A few days ago I had an urge to do something I have not done for years. I wanted to curl up with one particular book, listening to one particular type of music. Forget about bills, work, ironing … all the grown-up stuff. The catalyst was a very old friend who reminded me some of the things I loved when I was thirteen.
It is incredible how being reminded of something you once cherished can take you straight back in time to the last time you held it so close to your heart. It got me thinking about being thirteen again. On the brink of a whole new world, a pristine path with no mistakes stretching out before me. A whole life to build. Everything so fresh and new.
Thinking back, what I missed most about being thirteen was being able to lose myself in my passions. To, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, start a ten-year project and abandon it after ten minutes. To be filled with enthusiasm, confidence, dreams … To throw everything into the air and see where the pieces landed.
When did we stop doing that? When did living for the moment become living for the future. When did everything become “one day” and not “today.”
My son was telling me about what he wants to do when he’s older. Where he wants to study, what he wants to do afterwards. Maybe that is when it starts. We ask our children, ‘What do you want to be when you grow-up?’ As soon as we start doing that, we force them to live in the future, not in the present. We make it sound as though childhood is just a place-filler before their real lives begin.
I know what I want to do when I retire.
Maybe I would be better served thinking about what I want to do in the thirty years before I get there.
When I asked Peter at Bespoke Book Covers to come up with a cover for Chocolates in the Ocean, I had something very specific in mind. I wanted to illustrate a specific scene from the book from Anne dreams of her baby for the first time. Actually that scene, if you take out the dream part, is how my son gave me the title for the book. The only difference is that we were parked behind our old apartment in Esbjerg and not by the beach in Langeland.
I wanted the Langeland bridge on the book cover because that bridge is magical.
You wouldn’t think it to look at it. Joining one little Danish island to another and built in 1962, there is nothing remarkable about it.
And yet …
The moment you cross that bridge, it’s as though you’re crossing over into a different world. A world where there is no stress, no worries, no unpaid bills. Life slows down and everything you left behind does not cross the bridge with you.
My father told me he felt it the first he crossed that bridge almost 40 years ago.
I feel it every time I come to Langeland.
In the early days of the New Year, I watched an interview with a Danish celebrity, Joan Ørting, who has a house here, and she said the same thing. The moment you cross the bridge you relax. Yesterday I read an article in the local paper about a couple who have recently returned to Langeland from Copenhagen and they said the same thing.
This morning I was editing the scene in the sequel when Anne comes back to Langeland after the death of her husband. She pauses on the bridge for a long moment to allow the memories of her marriage to fly free.
Everything you left behind does not cross the bridge with you.
The bridge is magical.
I kept thinking about everything I have learned as an author entrepreneur. In the end, I decided to focus on the one thing that has made all the difference to me.
So that’s what I am doing at the moment. Putting together a useful little email guide that shows authors how to start making money on Amazon. Not ‘Ten Secret to Six Figure Success’ but how to go from nothing to something.
That encouragement made such a difference to me and my writing.
Would I like six figure success?
Of course I would, I’m not an idiot.
But what I really would have found most useful in the beginning was knowing how just to get some sales. Not a guide to experience exponential growth in your email list (what email list?) or how to turn your first book into a freebie. (I haven’t finished the second one yet!)
Very basic but things I know work.
And I’ll share it for free.
Including how AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) is more destructive than being in a mentally abusive relationship, because you compulsively check your stats every few
minutes hours days and want to tear your hair out when nothing happens. Like today.
Just one more sale. Come on …
Just read a few more pages. Come on …
I need help!
This afternoon my son and I went for a walk in the freezing cold spring sunshine. We looked at the amazing houses in our neighbourhood and discussed what our dream house would look like. He said his room would have a pool. I said cleaning his room would then also involve cleaning the pool. (This room is probably too girly for him.)
As we passed this one incredible looking place with a trampoline in the garden, he asked me when I would make enough money from my book to let us live in a place like that.
