Friday, June 23, 2017

Oh Cease With The Shaming Of Self-Published Authors! Jeez, People Can Be So Darn Rude!

Dear Lit Loves,

Greetings!  Well, all my readers probably knew this blog post was coming, eventually.  I swear if I have one more individual tell me that I am not a "real author" because I self-published my own damn book, I may go half-ass crazy!  Honestly, there is already so much vitriol in the world right now, why add to it?  Are you that desperate to make yourself feel like the almighty powerful god that you think you are while you diss the rest of us like heathens?!!  Puuhhlleese!  

When I first started writing my first book, Brave Soul Rising, I knew it wasn't going to be easy for an unknown southern gal with a background of teaching language arts and social studies to obtain an agent much less a book deal.  I mean, I don't live in the land of lollipops and princesses, okay?  But Lord have mercy, when I completed the manuscript and began submitting the first fifty pages and a book proposal to literary agents, I honestly bought a huge plastic binder and just started stockpiling rejection letters.  Seriously, Stephen King has nothing on me when it comes to rejection letters.  I finally started a system of tabs in the binder according to what I thought of either the agent's email or printed rejection of my manuscript and book proposal.  The tabs went something like this:  Inept/Snarly Agents; Rude/Potentially Anal-Retentive Agents;  Delusional Agents (no idea what kind of book they are looking for); Abominable Witch/Warlock Agents (just plain nasty); and finally, Nonexistent Agents (never knew what they thought of my work because I never heard from them, ever).  Good Lord, People!  I spent five years trying to obtain a literary agent and each year while I was querying agents, I wrote another manuscript for heaven's sake!  The cherry on top of the icing on the cake came when some agents would also basically instruct me that if I ever self-published, he/she/they would no longer consider my work or accept me as a client.  Lord, who needs demented extended family members when you've got people like this replying to you on a weekly basis?!!  Frankly, I just gave up on the whole notion of me and a literary agent ever being on the same page much less doing business together.  Talk about feeling like you are dirt stuck to someone's shoe.  So when I decided to self-publish I felt like I had stuck my tongue out, cried "Na Na Na Na Na Nah", and thanked Mother Mary for blessing the earth with Jeff Bezos!

And next I found myself at a book club presentation.  I had been invited to come and speak about my book to about 30+ people and sign books after the program.  Would you not know that a couple who had not bothered to even attend the program, entered the room afterward, came to the table to chat with me, and the man actually said to me, "Well, we didn't bother to come to the presentation.  I mean, your self-published, right?  So you aren't a real writer or author or anything."  And what he didn't know was that his wife had just chatted with me that she had been writing her own memoir and wanted to have it published.....somehow.  Other than the fact that my husband was standing in between us, I don't know what stopped me from lambasting the male fool.  I mean, the audacity just makes my blood boil at times! 

Upon making another book club presentation, I was introduced by the club's leader in a quite facetious manner as a major, bestselling author who has sold millions upon millions of books.  I stood from my chair, walked to the podium mic, and said, "Well, now let me tell you the honest to goodness real truth of the matter."  This brought the house down if you know what I mean.  I do not relate well to individuals who appear to get their jollies by taking demeaning shots at me because I self-published a book.  Hey, John Grisham once sold his first book right out of the trunk of his car!  Quite honestly, if you take a below the belt shot at me when I am there to speak on my own time and money, I will throw smack back at you at the rate Rafael Nadal serves when playing tennis.  Are we on the same page now, brothers and sisters?!!  Damn straight. 

I guess one of the biggest disappointments as a self-published author was when southern independent bookstores would not stock my book because I published through Amazon.  Or I would have to "apply" to have my book potentially stocked at their store and that was only if the owners felt my book was up to par.  And some of these same booksellers wanted me to stock their stores with the book on my own dime and time, only offer me a pittance of the sale price of the book, relieve them of any books that were not sold, and sign a contract that I would abide by these rules.  It was like I was trying to apply to med school at Duke University or something.  I kept asking these booksellers, "Do you make other authors published by Random House, Simon and Schuster, etc. jump through all these hoops??" I usually never received a response to the question or if I did receive a response it was, "No, we do not take this route with traditionally published authors."  So doesn't that constitute a form of discrimination would be my next inquiry to which not one bookseller responded, period. 

