astoria beaches

Begin Again: Fresh Website, New Series, and a Finished Novel

Sometimes you have to let your creative mind hibernate, so it can wake up when the sunshine returns. This may happen by choice, or not. For me, it just kinda happened. Time cascaded through my fingers like cold, incessant rain.

Life was as rambunctious as ever, courtesy of running Superneat Marketing with my husband Mr. H. Silly me thought leaving my full-time job for consulting full-time was going to free up time for writing and general creativity. You may all laugh now.

Keep Reading…

publishing tips

5 Ways to Avoid Publishing Rejection by Being Human

Last week I made it my mission to get my ass out into the community. I’ve lived in Portland just over two years and had my head down for too long, grinding and whatnot. And when you work from home—no matter how terrific and cuddly your pets are—the need to be around humans intensifies.

Besides the array of local bars and coffee shops in my neighborhood, there is another convenient place to be around other humans…MeetUps.

I joined A LOT of them. Hence, the reason I ended up dancing in a Bollywood class, signing up for a marketing conference, and going to church.

Church? I know. They even let me in, can you believe it?

All joking aside, I went to church for this Willamette Writers MeetUp. The topic was all about how to get published…and how not to.

Presented by Tod Davies, Editorial Director of Exterminating Angel Press, Tod is an author herself with a colorful career track record as a radio host, screenwriter, and indie film producer. I’m not ashamed to say it—I was smitten when I discovered she co-wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. (Yep, that’s pretty damn cool.)

There is a Shit-Ton of Noise

This might be the part where some of you that have known me for years are wondering why I, a devout indie author with three self-published books under her belt, strolled into a MeetUp to learn tips about traditional publishing.

The rest of you probably want me to shut up and talk about the publishing tips, because you were lured here after reading the title of this blog.  Don’t get your panties in a bunch, or scroll down if you can’t handle the suspense.

Besides the MeetUp’s promise of writerly camaraderie, I have decided to give traditional publishing another go when I finish my fourth book this year. There are things I love about self-publishing, and things I don’t.

Without diving into a pros and cons moment here, I’ve talked about the struggle of being an indie author many times. When I wrote Why Writing Isn’t Enough—The Savvy Writer’s Guide to Success over at Kristen Lamb’s blog some months ago, I gave other writers the tough love.

We’re running a business. It’s the last thing any creative type wants to hear. But, it’s true—and we have to get our ducks in a row, like these guys.

writing as a business

In today’s publishing world—both indie and traditional—there is a shit-ton of noise. We know that. It’s not like the good ole days, when there were less authors and blogs. The accessibility of technology has opened the flood gates, and the market is…flooded.

Back in 2012, when silly me decided to pursue published author glory after I “finished” my first book, I diligently created a spreadsheet of every literary agent that seemed like a good fit from a hefty publishing book my mom gave me.

During the submission process, I acted personable and professional—hell, I was in my first marketing job at the time, so I knew a little something about PR. Still, I was ignored or rejected again and again and again, until the crazy time when a big shot agent in Manhattan actually considered my manuscript for Beneath the Satin Gloves.

I thought: This is it!

It wasn’t. He passed.

“Spectacular writing is writing that fits the category and fits the need. For example, with pornography you don’t want it to read like Proust.” – Tod Davies

Even though I didn’t get any feedback besides the “this isn’t right for us” pillow talk, I reworked my manuscript to make it stronger and I self-published it. Years later, I revised it again and republished it on Amazon, applying my recent years of writing experience to make it even stronger.

Looking back on it all, I realize I just wasn’t ready. And I think that’s a mistake a lot of writers make, whether they are self-publishing or shopping it around.

That doesn’t mean we have to spend years on a quest for writing perfectionism. That quest will make your life miserable and your book will never see the light of day. And simmer down, because you’re probably breaking it.

