Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is Your Life Whispering to You?

By Cheryl Shireman   
I believe life whispers to you and provides direction. I call that life force God. You can call it whatever you want, but there is no escaping it. If we are open, and brave enough to say yes, life will take us in directions we never expected, and you will live a life beyond your wildest dreams.
Those whisperings often come in the form of a “crazy” idea or a nudge to move into a certain direction that seems odd or silly or daring. Then there is that moment when you think, Well, that’s weird. Where in the world did that come from?
And then there’s the second moment, when you have to make a choice. You can dismiss the crazy notion, and probably even come up with a dozen reasons why it’s a bad idea. You don’t have the time, the money, or the resources. Besides, who are you to do such a thing? What in the world were you thinking? So, you dismiss the idea. We always have that option - to say No.
But it comes back - that whisper. Sometimes again and again. But if we are practical, and safe, we can squash the notion until it is almost forgotten. Almost.
Such a notion came to me a couple of months ago. I began to think of an anthology composed of women writers. An anthology that would be published before the rapidly approaching holiday season. The title came to me almost immediately - Indie Chicks. It was a crazy notion. I was working with an editor who was editing my first two novels, and was also in the middle of writing a third novel. Working on three books seemed to be a pretty full plate. Adding a fourth was insane.
But the crazy notion kept coming back to me. It simply refused to be dismissed. So I sent out a “feeler” email to another writer, Michelle Muto. She loved the idea. I sent out another email to my writing buddy, J. Carson Black. She loved the idea, too, but couldn’t make the time commitment. She had just signed with Thomas & Mercer and was knee deep in writing. I took it as a sign. I didn’t have the time for the project either. Perhaps after the first of the year, when final edits were done on my own novels. I dismissed it, at least for the present time. I’d think about it again in another couple of months, when the timing made more sense.
A week later I surrendered, started developing a marketing plan for Indie Chicks, and began sending out emails to various indie writers - some I knew, but most were strangers. I contacted a little over thirty women. Every one of them responded with enthusiasm. Most said yes immediately, and those who could not, due to time commitments, wished us well and asked me to let them know when the book when the book was published so they could be part of promoting it.
One of the first writers I contacted was Heather Marie Adkins. Earlier this year, while I was browsing the internet, I came across an interview with Heather. The interviewer (oddly enough, Michelle Muto) asked Heather, When did you decide to become an indie author? Heather’s answer was:  About a month ago. My dad had been trying to talk me into self-publishing for some time, but I was hesitant. One night, I sat down and ran a Google search. I discovered Amanda Hocking, JA Konrath, Victorine Lieski; but it was Cheryl Shireman that convinced me. This is the field to be in. I was shocked (Astonished! Flabbergasted!). I had no idea that I had ever inspired anyone! To be honest, it was a bit humbling. And,okay, yes - it made me cry. So, of course, I had to invite Heather to be a part of the anthology. Heather not only said yes, but she also volunteered to format the project - a task I was dreading.
As Heather and I exchanged emails, I told her about how I had been similarly inspired to become an indie writer by Karen McQuestion. My husband bought me a Kindle for Christmas of 2010. Honestly, the present angered me. I didn’t want a Kindle. I wanted nothing to do with reading a book on an electronic device! I love books; the feel of them, the smell of them. But, very quickly, I started filling up that Kindle with novels.
One day, while looking for a new book on Amazon, I came across a title by Karen McQuestion. I learned that McQuestion had published her novels through Amazon straight to Kindle. Immediately, I began doing research on her and how to publish through Kindle. I had just completed a novel and was ready to submit it through traditional routes. Within 48 hours of first reading about McQuestion, I submitted my novel, Life Is But A Dream: On The Lake. Twenty four hours later, it was published as an eBook on Amazon. Within another couple of weeks it was available as a paperback and through Nook. Did I jump into this venture fearlessly? No! I was scared to death, and I almost talked myself out of it. Almost. The novel went on to sell over 10,000 copies within the first seven months of release.
As I shared that story with Heather, another crazy notion whispered in my ear - Ask Karen McQuestion to write the foreword for Indie Chicks. Of course, I dismissed it. We had exchanged a couple of tweets on Twitter, but other than that, I had never corresponded with McQuestion. It was nonsense to think she would write the foreword. I was embarrassed to even ask her. Surely, she would think I was some sort of nut. But, the idea kept whispering to me and, with great trepidation, I emailed her. She said yes! Kindly, enthusiastically, and whole-heartedly, she said yes. Karen McQuestion had inspired me to try indie publishing. I had inspired Heather Adkins. And now the three of us were participating in Indie Chicks, that crazy whisper I had been unable to dismiss.
The book began to develop, and as it did, a theme began to form. This was to be a book full of personal stories from women. As women, one of our most powerful gifts is our ability to encourage one another. This book became our effort to encourage women across the world. Twenty-five women sharing stories that will make you laugh, inspire you, and maybe even make you cry. We began to dream that these stories would inspire other women to live the life they were meant to live.
From the beginning, I knew I wanted the proceeds of this charity to go to some sort of charity that would benefit other women. While we were in the process of compiling the anthology, the mother of one of the women was diagnosed with breast cancer. Almost immediately upon learning that, Michelle Muto sent me an email. Hey, in light of *****’s mother having an aggressive form of breast cancer, can I nominate The Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer? I mean, one of our own is affected here, and other than heart disease (which took my own mother’s life), I can’t think of anything more worthy than to honor our sister in words and what she’s going through. A daughter’s love knows no bounds for her mother. Trust me. I know it’s a charity that already gets attention on its own. But, that’s not the point, is it? The point is there are 25 ‘sisters’ sticking together and supporting each other for this anthology. I say we put the money where the heart is. We had our inspiration. All proceeds would go to the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer research.
The stories started coming in. Some were light hearted and fun to read. But others were gut-wrenching and inspiring - stories of how women dealt with physical abuse, overwhelming grief, and a host of bad choices. It was clear; these women were not just sharing a story, but a piece of their heart. I felt as if I were no longer “organizing” this anthology, but just getting out of the way so that it could morph and evolve into its truest form.
Fast forward to just a few days before publication. Heather was almost done with the enormous task of formatting a book with twenty-five authors. We were very close to publishing and were on the homestretch. That’s when I received an email. An unlikely email from someone I didn’t really know. Beth Elisa Harris and I were involved in another indie project and Beth sent an email to all of the authors in that project, including me. She attached a journal to that email. For whatever reason, Beth had been inspired to share a journal she wrote a few years ago. She cautioned us to keep her confidence and not share the journal with anyone else. I tend toward privacy and don't tend to trust easily. This is a HUGE step for me. I've only read it once since I wrote it. Intrigued, I opened the journal and began reading. It dealt with her diagnosis, a few years back, with breast cancer! Before I was even one third of the way through the journal, I felt I should ask Beth to include this journal in the Indie Chicks anthology. It was a crazy notion, especially when considering her words about privacy and trust. We didn’t even know each other, how could I ask her to go public with something so personal? I tried to dismiss the notion (are you noticing a pattern here?), but could not. I wrote the email, took a deep breath, and hit send. She answered immediately. Yes. Most definitely, yes.
Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories, with foreword by Karen McQuestion and afterword by Beth Elise Harris, is now available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon. The book includes personal stories from each of the women, as well as excerpts from our novels. And it began as a whisper. A whisper I did my best to ignore.
What whisper are you ignoring? What crazy notion haunts you? What dream merely awaits your response? I urge you, say Yes. Live the life you were meant to live. Say yes today.

