May 31, 2014

Imagery and a love story (my own)

Farwell, Texas by Shona Cole 1992

Images can inspire words. I have always first been a visual person. I can only learn something if I look at it. I can only do Math problems if I draw them out. And I have found I can only write if I have images to give me that certain feeling (well, and music too, but that is for another post). 

The first half of my novel is set in a land that looks like West Texas. In my real life at Christmas, 1992 I visited America for the first time. I had met a man in college in Ireland the year before. We knew each other for only 6 weeks before he returned to the States, but it was enough to change my whole world. He was different from every other man I had met. He was self contained, confident, independent and deeply passionate. We wrote letters when he left, but I never thought I would see him again. I was an Irish college student with no intention of ever leaving Ireland. I had never even been on the European continent let alone the Americas! 

In spring and summer, 1992, he was in Germany and later Liechtenstein working for Hilti. He called me out of the blue and invited me to visit him while he was in Germany. My parents said I shouldn't go, we hardly know him and he is a right-wing conservative therefore he could be a crazy maniac! I went anyhow. He met me at the Cologne airport and I was nervous. He was as beautiful and interesting as I remembered but what if my parents were right? What on earth was I doing there? What if the relationship wasn't as romantic as I remembered and I was stuck there for 2 weeks with a total stranger? But, as we stood at that bleak bus stop he touched my hair and I knew it was all good.  

We traveled back and forth between Liechtenstein and Ireland that summer and at Christmas when he had returned again to the US he invited me over for a few weeks. 

Mark's 1980 Chevy Camaro
I flew to Dallas and he picked my up in his red Camaro and drove me west to his hometown in Farwell, Texas. I was devastated. It was flat and empty and I thought the place looked like the moon! I had at that point entertained the idea that we could one day marry, but I could not picture myself living in such a rough, flat, brown place! I am from Ireland, I love green and hills!

I took many photos when I was there and journaled and wrote poems and tried to sketch things to make myself love the place. I painted the painting above when I returned home to Ireland from a photo I took at the end of Mark's Mom's street. I saw it as bleak then. I see it as beautiful and romantic now. In reality, of course, it is both.

We did get married, we did move to Texas, not to the Panhandle, but to Houston. It took me years to love Texas. I can honestly say that now I love Texas. I love the man from Texas that I married. I love my husband. I love our life here on 5 acres north of Houston. Houston is green. We have trees (just no hills). We travel every summer to Ireland so I get my fill of beautiful. 

My novel is set in Texas. Gala travels there on foot across a ruined land. The year is 2053, America is fractured and Texas has joined with two other states to form the Tristate. It is a place of hope and security in a crumbling world. Yep, my personal biases are stamped all over my novel. Let's call a spade a spade. But I am writing for people like me. Conservative, freedom-cherishing Americans who love the good guys to win! 

May 30, 2014

Realistic Expectations

Photo credit - Sophia Cole, my talented niece

People can only read something if they have heard of it! Obvious enough. But for people to hear about my book then I will need to do some kind of marketing campaign. 

And honestly, as I am a busy artistic mother and not a marketer, I don't really have
1)  the time or
2) the know how to market a book. 

Timewise, I just have to be realistic. It is amazing how much I can get done if I break it down into little chunks and slot the tasks into the quieter parts of my day or, realistically for me, evening. I have been reading blogs describing all things I could do to get the word out. Some of them I am just not going to do, others I can chip away at little by little. Every little step gets me one more potential reader.  

Concerning point 2, I can learn how to market. As I said, I have been reading a lot about book launching. Much it seems to swirl around social marketing. I can handle a little of that. Yes, I have this blog and Facebook  (Oh, I started a Twitter account! So follow me there too. My twitter name is Shona C Cole, or just Shona Cole, I am not sure! I have 8 followers as of today ;). I am thinking of an Instagram and Pinterest project, I will see how that goes…. 

Social media is time consuming, I don't have a lot of time. It's a circular problem, but I will do my best!

Regardless of what I do, if I am realistic - probably not many people will even know that there is a book called 'Gala' to read. But that is okay. It is what it is. I am at peace with the balance of my life. I am a mother first and I love my kids. While I love the novel I wrote, nothing compares to the enormousness of who my people are and are becoming. 

May 29, 2014

Why I am blogging

Photo by Laura Cole, 10
Essentially, writing here I am piggybacking on my old blog. I am writing about art still - but now the written kind. What is my new blogging purpose? Well, I will be journalling about the creative process that resulted in me writing my novel, as well as the ins and outs of my story.

Words can create castles in our minds. I hope that my storytelling actually paints mental images for my readers and the characters arise from the page. In that way I can see my writing as an extension of my decade of visual art.

In Gala, I have tried to used simple words to created a future America, ruined by war, fractured but hopeful, with some compelling characters to love. I am excited to put these words out there into the world and see where they may land. The few people who have read it so far have loved it, but perhaps they are biased as they know me in real life. I will be interested to see what other people who read it think! Not too long now! I plan to publish it before the Fall, 2014.