We absolutely have to put together the best possible work. But, we also need to consider the “now what?” phase. If you’re self-publishing, how are you going to get people to read it? If you’re going traditional, how are you going to get it picked up?

Here comes the “B” word again. We’re running a business.

publishing tips

We’re All Humans, So Act Like One

So, where was I? Oh, yes. An indie author walks into a church…

I’ll admit I was skeptical about the MeetUp, because it was the first one I ever attended. I sat in one of the back pews, close to the exit in case I needed to bolt. I was pleasantly surprised by not only the educational value, but the entertainment as well.

Tod Davies knows her shit, and she was up front about her goal to create an interactive experience for the crowd.

During the “what NOT to do” part at the beginning there was some tasteful role-playing—with the desperate writer acting out each point to the publisher searching for an escape route.

Though they may all seem like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised how many writers regularly commit these atrocities and become a part of the “guess what this writer did today” discussion when publishers get together for drinks.

What NOT To Do

Be insistent
Be confident
Be oblivious
Be pretentious
Be yammering

While I enjoyed the playful approach, the shining moment of the MeetUp happened in the second half, during the “what to do” segment.

This was when Tod went through each point from her publisher’s perspective, inviting the audience to freely ask questions to fuel the discussion. So, here they are:

What To Do

Be informed
Be courteous
Be open
Be professional
Be yourself

“Be yourself. Don’t try to be somebody else, Because that’s what you’re bringing to the party.” – Tod Davies

At the beginning of the talk, Tod asked us one no-frills question that stunned the room: How many of you know that publishers are human beings?

I wish I could have been standing where she was, taking in the blank stares. I imagine it was a bittersweet mixture of comedy and frustration for her. When she posed the same question again, cautious hands began to rise from the tattered pews and laughter enveloped the musty space.

So, if thinking about your writing as a business doesn’t resonate with you, then remember humanity. Be human, be yourself. Because there is a human on the other side of every part of this.

Who’s reading your book? A human. Who’s reviewing your book? Oh look, it’s a human. Who’s editing, formatting, designing your book? Still a human. Who’s reading your eager email when you submit your pitch to a publisher or agent? I think you get it.

We’re all humans, so act like one. Interesting concept, eh? See what that does for your success as a writer.

Have you ever been to an amazing MeetUp? Or, do you have any great tips for pitching to publishers?

Nola Fran Evie is a Delight!

Summer is right around the corner and I know you’re all stocking up on yummy books to read outside in the sunshine. While I love cozying up with books in the colder months, I have to say reading outside this time of the year with the sun warming my skin trumps shivering my ass off any day.

It’s rare that I talk about my books around here, because I try to keep my blog more about life inspiration than a place for marketing my books.

BUT…

Today I have to share a lovely review for Nola Fran Evie—along with a little plug for anyone looking for a summer read set in 1950s Chicago, with strong women and bit of baseball. For those new to my novel writing (and perhaps a wee bit skeptical), I included an excerpt down below for you to check out.

Reviews in the indie author world are so golden, and I am very grateful any time a reader takes a moment to leave kind words and shiny stars on Amazon or Goodreads.

Big thanks to my girl, Arianna, for being a doll and leaving this glowing review on Amazon.

From the minute you start reading about Jacks and her discovery inside an old vintage handbag, you are transported back in time – to a time when women weren’t allowed to have opinions or dreams.

Enter Nola, Fran and Evie. Three women who, despite their circumstances and the era in which they live, are determined to be better and are willing to fight for it – no matter the cost.

But, do these women truly exist; or are they all a part of Jacks’ wonderful imagination? And what impact will they have in Jacks’ life?

Nola Fran Evie may just be Britt Skrabanek’s best work yet!

 

Nola Fran Evie Cover Master Small

Get it now on Amazon

Get in now on Amazon UK

______________________________

woman vintage car

Once upon a time, sitting beside Harvey in one of his fancy cars made Evie feel like a queen. Now she felt like the jester, a laughable character forever stuck in a flashy costume, attempting to please yet never able to do so.