So you know what I did?  I read a quote by one of my favorite actresses, Meryl Streep, and I placed that quote in a prominent position in my home office.  It reads, "What Makes You Different Or Weird, That's Your Strength." And I self-published my memoir.  If that makes me be classified as unique, resistant, or rebellious in getting my work out in the world, well, so damn well be it!!


Rock on self-published authors,

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Dear Daddy, I Miss You Greatly

Dear Lit Loves,

Around this time in June it becomes difficult for me to handle all the Father's Day hoopla because two years ago today my mom, brother, and I had to make the very difficult decision of moving my dad to a Hospice facility.  He had battled lymphoma for twelve years and my knees almost buckled when the ICU physician at a local hospital decided to deliver the news to me that there was nothing more the specialists could do to save my dad.  Somehow I had to find a way to break the news to my mother who would then break the news to my brother.  I was fine until I went to the hospital cafeteria to get lunch that day and lost it when the cafeteria lady asked me how I was doing that day.  She had seen me almost daily for three weeks as my dad attempted to recover from pneumonia, a collapsed lung, fatigue/extreme weakness, and heart issues.  When this friendly cafeteria worker asked me how  was doing on that particular day, I lost it and told her I just got informed my dad was going to die and I think I might die right along with him.  I was so distraught I left my tray of food on the counter and walked to a corner booth in the cafeteria, faced a wall, and just sobbed.  I had already lost weight, lost my appetite, and now I was losing my dad far too early in life.  That same cafeteria lady stopped what she was doing, picked up my food tray, came over to the booth where I was sitting, hugged me, told me she was so sorry, and not to worry about paying for my lunch as she was taking care of it.  She realized before I did that I didn't have any eating utensils, napkins, etc. and went to get them for me. God Bless That Lady.

I took my mom to a private area in the hospital to explain what the ICU doctors had told me regarding dad's condition.  She thought he was just going to have to go to a nursing home.  Like me, she was not anticipating we were going to be told he only had a matter of days to live.  I remember us both sitting there side by side just numb to the bone.  Between mom, me, and my brother, we had essentially been by dad's side non-stop since he was admitted to the hospital.  A few folks came by mostly for social visits I think, but I know we didn't call anyone and ask for help much less think anyone owed us any help.  The four members of our immediate family were pretty much battled-hardened when it came to cancer and care-giving.  When the paramedics arrived to escort dad over to Hospice via ambulance, I remember him asking, "Is this my last stop?"  He left his hospital room with the television still tuned to an Atlanta Braves game. 

By the next morning after dad had been at Hospice for half an afternoon and evening, my husband and I were called to Hospice at three in the morning as dad was exhibiting signs of nearing the end of life.  When we arrived, I just took a seat next to dad on his right side, picked up his hand, and held it while my mom was doing the same on the left side of his Hospice bed.  Sometime between five forty-five and six in the morning, I realized I could no longer feel dad's pulse in his wrist though he hadn't let go of my hand. I kept pressing on his wrist to find a pulse and there wasn't one to find.   I said to mom, "I can't feel his pulse."  We both listened and checked for breathing and there was none so we had the nurse summoned.  When the Hospice nurse arrived, she verified what we already knew. Dad was gone.  His body was still there, but his essence was traveling on to his next journey.  One of us opened the patio door off dad's room as we didn't want his spirit trapped in the room and we wanted to let some fresh air in the room.  We remained with dad and Hospice shut all the doors leading to dad's room as they do whenever any patient passes.  It's a moment of respect, realization, and privacy for the family.

I know I didn't sleep again until days after dad's funeral.    I had located a picture of he and I when I was about two years of age and he was holding me on the sidewalk in front of our house right before going to church.  I still have that picture in my purse today.  I still have the last letters my dad wrote me in an envelope inside my purse.  I still have the last card he sent me in my purse as well.  Even if I get a new purse, I place all those documents in the inside zippered pocket of the purse just because it's comforting to have them with me. 

They don't make dads like mine anymore.  And I can't shop anywhere around Father's Day for fear of how debilitating the sorrow is when I realize I'll never get to buy my dad another Father's Day card or gift.  And to this day I can still be driving in my Mustang, pass a man in a convertible Miata, and I'll say aloud, "Hey dad.  I miss you too."  It's my way of hoping that he is sending me a sign that he is still with me.  So right now, I am going to list some but certainly not all of the moments I carry with me today that remind me of what a one of a kind dad I was blessed with for forty-six years.

