Thursday, October 30, 2008

Books and Titles

My new book will be ready for delivery approximately November 12th. Last week I got an attack of nerves when I went to visit my parents. They saw the cover for the first time and didn't think much of it. Dad thinks it looks more like a war novel and also that the cover is fairly sombre. Mum, who has proof-read the M/S for me, said she would've preferred to have seen a pretty girl on the front. So when I went home I studied the image carefully (even though it's a bit late at this stage) and thought, "Help, what if they're right? What if people pick this up expecting to find a combat novel and get romance instead?"

I wondered whether we should have asked Andrew, our cover designer, to put some flowers or lace along with the barbed wire. We'd already got him to make several changes on the title size, name size, little comment and the way the writing went up the spine. I think he was glad when it was all over. As he's a very blokey sort of guy, and I guess you know what I mean, I had to laugh at the thought of asking him to include flowers or lace at the very last minute, but I would never dare actually do it. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he actually came to throttle us! And I'm not sure if I'd blame him.

The next thing I did was re-read the comments on this blog about the cover that you ladies left. That boosted my spirits a lot. My dh even reminded me, "You blog friends liked it." I e-mailed the design to my sister and nephews to have a final look at, and they promptly phoned back and told me that in their opinion, it's by far the best cover design I've ever had. Better than the Quenarden ones. My sister said, "Anyone who expects a war story and reads the blurb on the back will twig that it's got romance in it. And if the don't read the blurb, they deserve what they get."

I let Andrew, my husband, have the last word. He thinks it's got lots of interesting tricks with light to appeal to a wide range of readers. And he reminded me that even though the book has a romance thread through it, it also has excitement and suspense, and that's the element we're highlighting on the cover. The weird thing about me is that I can understand all the comments people have made, and sort of agree with everyone.

I know how important it is to have an initial package that is really appealing to readers. My own kids, who claim to be open-minded and not easily swayed, have made a snap judgment about one of the favourite books of my youth. This is "Children of the New Forest" by Captain Marryat. Our copy unfortunately has a front cover picture of two old-fashioned girls kneeling on the green grass, patting a dog, which is pretty misleading if you know what the story is about.

I've told Logan several times, "You ought to read it! I loved this when I was thirteen! It's an exciting story about the English Civil War. There are battles between the Cavaliers and Roundheads almost every turn of the page. The heroes are really tough, heroic guys." But all to no avail. He insists that he won't be caught anywhere near a book with girls patting dogs on the front with the title "Children of the New Forest." Despite what I say, it has the connotations of a sweet, domestic little tale.

I can only hope that my cover will appeal to a wide range.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hardly Worth Sleeping

A few nights ago, I had one of those weird, vivid dreams that is like an aerobic work-out. I'd woken up in the night, gone to get a drink of water and settled back into bed thinking, "I still have a few good hours for sleep."

Next thing I knew, I was on the Freeway in my car, driving through the next suburb, and I was completely exhausted. My eyes kept automatically shutting behind the wheel and I had to jam them open every few seconds. My head swam with fatigue. I recall deciding to pull over and park, thinking I'd surely cause an accident if I didn't. But I knew I couldn't stay there for long because I had some urgent appointment I needed to get to, because people were waiting for me. My final thought was, "Oh boy, I wish I was lying down in my comfortable bed, under my nice, warm covers." Then I woke up and discovered that I actually was lying in my comfortable bed under my nice warm covers. I hate that sort of dream! Surely it's a waste of a sleep when you wake up feeling more exhausted than when you lay down.

My oldest son had trouble falling asleep a few nights ago, so my solution was plenty of exercise. There's a great steep hill near our place. I could call it "Roller-Coaster Hill" in a positive mood and "Cardiac Hill" in a negative one. I got him hiking up it, and it was pretty good for me too. It was quite funny because Emma heard me talking about Logan's insomnia, didn't know what it was and assumed that it might be some yucky disease or condition that she didn't want to catch.

I've suffered from the same thing myself in the past, and find it helpful to turn to Dale Carnegie's chapter, "How to keep from worrying about insomnia" in "How to stop worrying and start living." His advice comes down to five things.

1) If you can't sleep, get up and work or read until you feel sleepy.
2) Remember that nobody was ever killed by lack of sleep. Worrying about insomnia usually causes far more damage than sleeplessness.
3) Try prayer.
4) Relax your body.
5) Exercise. Get yourself so physically tired that you can't stay awake.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sparring with Windmills

A few nights ago, my son Logan was walking around grumbling and frowning because he had a bit of a toothache and he hates going to the dentist. I managed to get him in for an appointment the very following day because somebody else had cancelled. It was for 4.30 and all day long, he was moping and groaning. "She always finds something with my teeth! She's filled some and pulled some, this time she'll probably say most of them need to come out and the few that are left need braces." Although he wasn't serious about this, he still managed to talk himself into a real state of nerves. I could understand him, because last year he needed six baby eye-teeth pulled. The new ones had grown so high in his gums, the old ones were showing no signs of getting loose. But although that was over and done with, he was still expecting the worst. By the time we were sitting in the waiting room, I could just about feel anxiety waves radiating from him.

