I must admit I got a little teary-eyed just now. My wonderful husband and I have been hitting it so hard, trying to get my stories out into the world. I also work full-time in addition to my other responsibilities. It can be very hard to find the time, energy, and finances to continue pursuing my dream.
To compound the difficulty, think about how hard it is to get noticed as an unknown author. Millions of books are competing for the same space, and it seems everything is stacked against us. Not only must an author find time to write – they also must promote their books in an attempt to rise above the crowd.
I am blessed with the ability to create my own graphics for my advertising efforts (I have a terrific graphic artist who does my book covers, so I have a great foundation to work with) and I am also able to make my own website. I save a tremendous amount of money by doing it all myself, but it takes more time – time away from writing.
Let’s take a quick look at advertising. Both Amazon and Facebook are platforms that facilitate advertising campaigns – but they are convoluted and are constantly changing. Worst of all, they both follow a model I find disheartening – “pay per click.” Authors are competing against one another for views and that drives the price of each click upward, and it is the platform that profits the most. Just because someone clicks on your “Shop Now” button, taking them to your Amazon page, is no guarantee they will purchase your book. People often click to find out more about a product, not necessarily with the intent to buy. This paradigm makes it difficult to just break even, when the profit margin for books is so small. And while I don’t believe AI will threaten well-crafted stories – it will add to the marketplace clutter – which will in turn most likely increase advertising costs.
So why did I get teary-eyed? Is it because of what I just shared with you? While that is a source of frustration that caused my stomach to clench last night as I was reflecting on my author journey and feeling very discouraged – that isn’t the reason behind my tears. I was on LinkedIn today (which is the least likely platform for advertising a book) and I noticed someone I had recently met at the International Space Development Conference who “liked” my post advertising my book – in other words – who was publicly showing their support.
That simple gesture reminded me of what a fantastic journey I have been on and who I have met, all because I am working hard at promoting my books. It reminded me of the encouragement I have received from so many people and the friends that I have made along the way. Just last night I had a Facebook conversation with someone on one of our city’s community pages. I have never met this person, yet they went out of their way to publicly praise my writing and encourage me in my efforts.
Looking at that “like” on LinkedIn today reminded me that my success as a writer is not about my sales or Amazon rank. Yes, I am working hard toward getting my stories out into the world,but the true measure of my success is wrapped up in the intangibles of having a positive impact on my readers through my stories, and the people I am blessed to meet along the way. I am very grateful for their support and friendship, and I’m much richer for it.
My husband Phil and I had a wonderful time at the International Space Development Conference (hosted by the National Space Society), where we met so many amazing people from around the world who share a common love for all things space and the betterment of humanity through space exploration. We had an exhibitor table for my books and as both an engineer and an author, I am grateful I was given the opportunity to speak and share my passion for how science fiction serves to stir us to imagine the possibilities about the future. Science fiction has influenced so many to enter scientific or engineering occupations and invent what was once regarded as fantasy.
Seeing all of the young people attending from other countries because they did research projects in line with space exploration was fun and it was also exciting to see their interest in STEM. The picture at the top of this blog post is of the Space Settlement Contest Grand Prize winners. You can also check out their model entry below:
Students from around the world made posters of their projects and we attended their presentations where they explained what their project was about. The projects ranged from living in space (with well-constructed means of providing for all of the needs people living there would require), to asteroid mining, and farming in space. Their projects showed both technical savvy and creativity. The students had the opportunity to show off their soft skills while they explained their research and they all did a great job.
I had several special moments with various groups of young people. Some boys from Romania were talking among themselves as they dropped a water bottle accidentally and one of them kicked it. It went towards the direction of our exhibitor table and I could tell by the boys’ expressions that they thought I would be getting on to them about it. Instead, I came from around my table and kicked it back to them and signaled for them to kick it back. In the middle of the space conference foyer, I had a impromptu game of soccer with a group of boys and the smiles and laughter were universal – although the game ended abruptly when one of the conference officials spotted our shenanigans and shut us down 🙂
We had a raffle every day and the students who won were so excited! The prize was an artsy canvas depicting Kepler-186f, which is the planet that the aliens are from in my science fiction novel, Alien Neighbors. One of our winners gave us some cute buttons she made to remember her by – which we will always treasure.
As I walked about the conference foyer that ran along the front of all of the session rooms, I waved and smiled and got many smiles and waves in return. Many of the young people came to our exhibitor table to say hello and we made many new friends among the adult conference attendees, fellow exhibitors and presenters, and students, throughout the four days.
I am so excited that I also got to meet one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Pascal Lee, and I was very honored that he wanted a signed copy of my science fiction novel, Alien Neighbors. Not only is he an amazing planetary scientist – he is also a talented artist and even more – he is a super nice guy. Celebrities are typically swarmed by people while also prepping for their presentations which has to be stressful, yet he still paused in the midst of it all to encourage me. Isaac Arthur, the president of the National Space Society, dropped by our table to say hello and chat a bit. We had a delightful conversation about the impact of science fiction on science. We got to know a fellow author named Alastair Storm Browne who has written a really good book, Cosmic Careers. His book was perfect for this conference, since there were so many young people attending interested in space careers.
