro

Going Where You’re Invited

Lately I’ve been haunted by this drumming thought: Now would be a good time to do something smart.

It doesn’t come naturally to me. To be honest, I have a tendency to do things the hard way. I spent a fair amount of time beating down doors, back in the day. If easier methods existed, they never occurred to me. For instance, I liked the idea of winning the lottery but I don’t actually believe in a free lunch, so I never bought the ticket. See what I’m working with here?

Lousy financial decisions have been a constant. Like hiring that financial planner/ex-IRS agent who helped me lose all the profit I made selling a house… to the IRS. And you wouldn’t want to take me along to buy a used truck. And oh yeah, there’s that barn full of un-rideable horses next to my house.

Maybe I got lost on the way to take the road less travelled and that has made all the difference. (Apologies, Mr. Frost.)

All of this is to say that writing a book fit perfectly into my long-term plan. First, I warmed my fingers up by blogging regularly for the last seven years. Readers came one at a time. I was a tortoise-like sensation. Then it took two years to write the first book, Stable Relation. Not a get-rich-quick scheme by any stretch of judgment.

Research told me that ninety percent of self-published books sold less than a hundred copies, but still I took the advice of two publishers and a book publicist and decided to self-publish. Hello, Prairie Moon Press.

Being the publisher meant writing press releases and blurbs. Promoting a reluctant author and entering book contests. And the biggest challenge of all: Talking good about the author in public. It’s enough anxiety to turn your tongue into a Dorito. How did someone who mucked barns and wrote every spare moment get this PR job?

It’s been fourteen months since Stable Relation came out. I’ve been making the whole thing up as I go and it’s been surreal. But is it time to let it rest? I love this book but is it over? Am I turning–even more than usual–into that balding guy rocking out in the cliché-red Corvette?

I figure just around this time my guardian angel got out of rehab.

And then Stable Relation was awarded a gold medal from the Readers’ Favorite book awards, in the Non-Fiction, Animals category.

The publisher (me) is happy because now the author (me) has the title of  Award Winning Author. I’m flattered but still more likely to come to “Hey, you!”

They hold a ceremony/mini-conference during the huge and wonderful Miami Book Fair, November 18-20th. They invited the winners to come, hobnob a bit, and perhaps snag the ear of an industry pro. And going to a book fair sounds like about as much fun as you can have without goats or donkeys. On Saturday night, there’s a formal event to present the awards. Think rhinestones on my Crocs.

Like I said, I’d really like to do something smart, if I could tell what that was. I try to keep an open mind. Life is like working with donkeys; you end up someplace else but had little control about how you got there.

So, obviously my category wasn’t the biggest, and I won’t know a soul there, and I don’t sleep well in dog-less hotel beds. But I’m going to try something out of character. If you have a history like mine and don’t know what to do next–it’s crazy notion–but maybe you try going where you’re invited.

…Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Equine Pro
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Crossing a Line, One Year Later

clara loveletterWhen I was twenty-four and just a baby goldsmith, I decided I wanted to show my one-of-a-kind jewelry in a New York gallery. Most of my friends were just out of college and I wanted to think my self-taught education was in line. I steeled my heart, borrowed a typewriter, enclosed some slides, and mailed off an inquiry to the best fine art jewelry gallery in Manhattan, located on Fifth Avenue across from MOMA.

Pigs fly; I got a positive response by return mail and then borrowed money to buy the gold and gemstones for the new pieces. A few weeks after that, I boarded a plane wearing jeans and a t-shirt, carrying a backpack with new collection of work tucked inside. Such a risk. It all felt like watching a foreign film–precarious and surreal.

I checked into the Fashion Institute Dorm, changed into a ridiculous white dress with huge shoulder pads that made me look like an aircraft carrier, and set about walking the two miles to the gallery. That way I’d have plenty of time to get up a good head of anxiety and blister a toe in my new shoes. The meeting was a blur; I remembered to shake hands when I met the gallery director. In a conference room, I pulled my work out one piece at a time and he critiqued as I went, using phrases like “negative space” and “visual tension.” All I could think was Just say it–not acceptable, you don’t need to explain how bad my work is… and then he finished with a question, “Can you leave the pieces with us today?”

