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Make NaNoWriMo Last All Year

Photo by Christopher Campbell © Unsplash

Every November, hundreds of thousands of people around the world do something that might break them spiritually, psychically, or psychologically — though probably not physically: they attempt to write the first draft of an entire novel in 30 days. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel (175 DS manuscript pages, based on a count of approximately 300 words per page) in thirty days. That’s about 1,700 words (or six DS manuscript pages) a day. Besides training for and entering an Iron Man Competition, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it’s known to participants, has to be one of the most challenging and demanding tasks anyone can voluntarily give himself.

Participants are not supposed to publish the book they write during NaNoWriMo as is. The NaNoWriMo book is the first draft. Writers have to revise, edit, get feedback from readers, re-write, edit, revise more, have some coffee, then decide whether they want to Indie publish or attempt to get an agent and try for the traditional New York publishing route.

NaNoWriMo is not about getting published or about being an author.

NaNoWriMo is about being a writer.

If you participated in NaNoWriMo, you probably learned as much about yourself as you did about your novel.  Even if you didn’t manage to complete the requisite 50K, even if you only worked on an outline for your planned novel, you did something important. If you learned nothing more than how difficult it is to write full-time, then you learned the most important thing NaNoWriMo could ever teach you about being a writer. Here are some tips for helping you continue to write full-time, all year long.

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Pretend It’s Your Job

As I wrote in another post, some of the best advice I ever got about writing came from a friend when I took nine months off work to write my first novel — 9 months without pay, after having borrowed $11K from the bank (at 17 & ⅞% interest, for a total loan repayment of $18K). At that time, though I’d been writing regularly and been extensively published in literary and university journals for over 10 years, I’d only written when inspiration struck me, i.e., in short, intensive bursts every few months. I’d never been paid for writing, had never published a book, and had never done it every day, all day long, for an extended period. I’d also only written poetry, which is easier to write sporadically since poems are quite a bit shorter than novels.

After almost a year trying to write my first novel while working several jobs, I’d gotten the bright idea to borrow money from the bank to write my book. To my shock, the bank approved the loan, based on my extensive publications and literary prizes. During the first month of my sabbatical, I didn’t write anything at all: instead, I spent my time thinking about my novel, all day long, every day. When I realized how much it had cost me to think for a month, I panicked. That’s when my best friend suggested that I think at my desk, with a pen in my hand, holding my pen over a tablet of paper. Further, she suggested that I pretend writing was my job, which meant getting up, getting dressed, going to my desk, and writing at the same time every day.

Pretending that writing was my job changed my life.

Celebrity authors are not the only full-time writers in the world: all of us who eventually got published had to write for a long time before our books received contracts. Full-time writers, including traditionally published authors, almost always have other jobs: they rarely can support themselves and their families solely from writing income. Full-time writers are those who’ve made a serious and long-term commitment to writing, no matter what their day-job is, how long their daily commute, how small their writing or office space, how large their family, or how extensive their outside obligations.

A full-time writer writes like it’s his job, even if he’s never gotten paid for his writing.

If you want to make NaNoWriMo last all year long, treat writing as your job.

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Get a Calendar and
Schedule Writing Time

When you have a job as a writer, you don’t merely write the time you have already spent writing on the calendar: you write down the time you are going to spend writing. Like it’s your job. You know what time you have to be at your job, and if you have multiple jobs, as I’ve had almost all of my life, you write down where you have to be and the time you have to be there. When I wrote for that year that I took off work, I wrote down, in advance, the times I was supposed to be writing, and I continued that practice after I went back to my paying job.

That’s how I got into the habit of getting up and writing by 5 every morning. I scheduled [Name of Book] on my calendar from 5-7 every morning. That meant I had to be at my desk writing by that time, not just getting out of bed, or lying there hitting the snooze button. I did it on the weekends, too, but scheduled my writing for at least 8 hours on weekends and holidays. Since I was used to getting up and working by 5, it was no inconvenience to continue doing that after I went back to work at my paying job.

For NaNoWriMo, you planned in advance to write the entire month, and you planned to get a certain number of words written a day. To continue the NaNoWriMo experience, get yourself a calendar and schedule your writing time in advance, just as you would your job, your vacation, holidays, or any doctors’ appointments.

Keep that scheduled commitment and be there writing.

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Consider Writing Time
as Your Apprenticeship

You have to pay your dues in practically any job. Sometimes you have to do volunteer work in your chosen field in order to have experience. Often, people educated in a particular field have to complete an apprenticeship, internship, or residency to get sufficient practical experience to qualify for a paying position in the field of their choice. Being a writer — and eventually an author — is the same as any other field. Everyone puts in plenty of time writing without getting paid or having any guarantee of publication.

Consider any time you spend writing before publication as your own apprenticeship,  internship, or residency until you get really good at it.

If you are traditionally published after you finish your book, it is unlikely that you will get a large enough Advance to live on. You may become a bestseller, but, given how long it takes for a traditionally published book to reach bookstores after it’s sold to the Publishing House, you won’t get rich immediately. That means you’ll be writing your subsequent book with no guarantee of additional money or of another publishing contract.

Think of NaNoWriMo as the beginning of your internship.

Now extend that month of your writing internship for the entire year.

After you’ve published your first book, you will be an author, but all authors still have to write, and they write all year long, not just in November.

Photo by Andrew Neel © Unsplash

Choose to Write

You are not super-human, so you will have to make choices if you want to include writing in your life. For me, it meant delaying children because I needed all my time for college, grad school, teaching, retail jobs, and writing. If you really want to be a writer, writing should always be at the top of your list of priorities and commitments. If it’s not, stop reading this post and go do something else: you don’t want to be a writer bad enough.

Next on your list of priorities, put your paying job since you have to support yourself and your writing, which costs money even if you don’t Indie publish. Put your family or permanent relationships after that. Anything else can be considered superfluous and can be eliminated.

You need to make choices in life, especially if you want to be a writer: it is such a time-consuming career. If you want to be an author, which is a published writer, you will still have to write.

If you want NaNoWriMo to last longer than the month of November, you have to establish your priorities and make conscious choices that will guarantee you have sufficient writing time.

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Be Ready to Open the Door
When Opportunity Knocks

To unpublished writers, being traditionally published is like being in the Garden of Eden, but nobody wakes up already in Published Author Paradise. You must always be writing, revising, editing, writing more, completing your books, improving your craft, searching for agents, submitting your work to editors and agents, and writing even more. That way, when the Getting Published Opportunity knocks on your door, you’ll be qualified to answer the door with (at least one) polished, finished book in hand.

