Saturday, January 29, 2011

Many Minor Miracles

Albert Einstein once said “There are two ways to live your life; one is as though nothing is a miracle, and the other is as though everything is a miracle.” I honestly believe those are the only two options. And I’m convinced the second one is the truth.

Maybe all authors have the sense that the road they’re on is dappled with little miracles. I sure do. It’s easiest to notice them when you look back. How did I ever get here? I ask. It happens one small step at a time, but those steps are laid out before me by a kind and gracious hand. I’m sure of it.

And now I’m in need of another small miracle.

I’m having so much fun designing a book trailer!

The Beginning of the Book Trailer Production Process

First I wrote some words that might work, to explain, in the text of a book trailer, what the story is about.

Then I began looking for a piece of music I could use in the background. There’s a river in the story, so I went to you tube to find songs about rivers, but nothing really fit. Then one night when I couldn’t sleep (a common malady for writers, isn’t it?), it dawned on me that Russian music might be nice. So I got up and googled “Russian Christian music,” and immediately found the most hauntingly beautiful song, sung by a lovely Russian woman, in Russian.

With just a bit of tweaking, the words I had written fit the cadence of the song perfectly, and the nuances of the music fit the mood as well.


An unexpected bonus was that the video performance of the song begins with a prelude that fits Zinovy’s story as well. Before the music begins, the video has several seconds of the sound of ocean waves hitting the beach, and twice in that prelude, a young child mournfully cries, “mama.”

Zinovy’s story begins when he’s a grown man, but the loneliness that haunts him as a man—the agony that has led him to build the fortress walls around his heart—begins when he’s five years old and his widowed mother is murdered by the FSB. The prelude to this beautiful song will allow us to portray that part of Zinovy’s backstory, as an introduction to his journey toward the discovery that all his life he has been walking with God.

My son-in-law will produce the book video trailer. His six-year-old son, William, will be the model for Zinovy as a child. One dreary morning this winter (of which there will be many), Stuart will take William to the beach at Ambleside and film him walking along the shore, crying out for his mother.

One little miracle involved the finding of the right kind of costume for William. He needs a hat with a Russian look. No hat designed for a Russian winter exists in balmy Vancouver. But this past weekend, on a business/pleasure trip to Alberta, I found no less than six possible Russian hats in the four thrift stores I visited.

But the miracle I’m really praying for now involves the use of the music. I need to contact the singer of the song to ask permission to use the music for the video. After an extensive search on the internet, including some follow up phone calls, I found myself at the end of a dead end road. I can’t find her anywhere. She may even be in Russia. She may not even speak English.

It will be a miracle if I can track her down. But life is full of miracles. I’m excited to see how this one will come to pass.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More Milestones

My self-publishing journey has now taken me through a forest of “things to do” that weren't visible on the map when I made my first list. That simple one, remember? (October 1st post: “Self-Publishing To-Do List”)

I mean, how complicated could this self-publishing business be, anyway?

This new set of accomplishments fits under the “Marketing” task on the first list. They are tasks related to the business end of things.

Today I opened a business checking account under the name of my new publishing company. I have 12 checks with the name, “Millennium Journeys Press” at the top! Exciting. My daughter signs on the account, and she’s already helping me think through the business details. This is very much going to be a family affair.

Then I “bought” the company name from the provincial government, and registered the company as a sole proprietorship. Seventy-two dollars later, I am officially in business for myself in British Columbia.

Next step in the marketing set up will be to sign up for PayPal so people can buy the books from my website.

So, if you’re making your own self-publishing “to do” list, you can add:

1. Registering your publishing company with your state or provincial government.
2. Opening a bank account for your company.
3. Setting up with PayPal, if that’s the way you’re going to go. (You can make other arrangements for payment, but PayPal is the one my website designer suggested. It’s easiest for most people who might want to buy from your site.)

If you’re self-publishing through a boutique press, you won’t need your own publishing company. You can use theirs. I wanted to go the route of my own company because I want to keep the cost of the book down for the buyer, and boutique presses take a sizeable percentage of the book price.

Even if you use a boutique press, your own website will be essential, for marketing purposes, and the PayPal option is a good idea if you want to sell your own books on the side. And you certainly will want your own business account to collect all the money you’re going to make!

I’ve already designed a rough draft of a logo for my publishing company name. Some time down the road I’ll have to make it presentable enough to go on the spine of my book.

