Kids Need Truth to Balance Imagination

Mom loved reading, so love of books came naturally to me and Diann. If nothing else was available, I read the backs of cereal boxes at breakfast. We had a collection of Little Golden Books, and many came from Grandma Flavel and Aunt Amy, who was happily married and with a son and daughter of her own. We didn’t have kindergarten, but I read before entering first grade. Mom said she would be working at the kitchen sink and see me going by outside the window with my face in a book—walking around the house. 

Reading saved me; the worlds found in books were my escape when the real world turned too difficult and frightening. Or merely for adventure. In those days (1940s and 50s) only boys had adventures and I wanted desperately to be a boy so I could have them, too. 

I don’t recall Aunt Amy’s oldest boy, Bob, but I received plenty hand-me-downs from her daughter, Norma. I barely recall her husband, “Unca Charlie,” who I was told I loved, as he died when I was little. He and Dad went fishing a lot at “the lakes” as many called Portage Lakes where we lived. “You going fishing at the lakes this weekend?” All summer long you could hear the sound of motorboats speeding up and down Turkeyfoot Lake—about two miles to the end of Pillar Avenue, across the highway, and down the hill from our house.

Aunt Amy was a trip. After Charlie died and her kids grew up and moved away we saw quite a lot of her. She had a house at the bottom of a steep road and practically on the lake. I used to have nightmares about getting stuck in a car that ran away on that downhill road. As I got older, maybe nine or so, I would walk to the end of Pillar Avenue and meet her because she was afraid of a beagle dog that would run out beyond its yard and bark. I eventually learned the name of that dog, and commanding him with it would stop him in his tracks. He was more bark than bite, thank goodness.

Amy loved to laugh. We had a Little Golden Record about the secret laughing place she loved to play for its funny laugh. She made funny sounds with her lips in her arm, making me and Diann crack up.

She visited us every time a storm was expected. Mom said this was because when she was a small child she had been outside when Grandma was doing the wash during a storm. Thunder and lightning struck just when Amy was splashed with a pot of boiling water. Consequently, Mom always made sure Diann and I had a great time during storms. We both grew up loving a fierce rainstorm. We had some humdinger storms in Ohio. Great, black and blue thunderclouds with driving rains. Fantastic.

I recall Mom bending over the wood and metal scrubbing board in the furnace room that ran between the kitchen and the garage—rubbing up and down, up and down, scrubbing that laundry clean. Next I followed her outside while she hung the clothes in the backyard on a cotton line with wooden clothespins, one pin  to corners of two overlapped edges of clothing. She said there was nothing like the smell of clothing fresh dried in the wind and sun. I remember holding clothing up to my face and that smell. When I was old enough, she taught me the correct way to hang clothes so as not to get wrinkles in the wrong places and use the least number of pins. 

This was before she received a washer, and sometime later, a dryer.

Mom was a wonderful cook. She made our birthday cakes, and what cakes they were: one chocolate layer, one strawberry, and one vanilla. In between each layer she lathered fudge frosting, and on the sides and top swirled high melt-in-your mouth crispy-on-the-outside seven-minute white frosting. I have never eaten a cake like that since.

Karen and Diann with birthday cake in front of Pillar Avenue house

Like many children, I became attached to animals of every kind. We had a succession of cats, mainly to keep down the mice. Our house was on a hill—our backyard stretched up to my favorite climbing tree, beyond a wire fence to a wide and deep field that eventually led to what we kids called Meyers Woods. This field was a great spawning ground for mice, rats, and other similar critters. 

I don’t remember black Mike the First, though Diann said he would jump out from behind furniture and walls and knock her down, making her laugh. Black Mike the Second would sit on the wood highchair in the kitchen, shake paws and beg for popcorn. After Mike the First passed on we got Tiger, a huge ginger male with wide furry cheeks that followed us kids everywhere. He took no guff from dogs, either. Even the big dogs learned to give him space. Mom said she recalled seeing us kids walking in a line down the street trailed by a couple dogs with Tiger bringing up the rear. We lost him to a poisoned rat and buried the fellow with ceremony in our pet cemetery in the field out back with the other critters we found dead around the neighborhood, including birds. I wish I still had a photo of Tiger, but it was lost with other photos in a flooded basement when I was in college. Tiger was a difficult one to lose.

