Friday, February 20, 2015
Thursday, February 19, 2015
My life as an author has introduced me to a number of wonderful, talented people who also share a love for writing and have ventured into independent publishing. As the author of a novel about Alzheimer’s, I've also been introduced to a number of people who are driven to share their own experience and expertise with this disease via novels, blogs, and memoirs. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jean L. Lee, author of the newly published memoir Alzheimer’s Daughter. This is a deeply personal, poignant account of Jean’s parents, Ed and Ibby, married 66 years, and suffering Alzheimer’s in the way they did everything: together. Jean has graciously accepted my invitation to visit my blog and share her story about her parents and the book she wrote to celebrate their lifelong devotion to one another. She's given us insight into her writing and publishing process and an excerpt from her book. Welcome to Adventures in Publishing Jean! Tell us, were you born a writer or did it evolve?
Thank you for inviting me to visit your blog, Marianne. I was not born a writer. I spent 22 years as a third grade teacher. Although I’d always loved to read and found it thrilling to foster the love of reading in my students, I wrote only lesson plans. It was a life experience that brought me to writing.
Both of my parents had Alzheimer’s. I lived only one mile from them, but my only sibling, my sister, lived 1,000 miles away. She suggested I keep a journal of things that concerned me about our parents’ health and safety. Whenever we spoke by phone, I’d open the journal and review concerns. The journal allowed us to be proactive rather than react to a crisis.
I only shared my parents’ illness with a handful of friends and coworkers. I remember them telling me I should write a book about this dual decline. I was too busy trying to stay afloat to give any thought to writing about the experience, except in my sister-journal.
However, less than one week after my mother died, while visiting with my dad, he had no memory of Mom or their 66-year marriage. I was stunned and at that point I came to believe my journal could become the core of a book honoring my parents’ love story and documenting their simultaneous decline.
When, why, and how did you start writing?
After my mom died, I began transposing my journal from short-hand, chicken scratch to something legible that others could read and understand. My 30-minute drive to and from school gave me time to think about the events that were happening, putting those events into words, and making beauty out of the words. I bought a voice recorder so I could speak thoughts and phrases while I drove.
Visits to my dad in the locked memory care unit were painful. I would speak my thoughts and feelings into the audio recorder during my drive home and transpose the words to writing later. My writing routine was to write after work, ruminate and think through the words during the night, reread what I’d written as soon as the alarm rang at 5:30 a.m. Head to school and repeat.
Who has been your biggest supporter?
My sister has been my biggest supporter. Alzheimer’s Daughter is our story. Friends, family and coworkers have also spent many hours reading and giving valuable feedback.
I finished, or so I thought, about a year after I began writing.
Did anyone help you along the way?
Yes. I asked a former student who had gone on to become a New York Times bestselling author to read the manuscript. He leveled with me, basically told me it was bad, and needed much work. I knew I needed help to revise it, since I was not trained as a writer. So, I sought out a local critique group led by an experienced editor. They helped me tear apart every facet of the book and rewrite. My editor then took the manuscript to a group of beta readers made up of an emergency medical technician, hospice worker, caregiver, nurse and an elderly woman whose family was trying to move her out of her home. The input from beta readers offered more feedback, which initiated more changes. Now, four years after beginning Alzheimer’s Daughter, with thanks to my former student, my critique group, my editor, and beta readers, I have a published book.
I would advise any writer to join a critique group and always say “Thank you” to people who take time to help you refine your work, even if their input is negative and hard to hear. Negative input will result in positive change. The reader is always right.
How much do you read? Which genres?
If I could envision a perfect day, I’d write all morning, then read throughout the afternoon. I read anything from memoirs to WWII historical fiction to books on writing and social media. I prefer to read in ebook form because I can easily highlight, take notes and reference them in the touch of the screen. Plus, these books take up no room on my bookshelves.
Which authors do you admire and why?
While plodding through my Alzheimer’s journey, I read any personal experiences I could get my hands on. These were obscure titles, written by ordinary people like me. My favorite was So, What is Love? written by Ann B. Keller. The book was so stunning that I even remember her middle initial, though I read it at least seven years ago. The book was Ann’s mother-in-law’s diary about caregiving for her father-in-law who had a form of Alzheimer’s. The book is written in the language of WWII lovers, an antique sugary sweetness, remembering their early love contrasted to their life as an elderly couple with rapidly failing health. The book was so vivid in its details. I remember a scene where the wife has to take her husband into the men’s room in a restaurant to change his adult diaper. From the noise in the stall, other men might have thought there was hanky-panky going on, but in actuality, the wife has pulled out her supplies, a clothespin for her nose, and a DumDum lollipop to keep her husband’s attention while she wrestled her husband, twice her size, into clean pants.