The icing on the cake for me occurred in the afternoon of the last day. I got to meet Col. Eileen M. Collins. Among her many achievements, she is the first American woman to command a space mission, as well as the first to pilot the space shuttle. She shares her life story in a terrific book called Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars (which I got signed – Yay!) She graciously accepted a signed copy of Alien Neighbors in return 🙂 She made me feel truly valued during our brief chat – something I will always remember and cherish.
While we went to the conference intending to sell my books (and we did sell some – Yay!), something even better happened. We met some incredible people and made new friends, we learned a lot about space exploration and what is currently being developed, and we were also blessed to be able to encourage many of the next generation of scientists and engineers. Special thanks to my incredible, handsome husband Phil – I couldn’t do what I do without his love and help – and to Ken Ruffin and the North Texas Chapter of the NSS for their encouragement and support – it was an experience we will never forget!
From the beloved poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” more commonly known as “Twas The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clark Moore: “The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…”
That was me this morning…but rather than sugar-plums, it was my latest novel, Sword of Fate, that danced in my head. I am so excited about my latest literary effort for many reasons. Ultimately, I think it is a fun story with great themes. Who wouldn’t love a fantasy tale with dragons and flutebirds and a shapeshifting hero that must overcome his own fears, if he is to succeed in overthrowing the evil usurper? But what kept me up in the wee hours today was thinking about the backstory.
I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a writer. Other people also knew and towards that goal, I received an electric typewriter as a birthday gift. For the early 80’s, the technology was amazing! I used to joke it would do everything including write the book for you and take it to the post office. Back then, authors would mail their typewritten manuscripts to a publisher in hopes of it making its way out of the slush pile (upon completing your manuscript, you put it in a large manila envelope along with another one tucked inside addressed to yourself with adequate postage so you could get it back) and waited the requisite several weeks for a reply.
During that time I worked at a grocery store. I was in charge of the camera department (remember when we used to use analog film that had to be taken to the store to be developed?) and my department had small TVs, clock radios, Seiko and Timex watches (and the tool to replace watch batteries for customers), a machine to make copies of keys, books and magazine racks, VHS and Beta movie rentals, and cigarettes – all captured within a 400 square foot space. When I got off work, I would drive through a nearby McDonald’s, get a six pack chicken nuggets and a chocolate ice cream cone (I was much younger and could eat anything), then drove a few blocks further to a pet shop where I worked a couple of hours showing critters to customers or catching and bagging tropical fish, running the cash register, and using a pricing gun to mark items and stock them on the shelves. So what does all of that have to do with Sword of Fate you might ask?
After getting off work at the pet shop, I would jump back in my car and head a couple of miles over to a gas station/mechanic shop a few miles down the road. My husband at the time worked for Exxon, and since we lived about 20 miles away and shared one car – I had to wait for him to get off work before we could head home. He often worked into the late evening. The manager of the Exxon was kind enough to allow me to keep my typewriter in his office and it was while waiting for my husband to get off work that the first draft of Sword of Fate was written.
Naive as I was at the time (along with a woeful lack of resources for a fledgling writer in the early 1980s) I believed that finishing a first draft meant I had written a saleable book. I broke our household budget by purchasing a Writer’s Market and with a hopeful heart mailed Sword of Fate to one of the publishers I found within its pages. Several weeks passed and I eventually received Sword of Fate back from the publisher with a polite rejection letter. By that time, I had quit both of my jobs at the grocery store and pet shop, to go back to school at a local college, DeVry Institute of Technology. The program was intense (an Associate of Applied Science in Electronics in eighteen months) and so I left my writing days behind me. I graduated and eventually became a test engineer in the semiconductor industry. But I kept that manila envelope that held my first draft of Sword of Fate with me all of those years. It miraculously stayed among my possessions through many life changes and moves (I still wish I could find my letter jacket in soccer from my old high school!).
Fast forward to 2019. The desire to write had never left and I decided to start a writer’s group. You can read about the Carrollton League of Writers here. I had returned to writing briefly in the mid 1990s and had a science fiction project I began right before my son was born. Motherhood consumed the majority of my time and it stayed on the back burner until five years ago. That book some of you have read – Alien Neighbors, which I launched in November of 2021. While trying to decide on my next project, I looked for my old manuscript to see if it was worth resurrecting. What a great time I had going down memory lane – carefully pulling it out of that old manila envelope and thumbing through its typewritten pages! One of the funnest things for a writer is to go back and read something they’ve written many years prior and think, “Wow, that’s pretty good!” Although I knew I would need to bring it forward to my current level of writing, I was delighted with what I read.
