Million Dollar Blues

money bundle_1Here’s an interesting bit of trivia. On this date back in 1690, the first piece of paper money was issued by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the United States.


Life would never be the same again.

I’m thinking about money quite a bit these days because I’m working on Million Dollar Blues. It’s a women’s fiction novel about a contested lottery win and the impact it has on the lives and loves of three different women. I’ll be self-publishing it under my Laura Tobias name but first I have to get it in some kind of shape for the editor. There’ll probably be revisions to tackle after she’s finished with it too. And then there’s the cover to commission and the formatting to take care of and all the other details that go into self-publishing a book.

It’s been a real learning curve since I uploaded What Lainey Sees a little over a year ago. Changes are afoot with that title too. It started life as an ebook available only on Amazon, but in the coming months I’ll be making it available on more platforms and getting print copies made as well.

Stay tuned for details.

Meanwhile, happy February!

The Land of ‘What If?’

what-ifI spend half my life playing in the imaginary land of ‘what if?’ What if a girl who doesn’t care about her looks suddenly loses all her hair and becomes obsessed with her appearance (The Art of Getting Stared At)? What if a woman who doesn’t trust her intuition must rely on it to save the life of a child (What Lainey Sees)? What if a girl who doesn’t like being the centre of attention must go on stage in front of thousands to have a shot at achieving her wildest dream (Stepping Out)?

‘What if’ is story oxygen. But the phrase is also part of my DNA. I probably came out of the womb crying ‘what if.’ You might say this is catastrophizing. I prefer to think of it as exercising my writing muscles while preparing for all eventualities.

Case in point:  while gardening several weeks ago, a small twig (about the size of a paper clip) made its way into my boot. When I discovered it, I tossed it away. Later that night, the bottom of my foot began to hurt. The skin wasn’t punctured, but to be safe I put on some Polysporin before bed. The pain was back the next day, sporadically coming and going, and increasing as night fell. I checked my foot again; there was nothing. The same thing happened on day three: sporadic pain when I walked, especially if I was in bare feet or going uphill. By the end of that day, I’d started my trek through the land of ‘what if?’ What if that twig had minutely punctured the skin releasing some kind of invisible spore that was infecting my blood stream? What if some kind of deadly pathogen was coursing through my veins and heading straight for my heart? Or my head? What if I lingered in a coma and died right before Christmas, thereby ruining future Christmases for my children. Scratch the lingering coma and ruined future holidays. What if had some kind of muscle damage on the bottom of my foot? What if I had to get rid of my treadmill desk? Write sitting down? What if it got so bad that, eventually, I couldn’t walk? What if we had to sell the house because of all the stairs? What if Mr. Petrol Head decided we should move to Mexico and live in one- level hacienda and what if we met a doctor who specialised in treating rare and unusual afflictions and he cured me and what if I wrote the whole thing into a book which was made into a screenplay starring Jamie Lee Curtis Julianne Moore and what if it was nominated for an Academy Award. For the screenplay that I wrote.

I wish I could say this didn’t happen. I really do. I wish I could say that I took an oversized, extra- strength magnifying glass to the bottom of my foot immediately after it began to hurt to see if, perhaps, there was something I’d missed. Because that’s what practical, down-to-earth, clear-thinking adults do (to give myself credit, I would have done it had it been one of my kids). Instead I detoured to ‘what if’ land because that’s where I live most of the time.

I don’t know if it was intuition or my embarrassment at the thought of going to the doctor with an invisible foot boo-boo but on day four I pulled out my grandmother’s old magnifying glass, turned on a spotlight and took an up-close-and-personal look at the bottom of my foot. I discovered a tiny, microscopic, flit-of-a-thing (the size of a child’s eyelash) lodged into the pad of my foot. It was white-blonde, nearly invisible, and had probably been part of the twig before it claimed part of my foot.

Along with claiming several days of my creative ‘what if’ energy.