NaNoWriMo gives you a taste of what being a writer is like.

If you want to be a published author, use your NaNoWriMo experience to continue being a full-time writer, whether or not you have another paying job. You’ll be writing more than one month out of the year, and you’ll also be finishing your books so that you’ll have something to publish when your opportunity to become an author arrives.

Photo by Christine Roy © Unsplash

Don’t Expect Fame & Fortune

As any artist in any field can readily tell you, there is a very small number of celebrities in any field who are well known to everyone, get any job they want, make most of the money, get all the attention, and make most of the money.

Don’t expect fame. Don’t expect fortune. Those things cannot be controlled.

The amount of time you spend writing is the only thing that can be controlled. Expect, therefore, to write, write, write. And then to write some more.

If you’re lucky, you might get some prizes, or a big Advance from one of the traditional publishers, or an option on your book that actually leads to a big movie deal, but don’t expect or plan on any of these things because that’s just not the way the artistic world works.

Expect to be a writer.

You experienced that during NaNoWriMo, so you already know what it’s like to write.

Now, go write.

Photo by Christopher Campbell © Unsplash

Take Care of Yourself
Spiritually, Emotionally, & Physically

Writing is a taxing business. It’s much harder than any job you leave behind at the workplace when you clock out at the end of the day. For that reason, you need to exercise, eat healthily, and should probably do some form of meditation daily.

You also need to keep negative people away from you: there’s enough rejection in this business. You don’t need negative people “rejecting” you as a writer in your personal life as well. Eliminate the negative people in your life even if they are family members, friends, or spouses. Surround yourself instead with loving and supportive people who encourage you to be a writer. Additionally, find writing-support groups, reliable beta-readers, and good editors.

Rest when necessary.

Don’t forget to play.

After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to write.

Photo by Raw Pixel © Unsplash

If you truly wish to be a writer, you can’t just write when you feel like it, or when inspiration hits you, or when your muses are singing to you, or when it happens to be convenient. You have to make a commitment to writing. You have to make conscious choices to have the time to write. Despite NaNoWriMo, which I think is a wonderful idea, you cannot spend only one month a year committed to writing as a priority in your life.

Writing has to be your life.

And you have to take care of yourself emotionally, spiritually, and physically so that you can continue to write. That way, NaNoWriMo can last more than a month: it can last all year, every year, for the rest of your life.

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Portrait of the Writer as a Woman: My New Year’s Resolutions, 2016

UnknownDecember 2015 was a very rough month for my writing. In fact, I believe I only got one blog done, and nothing on any of my books. One of our cats was diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes, had stopped eating and drinking, and was doing an excellent imitation of a Zombie-cat: she could have done a cameo on The Walking Dead without any previous acting experience.

Tom and I hadn’t even realized that cats could get diabetes.

After the first shock of the diagnosis, we were hammered with the cost of the insulin: $389 for 10ml. I began to weep, despite the fact that the vet said that bottle could last as long as 6 months. All I could think was that one of my babies was going to die because I couldn’t afford her medicine. Tom was too deep into shock to register much of what happened after he heard the diagnosis: he just assumed it was a death sentence, so I don’t think he heard much of the consultation beyond that, though he did hear the cost of the medicine.

Apparently, human insulin, $25 for the same amount, doesn’t work as well on cats, and the more expensive one has been shown to put many cats into remission.

Not cure.

Remission.

But I didn’t have $389. I’d just spent almost $500 on new tires for my ’99 Jeep Wrangler: my old ones had no tread, and winter was coming to the mountain. Without off-road tires and 4-wheel-drive, no one can make it up here. Over the past few months, as my car had broken down several times, with parts simply wearing out from age, I’d also paid our mechanic $2300 on a “back-up vehicle.”

Which wouldn’t start.

images-2So I didn’t have the $2300 I’d spent on my back-up vehicle, whose insurance is more costly since it’s a “classic.” I thought the insurance representative was playing a joke on me in May when I bought the ’94 Jeep Cherokee Sport, but, apparently, it is considered a “classic,” and so my insurance is higher. So there was that cost: $89/month since May, on a “classic” car that I didn’t even have, and for which I bought new tires, a new windshield, new brakes, etc. Yet it was still sitting at the shop because, despite my mechanic’s insistence that he could start the car, I couldn’t. Ever.

I still can’t.

Only now it’s sitting in my driveway.

Waiting to be towed back down to the shop, where we’ve decided to “swap it out” for another vehicle. Or, at least, to swap out the $2300 I already paid and apply it to a more reliable (read, it starts right away when you turn the key, not three days later if you’re lucky) “back-up” car.

stethoscope-1-1541316And then there were all the medical expenses.

Since the blessing of Obama-Care, my deductible has gone from $500/year to $7K in 2013, to $8.5K in 2014, to $12K in 2015, to $15K in 2016. Needless to say, I’m still paying off the “deductible” bills from 2013. Despite the fact that it is illegal to have a medical insurance deductible higher than Obama-Care’s $3K, the President or Congress or some idealist didn’t realize that you cannot have “government” health care provided by private,  for profit providers, like Blue Cross / Blue Shield (who is the only provider of Obama-Care, as far as I can determine), nor can you force other for profit insurance providers to lose money. So, technically, as my insurance provider has constantly assured me every time I’ve protested or vociferously complained, my deductible is only $3K a year.

My “co-insurance,” which I never had before and which is, apparently, unlimited, makes up the balance of what I have to pay each year.

I say deductible, you say co-insurance… let’s call the whole thing off.

So there’s that, too.

And then we got slammed with Trixie’s “uncontrolled diabetes” diagnosis and the cost of the preferred insulin.

IMG_1005My grief over the thought of losing Trixie because I didn’t have the money for her medicine encouraged the Vet to suggest that I save for the medicine that might put her into remission, while using human insulin to keep her alive and out of the Zombie-cat mode.

I’ve spent the entire month of December managing Trixie and her hypoglycemic crises. Yes, that’s hypoglycemic, as in her blood glucose falls too low. The Vet insists that this is good, and that she might already be going into remission. Apparently some 15-20% of cats can go into remission on any insulin, relatively quickly after they start treatment. We can’t know if it’s happening with Trixie yet because she needs to stabilize, and the Vet has had to lower the dose virtually every day this past week.