1)  The first memory I have of my dad is him getting the backyard of our home ready for my birthday party which included a cookout along with cake and ice cream.  There was a picnic table set up and decorated. I was sporting my red, white, and blue shorts and top with a fringe of blonde hair.  Dad did the cooking and I had a blast.  I don't remember how old I was at the time, but man, he knew how to help throw a young daughter a grand birthday party.

2)  I remember dad helping me learn how to ride my first red and white tricycle.  It had streamers on the handlebars and I had a license plate with my name on it and also the state of North Carolina. 

3)  When I was in a private Kindergarten, once or twice a month on Fridays dad would pick me up and we would go have a Happy Meal together at McDonalds.  He had his own Happy Meal right along with me.

4)  Dad accompanied me to all my elementary school Halloween carnivals and volunteered to work at many of them as well.  He was just as much a kid at heart as the rest of me and my comrades.

5)    My dad gave me permission to stand up and confront a bully.  And man did I ever have one in the form of a girl who lived on the street behind us.  She absolutely hated me and I had no idea why.  Dad gave me permission that if she hit me I could rare back and bust her wide in self-defense.  He said if I got in trouble he would inform the principal in her office he had given me permission to defend myself.  Little did I know my dad and his younger brother helped a friend of dad's who was being bullied in school.  The bullies threatened to beat the guy to a pulp.  Not when my dad, his brother, and dad's friend all showed up to deal with them fair and square. 

6)  My dad took me to professional wrestling matches.  Usually halfway through the program, he was standing up screaming right along with me.  It was a great way to blow off steam let me tell you.

7)  Dad had me called out of my Algebra 3 class to inform me during my senior year of high school that I was going to be driving an '81 Camaro to college during my first year.  He thought the car had a bit too much power for me, but he didn't think I would abuse the power of that V8 engine so he trusted me with it. 

8)  Dad went with me at age 18 when I started having dizzy spells leading to hours of sickness.  We went to visit a university hospital in the state and I was diagnosed with Meniere's disease at age 18 though the specialists could hardly believe the positive test results.  They had never diagnosed anyone that young before with this type of illness. 

9)  Dad helped me pick up my shattered self-esteem and leave a callous, abusive, and pompous husband from my first marriage. 

10)  Dad taught me how to mow a yard, trim bushes and trees, blacktop a driveway, plant trees and flowers, and wash and detail a car. 

11)  Thankfully, dad assisted with my being able to attend a state public college.  I never wanted to go to a private college where it appeared most of the student body was made up of overly indulged teenagers with obnoxious attitudes and less than lofty souls.

12)  My dad was a devout Atlanta Braves fan even when the team sucked which was most of the time.  To him, a southerner who pulled for a northern or any other baseball team was downright sacrilegious. He was also a highly devoted Carolina Tar Heel basketball fan.  Man, I hope he got to see what the team accomplished this year.

13)  Thanks to dad I grew up attending a Methodist church.  We don't discriminate, we don't put on airs, and we surely don't go around lecturing people on what "the right thing to do is". 

14)  One summer I worked for my dad who was an operations manager,  He was meticulous, devoted, and had zero tolerance for slackers; therefore, neither did I when I walked into my first classroom as a teacher.

15)  Dad took our family on vacation usually yearly to Myrtle Beach.  While there I learned how to swim, jump off the side of the pool, brave a water slide, learn to float and body surf. 

16)  When email was developed and introduced, I would stay in touch with dad via email especially once I moved to Georgia.  Little did I know, he had saved all our emails over the years, printed them, and put them inside a bound notebook for me to keep forever.

17)  For the last three years of his life, dad always was with me for my birthday.  On two occasions he and mom drove to Georgia to visit.  During my 46th birthday which came six days before my dad passed, I arrived at his room in the ICU and we had hospital ice cream together.  He asked me that day if I wouldn't rather be somewhere else enjoying myself.  I countered with, "No way!  Why break tradition?!  This is sacred!"

I miss you Dadio.  I always carry you in my heart, my identity, and my values.  No one really understands the pain our family endured.  It was like a stab to the heart and a left hook that broke a jaw.  Everyone will gain that understanding for themselves one day because one thing I do know for sure is that we all have an expiration date.