To give myself credit, the ‘what if’ factor works the other way too. I stumbled down the basement stairs the other day while carrying a basket of dirty laundry. I ended up with a bad sprain. My ‘what if’ litany afterwards was largely one of gratitude: what if I’d broken my ankle? My leg? Hit my head? Blah, blah, coma . . . blah, blah ruined Christmases forever. I was incredibly lucky and I knew it. Mixed in with my gratitude was a trace of self-reproach: that basket was too full and too heavy and you knew it.

I find it interesting that it’s my right foot that’s badly sprained – the same one that had the boo-boo that could have totally ruined my life. Symbolic, don’t you think? So I won’t be visiting the land of ‘what if’ for a while. I’m taking a side trip to the town of ‘making meaning out of the mundane.’

Because writers are good meaning makers.

Lessons in Birthing a Book

laineyfinalIn April I wrote about how I self-published What Lainey Sees, a paranormal romance novel I’d had in the works for years.

It’s been an interesting six months. The indie book birth reminds me of childbirth, only my breasts aren’t leaking milk and I’m getting more sleep (most nights). When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was as prepared as most first-time mothers are: I’d read the books, taken the classes, listened to the advice of those who’d given birth before me. I’d made decisions on everything that mattered (and many things that didn’t).

I had a plan. I knew what to expect (You can stop laughing now).

Because then the contractions started and the plan I’d written and the decisions I’d made were blown out of the water by the reality of having a new person in our lives. A new person with her own needs, her own personality, and her own agenda.

However, What Lainey Sees was a book. There was no life I might ruin if I started solid food too early or used the wrong diapers or – God forbid – didn’t get her into the right preschool. Compared to childbirth and parenting, this was a breeze. This was in my control. And I had a plan.

You’d think I’d learn.

I did, finally. And this is what I’ve learned in the first six months of indie-publishing.

Nothing ever goes according to plan – book birth or childbirth – and that’s okay. Being flexible and going with the flow is a very good thing.

Everybody has an opinion. Some people are opinion bullies. You can spot them by the phrase they use:  I would never. As in: ‘I would never supplement with a bottle.’ And ‘I would never give my book away for free.’ Curiously, some of these opinion bullies don’t have babies – book or otherwise. They opine hypothetically. Unsaid but implied by opinion bullies is that what you’re doing is, at best, wrong or, at worst, ruining your child’s psyche or the entire publishing industry.

You will change your mind. The things you thought were sacrosanct (staying home with your child; not worrying about reviews for your book) will be challenged. I didn’t know that working would make me a better mother. That those reviews self-pubbing authors are always clamoring for aren’t ego cookies, but are critically important when it comes time to buy advertising or to keep your book visible.

Most of it isn’t life and death. Those opinion bullies would have you believe that every choice you make will make or break your child or your career. That failure to teach your child a second language will leave them with the mental skills of an amoeba. That launching your ebook on a singular platform (or multiple platforms, or pricing it too low or having a puce cover) will ruin your career forever (Note: I don’t recommend a puce cover and I do recommend a second language but it’s still not life and death).

Finally, remember the end goal. In those euphoric and exhausting days following any birth it’s easy to get caught up in minutiae and forget what really matters. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: healthy, happy children and well-written, entertaining books. Children and books we can send out into the world with love and a prayer that they’ll find their place and be embraced whether that’s in the board room or the book store.

If you missed April’s blog and are curious about why I chose the indie route, go here:


And Now For Something Completely Different

laineyfinalI’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of self-publishing for a long time.  When it comes to traditional publishers, I’ve worked with some of the best. They’ve done more for my books than I could ever do on my own.  They’ve edited, they’ve promoted, they’ve distributed. Sure, there’ve been glitches (and times when I wondered what kind of rabbit hole I’d fallen into) but show me an endeavor without glitches and I’ll show you a fairy tale.