These are the kind of things that prevented me from writing in December 2015.

They’re also the kind of things that made me think of how different writing can be for a woman than for a man.

After all, though I’m sure Tom could take care of Trixie if he were forced to, he mostly hurriedly volunteers to take the dog out to the bathroom or to shovel 4-6′ snowdrifts away from the vehicles and the gate rather than to test her blood glucose or give her the insulin shots. Mommy is the one who does that.

Mommy also watches for the Invasion of the Zombie-cat, which means Trixie is hypoglycemic and could go into a coma or have brain-damaging seizures. It’s Mommy who rubs the Karo syrup on her gums when she becomes non-responsive and sits staring at the wall. The one afternoon I went out to do some food shopping and get a medical massage (which helps reduce my hemiplegic migraines) and asked Tom to keep a “close watch” on Trixie, he promised to do so but went out to work in the barn and was out there all afternoon. In fact, when I got home, he didn’t even know where Trixie was. Oh, he knew she was in the house since the cats don’t (can’t) go out up here on Big Rock Candy Mountain because of the wild animals, but he hadn’t been in the house himself to see where or how she was.

These are some of the events that have made me re-evaluate my usual New Year’s Resolutions: I was born a woman, but I believe I was also born an artist.

The artist in me chose writing as the medium through which to express herself, so any Resolutions have to include the fact that I’m a writer simply because that’s who and what I am.

Resolution 1:
Write More

images-5I must write more blog posts, more regularly, as I was doing for most of 2015.

If that means that Tom must do more grocery shopping and meal preparation, as he’s been willingly doing since Trixie’s diabetes diagnosis, then he’ll have to do more of the household chores as well. We’re both liberated, and we’ve always shared the chores. Now that one of my jobs as a woman and as the Mommy seems to be nursing the sick animals, Daddy will have to do more than half of the chores. We’re both retired, we both have our own businesses, but his is more seasonal than mine, while mine is much more time-consuming than his. Therefore, it’s off to the market and into the kitchen more often for Tom because Mommy, who nurses any of the animals who’s ill, needs to blog more.

My blog-reading audience is actually contacting me via the twitter and the book of face and asking me to blog more, asking me if I’m all right because I haven’t been on the social media sites during December, asking me for suggestions about what shows or films to watch (I mostly blog about entertainment). They keep telling me they need my blog posts.

They are the boss of me.

I resolve to blog more.

Resolution 2:
Lose Weight

Me & PatrickI know some of you don’t believe that’s me there with Patrick, but it is. The year was 2000, my second novel, Only with the Heart, had just come out, and since he’d optioned my first novel, The Kommandant’s Mistress, to star in it himself, he asked me to come out to LA so we could meet in person and discuss the book. (We’d talked many times on the phone in the previous 6 years, but had not met). And that was not my heaviest, my highest weight. Of course, I don’t even recognize myself in that photo with Patrick, let alone in the photo Tom recently found of me at (almost) my highest weight, when we met and fell in love in 1994.

Between 2005 and 2007, I lost 275 pounds.

I don’t know how much more than that I lost because my therapist in Ohio wouldn’t even let me look at a scale until I’d lost 40 pounds (she brought the scale in to her office and weighed me). I was at 450 the first time she let me look, and I wanted to die of shame. Instead, I resolved to conquer my eating disorder and get my weight back under control for my own health.

Here’s how I did it: I ate whatever I wanted but only when I was hungry, and, even more important than that, I stopped eating as soon as I was no longer hungry. I didn’t continue eating until I was full. Not even just a little full. I put the food away as soon as I no longer felt any hunger.

That meant I ate several small “meals” during the day. It meant that if I wanted to eat ice cream, for example, or a candy bar, then I ate that as a meal but stopped if I found I was no longer hungry even if there was only one bite of candy bar or ice cream left. I kept telling myself that I could always have it later.

I ditched my parents’ Clean your plate rule.

I threw away the Three Meals a Day rule.

I didn’t care if anyone else thought my “diet” was balanced or not.

I have an eating disorder. In the past, it manifested mostly as anorexia, when I lived on sodas and sugary iced tea rather than on food, dropping down to 120 pounds (I’m 5’8″ with a large frame: my non-dominant wrist, at my lowest weight, is 7.75″ around the bones). After my first book was accepted, the anorexia changed, for some reason, to compulsive overeating: I literally could not stop myself from eating, even if I was in physical pain from eating too much already. And I was a complete failure at bulimia, which horrified my therapist when I said that to her after I sought help.

Drugs did not help me: I had an allergic reaction to virtually every one I tried, or it made it impossible for me to lose weight.

Restricting my food intake by calories or types aggravates the eating disorder.

Weighing myself daily does that, too.

Because my Muncher mother used to starve us children.

Women who practice Munchausen’s by Proxy — called Munchers by law enforcement and medical professionals who discover their abuse, torture, and killings — do so much damage to their children, it is virtually impossible to heal it all. They’re more than the female equivalent of male serial killers because they do damage to their own family members and to others dependent on their care — in the privacy of their own homes, where no one sees them, and with few people believing those who tell what is happening within the home.

M is for Munchers cover w mask 1In any event, I needed to lose weight for my health — even though I had no obvious medical problems — as well as for my own self-esteem, but I had to do it in a way that would not trigger the Muncher-abuse-induced eating disorder, which I and all my siblings suffer from. That’s how I came up with my eating plan.

Because it had to be for the rest of my life.

I lost the 275 pounds and, mostly, I’ve kept it off.

When my favorite cat died of heart failure in 2012, my grief tipped me over into the eating disorder again, and though I knew it was happening, I couldn’t stop myself. That’s what makes it an eating disorder: you cannot stop yourself without help. I gained 50 pounds before I got my eating disorder under control again.

Then I hit what has to be one of the longest plateaus in weight-loss history ever: 2012-2014. I didn’t gain any weight, but I didn’t lose any either. No matter how little I ate or how much I exercised.

Last year, I re-dedicated myself to my personal eating plan, and I lost 26 pounds.

My doctor insists I only have the original, re-gained 50 pounds to lose, and so now I only have 24 more to lose.

