Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Five Days and Counting

"Yankee Reconstructed" will launch in all electronic formats on January third. There are several reasons to pre-order your copy now.

1. You win! Order now and you pay just $3.99.  Wait until Sunday morning and you'll pay $5.99. And it doesn't matter whether you go to Kindle, Kobo, B&N or Apple iBooks. They are all offering the same deal.

2. You win! When the last ornament has been packed away and the last pine needle vacuumed into oblivion, you will deserve a break. If you order now, your copy will be waiting for you on Sunday when you hit the couch.

3. I win! No pre-order is counted until Sunday. Then all those numbers go together to help determine the book's relative starting rank in each best-seller list. Pre-order now, and the rank goes up.  Order next week and you won't make a dent in the rankings. Seriously, this has been proven to make a huge difference in total sales. The higher the rank, the more people buy the book. I appreciate your support.

Here are the links you'll need.

Friday, December 25, 2015

That Was the Christmas Without . . .

This has been a difficult month for me. I expected that. It's been eleven months since Floyd died, and between Thanksgiving and January come too many special occasions to count -- memories of trips taken and planned, his birthday, our wedding anniversary, holidays, the "heart attack" day, the hospital stays, the hopes built up, and the hopes dashed and trampled into dust. I'm trying to survive each day, one at a time.

Today is Christmas, although there's not much here to remind me except for the wreath on the door and the reindeer antlers on the car. Still, I awoke this morning with a dozen memories struggling for recognition -- each one from a "Christmas Without . . ."

1958 -- the first Christmas after my father died. I'm home from college, my mother is barely speaking to me because I dared to pay my own way to go back to school, and the empty, undecorated house is a stark reminder that she feels she has been left with nothing.

1962 -- Christmas far from home. I'm married, and my new Air Force Lieutenant husband has just been assigned to his first posting, a radar installation in Moses Lake, Washington. We are living in a single room in the BOQ on base, waiting for housing to open up. No tree, no gifts, no family, not even a cat.

1963 -- Housing taken care of,  I have a teaching job, but Floyd has been whisked off to a remote mountain top in Alaska for a year, leaving me alone here in the middle of the desert.  My mother is unsympathetic. "You chose to get married," she says.

1969 -- I'm in Panama City, Florida; Floyd is in Pleiku, Vietnam. My mother tries to be more sympathetic since its wartime, so she has arrived to celebrate the holidays with me. I've put up an artificial tree and tied Christmas bows around the cats' necks, but we spend most of the time watching TV reruns while I wait for the phone to ring.

1977 -- The first Christmas since my mother died -- still trying to explain to my six-year-old why Grandma Peggy is not around any more (and why it matters that we keep remembering her.)

1980 -- I'm in Colorado Springs; Floyd is in King Salmon, Alaska. He's the base commander now, and I'm finishing up a master's degree, but the sense of "Christmas without . . ." is no less sharp. I'm trying to assemble a cat climbing post that uses a tension pole to hold it upright. Next door is a shiny new bike waitng for me to assemble without help, once Doug is asleep.

1982 -- The first Christmas without Grandpa Schriber. We go back to Cleveland for Christmas, but my mother-in-law is in no mood to celebrate anything.

1985 -- The first Christmas without Grandma Schriber. Doug asks, "We don't have to go back there again, do we?" and is relieved to be told that there is no longer any "there" to be returned to. I feel oddly bereft -- Floyd and I both orphans now, both only children, so adrift without family.

2000 -- The first Christmas since Doug's shocking death from cancer. We can't bear to be home, so we fly to London for the holidays. We're in a cold hotel room, huddled around a little space heater,  a spindly poinsettia on the end table and a packet of mince pies for our Christmas. But outside there are the makings of beautiful memories: carolers in Trafalgar Square, "The Messiah" at St. Martin's in the Fields, midnight services on Christmas Eve in Westminster Abbey, and Christmas snow falling on Old Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

2015  -- And now Christmas without Floyd. The first of however many I have left, and I pause to wonder what the last half century has taught me. What I see this morning, as I look backward, is that I have few memories of the carefree years, the holidays full of decorations and cookies and fruitcakes, Christmas cards and Secret Santa packages, parties and turkey dinners. They were happy times, I know, but I let them pass without fully savoring the moments. And those memories fade from lack of notice. It's the "Christmases Without . . ." that fill my mind and my heart.

We've all been reminded to "count our blessings," and I'm totally in favor of that, but I don't think it goes far enough. We also need to stay aware of our losses. The losses, the Christmases Without . . .. the things we grieve for . . .these are the most important moments of our lives. There's no hiding from them. They are part of our core. So I'll count my losses, too, and be grateful that I've known them.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Two Weeks and Counting

In two more weeks (just 14 days) it will all be over: the last cookie crumbs eaten, the fruitcake moved from table to doorstop, the pine needles transferred from tree to carpet, packages unwrapped, ribbon stolen by the cat, a pile of tinsel coughed up by the dog, last turkey leg gnawed, silly hats, confetti, and noisemakers put away for another year, resolutions made and already broken. The holidays come and go so fast that we hardly have time to sit and enjoy them.

But this year, when Sunday, January 3, rolls around, there will be one last shiny box under that scraggly tree  — a new box, just arrived. And inside? A whole new world to explore: the ragged destruction of the Civil War framed by new camellia blossoms, a forbidden inter-racial love affair, visits from the Ku Klux Klan, governmental corruption, prostitutes in the state house, the first impeachment of a president, economic collapse, street riots, midnight lynching parties,  wild horses, successful business partnerships, and dreams washed away by a tidal surge.