Her eyes wandered to the small space between them on the shared leather bench. Now she wished they had one of those European cars that came with separate seats. Evie hated sitting so close to her husband. To think she had once sat tucked inside his draping arm. Even then she instigated the affection, wiggling closer and placing Harvey’s arm around her body.

He’d always been incapable of showing any tenderness. A man like Harvey Shaw didn’t know how to love. He was a connoisseur of lust—quick, impatient, greedy lust.

She wagged her feet, which hung lazily out the window. Her pretty red toenails contrasted against the green countryside. With the fresh breeze lifting her plaid sundress and tickling her feet, Evie could almost pretend to be a little happy.

Almost.

“We’re getting close. Put your feet down before somebody sees them,” Harvey said, snarling.

Determined to protect her fragile euphoria, Evie remained with her feet up. “There’s a lake and it’s summer. Chances are, they’re all gonna catch my bare feet sooner or later.”

“I don’t want you to go swimming,” he said, continuing to look at the road.

Harvey hadn’t looked at her a single time during their excruciating hour in the car, except to snarl at her feet. A tiny wad of toilet paper with a red mark hung from his chin, the shaving bandage she loathed as much as his cold laugh.

“And why can’t I go swimming?”

“Because I don’t want you getting your hair wet.”

Harvey didn’t want people to see her in her swimsuit. Purposely she had packed her raciest one, a modern white two-piece. Evie was sure it would attract attention and enrage her husband.

“You know, darling. For a man who goes through women like he goes through cars, I’m surprised you get as jealous as you do.”

Harvey pulled the car over to the side of the dirt road, stopping below a billboard of a chirpy wife cleaning her kitchen with Clorox. Dust kicked up around them, infiltrating the open windows and causing her to cough.

He killed the engine, yanked the emergency brake behind the wheel and lurched across the bench. He pointed an angry finger an inch from her eyes. “You better listen closely, Evelyn.”

Evie stared at his finger. “It doesn’t appear that I have a choice since I’m trapped in this overpriced tin can.”

Harvey squeezed her arm roughly. “When did you start losing your mind?”

Though she was frightened, crippled by one of his searing questions, Evie looked him straight in the eyes. “It’s hard to say, because it was so long ago. Probably around the time you stopped loving me.” She placed her feet down, then crossed her legs.

He released her arm and scanned the open road.

She laughed weakly and took the tiny piece of toilet paper off the tip of his chin. “I can see by your face that you never loved me at all.”

Harvey gave her a surprised look.

“You know, I wasn’t born yesterday.”

He rubbed his chin, gripped the steering wheel and leaned back with his eyes closed. “Suppose I loved the idea of you when we started. Then I realized an idea isn’t the same in reality.”

He opened his eyes and turned toward her.

Tears rose to the surface and she looked away. “Dammit, Harvey. I thought I was past this point. But you can still break my heart as if you were born to do just that.” Evie dipped her chin down to hide her sadness underneath her summer hat.

Harvey started the car, wearing a harsh expression. “Don’t flatter yourself, darling. I have other things I was born to do.”

“That’s true. You’ve done most of Chicago and half of Milwaukee. Perhaps you’re here just to screw everyone.”

He laughed. “I know you’re trying to get under my skin, but saying that I screw everyone has a nice ring to it.”

“Mr. Shaw, you make me feel sick.” Evie hugged herself protectively, looking down the road.

Harvey cracked his neck. “Mrs. Shaw, you don’t make me feel anything.”

“Go to hell, Harvey.”

“Sure, darling.”

He pulled onto the highway and they drove in bitter silence to the picnic. Somehow after all they just said, Mr. and Mrs. Shaw would try to pull off their biggest bluff. As two people eating hamburgers and potato chips who could stand the sight of each other.