Are you a full time or part-time writer?
I retired from teaching the year my dad died. I knew there was more I wanted to do with my life, even though I loved every day of my teaching career. At the top of my list of new endeavors was being a good granny. At that time, I had one granddaughter and had not been able to spend the time I desired with her. Since then, four more grandchildren have been born. My son and his wife had triplets that turn two years old this spring. They live two hours from me. I’ve been able to help with their care every week since their birth. This is such a blessing in my life and has led to my newest writing experience, Lexi’s Triplets, written through the family mutt’s voice, at the third-fourth grade reading level. After the sadness of writing about my parents and Alzheimer’s, now I giggle while at the keyboard, writing about a pampered pooch’s efforts to figure out misplacement, displacement and a life turned upside down. Once again, life provides writing experiences.
If writing part-time, how do you make time in your life to write?
Finding time to write is difficult. Here’s my secret: I try to save and close my manuscript at a point where my next thought is on the tip of my fingers and I just can’t wait to get back to it. That way, writing becomes my favorite thing to do because I race back to that thought as fast as possible. Also my critique group is helpful because I feel responsibility to submit work. This makes me create new material and stick to a timeline.
What do you love most about writing?
I love to make words convey beauty and emotion. Through writing we touch the hearts of those we would otherwise never come to know.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
I’ve learned I can write! An old dog can be taught new tricks. With a family history of Alzheimer’s always looming, I see writing as new learning. As an old bird, I feel invigorated keeping pace with social media and technology. I’m keeping my brain young.
How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your writing career?
I envisioned Alzheimer’s Daughter to be traditionally published. Big goal, remote possibility. I wasn’t daunted. I spent about a year researching and querying agents and publishers. One agent was interested but told me that unfortunately I had no name or fame with which to sell a memoir, therefore no publisher would take a chance on my work. At that point I began to study CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing. I paid for some interior layout services and a Kindle conversion so that Alzheimer’s Daughter would have a professional look in both paperback and electronic versions. I am extremely happy with the result.
How do you market your work?
Through Twitter I can follow other authors, and people who have an interest in Alzheimer’s. By starting to build a Twitter platform a couple of years before I published, I now have followers to whom I can bring something that might be of interest to them, my story, Alzheimer’s Daughter.
About Alzheimer’s Daughter
What would you do if both parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s?
At the time of their diagnosis, Ed Church struggles to his feet, yelling, “How dare you use the A. word with me,” while Ibby wags her finger at the doctor scolding, “Shame on you.”
They’d defend each other, Ibby by asserting, “We’re not leaving our home,” and Ed reassuring, “We’re just fine.”
About his driving Ed defends, “I’m an excellent driver, I’ve never had an accident.”
When their daughter, Rosie, finds dings in Ed’s car, he dismisses, “Someone must have hit me.”
At dinnertime Ibby makes excuses, “Let’s eat out. The stove won’t work.”
After Rosie moves them to assisted living, convinced they are on a second honeymoon, they break the news, “We’ve decided not to have more children.”
In the late stages, they politely shake Rosie’s hand, inquiring, “Now, who are you?”
In Alzheimer’s Daughter, readers journey with Rosie Church from her first suspicions that something is awry to a decade later as she is honored to hold Ed and Ibby’s hands as they draw their last breaths.
An Ordinary Day
A nippy dawn woke my dad, eighty-six-year-old Ed Church. He turned to nuzzle his chin into Mom’s warm neck, but Ibby was already up and dressed. He heard her rattling around the kitchen laying out a breakfast of graham crackers and hot tea at the century-old dining table. Ed pulled on yesterday’s clothes that laid on the bedside chair overnight, splashed water on his face, and ran a dry toothbrush across his teeth.
After they ate, Ibby brushed crumbs from Ed’s lips and held his red, Rivertown Realty jacket from behind as he slowly slipped in one arm at a time. Ed helped Ibby snuggle into the blue, fuzzy cardigan she’d knitted thirty years ago, waiting as she fastened each white pearl button with her arthritic fingers.
