Monthly Archives: August 2017

Is successful self-publishing just a matter of luck?

The other day I looked in on a writer’s forum that I used to frequent. One of the new authors was expressing her disappointment over her lack of sales. Apparently, she had published a book three months ago and had only sold three eBooks. She asked if any of the other writers had ever felt like calling it quits but stuck it out and ended up successful. She was looking for success stories to boost her morale.

What she got in return were a number of comments citing the depressing odds against any self-published author. Only a small fraction of self-published authors are actually making money. The dismal doomsday comments were coming from fellow self-published authors.

Basically, I felt they were saying—it’s not your fault—it’s not our fault—that we can only make a couple dollars as an author. The odds are just against us.

Not necessarily. Sometimes it is the author’s fault. I’m not suggesting making a living as a self-published author is a sure thing if you follow specific steps; it isn’t. Like any entrepreneurial endeavor, there are risks and challenges. Yet, sometimes the reason for a lack of financial success has nothing to do with the odds being stacked against you—sometimes it’s simply because the author failed to recognize what it takes to be a successful self-published author.

After reading that author’s post, I started asking myself—what does it take to make a living doing this? After all, I have been doing it for six years now.

I came up with the following list:

  1. Ability to Write Something Others Want to Read
  2. Business plan
  3. Hard Work
  4. Stacking the Deck in Your Favor

Ability to Write Something Others Want to Read

The old cliché “putting the cart before the horse” comes to mind when I think of some aspiring self-publishered authors. They have failed to hone their craft yet are anxious to push the publish button.  Mastering your craft might involve: writing classes, involvement in critique groups—yet most of all, writing. And more writing. Once you’ve learned how to properly string words together, the next challenge is finding the story readers want.

I remember when Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series was all the rage. At the time, I recall reading some posts from aspiring authors, harshly critiquing Meyer’s writing ability. Instead of accusing those authors of suffering from a severe case of sour grapes—I would suggest it isn’t sour grapes they should be ashamed of, but the fact they completely missed a valuable writing lesson.

Perhaps Meyer’s prose needed some work. But the fact was, she had the story readers wanted to hear. And I don’t care how polished and perfect your prose may be, if you don’t have the story, you have nothing. Those authors would have better served paying less attention to the technical imperfections of Meyer’s writing, and more to her storytelling ability.

Business Plan

When you are a self-published author you have two jobs. It isn’t just about the writing. If you hope to make money as a self-published author, this requires you to treat the endeavor as a business.  That author who was complaining about her lack of sales, she obviously had no business plan. She had published a 61-page book of erotica, overpriced it, and then sat back waiting for the money to roll in. That is not a great business plan.

Hard Work

Like anything worthwhile, it takes hard work. One of the more successful self-published authors I know is Russell Blake. Russell spent so many hours in front of the computer, hammering out one book after another, that he decided to invest in a treadmill desk. It was either that or fall over at the desk from lack of exercise.

Russell didn’t start making money on his first book. He didn’t publish one book and then sit back and wait for the money to come flowing in. No, he kept writing. I know of only one self-published author who hit it big on her first book, yet even she invested hours of hard work in the project.

One author friend told me he didn’t start making money until he had published the tenth book in his series. While I’ve had an amazing year, I also have more than twenty-five full-length books published.

Early on, I was taught by successful self-published authors that one essential ingredient for success in this business is to regularly publish. One book isn’t going to do it, and writing and publishing four or more books a year takes a lot of work.

Stacking the Deck in Your Favor

When I say stacking the deck in your favor, I am thinking of four things.

  1. Get the book professionally edited.

Even if the author is a professional editor, I believe he/she needs another set of eyes. Since I published my first novel in 2011, I’ve worked with six different professional editors. I’ve had some of my books edited three or four times. Even then, there have been mistakes and reviewers who have pointed out my errors. I shudder at those writers who hit publish without sending their manuscript through an editing process.