Evie flipped on the radio and surrendered to the rock and roll music blaring through the speakers. She closed her eyes and tapped her hand on the windowsill, dancing alone inside.


vintage story

writing with the senses

How to Amplify Your Writing with the Five Senses

When we’re drawing from life experiences to create art, integrating the senses into our work will amplify it. Otherwise, how can the person we are sharing the experience with actually get it?

Without senses, art wouldn’t have a pulse.

I remember learning about the five senses a lot as a child in school. There were fun activities and games to help us understand each of them. But as I grew older, the exercises for the senses disappeared to make room for more serious subjects.

And in the workplace—well, you don’t exactly dilly-dally with the five senses too much. Can you imagine? “In today’s meeting, we’re going to divide up into teams, explore our senses together, and come up with a strategy to implement them in Q3.”

Hmmm…not so much.

As an adult, I have found my way back to reconnecting with the senses through writing. And, I am thankful to continue driving forward my creativity—even when I have very little time to spend with it—so that I can appreciate how incredible each sense truly is.

As artistic people, we have to pay attention to everything—always the observer, the realist, the daydreamer, the romantic, the cynic, the philosopher. If we don’t, our creativity will carry emptiness around wherever it goes.

portland streetcar

Help Them Hear It

The whole reason I’m writing this blog post is because of sound. Last weekend I discovered something very cool and I thought I would pass it along to my creative thinkers out there. Mr. H, being a musician/DJ, was equally captivated.

I was hammering away on my third draft…

The night was clear with a bright moon illuminating the dirty sidewalks below—the discarded cigarette still burning in the gutter, the playful plastic bag skipping across the heavier garbage, the chewing gum dotting the concrete skin like a leper, and the questionably alive ExComm curled up next to his shopping basket filled to the brim with his life’s belongings.

Then, I thought…I need a streetcar in here immediately. Even though we have streetcars all over Portland, I realized I hadn’t actually heard one in a while—months, I’m sure.

I was jamming on my editing, so I didn’t want to run over to one to listen to it like I crazy lady. So, I searched for sounds and I found a gem…SoundSnap.

I searched for streetcar, I listened, and I wrote…

A streetcar rattled across the tracks, on its final journey before curfew. Echoing through the city buildings, a woman’s eerie mechanical voice announced the Couch Street stop and the streetcar’s rumble quieted as it slowed down.

Help Them Taste It

Unless they’re robots or not human in some other way, occasionally our characters need to eat or drink something. This shouldn’t be seen as a logistical addition to our novels.

Think about how lovely a cup of tea can taste on a cold morning, or how pleasurable a piece of chocolate can taste after a long day—taste is another opportunity to deeply connect with the reader by conjuring memories of sustenance.

Vi pushed her feet against the cliff to see if it was safe to return. A burning smell lingered in the air, strong enough that she could taste it inside her dry mouth. The knots in her stomach hardened as the new threat became palpable. The grass was on fire.

Help Them Touch It

This can get especially daring if you’re writing a sex scene, where the goal is to arouse the reader if you’re really good at your job, or at the very least make them blush if they’re reading it in public.

I remember writing a sex scene on a lunch break at work once, and it was damn awkward. That’s a good thing though, isn’t it? Chances are, if you’re describing physical sensations in such an honest way, it will come across to your reader who sort of just jumped into bed with you.

Vi ran the palms of her hands up the front of her thighs, enjoying the firm muscle beneath the feminine flesh. She explored her stomach and her backside, satisfied with the way everything felt—strong, but also soft. As Vi began to feel more comfortable with her own touch, protected by the darkness in the tank, she forgot inhibition.

Help Them Smell It

I have an acute sense of smell and I always say it’s a gift and a curse. Food tastes amazing, but cigarettes make me want to puke and die in the middle of the sidewalk.

While writing about food, we don’t say “yum,” we show it by the way the man closes his eyes to take a deep inhale of his dinner at a restaurant. When the woman is walking down the dark alley, instead of the cliché of hearing footsteps, perhaps she smells a stinky cigarette and that scent scares her because she realizes she’s not alone.