Make sure your copy of Yankee Reconstructed arrives safely on January 3rd to brighten your post-holiday gloom.  Pre-order it now, and save $2.00 over the Launch Day price.  Find it at:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Nineteen Days to Launch of "Yankee Reconstructed"

I finished reading #15 today, without once wanting to throw the book across the room.  I spotted no errors and discovered that a couple of places near the end brought tears to my eyes.  That's good, I think.  I'm pleased with this story.

I have submitted this version as final and also downloaded the cover design.  Provided that there is no awful sizing error in the cover, all is now ready for publication.  I'll be holding my breath for a day or so, until they send me the final OK, but I have great faith in my cover designer.  All should be perfect.

What happens next? Well, I'll get one more proof copy, this time with cover in place.  And when I accept it, we'll finish the final set of instructions -- which sales channels will handle the book, what the price breakdown will be, and other formalities.  Then comes the final ACCEPT button, and copies will start to flow from the presses.

With luck, I see the proof acceptance happening during Christmas week, and the flow of books to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ingram, and other outlets, including those overseas markets, happening in the week between Christmas and New Years Day -- right on schedule!

QUICK UPDATE: Cover approved; final proof copy ordered. All is well.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

22 Days Left -- Proofreading, updated

Yep, my eyes are crossed, but I've finished another 125 pages.  And along the way I've put up five containers of spaghetti sauce and a gallon of beef and barley soup. Not a bad record for the day.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Twenty-Four and Counting

How many times have I read this book?  I can only guess.

While I'm writing a new book, I go back to the beginning frequently to make sure I'm not running off the track. There's a drawback to that practice, of course. The early chapters get a much more thorough going-over than the end of the book. But keeping the whole picture in my head is important for continuity. So I'm guessing that I read the whole book at least six times in the writing of it.

Next it goes to my wonderful editor, Gabriella.  I check carefully before I send it off because I don't want her to think I'm an idiot. -- so reading # 7.  She goes over the pages with the proverbial fine-toothed comb, and like lice, she turns up any number of small errors. Then back it comes for me to check and approve/disapprove the corrections. Reading #8. Back it goes for final editing. Reading #9.

Once the manuscript has been edited, the next step is preparing the final document for electronic publishing. The whole text receives a close examination for spelling errors, backwards quotation marks, extra spaces, and miscellaneous characters added when a cat walked across the keyboard.  Now the versions begin to multiply. There's one format for Smashwords and another for Amazon Kindle. The two versions must match, so Reading #10 and #11.

Next stop: Beta Readers! These are people I trust to tell me the truth as they see it. I want to know how my readers are going to react. If there's something "off" that I can fix, this is the time. Now, not all of them do a nit-picky job, but in this go-around, at least two of them gave me detailed critiques. Reading # 12 to incorporate any of those changes.

Ready at last for submission to CreateSpace, the company that will produce the trade paper editions for Amazon, bookstore sales, and my own sales mechanisms.  That's the hardest step, and I compulsively re-read before shipping it off. Reading # 13.

A printed proof comes back.  In this case, it arrived the week before Thanksgiving, and it was that copy that drove me into the ground. There were multiple problems with the layout design, and I was determined to catch every imperfection before I asked for a do-over. I finished that reading on December 1 -- Reading #14.

Yesterday, a new printed proof arrived. When I approve this version, it will trigger the presses to roll, so Reading #15 awaits me.

So go my days!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book Launch, Day 25 and Counting

So where do things stand at the moment? I've actually accomplished a lot.

1. We finished the trailer for "Yankee Reconstructed." Despite continuing problems with Vistaprint that prevent me from playing the video on my website or on my Vistaprint blog, I've been able to add it to my Amazon Author's page and to show it on Facebook.  Here it is if you have not seen it:

2. Pre-orders for electronic editions are set up and available at Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes&Noble, and Kobo.

3. I completed the close reading of the first master proof on December 1 and mailed detailed instructions for a new layout to the publisher.  The second master proof arrived today by overnight air, and so far, I am entirely satisfied with what I am seeing. Margins are correct, page numbers have been moved, font has been changed. I will still need to read through the whole thing to make sure that nothing has been left out, but I am cautiously optimistic that we are going to meet the deadlines.

4. I was able to extrapolate the number of pages (486) from the digital proof.  My cover designer had been waiting for that number to set the spine measurement.  So now we have an entire cover layout -- front, back, and spine. Since readers who use electronic devices only see the front cover, I thought I would include the whole spread here, so that everyone can see the endorsement/promotional text.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How To Blow A Hole in Your Book Launch

Step 1. Set up a firm schedule of steps to be taken and vow not to deviate from it.
Step 2. Obsess over the first proof your publisher sends back to you. Once you've spotted major errors, decide you must examine every single word separately. Why not? There are only 105,000 of them.
Step 3. Spend three days with nose buried in computer screen, barely looking up long enough to take a sip of water or run to the bathroom.
Step 4. Ignore the fact that you are feeling really strange.
Step 5. Finish your proofing exercises and send scathing message back to publisher. "Let's start over, shall we?"
Step 6. BLAM! Major health crisis erupts, making all other items on schedule irrelevant.

All of which is meant to let you know where I've been for the past eleven days--fighting bronchitis, a stomach bug, dehydration, and dangerously low electrolyte levels. I'm much better now, feeling almost normal and ready to get back to work. I'm a bit wiser, I hope, so I'll be taking things at a slower pace.  After all, we still have 24 days before launch day.