The rest of the day is even more of a blur. I blistered the rest of my toes going back to the dorm; I might have skipped most of the way. When I got some of my wits back the next day, I called the gallery to thank them again and got the news that one piece had sold already.

I said the word out-loud: Artist. Calling myself that name in my basement studio was one thing, but now I’d crossed a line. Okay, skipped over it really, but it changed things. Over the next year, I had work in galleries across the country, and almost as an afterthought, my work got more popular at home. I also lost a couple of friends. They stepped away quietly but I noticed. The attempts to reconnect failed. Is there such a thing as success guilt?

Maybe you know the feeling. A dear friend plans a wedding on the heels of the worst break-up of your life. You get a promotion in your dream career when your sister is out of work. If you’re in a place of scarcity it can feel like there isn’t enough luck to go around and one person’s gain depletes your possibility. Or if you’re the one with good news, you bite your tongue because mentioning your good fortune would be like rubbing salt in the their wound. Most of us have been in a place where it takes as much courage to say congratulations as it does to put on the white dress.

A year ago, I crossed another line. I went from writing endlessly in a little studio to holding an actual physical copy of my memoir, Stable Relation, in my hand. When I exposed it to the world, and I exposed myself as well. It took Zen-like focus and wild audacity. I knew a hard reckoning would come. On the high side, no silly white dress.

Writing is like constructing Frankenstein. Playing god with an 80,000 word manuscript, and when it’s finally done, being brought to your knees, trying to wrestle five words into a byline. It’s a hope that your words will catch the wind and at the same time, the profound understanding that you are less than a fleck of dust in this big, complicated world. It’s yelling, “Hey, look at me!” and knowing that your underwear is on your head.

And then, I saw a photo online of my book on someone else’s tablecloth and my mind imploded. In the next few days, more readers posted photos of the book and Stable Relation became my traveling gnome. I was over the moon. I was hiding under my bed.

Reviews started coming in and most were positive. People commonly said that they couldn’t put the book down; they’d finished it without taking a breath. Where’s the next book?

Wait! This literary “snack” had taken me two and a half years to write, a few thousand dollars, and a serious time commitment every single day since. What’s the word for simultaneously choking and laugh-howling with horror?

A year later, this is what I notice: I can laugh without choking again. My list of improbable things has been severely edited and my battered confidence is standing steady. I’m word-fearless and inspired to write stronger every day. I even dabble in poetry; fearless I tell you!

I’ve received heartfelt emails from kindred spirits in other countries, made friends with people I’m in awe of, and my rural mail-carrier told me her mother loved my book.

Now and then, I notice something missing. Someone missing. I don’t need a parade but those who have remained silent are noticed. I hope they’re well. What does it mean when we choose to miss events in our friends lives? When we don’t acknowledge passages like divorces or children born or new paths taken? Have I offended them? Could it be that our emotional landscapes at odds with each other?

I spend so much of time trying to be a human thesaurus, always searching for the right words to understand these inexplicable contradictions. All the while I’m painfully aware that I can’t control how those same words will be heard…in my writing or in my life.

In the end, maybe assuming good intention is a more productive use of energy than doubting motives. Change has an ironic sense of humor and we might do better to smile and act like we’re in on the joke, even in hard times. The other word for that is grace.

To my blog readers here, I’ve used this space to transition myself into my new surroundings. It’s been the place where I confess my dreams and my shortcomings. I wander around in old pajamas and spill coffee on my keyboard. Mainly I sit in slack-jawed amazement, balanced between wild joy and abject dread. If you have been with me here from the start, what tolerance you’ve shown. I’m sure I haven’t thanked you enough. I’m equally sure you can’t know how much your support has carried me. It’s been the very best part.

Thank you. Big. Always.

 

I Quack at Tweeting.