  1. Get a professional book cover appropriate for your genre.

I checked out the book cover of that author I mentioned—the one who was discouraged over her lack of sales. To be blunt, her cover was horrid and obviously homemade. And it went horizontal instead of the standard vertical format. Perhaps if it had been a stunning cover, the horizontal look might have signaled to the reader that this author had something special and different for them. Instead, it simply shouted, I have no clue what I am doing.

  1. Polish your blurb. This is the summary potential readers read to determine if they want to read your book. It’s what they normally read after the book cover catches their attention. You need a hook to reel them in.

To be honest, I hate writing blurbs. I kind of suck at it. Fortunately, there are other writers out there who are very good at writing blurbs and are willing to help.

  1. The final item in stacking the deck: re-edit the preview.

After the cover catches a reader’s attention, and the blurb reels them it, it is the preview that has to clinch the deal.

Double and triple edit the first part of your book—the section that will show up in preview. Because if your book has typos or other errors, you don’t want them to show up when the potential reader is previewing the book. That author I mentioned—well I didn’t just look at her cover, I read her preview. There were glaring typos in the first paragraph.

Of course, she is not alone. The first word, in the first novel I published—Lessons—was supposed to be Alexandra, the main character. Yet, it was typed Alexander. That book went through at least three editors before that error was discovered. And guess what? None of the editors found it—I did.  But for a long time, that glaring error remained in the preview—and the book.

I suspect I would not be doing as well as I am now, if I had ignored my mistakes, never re-edited, wrote less, refused to do those publishing tasks I disliked, and had ignored  the advice of some of my earlier mentors.

There are no guarantees an author will make anything by self-publishing. But I do believe, for a serious author who is willing to make the commitment and put in the hard work, it is within the realm of possibility.

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Beyond those eyes…

Those Eyes

Are those my husband’s eyes,
looking up at me?
Could it be my nose
that I now see?
A touch of him
a hint of me
blended by God
… expertly.

I wrote that poem a number of years ago. It’s included in my book, Motherhood. However, it’s not just our features we can pass down to our children—it’s other things, like stubbornness, creativity, or an entrepreneurial spirit.

I’m blessed to be sharing this publishing adventure with our daughter, Elizabeth. She has her degree in Graphic Design and is a freelance graphic artist, specializing in book covers.  When I was in high school, I—like my daughter—took a special interest in art. However, unlike Elizabeth, I veered off to photography and writing in college, leaving my art aspirations behind. Elizabeth persevered. Plus, she is far more talented than I ever was.

Our son Scott is in restaurant management. It’s not surprising he got into the business, since both his grandparents and parents once owned restaurants. It was something he grew up around. However, he also has a keen interest in photography—as I once did.

Lately he’s been filming using his drone and posting his videos on YouTube. I take special interest in what he’s captured along the Oregon coast—since my Haunting Danielle series takes place in the fictional town of Frederickport, Oregon, along the Oregon coast, south of Astoria.

Our son and his wife live in Portland. Their love of the Oregon coast—and our visits to that area when we would visit them—is what inspired me to select that location for my Haunting Danielle series.

If you’d like to get a view of the Haunting Danielle real life territory—or would like to check out some of Scott’s other scenic videos, click on about video.

(If the video is not showing at the top of this page, refresh the page and it should appear.)

Confessions of an Ex-Erotica Writer

When people learn I am an author—especially when they realize I am actually making my living off my books—one of the most frequent questions they ask me, “Have you always wanted to be a writer?”

Yes. Even before I became an avid reader, I was making up stories in my head, or trying to figure out how to phrase a description of something I was observing. In sixth grade I wrote our class play, and at fourteen I wrote my first book—more a novella considering it was just under a hundred typed pages.

I never struggled with reading as a child, yet I preferred to be read to. I used to nag my older sister to read me Nancy Drew or the Box Car Children. It wasn’t until we moved to Lake Havasu when I was in eight grade—and without television—that I discovered my love for reading.

What was the book that got me started? The Valley of the Dolls. Considering that is the book that hooked me into reading for pleasure at the tender age of thirteen, I suppose it’s not that surprising that when I started publishing eBooks I wrote erotica.

To be clear, I wrote more than just erotica. But erotica paid the bills back then.