Stories included in Indie Chicks:
Foreword by Karen McQuestion
Knight in Shining Armor by Shea MacLeod
Latchkey Kid by Heather Marie Adkins
Write or Die by Danielle Blanchard
The Phoenix and The Darkness by Lizzy Ford
Never Too Late by Linda Welch
Stepping Into the Light by Donna Fasano
One Fictionista’s Literary Bliss by Katherine Owen
I Burned My Bra For This? by Cheryl Shireman
Mrs. So Got It Wrong Agent by Prue Battten
Holes by Suzanne Tyrpak
Turning Medieval by Sarah Woodbury
A Kinky Adventure in Anglophilia by Anne R. Allen
Writing From a Flour Sack by Dani Amore
Just Me and James Dean by Cheryl Bradshaw
How a Big Yellow Truck Changed My Life by Christine DeMaio-Rice
From 200 Rejections to Amazon Top 200! by Sibel Hodge
Have You Ever Lost a Hat? by Barbara Silkstone
French Fancies! by Mel Comley
Life’s Little Gifts by Melissa Foster
Never Give Up On Your Dream by Christine Kersey
Self-taught Late Bloomer by Carol Davis Luce
Moving to The Middle East by Julia Crane
Paper, Pen, and Chocolate by Talia Jager
The Magic Within and The Little Book That Could by Michelle Muto
Write Out of Grief by Melissa Smith
Afterword by Beth Elisa Harris
Indie Chicks is available for your Kindle on Amazon and your Nook on Barnes and Noble. You may also read it on your computer or most mobile devices by downloading a free reader from those sites.
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Author Bumping - John Locke and Winslow Eliot