Tami'sTHEY” tell authors we need a platform. That we can’t get published without one. At the same time I think there might be a rule among writers that it’s cool to hate social media. #iamanartist

“It just takes too much time.” On the rare occasion that I get in a room with other writers, no one wants to have a blog because it’s time-consuming, frustrating work, and then they have to promote it on social media. After five and a half years of actively blogging, I totally agree. I’d even add that you don’t make a dime. On the other hand, it is where actual readers hang out.  #writerswrite #bitingthehandthatfeedsyou

I get defensive in those writer meetings. I like social media. #contraryasagoat

I’m a board member of Horse Advocates of Colorado. We formed, put up a page on Facebook, and had over six hundred followers within a week. Now we are over a thousand members strong and those likes get us into welfare meetings that matter. The legal system knows us and the local horse community can stay informed. I blog for them; it’s time-consuming and unpaid. And it makes a difference. #blogyourpolitics #dogooder

Social media is what you make of it. You can complain about your spouse, take selfies all day, or show us your shoes. #selfobscesseddweeb  Or you can get a kind reminder that your friends care about you on your birthday or when you lose a pet. #notalone #loveyou

We do have freedom of speech in this country and the responsibility of keeping the conversation worthwhile is up to each individual. #oldschoolgoldenrule #hatersgottahate

I rock on Facebook. I’ve found a supportive community that cares about what I care about. I write a blog horses and barn life; it has a sense of humor and a big heart. I try to make words matter; I try to explain things that are hard to explain. #horsesareaparable #bittersweet

It takes courage to hit the publish button each blog post–still now–so many posts later. And the same bravery again for the share button on Facebook. Posts were soundly ignored for the first few years; some go viral now.  #whocareswhatyouthink  #doitanyway

Are you one of the people I’ve been rude to on Twitter? I may imitate cool on Facebook (#geniusinherownmind) but Twitter kills me. I look away and hit the auto-post button. I hate those crazy-weird shortened URLs and abbreviated words hurt my ears. #wouldbeenglishmajor #socialmediasnob

But a writer/friend in Austin, Jann, suggested I up my Twitter-self. She says the writers there are positive and supportive. She was right. @annablake got a new photo and new blurb. #reluctantsuccess  #tryingthankstoJann

Then the real challenge; it’s a different language. Jann gave me some pointers and then started tweeting about my book. #reallifedemonstration  I had no idea what to do next–what if what I did was arrogant or lame. So I stared at the page. And stared some more. #flopsweat

Then I followed a couple of re-tweeters. And I thanked one of them. The staring continued. It’s the hashtags that baffle me the most. Can you tell? Some connect you to people (I think) and some are red herrings. Can any of you help me with this? Seriously, in the comments please.  #twitterfordumbies  #amIbeingobtuse #talkdowntome

WEEKLY UPDATE: book sales trickle in and the promoting continues. Stable Relation has been out for two months. If it had been published traditionally, the publisher would back off now, in favor of newer books. It hasn’t been enough time so I’m talking to the library about buying Stable Relation and I’ve enrolled in their local author program. The first book talks were so fun, that I’m looking for more public speaking opportunities.

I am being redundant, but here is where I ask again; please write a review, just a few words when you have a moment, to post to Amazon, Good Reads and Barnes and Noble. It keeps Stable Relation alive in the search engines; it gives it a bit of weight when promoting the book.

There is a book giveaway at Goodreads, (here,scroll down a bit). It’s a dozen signed copies; you should enter. It’s another way I can thank you.

Most of all, thank you, for reading it in the first place and then following this road with me. Knowing that we are all part of a bigger herd is the best part of the journey. #happytrails #graditudeincapitalletters #itsalongandwindingroad

I did hear back from the tweeter that I thanked. At first I didn’t think there was a messaged, just a garbled short link. So I added a squink to my usual stare, and that’s when I found the message: YW.  I had to look it up.