I think losing 50 pounds would be better (taking me down to 150), but he insists that I’ll look like a skeleton and that he’ll be really annoyed with me if I lose more than 24 additional pounds. I say it’s my body and I can lose whatever amount of weight I want. But… this is a woman thing, I think, and even writing about it too much is treacherous because I begin to convince myself that if I could only be anorexic again — which happens after I don’t eat anything for a few days — it would all be so much easier…

And I would be treating myself just as my serial killer Muncher mother did: starving myself.

As my first therapist asked me, “Would you do that to a child of yours? Would you ever do that to one of the abused, abandoned, neglected cats that you rescue?”

No, no I would not.

So, I resolve, once again, as I did last year in Jan 2015, to continue to lose weight.

In a healthy way.

Resoultion 3:
Write More

POV cover 2015 webI will finish the revised edition of my 2001 book Mastering Fiction and Point of View. Not only have writers, experienced and new, published and not, been asking me for the new edition, but my editors actually were planning on publishing the Revised, Updated, & Expanded edition in December 2015. But I didn’t get it finished. I didn’t even get to the point where I could give it to my editors for their feedback.

Was I blogging too much?

Was I spending too much time on social media?

Was I working too much on my memoir of life with a serial killer mother, M is for Munchers?

Was I doing too much of the household chores, errands, etc?

Was I too busy learning Kundalini Yoga?

Was I spending too much time watching movies with Mads Mikkelsen — for blogging, of course…

Was I spending too much time staring out the windows?

Whatever I was doing, I do agree with my editors that I was not spending enough time working on the revision of my POV book.

I resolve to work on it until it is finished, get it to my editors so they can give me feedback, rewrite — taking their suggestions into account, and then get the book back to them so they can publish it without having to change the cover again.

They are also the boss of me, and though it probably won’t take them (or their graphic artist) too much work to change the words 14th Anniversary Edition to 15th Anniversary Edition, I really need to get this book done.

Resolution 4:
Walk More

pink-fitness-center-1432405When I originally lost that 275 pounds, I not only ate only when I was hungry and stopped when I was no longer hungry, I walked. Not fast: we live in the mountains, and you can’t walk fast in the mountains. At least, I can’t. But I walked every day.

I started with 5 minutes a day for a month. Then I moved up to 10 minutes a day. Each month, I added 5 minutes until I was at 30 minutes a day.

Despite eventually dropping down to 175 pounds, which was not the lowest weight I’ve ever been at, or even what I considered “normal” for most of my life (that would be 150 pounds), I was thinner than I had ever been. I was wearing smaller clothes, higher heels, and feeling better about my body than I ever had.

Walking, even slowly — I walk about 1-1.5 mph — can dramatically change your body shape. It takes a lot longer than running, but I can no longer run. In 1995, I fell down a mountain in Wyoming and shattered my L leg and ankle. It took 3 years to heal from the surgery, which replaced most of my bones — which had shattered into such fine dust, the surgeon had to use a surgical vacuum to get the bone out of my leg — with metal plates, bolts, and really big, long screws. Both the surgeon in Wyoming and the surgeon in Ohio, where we lived, told me I could never run again. They said that the plate would buckle and take the entire bone it’s attached to with it, necessitating another surgery and even more extensive recovery time and physical therapy.

They told me I would have to become a Walker, and this was long before most of us had heard of The Walking Dead.

I’ve walked since then.

In 2008, I was eventually walking 45 minutes a day, albeit at the same 1.5 mph pace.

Then I got a stress-fracture in my pelvis.

The doctors at the ER and those at the Sports Medicine Center told me “humans weren’t built to walk 45 minutes a day.” I think they’re all crazy: what did humans do in our ancient past, before we had animals to ride or vehicles to transport us? Still, that’s what all of them except my GP kept telling me. In any event, the stress-fracture side-lined me for several months while it was healing.

Two years ago, I discovered, during my annual physical, that I had virtually no vitamin D or calcium in my blood, and, after a bone-scan, that my bones are thinner than they should have been for my age. It’s a condition known as osteopenia rather than as osteoporosis, I guess because the bones didn’t just snap and break. They eroded over time with exercise (bones are supposed to release calcium etc into the blood when you exercise: that’s how they signal your body to send more calcium there and the bones get stronger), but my bones were too thin to begin with, and the doctor suspected that the osteopenia, combined with my exercise, caused the three stress fractures I’ve had in the last 10 years (2 in the pelvis, one in the foot).

The most likely reason for the osteopenia and the virtual lack of vitamin D and calcium in my blood?

Childhood dietary deficiency.

That’s another word for being starved by your Muncher mother.

I took supplements until I got into the low normal range, then began walking again, but I had to start all over again with the 5 minutes a day and adding 5 minutes a month routine.

In 2015, I walked 30 minutes a day, at 1-1.5 mph,  81% of the time: 297 days out of the year. I didn’t walk at all in February because I had bronchitis. That means I actually walked 297 days in the remaining 11 months.

When do I walk? After I feed the cats their breakfast — canned food, which is the only time of the day they get it; the rest of the day, they eat from the buffet of dry food — at 5 a.m. Why so early? Before we moved to Big Rock Candy Mountain, when I was teaching, I used to get up at 5 to write for at least 2 hours before I went to teach my classes at the University. Our cats thought that since I was already up, I might as well feed them breakfast.

Though I’m now retired from University, the cats still think breakfast is served at 5 a.m., and for much of the year, here in the Desert Wilderness, the temperatures are in the 90s before 7 in the morning, so, actually, walking after serving them breakfast at 5 works for this writer-Mommy, because I usually write after that.

Though I only lost 26 pounds in 2015, I lost 5 inches all over (except my bustline, which is genetically large… to Tom’s delight). In the past, when I was anorexic or “dieting,” losing an inch off my waist, hips, etc equaled losing 10 pounds of weight. Not so with walking. It may take longer than it takes with running, but walking gets you to the same place eventually. And you end up thinner at a higher weight.

This year, I resolve to continue walking and to add 5 minutes a day to each walking session.

I’ll walk 35 minutes a day, at 1-1.5 mph, and my goal is to walk at least 90-95% of the time.

Resolution 5:
Write More

The Zombied Trilogy Book One webIn January 2015, the first volume of The Zombied Trilogy was published: Love is a Many Zombied Thing. According to my editors’ plan, the 2nd and 3rd volumes of the trilogy were to have been written, edited, revised, and published in 2015.