Virtual Bump – by Winslow Eliot
What’s it like to bump into a famous author in the air?
My own experience was like a fairy-tale. At the time of my first encounter with John Locke, I was lost in a strange, dark forest.  He was a knight in shining armor, who greeted me with a chivalrous smile and gentle greeting.
The gentle greeting was, of course, spoken in a strange language of 140 characters that I barely knew. Still, we understood each other. It was as though I patted his steed’s friendly nose, and picked up my dew-drenched skirts, and realized that now everything would be okay. Right from the start I felt we were kindred spirits in a world that was crazy, upsidedown, no-one-understands-me…
At the time, my agent was sending out A Perfect Gem to all the remaining traditional publishers, while bemoaning the fact of the hopelessness and strangeness of what was happening in the publishing world. She described editors and publicists being fired daily; she’d see them walking along the New York sidewalks, clutching their briefcases, their faces shell-shocked. Discouraging, as usual. She’d always been discouraging. She had a lot of confidence in my books though, and even after this one was rejected six times, she valiantly persisted.
By fall I’d had my twelfth rejection and I wrote my most-read-post ever: “Waiting for the Call that Never Comes…”
John read it too.
He told me my book was beautiful, which of course is enough to turn any girl’s head. He reminded me of my talent; he gave me courage.
Throughout the winter of my discontent, my brave knight gently removed my hands from the bloody brambles I was trying to climb through, and led me toward a sunny clearing: he showed me I could be independent of the messy, dark, and thorny old publishing world. He forged a path for me toward light and pleasure in creating the writing world I had been seeking all my life.
In a shimmery forest of virtual encounters, our fairy-tale-like bumps came and went, regardless of time of day, or weather, or the real distance between us. Our conversations, although spoken in Twitterese, were like two people bumping in a story and getting to know each other.
And so I followed my knight into the land of self-publishing. I’ve already published four gorgeous, exciting, romantic tales and, thanks to Good Knight John, I’ve found not just success but happiness in being in control of my writing destiny.
John stands for courage, truth, integrity, and has led so many of us – not just me – into a new land, and a new era.
It was a good bump, friend.

Winslow Eliot

Winslow Eliot is the author of (among others) Pursued, Heaven Falls, A Perfect Gem, and Bright Face of Danger (originally published by St. Martin’s Press 1993). Her WriteSpa - An Oasis for Writers welcomes visitors from all over the world and offers rejuvenating practices and virtual encouragement. She also teaches      high school, writes poetry, and loves belly-dancing,singing and playing guitar, Tarot, sacred places, reading, and people.

A Perfect Gem