It happened like this…

Until we moved back to Havasu to take over my parent’s business, Havasu Palms, I used to publish a monthly community magazine. What I wrote back then were non-fiction articles—my favorite being articles of local history which involved extensive research. I sold the publication when we moved to Havasu in 1991.

When I was still working for Havasu Palms I wrote two books. One, was Where the Road Ends, Havasu Palms Recipes and Remembrances. It was a book of local history which we self-published in paperback. We sold the book at Havasu Palms, a book store in Lake Havasu City, and eventually in the Lake Havasu Museum.

The second book was a romance, Lessons. It was not the first book of fiction I had ever written. In college, I wrote a screenplay which I turned into a book. Before Lessons, I wrote one other romance, and started several others. But, I never had the patience to send manuscripts off to publishers or editors—plus it was costly back then. In those days, you had to print out the entire book and send it off to the various publishers. I could not afford the postage or printing costs.

The years went by, and we were no longer managing Havasu Palms. Now Don and I were Realtors. But then the crash of 2008 came along, and we realized it was not financially feasible for both of us to continue in a business where we both relied on commission to pay our bills. Don remained in real estate, and I decided to go back to my first love, writing.

For over three years I wrote for the infamous content supply company, Demand Studios. Each week I hammered out one nonfiction article after another. Over time, it became tedious—and work became harder to find. About this same time a new writing opportunity was emerging—self-publishing eBooks.

I self-published my first book of fiction at the end of 2011. It was Lessons, which I released under the pen name, Anna J. McIntyre. Before publishing, I sent the manuscript off to an editor I had met at Demand Studios, and I had my daughter, who was a professional graphic designer, design the book cover.

I soon learned it took more than one published book to make a living—and writing a book took a considerable amount of time. Plus, I was still spending many hours writing for Demand Studios.

One day I stumbled across an author blog by another romance author. She was experimenting with erotica, and found there was some good money being made. Fifty Shades had been published—yet it hadn’t yet been acquired by its current publisher, nor had it yet become well known.

I decided to give erotica a try. Frankly, it sounded fun. I was weary of writing boring how-to articles or dry non-fiction for Demand Studios, and I needed a change. I’ve always had a wild imagination. For me, erotica was not about graphic sex. It was about telling imaginative stories where the characters just happen to have sex. And in case you are wondering—back in the day, the stories I wrote did not violate any publishing policies of the venues where I published.

The erotica I wrote was geared toward women readers, and they focused heavily on the story and the characters. Some, I will confess, pushed the envelope in what might be considered acceptable. But as a writer, sometimes it’s about pushing the envelope.

I wrote short stories, about 10,000 words or less and sold them for $2.99 each. This enabled me to crank out a new story every week or two.  If I was to charge 99 cents, I would only make 35 cents per eBook sold, which meant I would have to sell a LOT of books to make a living.

I didn’t get rich, but I did make a livable salary for a couple years. Plus, I believe the experience improved my writing.

But then two things happened. I grew bored with writing erotica—and Fifty Shades became a phenomenal bestseller. The latter meant every struggling (and some non-struggling) writer was jumping into the erotica market. But, they were not cranking out short stories, they were giving readers full length books—some even charging just 99 cents per book.

As I mentioned, I was already bored with writing erotica. I certainly had no desire to commit my energy to full length books, nor to price the books so low that it would be harder to make a living. One problem with erotica, authors are limited in their advertising options.

I abandoned the erotica and turned my attention to what I consider my more serious work. Eventually, I unpublished my erotica—from all venues. It no longer fit in with my publishing objectives.

For the last four years I’ve devoted my writing energy to my Haunting Danielle series, which I write under my own name—no pen name.  While one of my Haunting Danielle characters may occasionally exchange a kiss, that’s about as far as it goes.

One might wonder if because of last week’s kerfuffle with Barnes & Noble, when our Nook Press account was about to be terminated, that I might regret ever having published erotica. Had I not done that, then I probably would never have been targeted by Nook Press.

But no, I can’t regret it. Because without my experiences writing and publishing erotica, I seriously doubt I would be where I am today in my writing career. And frankly, I am exceedingly happy at where I find myself today.