Try going beyond the obvious ones like perfume or coffee, and use unusual scents to invoke an experience.

He was bald in the middle, with black greasy hair that was long on the sides. He looked like a worm, the kind that smelled pungent when it rained.

Help Them See It

With writing, arguably more than the other senses, we focus on describing what we are seeing in our own minds—what our characters witness unfolding before their eyes. That has to translate to the reader, so that they can see a colorful world beyond the rows of black letters resting on white pages.

This doesn’t have to be overkill, like the mailbox in front of the house. Unless her husband is fighting in a war in a faraway place and the only way they can communicate is through letters (remember those?).

Maybe it’s been weeks since she’s heard from him and she wonders if he’s dead or alive. She watches the mailbox from the moment she wakes up, and glances at it one last time before she cries herself to sleep. THEN describe the holy hell out of that mailbox.

Bright buildings nestled against the wide river, while sleeping volcanoes topped with snow loomed in the great distance. The many bridges of Port City each had their own character—steely, colorful, plain, modern, and antiquated. They had been the victims of a demolition long ago to keep the citizens trapped inside the city. Only foundational bones of the structure remained, suspended mid-air, hugging the banks of the sweeping river to stay upright. The center of each bridge rested at the bottom of the same watery grave.

forest view

It’s important to keep an open mind, to evolve as artists, and not be too stubborn in our ways. We’re pretty lucky to have such amazing technology at our fingertips. And though an mp3 or a YouTube video can never replace real life experiences, boundless tools are ours for the taking.

If technology isn’t your thing and you’re struggling with incorporating any of the senses into your books, take a day to devote to each one and record them in a journal. You can do this anywhere at anytime, whether it relates to your work in progress or not.

The worst that can happen? You might discover something very awesome.

Do you write or create art using all of the senses? Or, do you tend to focus on a couple?


indie books

The Two Things That Saved My Life

Recently the wonderful Eden Baylee asked me to write a blog post over at her place. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve stopped by, and this time instead of an author interview, we decided I should chat about something else very close to my heart besides writing. Yoga.

I’ve known Eden for a while, and she’s one of my favorite people. You guys may remember her from her beautiful piece on The Life Enthusiast Chronicles about diversity.

Eden has been a meditation practitioner for some time, but a consistent Yoga practice happened for her when she listened to what her body needed.

Several studies have found that yoga can help improve cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, balance, and overall quality of life — and it can even reduce stress, anxiety, and pain. In addition, people who do yoga are 20% more likely to have a positive image of their own physical and mental health, including a stronger sense of mental clarity, physical fitness, flexibility, and strength. – Harvard Health

It’s all too easy for us to fall into a habit of NOT listening to what our bodies are telling us. But I think most of us know that we only get one bod, and we should do our best to treat it with great respect.

morning meditation

Eden is on the right track by taking this step forward on her wellness path, and I am very honored that she asked me to speak candidly about Yoga in front of her readers.

Here’s a teaser..

Over the past six months I pushed myself to return to Yoga. And, I mean it when I say pushed.

I made time for it. The demanding job excuse…so what? The novel won’t write itself excuse…so what? I knew I was doing the right thing for me and my body.

Over the past decade Yoga has exploded in the West, and there are many who claim it is a bastardization of its original form. The image of a skinny woman in expensive active wear doing impossible poses is something we started to associate with Yoga.

But, it’s so much more than that. And no matter how you come to Yoga, or which style you take, the benefits will take precedence.

A lot of people are attracted to the fitness aspect of Yoga. Then, they notice that they’re making healthier food choices and they’re handling conflicts with a sense of ease.

Take a moment and stop by Eden Baylee’s blog.

Share your current wellness journey, and of course, ask me any questions you want. Yoga skeptics are absolutely welcome! : )


indie books