So the idea of publishing a book on my own didn’t hold much appeal. I love the writing and the editorial process, but the business and promotional side of things? Not so much. And I knew if I ventured down the self-publishing highway, I’d have to wear those hats occasionally.  Since I’m already wearing a few too many hats, it was an easy choice to say no.

But I had this book. Note the word ‘but.’  That but is a big but.  It’s the equivalent of a teenager saying ‘but it was just that one time’ or a confirmed bachelorette saying ‘but I met this guy.’   It’s a but that leads to change.

I first wrote WHAT LAINEY SEES years ago. It received very positive attention from a number of editors. One wanted to buy it and held onto the manuscript for a year only to be overruled by her publisher.  In the end, there were two main reasons he said no.

First, WHAT LAINEY SEES is a hybrid. It’s the kind of novel marketing departments don’t know what to do with. It’s a romance with suspense and paranormal elements. It’s both contemporary and historical. It’s not time travel, which is an established category, it’s more of a time slip novel, where two distinctly different story lines play out at the same time.  Time slip is a quirky, barely-there genre. Publishers prefer a sure thing over quirky, particularly from a mid-list author.

An even bigger hurdle had to do with Native Americans.  As the story unfolds, Lainey Hughes starts remembering life as a Native American woman living in the Pacific Northwest. She believes the memories from that life could stop a terrible tragedy from occurring today. But the one man who can help her is a man who doesn’t believe in her visions – the Native American lover who died in her arms centuries earlier.  Native Americans, I was told repeatedly, don’t sell.  One editor even went so far as to suggest I lose the Natives and use another culture, another time period (I think she suggested Scotland; Diana Gabaldon was big at the time).

I couldn’t – and didn’t – do that. The Native American element was intrinsic to the novel. So I put the novel aside for a number of years. But like a sliver that won’t go away, WHAT LAINEY SEES remained with me.  I wanted it published. I wanted people to read it.  So I took the manuscript back out, rewrote and updated where I needed to, and weighed my options.  Since I didn’t have the patience to listen to more editorial feedback about how I needed to replace the Native Americans with Vikings . . . or make the time slip less time slip and more time travel, I decided to publish it myself.

From the cover design process, to working with an editor followed by a formatter, it’s been quite a process. It’s given me even greater respect for traditional publishers. It’s opened my eyes to a world that’s not going away – direct, author-controlled publishing. And it’s made me grateful for the many friends and colleagues who traveled the road before me and were so willing to share their stories and expertise as I bumbled along.

Is self-publishing the future for me? It’s one probable future, but traditional publishing remains my future too.  I’m a hybrid . . . like WHAT LAINEY SEES.  It’s up on Amazon. If you have a minute, check it out:


Rewards can be a Long Time Coming

DSC00518Years ago, a friend and I rescued dozens of plants from a city lot not far from where I live. The lot was being gutted in preparation for an apartment block. Over a period of weeks and with permission from the builders, we went in and dug up lilacs, hydrangeas, and reams of smaller things like California poppies and Shasta daisies. We also rescued a number of peony bushes. They were old and we weren’t sure they’d survive the move.  They did, though it took years to nurse them back to productivity.  But now, every spring, I’m rewarded with handfuls of blooms to bring inside.  Tangible evidence, as one friend said, of the reward of hard work.  Those peonies are also a reminder of my early gardening days, when I felt like anything was possible, slugs notwithstanding. Those days when the garden felt more like a blessing than a chore.

Coincidentally, I’ve spent the last few months revisiting and readying for publication an adult novel I wrote years ago.  Much of it was done when my daughter napped, and after I’d spent the morning writing magazine articles or assembling radio documentaries.  Back in the days when I felt like anything was possible, publishing climate notwithstanding.  Those days when the writing felt more like a reward instead of a responsibility.

At some point in the coming months I hope to have “What Lainey Sees” uploaded and for sale under my other writing name – Laura Tobias.  When it hits the Amazon shelf, it will be tangible evidence of the reward of hard work. And the pleasure of the journey itself.

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