Still waiting to hear back from the editor, but while I wait I’m doing lots of other fun things. Next post I’ll talk about making book video trailers. Much fun!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's Official

This morning I bought the domain name I’ll be using for the website I’m creating. It took me about 60 seconds—half a dozen mouse clicks—but I feel like the ribbon has been cut.

No, wait. That has to come later. The ship hasn’t been built yet. I’m still waiting to hear back from my editor. (hint: Choose a good editor, but recognize that good editors are usually busy ones, so be prepared to wait for his comments.) But it still feels like a milestone—something tangible is created that is not going to be subject to editorial changes.

So the website I’ll use to promote and sell the novel will be Don’t go to the address yet. There’s nothing there. I bought it now just to reserve the name. But I do have a web designer and we’re making plans to get together to talk about the site, as soon as I get the photos I need to give him for the visuals—the graphics, I think they’re called.

How I Found a Web Person I Like:

Months ago I began thinking about the website, but I had no idea where to look for someone to set it up. I wanted someone I could talk to, who would listen, and be creative and skilled enough to take what I have in my head and put it into a proper visual format.

I had a couple of friends who did web design, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to hire a friend. For some business matters you need a little distance from people you love, for obvious reasons. But one of those was a good friend of my son’s—a young man who would be savvy to the audience I want for my book. Weeks ago I sent him a message on his business website, asking him if his company would be interested in my project.

Then I waited.

One thing I’ve learned about doing work for, and with, God is that His timing is usually different from mine. My idea of timing is, “Get the idea, then just get ‘er done.” His is more like, “I’ll give you the idea, then you put it on the back burner to simmer, and when I decide it’s hot enough, then we’ll get ‘er done.”

Have you noticed that Jesus was never in a hurry? In fact, He often seemed to drag his feet. On the way to heal the little girl who was dying, he stopped for a leisurely chat with another woman who needed healing. By the time he got to Jairus’ house, the little girl had died. So he touched her and she came alive again.

He heard Lazarus was sick, so he stayed four days where he was, until Lazarus was good and dead, then he went and called him out of the tomb.

So finally, three days ago, I saw a Facebook status my web designer friend had posted about his daughter. I commented on it, adding a note about my message to him on his work website. He commented back, gave me his phone number at work, and told me to call him the next day. Yesterday I called him and we talked. He referred me to a friend who does my kind of project freelance, who had just e-mailed him saying he could use some new clients. I e-mailed his friend last night and he got back to me. We exchanged several messages, and this morning I got my domain name.

I somehow knew, when Greg gave me Kramer’s name, that this was the person I would work with. Instinctively. And it was the right time. Well, it will be, when the photos are ready. That’s the next step.

Next post I’ll talk about the photo business, and the book trailer we’re producing.

It’s going to be fun!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My New Years' Resolution

My writing New Year’s resolution is to charge boldly into the new year, embracing the Gulp and Whee mentality I first discovered in the last part of 2010.

My spiritual New Year’s resolution is related to this one, so I’ll post this idea to my Joy blog as well. (Yes, I do compartmentalize and categorize my life. I know I’m not supposed to.)

The G and W mentality is perfectly exemplified in this anonymously written poem that inspires me again every time I read it. I hope it challenges and encourages you, both in your spiritual journey and your writing one.

The Road of Life

At first I saw God as my observer, my judge,
Keeping track of the things I did wrong,
So as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die.
He was out there sort of like a president.
I recognised His picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t know Him.

But later on when I met Christ,
It seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride,
But it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in the back,
Helping me pedal.

I don’t know when it was that He suggested we change places,
But life has not been the same since.

When I had control, I knew the way.
It was rather boring, but predictable. . .
It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead,
He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains,
and through rocky places at breakneck speeds.
It was all I could do to hang on!
Even though it looked like madness,
He said, “Pedal!”

I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?”
He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust.

I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure.
And when I’d say, “I’m scared,” He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts I needed,
Gifts of healing, acceptance, and joy.
They gave me gifts to take on my journey,
My Lord’s and mine.

And we were off again.
He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage.
Too much weight.”
So I did, to people we met, and I found that in giving
I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him at first, in control of my life.
I thought He’d wreck it.
But He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners,
Knows how to jump to clear high rocks,
Knows how to fly to shorten scary passages.

And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places,
And I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze in my face
With my delightful, constant companion, Jesus Christ.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do any more
He just smiles and says. . . “Pedal!”

Author unknown

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Road I've Taken

It’s a new year. I made my first resolution, and then reversed the decision.

I am NOT going to make weekly, regular posts to my blogs after all. And I will no longer feel guilty about these sporadic and undisciplined bursts of inspiration at the keyboard either.