I got my first puppy, Tinker, when I was a tot. But Tinker turned out to be a big lug when he grew up. So big he knocked me over so Dad got rid of him. I hate to think how, considering the way Dad got rid of most animals. An early project of Dad’s was raising rabbits in hutches in the backyard. I don’t know if the group of rabbits came first or my white rabbit, Peter, came first at Easter. Naturally, I became attached to Peter, the pink-eyed, white rabbit. Perhaps it’s in my imagination that he followed me around. I do recall that Diann and I went to visit our cousins, Sally and Nancy, and when we returned, Peter was gone. All the rabbits were gone. I believe that Mom convinced Dad that having animals for sale around little girls like us was not a good idea since Diann and I could get attached to them. I doubt the rabbits were a good investment anyway.

I was told Peter went to live with our neighbors, but I knew the truth. I knew Dad had got rid of that rabbit with the others. That Peter was likely dead. I think I must have been four or five. What I am saying is don’t tell this kind of story to your kids. Tell them the truth because they instinctively know the truth. I was all that much angrier because I was being told a story instead of the truth.

As adults we tend to forget how attached children get to animals and things. We forget what a different world they live in, how very special and boundless that world is. Everything is of paramount importance. If you love, it is with all your being. Imagination and the mind is as strong as reality. Imagination helps you deal with the world. I recall a painting a young girl did of giant toes on a piece of white paper. “This is me walking in wet grass.”

Kids need the truth to balance their imaginations. They need to be able to depend on adults for that balance, so their world doesn’t topple over. I’m not saying you can’t play and imagine with your kids. But they need to know where the boundaries of imagination and truth are. Parents must provide a safe, dependable island from where children can go out and explore their world and return.

Dad was big and strong. He would grab your arm and yank to give you a swat and raise a bruise for days. He not only yelled at us or swatted our behinds for the smallest infraction, he began cutting down Mom in various ways, making remarks about what she did or things she said.

My world and my sister’s world became one of constant anxiety. Except when he was out of the house . . . gone. 

I Did Not Choose She Writes Press

Dickens at my Computer, Photo by Karen Lynne Klink

I recently downloaded a book by Colleen M. Story entitled Writer get Noticed!, which is supposed to help me pursue my own path while developing an author platform. Sounds like a great idea, since I need help with my platform.

My cat, Dickens, is here next to my computer, as usual and willing, but I doubt he knows much about this sort of thing.

The book suggests I keep a journal of each of its steps, answering core questions, which I did:

  1. I truly don’t care about making a lot of money. Thank goodness. Because the chances of that are slim. To me, higher royalties are not that important.
  2. What my novel has to say is important. It is meaningful and fits my vision.

As much as I believe She Writes Press is a good fit for many writers, I don’t believe it is for me. 

They read three hundred pages of my manuscript to invite me to publish with them. I should have known this was enough to recognize talent, but not enough to financially back my novel. This is my impression of the approach of a school who awards a publishing contract upon graduation. The She Writes Press team is excellent and I wish I could afford them, but I cannot.

I want a publisher who believes in my novel, Unspoken, as much as I do, or at least enough to financially support it.

I am grateful to She Writes Press and responders on Critique Circle for what I have learned these past few weeks. I began as such a naive newbie, and I now have direction. I highly recommend She Writes Press for many women writers who can afford to publish with their team. You will get plenty of support on your journey, merely not financial.

Where do I go from here?

I will be writing about my platform and why this novel is important. I hope you will come along for the ride.

Dickens Closing by Karen Lynne Klink

No, Dickens, this is not the end of this story!

Navigating a Publishing Contract – Compass, Please

First Contract Draft

I received an eight-page contract from She Writes Press, which includes an Exhibit A, stating those services to be performed by Publisher; Exhibit B, which is to eventually list any additional services, timeframe, fees, etc.; and Exhibit C, which contains a Fee Schedule.

The entire contract is in small print.

I hate contracts. I hate reading them.

I haven’t been able to find a publishing lawyer here in Arizona. So far. Maybe never.

Which means I’ve been trying to understand this thing myself. Bad idea.

I took paralegal classes years ago, one of which was contracts. Learned enough to get me in trouble. Similar to driving a four-wheel drive vehicle and heading for the mountains. I’ve done that, too. A person can get into big trouble with a four-wheel drive vehicle on those trails. I’ve been there and I know. Nearly got stuck overnight on this road once. My ex-husband was driving. Three of us had to get out of the vehicle and move rocks to back out. Big rocks.