I think it didn’t happen because, in 2014, I began completing their suggested (major) revisions to my memoir, M is for Munchers: The Serial Killers Next Door. That book has taken me years to write, and not just due to the editors’ suggestions about changes. I entered an earlier version of it in a contest in 2007, and was given enough praise and critical suggestions for me to completely change the way I was doing the book, given its subject matter. So I know I had an entire manuscript of the book, with a different title — which none of the judges in the contest liked, by the way — in 2007.

After Love is a Many Zombied Thing was published, I felt a blank about where the second and third books in the series should specifically go, although the editors and I were clear about where they should generally go. In short, I had the ideas for the remainder of the trilogy, and the editors heartily approved the ideas, but I didn’t know how to start book 2.

As is my usual practice when something won’t come in a book, I begin working on a different one. That’s how I began the revisions to Munchers.

But what stopped me from writing any of the other books was the intense grieving that writing the memoir caused.

I thought I’d done all the grieving when I wrote and revised Munchers originally.

Apparently, I had not.

The grief almost overwhelmed me.

Though Munchers was published in 2014, the grief prevented me from finishing Zombied on schedule. By the time I finished Book 1, I had already missed the deadlines for Books 2 & 3. My editors were not pleased, though they claimed to understand the grief-delay.

I resolve to finish — or at least to start — the final two books of The Zombied Trilogy.

After all, those characters, and my readers, deserve to have the story finished.

Resolution 6:
Spend More Time
With Those I Love

Ling and SophieThat means Ling (L) and Sophie (R) as well as Trixie. After all, Sophie is the one who has Feline Stomatitis, an auto-immune disease or disorder, whom we would have had to put down if extracting all her teeth, including the roots, had not put the disease-disorder into a manageable state. She gets NSAIDs every other day. Each time we’ve attempted to increase the time between doses or to reduce the dose — to protect her kidneys — the painful inflammation and swelling of her gums, tongue, and throat return. In the wild, she would have starved to death, in great pain. We have to get her blood tested every three months, to monitor the kidney function, and she’s staying steady — at an already slightly elevated rate — so Mommy has to take care of her, and that includes checking her mouth every time I give her the meds to make sure she’s doing fine.

Ling and Sophie are the ones who contracted Bubonic Plague in 2012 (and gave it to us) and almost died. I didn’t even know Bubonic Plague still existed when we moved here, but it still exists all over the world, not just in laboratories, but in dry, arid climates like the American Southwest. We already almost lost them once.

IMG_2520 It means spending time with Sascha (middle) because she’s been operated on twice in the last two years for cancerous tumors on her lower lip that have gotten so close to her jawbone that the Vet promised she would never take Sascha’s jawbone, even if the suspicious cells became malignant. When Mosie died, we didn’t even realize she had cancer until the week before she died: she began breathing strangely, and X-rays revealed the tumors. Though Mommy checks Sascha’s mouth regularly, the next surgery and pathology report — if there is one — could reveal malignancy rather than “suspicious cells.”

IMG_2397It means spending more time with Shooter Tov, the oldest of our cats (12 this month), who has FORLS. I can’t recall right now what it stands for, but 20% of Rescue cats have the condition, which has also been found in the skeletons of sabre-tooth tigers. The enamel of the teeth doesn’t re-form, eventually exposing the root or simply breaking the tooth, leaving the animal in great pain. Additionally, if the affected teeth are not removed, the disease moves into the bones of the jaw, face, head, neck, etc., killing the cat.

Shooter’s already lost 3 teeth to FORLS, two years ago, and two weeks ago, he began crying out if anything touched his face. Two more teeth have broken, exposing the roots. He’s having surgery Wednesday (and has been on pain meds until the Vet could get him in: it takes special expertise to get the teeth, root and all, out of the jaw, so that the disease will not eat away the jawbone).

I know that, even if the Vet had to extract all of Shooter’s teeth, he’d be fine. After all, Sophie’s had no teeth for over 2 years now, and she not only eats dry food just fine, she hops, skips, and dances around the house like she owns the place. Still, Shooter’s in pain now, so I’ve also been nursing him for the past 2 weeks, and he’ll be in more pain after the surgery: he’ll need Mommy, whether Mommy thinks she needs to write or not.

IMG_2417IMG_2429I resolve to spend more time with Baxter (top) and Mr. Eli (bottom), who are virtually always with me in my office while I’m writing, not because there’s anything wrong with them, but simply because we rescued them and they deserve love and attention even if they’re not sick.

IMG_2165I can’t forget Sadie-Doggie, who had to have a molar extracted last month after she began vomiting and we discovered an apricot-sized lymph-node under her jaw. Her immune system was trying to fight the infection from the rotten tooth, but it was losing. It the infection had gone systemic, she would have died. Because she’s part Border Collie, part Terrier, and part Hound, she has the loose neck-folds of a Hound, and we didn’t notice the lump till after she was vomiting.

I love all the pets we’ve rescued, and have been devastated each time we’ve lost one. As one of my friends who also rescues cats said, upon hearing of Trixie’s diagnosis, “We know they’ll most likely have health issues because they’ve been abandoned, neglected, or abused, but we have to just act as if each day with them is the last. Because it might be.”

This year, every day, I’m going to act as if each day is the very last I’ll ever have with each of my babies.

Because it might be.

Resolution 7:
Don’t Forget Tom

I know this might sound corny after 22 years together, but sometimes I probably do take Tom for granted. After all, he’s a reliable, faithful, good man, and I certainly don’t “forget him” on purpose. Other things drag at my attention — like a dying cat — and it takes me a while to remember that’s he’s right there beside me, grieving just as much. He completely morally supports my writing, and so stays out of my office and doesn’t disturb me when I’m writing — no matter how long I’m at it. (He sometimes even makes dinner, fixes a plate for me, and puts it in the fridge for me to eat after I’m finished for the day.)

Tom’s gotten up with me every single morning at 5 since Trixie’s diabetes diagnosis to take Sadie out to the bathroom, wash all the animals’ breakfast dishes, and give me a kiss before he’s gone back to sleep, and I’ve headed for the treadmill. (He’s horrified that it’s still dark when I wake him: when he worked, he worked second shift virtually his entire career, so it was always light when he woke.)

Though he doesn’t admit to panic over the animals when they’re ill, he’s clearly stressed. He could probably use some more attention and comfort, too.

He also was diagnosed with diabetes himself last year, and though he lost the 20 pounds as directed, and mostly keeps to his “diet,” he has suddenly decided that he needs to take care of himself better.