Yodeling, Yapping, and Ya-hoodling: A Book Trailer.

melaniesuebowlesIf you follow my farm blog, you know about the Corgi Men. There’s Walter who came from a rescue in Wyoming, along with a warning that he had no inside voice and wasn’t afraid to use it. And Preacher Man, from Texas. Preacher was named for a condition discovered on the way to the rescue from the dog pound…it seems he liked the sound of his own voice just a bit too much. Since when is it a crime to communicate bluntly and honestly? Since when is that a bad thing–I ask in a surly growl?

Walter has a grumpy old bass voice, like somebody’s weird uncle who is always muttering about something just under his breath, until it percolates up to a full rib-spreading bark–an operatic bark. Preacher Man has a high, staccato Irish tenor of a bark. Like glass shattering; like an ambulance howl.

I don’t turn a deaf ear to their outlandish barking. Friends are getting used to it; or maybe losing hearing in certain ranges. It’s like they say, we have freedom of speech in this country, but it comes with a price.

Why brag on about corgis caterwauling day and night? With a shrill yap, short gray hair, and a bunion, I have joined their ranks. It’s all I ever do, like a corgi in a cat house, I ya-hoodle on and on about this book. You can’t shut me up.

Please buy it. Now’s a good time; Amazon has it marked down. Maybe they’ve given up on me already, but it’s a few dollars cheaper now. If you’ve already read it, please consider leaving a review at Amazon, Goodreads, and/or Barnes and Noble. It only takes a minute to jot down a few words, but the difference on this side is huge. I’d appreciate it–and I say that in the heartfelt tone that Walter uses when it’s pizza night.

WEEKLY UPDATE: Stable Relation has been out just less than a month. This week 31 books sold, taking the total to 319. It’s a strong number for a dark horse like us, but barely a raindrop in the ocean. (Our Amazon rank is 24,325.) Three book talks are in the works and I’m hoping for more. And everyday I get comments and emails that let me know this book has struck a chord with a wide range of people. I am very grateful, thank you for reading and recommending it.

And because I am a woof-tastic, yodel-ific corgi for PR work, (it isn’t a lie so much as an affirmation) I’ve followed the “I’ll do it myself” tradition and made a book trailer. It was totally within my publicity budget, by the way. What do you think?

Stable Relation Book Trailer

Living with Animals: That “Crazy” Title

Christine's dogs.Before moving to the farm, I always had dogs and cats, and usually a bird or two, pushing the legal limit for city dwellers. I planned my life around them: my apartments were pretty marginal, because those were the ones that allowed pets and the dogs needed a yard. I came straight home after work for our supper. My dogs walked me into a good sleep at night. I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t paying off a vet bill on a charge card and I can’t remember a time that sitting on the couch didn’t involve a pile of animals on top of me. Even as close as we all were, I never referred to myself as a pet mom or dad. If you do, that’s wonderful. For me, it always felt a bit like an insult. To them.

It was easy to plan my social life. If my dogs weren’t welcome, I didn’t go. Sure, it was a problem for some people–relatives mainly. Still, no regrets. Families shouldn’t be run like country clubs.

Once I moved to the farm and the horses were settled, more animals arrived pretty quickly. Llamas and goats and who can possibly survive without at least one donkey? When friends looked at the herd quizzically, I reminded them that I didn’t move to the country so I could read more. One day a friend shook her head and said, “What is it, Anna? Is it just that there’s no one here to tell you no?”

That’s when it dawned on me. Exactly. There was something about living here that gave me permission to just stop feeling the rub of judgement–that it was a waste of money and my meager resources. When I was younger, it came with the kid-guilt component–having animals was less worthy. Less respectable.  Other times I was told I’d never have a relationship because animals made me unattractive. Ridiculous. It’s the exact opposite. Animals open doors to a better class of people who are open-minded, compassionate, and of course, required to have a sense of humor.

Here is the question: Is there some age-related moratorium on name-calling for life choices? Some arbitrary age when people give up the idea that animals are a silly pastime that we will eventually outgrow? During the gay marriage debate, one conservative pundit whined that soon we would be marrying our dogs. What rock has he been living under?