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Consider this a public service announcement on refrigerator shopping.

Grandma’s refrigerator had just one door. When you opened the door, inside was the refrigerator, with a freezer compartment on top. Then came the refrigerator with two doors—one for the freezer on top, and a separate door for the refrigerator compartment below.

Then came the side by side—a freezer on the left, the refrigerator on the right, each with its own door. A few years back, a different design became the rage—a double door refrigerator with a freezer drawer on the bottom of the unit.

I was enamored with the design—especially with the wide deli drawer inside. Unfortunately, they were pretty pricy, yet I still drooled whenever we strolled through the appliance department.  But then, a few years back, one of our friends who is in the appliance business, offered us a great deal on one, and who was I to resist?

I loved the fridge at first. When the deli drawer continually jammed, I considered the price we had paid, so I didn’t complain. And then the ice maker went out, something our friend warned might happen—those models back then had ice maker issues—again I didn’t complain. Instead we purchased a nifty countertop ice maker.

But what really did not work out for our lifestyle was the freezer drawer. Oh, it held a lot, but for households like us, who purchase a lot of frozen meat and fish, it made the drawer very heavy. I worried about my 89-year-old mother being home alone, opening the drawer to get ice, and then having it jam on her—something it occasionally did with us. Would she be able to fix it on her own?

Recently, we decided it was time to get a new refrigerator and retire our old one to the garage. Since we got such a terrific deal on the other one, it wasn’t as financially painful as it might have been—plus there were some great appliance sales going on.

So here comes the rest of my public service announcement.

My husband, Don, researched refrigerators before we went shopping, so we knew what brand we wanted. Unfortunately, the research failed to mention the following two things.

The first is the water dispenser. When looking at refrigerators at the store, they typically are not hooked up. Therefore, a customer does not have the opportunity to try it out.

I remember asking the salesman if the water dispenser had one of those features where you set the glass on the little shelf to fill up and it automatically turns off when full. He didn’t know. What he also did not know, in the brand we had asked him about, you did not set the glass on the little shelf in the door when getting water—only when getting ice.

When Don first used the water dispenser he got quite a surprise. He set the empty glass on the little shelf in the door—like we had done for all our previous refrigerators in the past with water dispensers—and he pushed the lever with the water icon.

Water squirted all over him—and the floor. You see, in this model, the water comes out of the door, as you can see in the photograph. In our previous refrigerators, if the glass overflowed, or you pulled the glass away too soon, the water was captured in the little tray on the shelf. Not so with this one. There is nothing to catch the water except the glass you are holding.

When our daughter came to visit with her family, that was one of the first things I showed them how to use. I didn’t want their family soaking our kitchen floor—or their shirts—the first time they went to get a glass of water. And at our house, unfortunately all the drinking water comes out of the refrigerator. She found the design strangely bizarre.  The moral of all this, take a closer look at the water and ice dispenser. See where the water and ice are actually dispensed.


The next unexpected thing I discovered about our new refrigerator—its door fronts will not hold a magnet. I learned that this morning when I tried to attach a list to the front of the refrigerator, and the list—along with the magnet—fell to the ground. You can use a magnet on the side of the refrigerator, just not on the front.

Don says he doesn’t like things hanging all over the refrigerator, so he doesn’t have a problem with this unexpected quirk. But, if you are someone who does like to use magnets to hang things on the front of the refrigerator, I suggest you take a kitchen magnet with you the next time you are appliance shopping.

I like our new refrigerator, in spite of the fact I have to hold the glass when it fills with water, and I can no longer hang my grandkid’s artwork on its front. I’m still happy with the purchase.

However, I wonder…had I been aware of those two things, would I have selected another model?

An Update to today’s update…

This morning I received the following email:

Dear Bobbi Holmes,
Your NOOK Press account has been reactivated. Over the next 24 to 72 hours your NOOK Books will be back on sale in the NOOK Bookstore.