And I need to love him and appreciate him more.

I need to tell him so.

Because each day might be the last.

Resolution 8:
Read More
Books-1

Because it makes me happy.

Final Resolution:
Write More

stock-photo-20291293-vintage-woman-writerBecause it’s who I am.

And because, sometimes, as women, we have to make a greater commitment to our art due to all the other things vying for our attention.

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Bernard Rejects Rejection

Writing is very hard work. Being an author is an incredibly difficult job, one fraught with constant rejection. The only career I can think of that probably has even more rejection than being an author is being an actor. Still, if you are to survive as a writer, you must constantly write, improve your craft, and deal with rejection: from family, friends, colleagues, grocery clerks, neighbors, and even strangers.

If you wish to go beyond the “career” of writer and become an author, you must deal with rejection on an exponentially larger scale, experiencing rejection — and sometimes insults — from agents, editors, publishers, readers, reviewers, family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, the person who bags your groceries, and even strangers.

Bernard is a writer who wants to be an author, and he found a unique way to  deal with all the constant rejection in an author’s life. Bernard rejects rejection.

I advise every writer and author to follow Bernard’s example.

You’ll feel so much better after writing that letter.

Just don’t ever mail it.

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Hungry for that Sweet Life: Myths about Being an Author & Selling Books

#Spoilers

Despite the Revolution in Indie book publishing over the last few years, especially with the advent of Print-on-Demand (POD) paper-book availability and with instantly accessible e-books, many self-published and Indie authors are still operating under ubiquitous myths about selling books – to their own dissatisfaction and disillusionment. There is, however, good news for all authors, but first they must become familiar with the business of selling books and be realistic about their expectations.

Myth #1
Traditional Publishers Pay for All Publicity and Promotion,
and Always Send Authors on Reading Tours

Unfortunately, it is simply not true that traditional publishers pay for the publicity of all the books they purchase. In fact, approximately 98% of all traditionally published authors must do all their own marketing, promotion, and publicity. If the authors are wealthy enough to employ their own publicists — such as Joyce Carol Oates, who earned, at last check, almost $200,000 annual salary as a professor — then those publicists do the work of promoting and marketing the authors’ works. It is only when an author is a proven bestseller that the publisher itself puts any money into promotion.

When my first novel was published by HarperCollins 20+ years ago, I was informed that I wasn’t “important enough to warrant any publicity money” — this despite having gotten good reviews from such prestigious publications as Publishers Weekly, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Book Review – and I was asked if I could pay for my own book tour. On my Professor’s salary, it took me almost a year to save enough to do 10 stops, taking cheap flights, staying at Holiday Inns, and supplying my own food. Not very glamorous, I can assure you. Did it sell books? HarperCollins never reported any sales, so I never earned any additional royalties, in spite of selling and signing books at the stores I toured.

When my second novel was accepted, I was once again asked to pay for my own reading tour. In traditional publishing,  critical acclaim and prizes do not equal being “important enough to have the publisher pay for a book tour.” My experience is typical for most traditionally published authors who are not already bestsellers.

Now, however, even for NY-published authors, bookstores rarely sponsor readings, and any readings they do schedule are (1) in large cities, (2) only for bestselling authors, (3) must be arranged by the publisher’s publicist in conjunction with each bookstore’s Special Events Coordinator, and (4) must be approved by Barnes & Noble’s Corporate Headquarters. Independent bookstores have largely been put out of business by Chain and Online bookstores, though there may be a few remaining which will sponsor readings, especially for local authors.

In brief, even traditionally published authors always had to do their own publicity and promotion. Bookstore readings have basically gone the way of the dinosaurs. Traditionally published authors usually have their own websites, blogs, Twitter and/or Facebook accounts to promote their own books, to connect with readers, and to keep their names in the public eye, so to speak.

Fact: Connecting with readers, regularly and consistently – not just by shoving commercials down their throats – is the best way to promote and sell books. Making connections with readers, however brief,  has always worked well: that’s what bookstore readings and participation at writing conferences were all about. Now, through effective use of established social media, blogs, and author websites with contact information, all authors have a better chance of promoting and selling their books than they had in the past.

Myth #2
Authors Earn the Full Cover Price of Each Book Sold
so Authors Get Rich Quick

This is one of the reasons most readers believe that all authors are rich, but many new authors themselves, unfamiliar with how the market operates, are angry when they do not become rich within a few months of their book’s publication, or are shocked to discover that they do not earn the entire cover price of a book when it is sold.

Typically, by contract, a traditionally published author will earn 3-10% of the cover (or list) price of each book sold. (Out of that 3-10%, the author then has to pay his agent 15-20% of all monies earned, as well as pay Federal, State, Local, and Social Security Self-Employment Tax [approximately 18%] on his book income.)

Bookstores, who actually sell the books, acquire them at discounts of 35-55% of the cover price, depending on the number of titles/authors sold: the difference between the wholesale and cover prices is what the bookstore “earns” for selling the book to the public.

The distributor, such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor, who is in charge of getting the books from the printer to the bookstore, usually earns at least 15% of the cover price. (Some smaller, regional distributors charge a higher percentage: to make up for smaller volume.)

The cost of printing the book is then subtracted by the printer, and the remainder of the money is sent to the publisher. The author gets his percentage, and, theoretically, the publisher gets the remainder. Unfortunately, in actual practice, the publisher often reports no sales and keeps all monies.

The formula works like this:

Cover (List) Price of Book
– 35-55% for Bookstore
– 15% or more for Distributor
– Actual Printing Costs
= $ that goes to Publisher

who then is supposed to give the Author the contractual percentage
(usually 3-10%) of the book’s cover price.

Let’s say a book’s cover price is $19.99. The bookstores purchase it for $8.99/book (average 45% discount), keeping the difference between wholesale and cover (or in-store sale) price for getting the book into the customer’s hands, earning $10.99/book, which is only reasonable since the bookstore is doing most of the work. The distributor keeps at least $2.99 (15%) for getting the book from the printer to the bookstores. Printing charges depend on the physical size of the book and its number of pages, since most printers charge a per-page-printing-fee. But let’s say the books is 275 pages, in a 5×8″ Trade Paper size: printing costs would be approximately $5.00 per book. That leaves $3.01 that goes to the publisher, who pays the author $1.99/book (10% royalty rate), keeping the remaining $1.02 for itself.