Ed smooched Ibby saying, “I love you––see you for lunch.”
Fingertips against the wall to steady himself, he staggered down two concrete steps to the attached garage, then pushed the control to open the overhead door. Ibby tottered along to his red Cadillac handing him his cane, reminding, “Don’t forget to use this.”
Ibby stood in the driveway of the small 1950’s brick, ranch home where they’d lived for forty years, waving while Ed backed out of the driveway without looking and drove two blocks to work.
His Caddy rolled through one stop sign then through a red light before he parked crooked across two spaces at Rivertown Realty. Ed entered his business of sixty years smiling so brightly his eyes squinted, gave an enthusiastic, salute-like wave to his co-workers who were already busily working, bubbling, “Hello, everybody. Great day, isn’t it?” He continued polite niceties but couldn’t remember names. Then he entered his office with his brass nameplate on the door, ‘Edwin Church––President,’ and settled in behind his walnut desk, opening The Wall Street Journal. He appeared busy but glanced up frequently hoping to see familiar clients.
Back at home Ibby waved to her neighbors as they drove to work. On Orchard Lane, their dead-end street, everyone knew everyone. She struggled straightening her stooped spine to pour cracked corn and sunflower seeds into her bird feeder and slowly hobbled to survey her bleak fall yard. She lingered, marveling at the glistening, frozen dew encapsulating late-fall rosebuds. Frost soaked Ibby’s cloth shoes.
Shivers hastened her back into the warm house. She passed through the cluttered kitchen looking for a snack, peeking in the refrigerator packed with leftovers. Some were edible, others spoiled, but Ibby couldn’t tell the difference.
She looked forward to the lunch and dinner she and Ed would eat at the local restaurant as they had nearly every day for the past six months.
Before Ibby settled in on the couch to wait for Ed she heated a cup of tea in the microwave. The stovetop was piled too high with pots and pans, as well as canned and boxed food, to use the teapot. She idled time away watching cardinals, blue jays and yellow finches flitting on the feeder outside the picture window, whistling to mimic their chirps.
From across the street a retired neighbor stopped by, as she did every morning, to say hello. Ibby gave her a hug and a friendly greeting, but couldn’t remember her name.
Before Ibby realized, hours dissolved. She heard the church bells toll twelve at noon and was whistling along with “Amazing Grace” ringing out from the church carillon, when she saw Ed pull in the driveway.
Finding a comb and a tube of lipstick on the dining room table midst cracker crumbs, newspapers and unopened mail, she drew a shaky, wine-colored line on her lips and pulled the comb once through her fine, snow-white hair.
Bundled in her sweater again, Ibby left the house unlocked and gimped to the car. Ed had beeped the horn twice. She knew he was hungry and anxious to eat at the only restaurant in town, Farmers’ Restaurant, located kitty-cornered across the street from Rivertown Realty.
When they arrived, Ed parked the car with the rear edging out into the main intersection beneath the single stoplight in Rivertown. Most residents recognized the red Caddy and knew to avoid the car and its driver.
A balding farmer wearing Carharts tipped his John Deere cap and smiled as the warmth of coffee and frying burgers drifted through the door he held open for the elderly couple.
Ibby with her bent posture said, “Thank you, sir.”
The farmer replied, “You’re welcome, Ibby.”
Ed, while leaning on his cane, clapped the farmer on the back asking, “Did you get your beans harvested?”
“You bet, Ed, and I got a fair price for those beans. Now, you two enjoy your meal.”
Dad paused at the door, waiting as Mom shuffled across the threshold, then followed her and took her hand. Both of them smiled and nodded at familiar faces while making their way to their favorite booth by the west window, facing the town square with a view of Rivertown Realty.
The waitress read and reread the specials, then reminded Ed and Ibby of their favorite meal, a fish dinner to split with extra tartar sauce and two pink lemonades.
Patrons stole glances at Ed and Ibby, winked and whispered to their lunch partners, while Mom and Dad, seated together on one side of the booth with shoulders touching, shared one meal having no idea that on the next day their lives and mine would change completely and forever.