I think my response was a cross between a ‘heh’ and an ‘um.’
Houses like that go for around the equivalent of $1,000,000.
I think we’re a long way off that.
But at least I can definitely say that I’ve made more money from my book in the last five months than I have in the previous two years.
And it’s all down to five things.
All things I wish I’d known when I started trying to be an author entrepreneur.
All things it took me a long time to learn.
All things I’m going to start sharing.
I hope that someone will benefit from my experience and won’t have to wait two years to see people read their book. Because there really is nothing like seeing that people are reading your book.
I’ll get back to working on that. After I check my Amazon stats again.
Many years ago my mother bought a book in an airport. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I seem to recall it being one of those times when a flight was delayed for three hours.
For years, she tried to get me interested in reading this book. It was called Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon. But the premise of a time-travelling love affair didn’t quite grab the teenage me. I’m not entirely sure why, probably some form of teen rebellion because my mother loved it so much. Real little trouble maker, me.
I remember trying to read it at one point, but I was never really able to get into it. If I change my mind, I know where it is. It’s always on her bedside table.
Now it’s on Netflix as Outlander. Ever since it came out she’s talked about it and I’ve promised to watch it. Finally, this weekend, she forced me to sit down with her and pay attention.
I did enjoy it. I’ve kept watching it.
But it got me thinking about readers. About how some books can stay with a reader for years. About how a reader can envision the characters you create and bring them to life in their imagination. About how attached we can become to the books we treasure. We keep them with us through the bad times and the good. They offer familiarity and comfort. They inspire us, move us, make us laugh, make us cry.
The books we truly love become a part of who we are.
That’s what we dream of as writers. That one day one of our books will mean that much to someone that they always know where it is. That it will become a book they turn to for comfort, inspiration.
I know I’ll never write that book for my mother, because in everything I write she immediately sees me.
But I’d love to write that special book for someone else.
This afternoon, before the rain came back, I spent a couple of hours pulling up dead flowers. At least I think they were flowers. I remember doing the same thing last year, but I can’t remember exactly what they looked like when they bloomed.
Well, whatever they were, lots of bending down, pulling up and generally making sure that things were less wild looking by the time I finished.
Sometimes your story takes off in a strange direction. Into the wild. For a while you think it all makes perfect sense and adds to the beauty of the whole. But then you go back to it and realise that everything you thought was so fantastic is now just so many dead twigs.
Not weeds, but not something that you want in your story at this point.
Perhaps they belong in another story entirely. Somewhere they can bloom beautifully.
It seems like such a thankless task to have to pull them all up again. Would it really be so bad to leave them in there?
The trouble with weeds/invasive flowers/strange things that crop up in your garden is that they spread.
Leave them in there and everything else that you’ve worked so hard on becomes overshadowed by them.
They have to go.
Year after year, story after story, until you have things the way you want them.
Until your garden blooms again.
Thankless but worth it.
When I was a kid I hated gardening.
Gardening = pulling weeds = chores = BOOOOOOORING!
But now that I have a garden, I find I love spending time in it. Although not pulling weeds, that part still equals boring.
Yesterday afternoon I was raking leaves, cutting the grass, getting everything ready for summer.
I filled my first bag of leaves.
Because my son was telling me about an idea he has for a novel, I started thinking about first drafts.
That’s what this bag of leaves is.
A first draft.
It looks finished. It looks as though this bag is now perfectly filled and nothing more can possible be put into it. After all, I have to be able to close it or I might just as well shovel the leaves directly into the car and drive to the dump.
It’s done and I’m ready to go!
It’s a first draft.
Which means that so much of it is nothing but air and fluff. So I push down on the bag to press all the air out of it.
Which means that what I am now left with is half the size, but much more compact.
So I pile more leaves into the bag and do it again.
Which means I end up with three full bags instead of seven.
And a lot less cakes in Chocolates in the Ocean.