When we went in, the dentist tried her best to work out why the tooh had been hurting. She tapped it and scraped it and put cold stuff on it, but it looked OK. So she took an X-ray of it, and after peering at it, asked him if he'd had a cold. He had been going around with a snuffling, hay-fevery, thick head sort of thing a few days before, so she showed us on the X-ray how his sinuses were playing up with the nerves and roots of his teeth. "In a few more days, it shouldn't be giving you any more trouble at all."

So Logan left the clinic trying to appear all nonchalent, as if he hadn't been worried at all. And I warned him not to ever let himself get the way I used to be (and still am if I don't take care). I was the sort of person who'd always assume the worst case scenario must be true until it was completely ruled out. If I read a medical article, I was sure to discover I had heaps of the symptoms. And if Andrew and the kids were late coming back from somewhere, I'd imagine all sorts of road carnage or other disasters. I've found part of the solution is to have a good laugh at myself and treat this sort of thinking as a bit of a joke. And I remembered the classic old story of Don Quixote, wasting so much time and energy trying to attack something he perceived as a huge threat, but turned out to be nothing but a group of windmills. Although everyone has a giggle at poor old Don Quixote and that story, I have to see we're not always that much brighter. I've certainly fought my share of windmills in my past, and cringe to think of how much fun I could have been having instead of wasting the time I spent worrying.

It helps to find the good in each situation too. In this case of the dentist, I was able to use a special voucher we'd received in the post. Our new government has decided tha teenagers should be especially targeted for preventative dental surgery, so earlier in the year, we received a teenage dental voucher entitling Logan to have a free $150 worth of treatment. At last I was able to use it to cover this check-up and X-ray. And next year we'll get another one. Family dental care usually hits us in the wallet worst of all, but this time all I needed to do was sign a Medicare claim form. And they start coming when kids turn 11, so after another year, Emma will be eligible too. All I can say is "Thank you, Mr Rudd." It's pretty good when you can actually benefit from something the government is doing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quiet Heroism

I heard a good true story over the weekend from a friend who's a teacher. She works at a school where there's a really happy, full-on home-economics teacher in her early 60s. Earlier this year, that lady had an unexpected serious heart attack from which she was extremely lucky to ever recover.

So during her convalescence, the home-ec teacher began to wonder just what it was that God had saved for her. She began to imagine that maybe she ought to show her appreciation in some tangible way, such as joining a mission, helping in third world countries or becoming involved in some huge charity, but she couldn't work out what it ought to be. And as some of these things are such big commitments, she knew she'd find it hard to come up with the necessary finances. So she prayed the issue through, trusting that if God wanted to give her a new lease on life, He'd certainly find some way of letting her know what it ought to be.

It happened that on the very week she prayed, several students, both past and current, mentioned to her that her input had positively impacted their lives in various ways. And as result of all these coincidences, she decided with certainty that she was simply supposed to be continuing with the very thing that she'd been doing for over twenty years. Sometimes we make it so hard for ourselves by downplaying our roles in life, trying to figure out something to do that we would deem more worthwhile than what we're already doing. But the fact is that we are already exactly where we need to be, doing the acts of quiet, nameless heroism that are making an impact whether or not we acknowledge them.

It reminds me of another true story I heard, about a guy who wanted to positively impact the world but he was too overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the world's problems to think that anything he could do would do any good. A friend of his mentioned that he'd been helping out serving soup at a homeless shelter and asked if he'd be interested in helping too. The guy really wanted to, but it seemed so futile. He asked his friend, 'How do you keep up your spirits when the lines of hungry people just keep growing?' The reply was, 'I have to confess that the reason I do this is because it keeps my spirits up. I know I can't solve the problem of world hunger but I know that every plate of food I prepare is going to somebody who really needs it and that makes me feel alive, more like the man I want to be.'

We see lots of gloom and doom on the news each night, but the world is full of quiet heroes who just get on with their jobs and make the world a better place.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Risky Way Home

These are the back and front covers of my new book, "The Risky Way Home." After lots and lots of preparation, it is just about ready to run off the press. So exciting. I can't begin to describe all the steps so I won't try. What do you think of it?
In case it's hard to read the back blurb, because I reduced it fairly small, this is what is says.
"Had Casey Miller known the peril that awaited her she might have turned down her dream job offer.
Things are definitely not as they seem and her personal judgments are turned upside down as she finds herself drawn into a story of terror and revenge that began twenty years earlier. All the while her heart is torn between two men; suave, polished Eric and calm, reclusive Piers.
This riveting novel will have readers unravelling mysteries with Casey and rejoicing in the choices she makes as she finally discovers the home of her heart."
Also, Andrew's been working on a new website design for me, to include the contemporary novels. Parts are still under construction but it's basically up and running if you'd like to click on the side icon in my blog and check it out. The new website even has a link to my blog, which is a good thing to have.