About the Author
Jean Lee lives with her husband in small-town Ohio, twenty minutes from anything. Although she worked full time while her parents were ill, she is now retired after twenty-two years of teaching elementary school. Her children are married with children of their own. Five grandchildren are her greatest blessings. Her latest writing project, Lexi’s Triplets, features her triplet grandchildren, written through the voice of Lexi Lee, the family dog.
Connect with Jean Lee
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Monday, February 9, 2015
Last year I wrote about ASOT2014, but it’s such a worthy cause and effort I want to give it a little more ink as it enters its second year.
Authors Supporting Our Troops is a small but dynamic operation to put author donated/author signed print books into the hands of our troops (all military branches) serving in remote areas (Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait) where days can be long and diversions difficult to find. Books are in such short supply that one single copy can make the rounds throughout the entire base, some soldiers reading it two or three times. ASOT sends boxes of books to individual soldiers to share with his or her comrades, offering a variety of genres and hours of entertainment.
Launched January 1st and continuing through May 1st, ASOT2015 hopes to exceed the accomplishments of ASOT2014, when authors and publishers donated 2,900 books, all of
which made it to our troops.
“Our goal this time is to put 3,500+ print books into the hands of soldiers in remote areas of the world like Kuwait and Afghanistan,” says event organizer Armand Rosamilia. “If a soldier is stationed in Germany or San Diego, they can easily buy a book or have access to TV, games, e-readers, etc. This event is for the men and women of the military who don’t have easy access to read. It’s something for their downtime between hostile situations.”
What types of books are accepted?
“Everything but blatant porn,” says Rosamilia. “Nothing taboo or racist, nothing pushing the
envelope. Antimilitary books might not be so popular. Last year many authors didn’t think their romance books would fit, but they did. Soldiers will read anything if it’s the only book around. They like to read a good paranormal romance, you know.”
“From you,” Rosamilia says. “We don’t work with a company or the military. We rely on family and friends of soldiers overseas to get in touch with them to make sure they’re interested in handing out the books. Then we need their COMPLETE address (including their name and APO/FPO) to ship to them. That’s it. The goal is 35 soldiers in 2015 or more.” Right now, the project is short on names, so anyone who knows a soldier serving in these areas is encouraged to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How are the books shipped?
ASOT2015 relies on the good old United States Postal Service. “No other carrier is as cheap or easy as the USPS,” says Rosamilia. “It costs about 25 dollars to ship a box of books (about 50 books per box.)”
How can I help?
Authors and small publishers interested in donating books can reach out to Rosamilia via email at email@example.com.
Many people have come forward to help with shipping costs, donating money directly to the cause. Email Rosamilia to make a donation, any amount helps.
ASOT2015 also has T-shirts and hoodies available in a variety of colors and styles for purchase via TeeSpring to help defray costs. They’re simple, inexpensive, and available to anyone, author or not.
Also, Rosamilia asks authors to spread the word about this event. “Even though we hit so many authors the last time around (about 325 or so), that is such a small blip of the writers and publishers out there. If you belong to an author’s organization, let them know about it. Ask your publisher to get in touch. Many of them sent us boxes of books last year, which was great.”
For more information please visit and LIKE the ASOT2015 Facebook page.
About event organizer Armand Rosamilia
Armand Rosamilia is a New Jersey boy currently living in sunny Florida, where he writes when he's not sleeping. He's written over 100 stories that are currently available, including a few different series: "Dying Days," extreme zombie series; "Keyport Cthulhu," horror series; "Flagler Beach Fiction Series," contemporary fiction; "Metal Queens," non-fiction music series. He also loves to talk in third person... because he's really that cool. He's a proud Active member of HWA (Horror Writers of America) as well. Visit his website where you can find not only his latest releases but interviews and guest posts with other authors he likes. E-mail him to talk about zombies, baseball and Metal at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, February 5, 2015
New teacher Nikki Fallon is trying to ward off unwanted advances from the hunky football coach. She should...
a) slap him silly.
b) report him for harassment.
c) invent an imaginary husband.
Coach laughed and took a step back. “So, you have plans this weekend?"
Is Gayle right? Does he flirt with all the women? Dang, he smells good.
“I was thinking I could show you some of the more intimate bars in Eastmont.” He leaned his elbow on the roof of the car, pulling his polo shirt taut across his pecs. His whole aura exuded virility, and it sucked all the moisture from Nikki’s mouth. A date sure would be a nice change. And he’s mighty hunky.