Four-wheeling, photo by Karen Lynne Klink

Another time I was driving and my friend said, “keep going, keep going, keep going.” Nearly went right over a cliff.

Back to the contract.

I learned the following from reading that contract: She Writes Press is not risking a darned thing.

The author risks all. I pay for their expertise. Quite a lot, actually. I pay for printing, shipping, warehousing, returns, and numerous other fees. If anything goes wrong, I pay for that, too. Like, if my book doesn’t sell. Eeks, I can’t stand that “like” word, and I used it. Ah, well. Welcome to the millennial generation. I promise to not use it again, at least not in this post.

What do She Writes Press services include?

The following is Exhibit A:

  • interior design of the book up to 120,000 words
  • cover design
  • E-book file prep and upload to Amazon, B&N and iBookstore
  • Distribution to Trade Accounts through their current distribution partner
  • Management of the distribution relationship for the term of the Agreement
  • Proofreading of final manuscript
  • Copyright filing and obtaining Library of Congress control number
  • Warehousing of short-run printed books for first year
  • Fulfillment of orders on short-run printed books (I pay shipping)
  • Support and management of title metadata
  • Ongoing project management of title for term of Agreement
  • Support for getting books into bookstores, libraries and other trade outlets

All the above costs $7,500.

I found a blog by Lloyd J. Jassin, an experienced New York publishing attorney, that clearly explains what a publishing contract should contain, and She Writes Press matched his suggestions. If you are interested, his blog is here

There are a number of terms in the contract that have not been defined to my satisfaction.

  1. One of these terms is “derivatives.” Does this include sequels to the novel?
  2. The contract says nothing about a particular date for She Writes Press to publish my novel, what the New York attorney calls a “Duty to Publish.” Brooke has told me when she expects my book to be published, but this is not in the contract.
  3. Lastly, I want subsidiary rights. These include rights to foreign publishing, motion picture, TV, audio, merchandising, and TV rights. I don’t expect any of that to happen, but, who knows? 

Obviously, they are in the publishing business to make money publishing, not to take risks. They are going to be sure to make their profit, no matter what happens to me and my book. 

I must go into this with my eyes and my bank account open.

I welcome any and all pertinent suggestions and comments. 

In other words, HELP!

Author Platform, Unspoken History

White poppy near Washington-on-the-Brazos in East Texas
White poppy growing near Washington-on-the-Brazos in East Texas, photo by Karen Klink

I’m supposed to create an author platform with this blog. I looked up “author platform,” and got this: “everything you’re doing online and offline, to create awareness about who you are and what you do, so you can boost your brand visibility and make it easier and faster for your target audience and even the general public, to discover and connect with your brand and books.” That’s a mouthful. Let’s try words appropriate to what Unspoken is about: history, antebellum, slavery, plantations, abolitionism, bisexuality, women’s rights, secession, Texas. Love, of course, lots, requited and not. I hope y’all get into that. “Y’all” is one of those Texas words—yeah? And East Texas is the background for my story. I make a point of east, because East Texas is more like Louisiana than like Southwest Texas desert or Texas panhandle of Larry McMurtry Texas Ranger fame. I will be blogging of this fascinating historical background research as well as discuss Unspoken’s journey to publication. 

I knew so little about Texas when I started over eight years ago. That long? You betcha. This is historical fiction, after all. I knew my readers would jump on every mistake I made. Plus, I have always loved history and wanted to get it right. I love a story that makes me feel I am present in that place and time. That’s one of the reason I read. When I read, I’m gone. Don’t try to talk to me. Knock me on the head if you want my attention.

Old oak and home near Washington-on-the-Brazos in East Texas. Photo by Karen Klink.

Why Texas?

Let’s back those horses a little. I have been a Civil War buff since Junior High or, Middle School, as some call it. What a mess. Families split, brother against brother. Romantic South versus Industrial North. The slave question and so much more. Ripe for all kinds of drama and character development. So much has been written about the eastern states, much less about the western theater, and practically nothing about Texas’s involvement. Then, researching on the web I discovered the diaries and journals of Terry’s Texas Rangers. After reading those journals, I had my main character and only needed to flesh him out.