To put it more simply, the publisher gets approximately the amount the bookstores pay for the book minus the printing cost ($8.99-5.00=3.99). Of course, since some major online booksellers get a 55% discount to sell books on their sites, the publisher gets less money per book although the author should not.

Also, bookstores can return any unsold books at any time for no reason. If the publisher does not pay a substantial fee ($2-4.00/book) to get the entire book back, then the bookstores tear the cover off the book and return only the cover, get a refund for their entire purchase price, while supposedly destroying the book itself. However, as the warnings on the copyright pages of many books indicate, booksellers often return the covers, get their purchase price back, then sell the book, keeping all monies for themselves. Thus the warning on the copyright pages of many books:

If you purchased this book without a cover, please be aware that neither the author nor the publisher received any monies for its sale. Please support authors’ rights, and do not support piracy of intellectual property.

Fact: Though an author may never get rich, may not earn substantial amounts of money until he has several titles in print, and is extremely unlikely to become wealthy off his very first book or within a few months of publication – if ever – an author at least has more control over promoting and selling his works by connecting with readers through current social media than he ever had in the past.

As long as the author realizes exactly how much money he’s going to actually earn, he can keep on doing the only thing he can control that might eventually earn him more money: keep on writing good books.

Myth #3
All Bookstores Support
Indie & Self-Published Authors

Perhaps a local, independent bookstore who is familiar with the author might order books for sale to its readers, but the bookstore would still have to order through a distributor, have the right to return any unsold books at any time, etc.

Corporate bookstores are another story completely. Let me use Barnes & Noble as an example, since Borders has gone out of business, and most of my dealings, as an author and a publisher, have been with those stores.

First of all, Barnes & Noble does not make recognize the term “Indie” Author. There are either traditionally or self-published authors. That is all. Authors who have been previously published by traditional New York Houses, had their books taken out-of-print (OP) and put their own OP books back into print through Amazon’s Create Space, for example, are considered Traditional Authors, not “Indie” Authors. Anyone else, according to Barnes & Noble Corporate Headquarters and its local bookstores, is a self-published author.

If a traditionally published author who puts his OP books back into print convinces the Special Events Coordinator at his local Barnes & Noble that he can bring in enough readers to do a successful event, and if the author has multiple titles in print, and if the author has a good relationship with his local bookstore, and if the Corporate New York Office approves, then the local branch bookstore may schedule a reading, ordering — through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or another established distributor — perhaps 10-20 books. More likely, the bookstore would order 5-8 books. If the author had multiple titles, the bookstore could conceivably order 2-3 copies of each title.

If the previously traditionally published author sold well through Barnes & Noble bookstores while his books were still in print with the New York publishers, then the local store may keep 1-2 copies in stock. Any other books not sold the night of the reading would be returned to the distributor (then to the printer, and ultimately to the “publisher”, which in this case would be the author) within a few days. The 1-2 copies put on the shelves in the hopes of future sales may be returned at any time, even years later, for a full refund, which is subtracted from the publisher’s [OP author’s] account.

Barnes & Noble cannot and does not order books from Amazon’s Create Space directly (nor from the Ingram-owned POD-printer Lightning Source, for that matter) since it is a printer, not a distributor. A printer merely prints books: it does not ship or distribute them for sale to bookstores. Distributors such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or regional distributors who have contracts with B&N order books from the printers and send them to the bookstores.

Barnes & Noble does not order books by self-published authors.

Not even one copy.

Not even for local authors.

If a local self-published author  has a good relationship with his Barnes & Noble bookstore, and if he convinces the Special Events Coordinator that he can bring in a good sized audience for a reading, and if Corporate New York B&N approves, then the self-published author can pay to have a reading. (That is in bold to ensure that you do not mis-read it, but for emphasis, I will repeat it: if all the above conditions are met, the self-published author can pay to have a reading at his local B&N.)

It costs anywhere between $600-$1,000 for a self-published author to have a reading at a B&N, depending on the location and size of the bookstore itself.

The author must provide all copies of books to be sold by the local Barnes & Noble at his own cost. Since the author is purchasing them directly from the printer and delivering them to the bookstore himself, the author will earn no royalties on any books sold during said reading.

The local B&N which is sponsoring the reading keeps the entire cover price of each book sold. All of it. Every single penny. Nothing goes to the author. Barnes & Noble considers this only fair for allowing the author to use its name and space to advertise his self-published book.

And if, as sometimes happens, no one comes to the author’s reading, all books are returned to the author before his departure from the store, and no portion of the fees paid for the scheduled reading are refunded.

Even if an audience does show up and purchase books, any books not sold the night of the reading are returned immediately to the author. The store will not stock them since bookstores have a “return any time” policy with publishers and it does not consider a self-published author a publisher, whether or not the author has created a name for his own “House”.

Fact: An author needs to be aware that bookstores are largely controlled by Corporate entities, who are often owned by larger corporations, whose objective is to make as much money as possible with as little effort as possible. Whether traditionally, Indie, or self-publshed, an author needs to look beyond bookstores for sales.

With e-books, any locale that offers Wi-Fi can become a place to sponsor a reading. Many Starbucks, for example, do “open mic” nights, where they allow local artists – singers, writers, poets – to perform,  free of charge, because the store will make money from food and beverage sales.

(The author should be a regular, well-known, and well-liked customer of any Starbucks he approaches with such a proposition; he should also be able to produce an established audience of family and friends whose food and beverage purchases will provide incentive for the local manager to grant permission for the reading.) With e-books and Wi-Fi, any audience member present who has a Smartphone, laptop, or e-reader can purchase an author’s e-book during or after the reading.

An author can also video-tape dramatic readings of his work — not commercials, which have been proven ineffective — create his own channel on YouTube free of charge, upload videos of his readings, then regularly promote those video-taped readings on social media to encourage readers to enjoy his readings, which may lead them to purchase his books, whether in electronic or paper format.

Of course, if you’re a bestseller, then traditional publishers will probably pay for you to go on tour and do signings. Then again, they may not: after all, you’re already a bestseller and you’ve got better things to do, like write another bestseller.

Also, bookstores will be more than happy to carry your books. Because you’re a bestseller, and they’ll be making up to 49% of the cover price of every single book they sell.