Something twinkling in his eyes set off a warning alarm in her brain.
“Uh.” Nikki searched the parking lot for some clue of an excuse.
Just then Officer Ross rolled up in his security patrol car and lowered his window. “Everything okay here? This is a no loitering zone, you know,” he said with a mock-serious tone. “The Friday before Labor Day, this place should be empty.”
“We’re all fine, Officer,” said Coach. He clenched his jaw and ran his fingers through his hair. “Just making plans for the weekend.”
“Oh?” Ross glanced at Nikki.
“We’re not making plans together.” She waved her arms between them. “We were just talking.”
“Right. What?” Coach looked off-balance for a moment.
“Pretty soon you’ll be married to your work here.” Ross smiled sympathetically in the way all the teachers did when they implied her life was about to be forfeit to endless grading and committee meetings.
Married. Did he say married? Nikki had a brain flash. “Yes, actually! My husband’s taking me out tonight to celebrate my new job really starting.”
“Your husband?” Coach coughed.
“Isn’t he sweet?” She grinned and bounced on her heels like a giddy teen girl. “He’s always doing such thoughtful things for me.”
“I didn’t know you were married.”
“Oh yes. Newlyweds. You know how it is.” Nikki winked knowingly. Starting her engine, Nikki beamed up at Coach. “Well, good-bye. Have a great weekend!”
And just like that, Nikki was married.
Available on Amazon.
I had the pleasure of being an early reader for Her Imaginary Husband. It's a cute romantic comedy, a perfect quick read for a snowy evening.
About the Author
Monday, February 2, 2015
Today’s guest is a special friend of mine, a fellow author and Swim Mom whom I have been privileged to know for several years as our daughters went to school and swam together. Maria Blon and I have watched one another pursue and realize our dreams to become authors and to make a difference in the lives of others. Living Passionately: 21 People Who Found Their Purpose - and How You Can Too! is her latest book, and a source of inspiration for those searching for their purpose in life.
Maria is an international public speaker, published author, and founder of SPARKS!, an organization that focuses on empowerment through motivational speaking, books and inspirational products. She began her professional life as a holistic math teacher at the college level, teaching students and future teachers to love mathematics through hands-on, interactive learning. Her life has transformed at a number of different times, most notably when she and her daughter volunteered in Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010. During this time, Maria helped launch The HEART School in Haiti, where she has trained teachers and is president of the board of directors. Welcome to Adventures in Publishing, Maria! Please tell us your inspiration for this book and how it can help those longing to find their life’s passion and purpose.
It’s a pleasure to speak to your readers, Marianne. Thankyou for inviting me to visit your blog. Too many people are suffering from a lack of hope and meaning in their lives. The 21 individual stories in Living Passionately will show readers how to overcome many life challenges in order to lead a happier, more fulfilled life. From a world known healer, to successful business people, to a person who struggles to feed her family, you will read a wide range of inspirational stories which will lift you and the world from the darkness of despair to the hope of living passionately! Preview the book on my website People LivingPassionately where you can click on the chapter titles that interest you to read an excerpt, watch a video, and learn more about each author and how they might inspire you to live passionately and find your purpose. I’m thrilled to be the coordinating author for this book. The official book launch will be on Saturday, February 7th, from 1:00pm to 4:00pm at the Orange County Choppers Cafe in Newburgh, NY, home of the nationally known Orange County Choppers. Several of the authors who have contributed to the book will be present to inspire participants to live passionately. Entertainment includes music. Food, drinks, bowling, and billiards will be available for purchase.
I was fortunate to be an early reader for Living Passionately. It is a powerful collection of stories from people of very different backgrounds and circumstances who have encountered adversity, and even tragedy, yet managed to emerge with positivity and a zest for living. One of the strongest messages within these stories is the teller's attitude toward giving, sharing, and helping in order to get more from life and to achieve his or her goals. Funny how that works. Each person featured has gone outside him or herself to discover their own inner strengths and to use these strengths to enhance and better others' lives while enriching their own. Living Passionately is a powerful book that will help its readers heal, grow, and thrive.
Living Passionately is available in print, e-book, and audio on Amazon, and on Maria’s website People Living Passionately. Visit her website to receive three FREE gifts: 3 Mistakes to Avoid if You Want to Live a Passionate Life; LOVE Formula, and her Passion Quiz.