Society has names for people like us: a horse-crazy woman. A crazy cat lady. Or maybe it’s silent–that look you get for liking dogs just a little too much. And there’s a shaming that goes with the title, sometimes overt and sometimes subtle. You’re discounted. You’re playing for the wrong team. And you’re an inconvenience because of it.

One of my goals with this book was to maybe better define that “crazy” title a bit by putting words to the qualities we see in animal companions. For some of us, finding trust with animals the very best choice available. It’s not about avoidance; animals attract us to a place that feels inclusive and safe when we get lost. It’s why animal therapy is so effective. They offer us, both men and women, a bit of humanity on the path back to our own species. In the end, it doesn’t matter why we brought animals into the central place in our lives originally. We’re too busy basking in the richness of the multi-species experience to worry about what visitors think about a bowl of cats as a centerpiece on the table.

WEEKLY UPDATE: So far 288 paperbacks have sold in three weeks since the release, thank you very much. Not counting ebooks, because somehow they take 60-90 days to count. The book is finally available in foreign countries from your national Amazon without astronomical shipping costs or long wait times (ironically from a not-Amazon distributor). I have an upcoming media interview, if all goes well, and an invitation to speak about animal welfare (and the book) next month. The Book Talk in Denver is August 7th, please join us. I’m working on a local book talk if there’s interest. And I am still sending out signed Thank-you-bookmarks, if you’d like one. For more information on any of this, or if you have any PR ideas for me, use the contact link at the top of the page. And thank you.

Just between us, I find my new part-time marketing job a bit stressful and confusing but I won’t stop now.  I still need your help. I fear I’m coming near the end of my reach and soon the book will sink like a rock, so I ask again… Please leave a review, even one word, to keep the book in the rankings. Please tell your friends, even those without fur family. If there is a group that you influence, consider suggesting Stable Relation there. If this story touched you, please keep it going. If you have been rescued by an animal, or misunderstood for loving them, this is one way to pay it forward.

Do you walk a tight rope because some members of your family have too much hair? Does your human family roll their eyes behind your back, wishing that you would do something normal–like join Scientology or at the very least, invest in a lint brush? Well, be patient with them because there truly is something we know that they don’t. Thankfully.

STABLE RELATION is available at all online books sources, including Amazon (here).

The Runaway Book Launch.

bhimedgarjump 008 (640x372)I had a plan. Not that it matters, but I did.

Every time I arrive to give a riding lesson or work a horse, I think it out and I have a plan. Then the horse has input to consider. Then the rider. I think I stick to my original plan a solid 10% of the time.

Getting my memoir ready was no different. It was like loading the starting gate at a horse race. There is the eBook from BookBaby. They do the best distribution and take the lowest commission. Then the Ingram Spark print version that will be available at Barnes and Noble and other online stores, and is also the best for international distribution. And finally Amazon. They are the undeniable elephant in the room that I can’t ignore, but the rest of the book world thinks they are trying to monopolize the industry. Come to think of it, I agree. So I was gingerly loading all these horses who don’t like each other much into the starting gate, trying to get a safe, smart launch for my book… when Amazon broke and bolted. It was a clean runaway.

I could stomp my foot and complain, but I think I have to try to catch up as quickly as I can and pretend it was my idea all along.

Stable_Relation_3D_Cover[1]The details: It will soon be available on all other online vendors, both paperback and ebook formats. If you want the book fast, it’s Amazon (link here), and order away. It’ll come fast. Within the next week, the ebook will be there as well, but it isn’t right now. And eventually  both versions will trickle down to everywhere else… If you are confused, I understand, and if you have a question, contact me with the link at the top of the page.

And in the end, writing and riding are again more similar than not. Have a plan, be prepared to change that plan, as a matter of course, but then tuck it all away and be alive in the moment. Stable Relation has launched, it’s up to the words now. Run fast and true.

Let me know what you think. I know not everyone will like it, and I want to hear those comments, too. Be as honest as a horse and I will respect you just that well.

Thanks, everyone, for your wild, door-rushing sprint to order. It has turned this runaway into a joy ride!