As far as the Royalties go, I’ve never heard of any author — not even a bestselling one — making more than 20% off the cover price of their books. Bestselling authors make their money on large Advances for future books, with the traditional publishers banking on the previous book’s bestselling status to justify the amount of the Advance. If the next book is not a bestseller, the future Advances drop. Traditional publishers only have memories for the most recent book’s sales, it seems.

There are many more myths about being an author and about selling books that need to be examined, but for every myth, I assure you, there are facts that can help you sell your books and realistically achieve your dreams of becoming an author, not just a writer.

The most important thing you can do as a writer is to keep writing — every day — keep reading, improve your craft, and learn to connect with others (even other writers and authors are readers) on social media — not with an endless stream of “commercials” for your own books or for the books of other authors.

In the meantime, Stay Hungry, My Friends.

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Lions and Tigers and Liebsters, Oh, My!

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award by Seumas Gallacher, a rowdy Scot who loves to wear kilts and annoy his friends, especially authors who are new bloggers, like John Dolan and me. Apparently, the Liebster Award is to introduce interesting blogs to your readers. It has a few rules, however, which follow the photo. I notice the many blogger-nominees are using the green award picture, but I prefer the pink & red. I’m a girl: I like those colors.

Here are the rules:
  • When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you. (Have I received it yet? Perhaps the nomination is the same as receiving it. I’ll bet Hollywood wishes the Oscars operated like that.)
  • Pass the award onto 11 other bloggers with fewer than 200 followers (while making sure you notify the blogger that you nominated them.) If you can’t think of 11, do as many as you can ( or check out Bloggers  for some interesting people. Sign up while you’re they’re, too [no, I didn’t get a kickback for writing that]).
  • You write up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees. (Serious, amusing, existential – your choice: they have to answer or no Liebster for them.)
  • You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated your own blog. (That would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?)
  • You paste the award picture into your blog. (You can Google the image, there are plenty of them; I’ve included a selection in this post.)

Eleven Random Facts About Myself

1. I have three tattoos: an OM on my left shoulder, an ALEPH on my right, both done on my 47th birthday; a Star of David within the Buddhist Circle of Chakras is on the back of my left wrist. All three are spiritually significant to me as a writer.

2. I pierced my nose myself, with ear-piercing studs, 3 times, for my 48th birthday. I did 3 piercings instead of the traditional 1 because I was always called “Big Nose” as a kid (before my face fit my nose) so I thought I had plenty of “canvas” to work with. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who find my nose-rings sexy.

3. Sometimes, I wear diamond studs in my nose, but they often confuse and stress people who see them and ask “Why are you wearing diamonds in your nose?” because I always tell them, “It’s a political/socio-economic statement.” Their expressions say “Duh?”

4. I had to re-learn how to blow my nose once it was pierced because I kept tearing the nose-rings out. I did not have to learn to blow my nose in a new way after I got my ears pierced at 21.

5. My BF and I have rescued cats during our entire relationship (going on 19 years) and currently we have seven, who are all incredibly spoiled and rule the house like tyrants. They absolutely never listen to me unless I’m saying the word “Breakfast” and they hear plates.

6. We also have SadieDoggie, who was raised with cats and thus believes that she, too, is a cat: in six years, we have never given her a bath. She cleans herself just like a cat, even her paws and her face. She makes vets nervous because she is a cat in a 55-pound doggie body. She is the only dog on the planet that I have ever even liked, let alone loved. Probably because she acts like a cat.

7. I love stilettos, especially red ones, and my favorite pair is a toss-up between the 6-inch python-print (which make me about 6’2″) and the sparkly Dorothy-Wizard-of-Oz with black-and-white-striped heels (to represent the stockings of the Wicked Witch of the East upon whom Dorothy’s house lands).

8. I have a Snow White watch, which I adore, and never wear any other (for reasons posted in an earlier blog of mine).

9. I’m quite a few years older than I look: I’m retired from 30+ years of teaching World Literature and Creative Writing as a University Professor.

10. I write all my books in longhand with fountain pens, in beautiful journals. I grew up learning to write with fountain pens (ballpoints weren’t invented till I was 12) and since the two types of pens are held differently while writing, I simply cannot write comfortably with anything but a fountain pen. I have an entire collection of lovely pens.

11. I would’ve called this award “Liebeleh”, using the Yiddish instead of the German. Because.

My Nominee’s 11 Questions for Me

1. What’s your earliest recollection of anything?

Something too gruesome and horrifying to be revealed in a blog. Sorry. Must take the 5th on this.
2. How old were you when you were informed that Mister Clause may not be for real? and how did you take it?

2 or 3, I’m guessing, since my parents didn’t pull any punches, metaphorically or literally. Since I already didn’t believe in God by then, I don’t remember caring much whether Mr. Clause existed (besides, he never brought me anything I wanted, the Grinch).
3. What was the first book that you absolutely hated?  
I’ve never hated a book. I love books. They saved me. I adore all books simply on principle. Even the ones whose stories bore me to tears.
4. Money or Love?
Depends on what I have to give in return.
5. Fantasy holiday destination?
Paris. Actually, I want to live there.
6. First kiss?
Unremarkable.
7. Favorite funny person?
Christopher Walken.
8. What kind of music, if any, makes you cry?
Anything by Mozart or Beethoven. And some really old folk songs, like “Auld Lang Syne” and “Danny Boy.”
9. If you could remove any three letters from the alphabet, what would they be, and why?
X, because nobody pronounces it right when it’s at the beginning of a word. O because it looks silly. Q, because it’s always dragging U around after it, and nobody knows why, and U’s probably pretty tired of it by now.
10. Favorite animal/pet?
Cats. All of mine.
11. If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?
I already changed it, to Alexandria. I didn’t like the name my parents gave me (and I despised their illiterate Appalachian pronunciation), and I only used a nickname in high school because I wasn’t of the legal age to change my first name. I fell in love with the name “Alexandria” after reading Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet at 17. 
My Eleven Questions for My Nominees 
1. If you could live anywhere in the world you wanted, where would you live and why?
2. If you could be as tall or short as you wanted, how tall or short would you be?
3. Films or books?
4. Men or women?
5. Cats or dogs?
6. If you could be fluent in any language other than your native one, which would it be?
7. Besides blogging, what is your favorite activity?
8. What ethnic food or dish is your favorite?
9. Who is your favorite actor and his/her best role?
10. Who is your favorite artist and his/her best work?
11. Who is your favorite author and his/her best work?
And My Eleven Nominees Are… <Drumroll… Opens Envelope…>
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