My reasoning is that if I have to perform to a timetable, I will be tempted to write drivel just to meet my deadlines. There’s enough drivel on the e-waves. So my new resolution is to write ONLY when I feel I have something that at least one person will benefit from, or enjoy reading.

That’s why I suggest, if you haven’t already, you sign up with FeedBlitz to receive notices about current activity in this space. They’ll send you an e-mail when I’ve posted something new. In the meantime, you can forget about the blog and get on with your own exciting writing journey.

So here, for what it’s worth, is an example of what the process of choosing a title looked like in my case:

The struggle for me was to choose between a title that would capture the attention of potential readers and one that would be true to the story I had written. I couldn’t seem to come up with a compromise that would give me both.

This worried me a little. The idea that the story I had written might not capture the attention of any readers niggled at the back of my mind, but doing something to fix the story felt like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube, or a baby back into the womb. So I decided I’d have to work on the title instead.

I began by checking out the titles of fiction books that are selling right now. Many of them were only one or two words long. Short and sweet. I decided that works, as long as those one or two words are the right ones.

Zinovy’s Journey fits the short and sweet criteria, but many people complained that it wasn’t gripping enough. So I needed to jolt my pre-conditioned thinking out of the deeply entrenched rut my mind had dug over the last thirty years of plodding down the muddy road of writing this story and try to come up with a more exciting alternative.

(It’s amazing to me how many metaphors have to do with roads or journeys. Or is it just that I notice them more, like you notice how many white cars there are on the road when you’ve just bought a white one yourself?)

It’s also amazing how hard it is to climb out of the rut. I needed a big jolt. Since I find brainstorming a great way to overcome writing ruts, I made a brainstorm list of all key words in the story, as I suggested in the last post. My list included the following mix of themes, symbols, and significant objects:


Now, how to narrow the list down? The most riveting words were the more concrete ones—blood; river; water; orphan; knife; lion, cross. Things a reader could see or touch. Those things could also easily be portrayed on a book cover. I’d heard that the color, red, is especially arresting on book covers, so I took the concrete, red object and began working with it.

Blood. Can’t get much more gripping than that.

It was a reasonable choice, since the theme of blood runs throughout the story. Zinovy is a professional assassin who has an aversion to the sight of blood. He doesn’t know why he’s got this problem, because he’s repressed the memory of watching KGB agents murder his mother when he was five. The aversion is reinforced by his cousins’ deliberate slaughter of the baby chicks he loved and cared for when he was a child living in their home. Several bloody murders occur in the story, and the slaughter of a lion pride, to harvest the male lion’s heart for ritual purposes, is also bloody. Then there is Zinovy’s vision of the cross, with blood dripping down into the dirt at his feet.

So I took the word, “blood,” and tried to think of another word I could pair it with. Some possible choices were other words in my brainstorm list. I tried Blood Redemption; Blood River; Life-Blood. But none of them sounded just right.

Then I realized that every instance of bloody death in the book was of innocents—people or animals. This realization actually clarified for me a major theme in the book that I’d not noticed before—another benefit of brainstorming key words.

And so I came up with the title, Innocent Blood. Then I tried the new title out on my friends.

I watched the faces of people when I suggested it. They were gripped, for sure. Some thought it was a good attention-getter. Others said it sounded too much like a vampire novel.

Note to writers: You will rarely be able to let your critics make a firm decision for you about anything. You can’t even go with the majority vote, because in most cases there won’t be one. But market testing the title did help me see what issues I would have to contend with.

Here’s where I began to worry about the places my title would take readers if they googled it. I googled, and didn’t like the neighborhood. It wasn’t a place my story could settle down and feel at home in. Yes, the words worked. Innocent Blood was an accurate picture of one of the major themes in the book. But it just didn’t feel right.

So the process came down to a decision between a gripping title that I couldn’t really get comfortable with, even though it fit the story in some ways, and a title that portrayed the real essence of what the book was about.

My chosen title is what the story is really all about--Zinovy's journey toward the discovery of the meaning of his name. I’ve found I can’t make it anything else. It might not be the most marketable title, but another conclusion I’m coming to is that I can’t let market concerns drive my artistic decisions. They can ride in the back seat, but other factors will stay behind the steering wheel.

The process was useful, even if it led me back to square one. At least I can say I’ve explored other options. I resolve, now, to forget about the road not taken and focus on the road ahead, hoping it will lead to the specific readers my story is intended to touch.