In researching Texas, I discovered Stephen Austin’s Three Hundred, those southern families who, with the permission of Mexico, began settling along the Brazos River in 1822. I now own Austin’s Old Three Hundred, The First Anglo Colony in Texas, as written by their descendants, edited by Wolfram M. Von-Maszewski. I’ll put some of the more fascinating gems from this in my blog as we go along, citing the book, of course, and letting you know where you can purchase it. This is the sort of thing there is no room for in the novel, but can be interesting to other history buffs like me. My two plantation families, one growing cotton, the other tobacco, are members of this group.

Eight years of research, writing, and editing later, I have Unspoken, and a draft of the following novel, Here We Stand. 

Oh. And authors must have a log line.

That is how you tell readers in one sentence what your novel is about. Yeah. A whole novel in one sentence. That takes some doing. So far, I’ve got two loglines: 

  1. Unspoken is a story of the slaves, dark secrets and passions of two of Austin’s Old Three Hundred plantation families in East Texas prior to the Civil War.
  2. With the help of his sister and keen-witted loyalty of a slave, a sensitive boy attempts to gain his father’s respect amid the dark secrets and unruly passions of two Brazos River plantation families in pre-Civil War Texas.

The second one is a little more on point. Anyone have a favorite?

I may put these up again later for voting if I get enough readers. At present I am still learning about blogging and will let you know as I go along, if I learn how to do that voting thing.

This has been the introduction to Unspoken, in case you didn’t notice. There will be more about what it took to research the novel, as well as links to what I have already posted, and photos, lots of photos on Pinterest and here. I know folks like photos. I surely do. I have traveled to Texas and Louisiana where Unspoken takes place—beautiful country. Hope you join me and take a look. Until next time . . .

Tucson Book Frost

Yum

Yum

I escaped the Colorado Cold and flew to Arizona for two fantastic days at the Tucson Festival of Books and, besides perusing the numerous tents full of authors and books, attended, let’s see, about eight workshops full of information about social media, publishing, marketing and speech-making. I got to listen to and meet two of my favorite bloggers, Chuck Wendig and Kristen Lamb! Now that I’ve met them, maybe I’ll be able to get them each to do a guest blog here. Are you reading this, you guys?

Besides getting an education and being able to buy wonderful books at half price, this Festival manages to have yummy food vendors. I was there with my best friend from first grade (we are book lovers from way back), and we spied one of our most favorite foods in the whole world—Frost gelato! If you haven’t had Frost gelato, you are missing out on one of the great wonders of the world. This stuff is better than ice cream. Not only does it come in flavors one can hardly imagine, like tiramisu and Bailey’s cream vanilla, but it is lower in calories and fat than ice cream. But I’ll dare you to notice. This stuff is so rich and creamy. My favorite is sea salt caramel.

How sad a person can’t get Frost everywhere. Although I discovered it is now in Albuquerque and Chicago, and there are lots of franchises in the Middle East. Wouldn’t you know. By the way, I do not own a Frost Franchise nor do I know anyone who does. I just love it. I must have inherited the ice cream gene from my mom.

The Author – An Anachronism?

A web friend of mine recently published her first book – an eBook.  She is thrilled.  I would be, too.  She also has a very fun blog that interviews her characters.  This is not only clever, but shows she is aware of one of the most current methods of marketing her book.

One of the recent articles on Digital Book World is by Don Linn, former owner/CEO of Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, entitled, “Caught in the Middle, Publishing’s Other Customers.”

The cost of hardcover books is going down.  Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it.  It is for the reader, which I suspect applies to most of us.  He notes that authors like Stephen King will not suffer.  They and those like them can self-publish and will still sell the same number of books they always have.  Even us newbies may do all right, as long as we do not seek to make a living from our writing.  I add, as long as we are willing and able to do all of our own marketing, delivery, follow-up etc., etc.

What about “those who fall between these two groups. They are the people who write for a living and who bring us the workhorse books in their categories (from literary fiction to genre fiction to all manner of non-fiction). Their advances have historically been relatively low and their sales relatively modest. They write for major publishers and independents. They write books that backlist and, in a small but very important number, they write really important books that either break out commercially, or say something significant that might not otherwise get said.”

Yet another consideration in this age of transitions.  Will the future look back on us and declare we produced nothing new, nothing of worth?  For the lack of funds, art suffered?  No more authors, only people who “write on the side.”

You may want to check out his article.  More food for thought.