The image above is from the original copy I hauled around all of those years. Note the yellowed appearance – the paper was white when I first drew that map. So what do I do with a thick manuscript of partially faded ink? How do I get that into a usable format in Word for revision and editing? The thought of having to type the entire manuscript into Word was daunting. Thank God for optical scanners! An optical scanner is different from a regular scanner which simply creates a “picture” of what is being scanned. An optical scanner converts what is being scanned into a document that can be edited, like any other Word document. I purchased the most inexpensive one I could find and every day I would scan a few pages at a time until the entire manuscript was in Word in a format that I could edit.
Now that I had a manuscript in Word, my next step was to go through it and determine how much work it needed. Did it follow the three-act structure? Did it have appropriate pinch points? Was the prose both creative and tight with appropriate imagery and world building? Is the plot as engaging now as it was back then? So many questions!
Time to get to work. Print out a copy to mark up (I like to do my initial rounds of revisions on paper with a red pen) and start the revision process. Incorporate my edits into the manuscript. Ask for feedback from friends. Rinse and Repeat through several iterations. And now…we are close! Time to hire a professional cover designer and professional editor. Keep moving forward – working with both to fulfill my vision for both cover and text. And that is where we are today 😊
I hope you enjoyed learning about the creation backstory and you are as excited as I am about Sword of Fate’s launch into the world (tentatively set for April 24th).
We are made to be community. It is obvious that we are when we reflect upon the longings that each of us have to belong. It is especially evident in the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Knowing that we are made in God’s image makes it not surprising that we also want to be in fellowship with others. What does that look like? We love being in the community of our family. We keep in touch with each other even though we live apart. We share each other’s concerns, we celebrate each other’s joys, and we pray for one another. Friends are an extension of family. Indeed, friends are the family we choose. Being in community with friends brings the same obligation as family – concern for each other’s well-being. Often times we find friendship with people who share common interests and that is another way that we enter community. That might mean riding horses together, or attending a Bible study, or riding bicycles on the trails in our city. Perhaps being part of a group such as a writers group.
And then we have the community of our community. It is such a blessing to be able to walk into our dental office and be recognized and greeted by name, and asked how our son is doing. We know when we bring our car to our local mechanic shop, the owner will take a personal interest in making sure that our car is fixed and stop to chat. He even made the hour drive to our wedding vow renewal on horseback (a story for another time). It could be chatting with your favorite checker at Walmart or greeting the person at the drive-thru you frequent. Or striking up a conversation with your server at your favorite restaurant. The possibilities are endless and only limited by your willingness to extend the hand of friendship to those you meet throughout your day. What a wonderful blessing to be able to walk into different businesses around the community and just like the song from the television show “Cheers” – Everyone knows your name – and just as important – You know theirs…
I think the relationship must be reciprocal for it to be the beautiful thing true community can be. Phil and I have lived here a long time and when we talk about perhaps moving someplace else someday, we always struggle because of the community that we are so blessed to be a part of. If you aren’t in a community of your own right now, I want to encourage you to start seeking out people in your life that you can encourage and they can encourage you. It all starts with a smile and a simple offer of friendship. You can even invite that solitary diner sitting across the room in the restaurant who looks a bit lonely to join you at your table – you never know – that may be the start of a beautiful relationship.
How are some ways to build community within your own spheres of influence? Lots of people around us work in service industries, but they don’t have to remain nameless to us when they serve us. We can inquire as to their name, ask how their families are doing and if they’re in school or what their hobbies are. We can express our gratitude for their service. It’s good to remember that people are always the most important and no matter where you find yourself, you can find community. It’s also good to remember that you don’t need to seek out people that are exactly like you – reaching out to those who are different is sure to add a beautiful dimension to your life that you have not previously experienced – and you don’t have to compromise your own personal beliefs and values to open your hearts and minds to others. And if you are already in a vibrant community – invite others to join in.
I hope you Choose TO BE IN Community – We have so much to learn fROm one another and youR Life AND THE LIVes YOU TOUCH will be so much richer for it!
Having worked on my science fiction novel for about five years (more if you count when I first conceived it, but put it aside after three chapters to focus on motherhood) and to come to this moment of time when it will be officially launched for the world to enjoy, can only be described as amazing and marvelous – amazing I managed to get to this point and marvelous because I got to this point. All of the hard work has come to fruition and I am about to launch Alien Neighbors into the world!
Publishing a book is a long and arduous process. After you finish the writing, the next phase begins – preparing to market your book. Reviews are so important to selling books and NetGalley is a platform that many traditional and indie publishers use to garner reviews. The idea is that ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) are made available to registered members for free in exchange for honest reviews. As you can well imagine, this can be a scary process viewed with some trepidation by the author. I am so excited to share we got our first review. Somehow, getting this review from a complete stranger, has brought me a wonderful sense of affirmation and joy.
Tomorrow is the Official Launch Day – the culmination of my dream to publish a science fiction novel that began as just an idea after reading an article in 2000. I am going to share parts of that journey in future blog posts, but in the mean time, my Book Launch Buzz video will give you a general idea of the story behind Alien Neighbors and what it means to me.