In the meantime, I will blog a little once in a while about the book writing and launch process and other thoughts. I hope you come back!

May 27, 2014

My new book cover

I was considering a cover for my book and I discovered this universe of pre-made book covers! Yes, there are photographers/designers out there who make covers to sell to authors like me. You pick one, contact the artist, they give you a proof, you agree to it, pay and then they mark it as sold and no one else can have that cover.

I browsed and browsed until I found this cover by Stefanie Fontecha at Beetiful Bookcovers. I simple fell in love with the color and font and the melancholy look on the girl's face. It is perfect for my novel.

And now you know the title of my book! Gala. I will tell you more about the title and the book itself later, but it is at love story/action story.

May 24, 2014

Amazon is the best

So when thinking about where to self-publish my novel I pretty much only considered Amazon. That is the store that we buy 90% of our books. Our family still buys about 75% print books and the rest Kindle. I like to have a real book in my hand. Mark likes to have real books in his awesome library. Matthew does most of the kindle reading, although Lily has recently joined him (She read all the divergent books in a few days). Our kindle broke so now our kindle books are read on the Kindle app on iPhones.

Amazon has two branches of self-publishing: Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). As an author you can choose to publish with one or both of these companies, depending on how you want to reach your readers.

Createspace is a direct to print company. You format your book to fit one of their templates and upload a pdf version of it to their website. When someone buys a copy of it they print it. Apparently the quality isn't the best, but it looks and feels like a traditionally published book.

KDP is the direct to Kindle (or Kindle app) company. The formatting for Kindle is different to print. I have had a hard time trying to format my book as I use a Mac.  When I convert pages over to ePub format the page breaks disappear on the Kindle previewer! I downloaded other software to fix that issue, called Sigil, which it did. But then I found that Sigil inserted extra spaces between my paragraphs. Ahhhh! So I have gone around and around for days.

I went back to Createspace how to pages and I found that if I publish on Createspace, for $79 they will format my book for kindle for me! It is SO worth that cost. And the other day I popped into Kroger for some milk and bought 'a few other things' and ended up spending $160. It was so easy to spend that amount on food, so why would I quibble over half that amount to save me confusion and headache?

This weekend I hope to start working towards publishing on Createspace!

Oh, and I have a cover too! I love the book cover. I will post a photo of that in my next blog post. (SO excited about my cover!!!)

May 21, 2014

Back to life - announcing my current project - a novel

Max and I, May 2014
I am so glad that I have this blog. It sits here faithfully waiting for me to come back and say hello. It contains photos of my life and work, important stuff like the year of images and thoughts that I just lost when my external hard drive crashed stealing with it the whole of 2013! If I had been blogging, then more of my life would have been here backed up and safe (thank goodness for Instagram and Facebook, where lots of my photos are safe). Sigh. I have lived and learned that I need a back up for my back up.

As this blog is all about 'The Artistic Life', then I am going to lay out what I am up to artistically:

Writing. Editing. Planning on launching my first novel.

Right now, some of my kids are in the pool, my oldest is at karate, my gymnast is at gym, my third child is at her entrepreneurship class. The baby is driving with my mother, watching and commenting in babble on the world I am sure. So I have a minute to myself to blog!

I am at a point where I am ready to write novel number 2, so I am learning about self-publishing and how to get my first novel out of the top drawer and into print. As my non-fiction book was published by a traditional publisher, I was planning to pursue a traditional published for my novel. I browsed tons of agent websites, but most of them said 'We don't want your book, but if you want to try your luck send us a query letter (one page, one paragraph, a synopsis, the first three chapters, an email, snail mail, or whatever suits us best) that WOWS us, which we probably won't respond to because your book is probably awful anyhow'. I read somewhere that you should contact about 100 agents before you find one interested in you, and only if the stars align! I sent one query letter. Then I quit. I did not want to beg to be noticed. So I left it all for a while. I got on with life (I had my 6th child in January 2013).

Recently a friend of mine read my manuscript and loved it so I decided it would be better to publish it myself than do nothing with it. So I started reading about self publishing. And to my pleasant surprise in the years since I published my first book the publishing industry has changed, a lot! Many authors are realizing they can sell books without the middle men. It is not for the faint hearted. But the more I read the more excited I am about self publishing my novel.

My two favorite self publishing blogs that are chock-a-block with information on the topic are: a wonderful blog by an Irish woman, Catherine Ryan Howard, who has compiled a list of her articles on self-publishing, and JA Konrath's blog A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. I will need many more hours to myself to get through all the information they have packed into their blogs and to learn how to 'launch my book'!

Sure, my DIY campaign may not bear much fruit, but I am already enjoying this path where I am accountable no one but my (albeit right now, theoretical) reader.


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