Please email us using this form with any questions you may have.
Sincerely,
The NOOK Press Team

While I am pleased they reactivated the account, I would have appreciated an explanation as to WHY it was terminated in the first place. I have sent them another email, asking that question. I will be curious to see if they respond.

Interestingly, this morning one of my readers left this comment on my blog:

Bobbi I just texted Barnes and noble and they told me they are still selling your books and have no knowledge of a termination of your books then sent me a link to show them. I’m not sure what’s going on but they apologized for any inconvenience. I told them they were going to lose a lot of customers. Penny

My thanks to Penny, and to all my readers who contacted Barnes & Noble. I do find it odd they claimed not to have knowledge of any termination—the email Nook Press Team sent me this morning tells another story. Plus, over at my account, while it was no longer on hold, all of my titles were in unpublished status. I went through and republished when possible, and hopefully they will be live by tomorrow.

Once again, thanks to all my readers for your support and for contacting Barnes & Noble. You are the best.

Now I have a book to write…

 

Update on NookPress Termination

As of this morning, all of my books have been removed from Barnes & Noble. I am still waiting for an explanation as to why.

I have only received two emails from Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press regarding this matter.

The first email arrived on Monday, telling me my account was on hold. It instructed me to contact them “for information on why your account has been placed on hold and to discuss any necessary next steps to reactivate your account.”

I was clearly led to believe I simply needed to take some steps in order to reactivate the account. But what steps?

After I contact them, I received an email the following day—yesterday. It did not include any steps to rectify any problem—instead, it informed me my account had been terminated. According to this second email, “We have determined that many of your titles available for sale are in violation of our Content Policy.”

At the time all this was happening, I was hearing from other authors who claimed their NookPress accounts were also being closed, and it is all about an erotica purge. They explained, even if a publisher no longer had erotica published, accounts were being closed.

But perhaps it was all a coincidence—for me and them.

I never meant to suggest Nook Press considered Haunting Danielle erotica—yet I did believe the termination had something to do with past erotica content by the publisher, as the other authors claimed.

So, if not erotica, what else is in their updated Content Policy? I took a closer look and discovered it is a violation for the author to include any hyperlinks or contact information in the eBooks. It has always been standard practice to include a link to an author’s newsletter—and even the standard eBook creation software inserts a hyperlink to the publisher’s website.

In the past, it has always been understood to never include links to competitive stores, but the others links were typically accepted. Was it about hyperlinks or past erotica?

Unfortunately, NookPress never gave me those steps they said they would be sending—the steps to put the account in compliance. Instead, they simply terminated. So, I don’t really know if it was about hyperlinks or past erotica.

Either way, I am moving on. I have a new book to write and another to get off to my editor. You can still find my books at Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords and iTunes.

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NookPress closing author accounts?

This morning I received the following email from Barnes & Noble’s NookPress:

Dear Publisher,
We have determined that many of your titles available for sale are in violation of our Content Policy. Accordingly, the offending titles have been removed from sale and your account is being terminated. We will pay out any and all outstanding royalties during the next payment period. If you attempt to publish similar content under a different account, we will terminate that account as well and withhold royalties from those sales.
The NOOK Press Team

Umm…okay…please explain which of my titles currently for sale are in violation of their content policy. I would love for them to answer that question for me. Unfortunately, NookPress doesn’t have a contact phone number, and they keep sending me form letters in response to my email inquiries.

While I have published erotica in the past, I unpublished my erotica TWO YEARS ago. And even if it was still for sale at Barnes & Noble (which it isn’t) I don’t see how they would have violated any of the terms at the time. After all, they did allow erotica back then, and I tend to play by the rules. (I am a bit of a compulsive rule follower.)

The majority of my books on sale at Barnes & Noble are books in the Haunting Danielle series—a very G-rated paranormal cozy mystery series. I have four very light romances under my Anna J. McIntyre pen name, and several nonfiction. Nothing smutty in the bunch, and all with registered Copyrights—so no violations there.

I know it isn’t a phishing email, because when I log into my NookPress account, it has a notice that the account is on hold. It is always possible this is some kind of a glitch. A few months back they sent me an email claiming there was a new payment pending—one they didn’t owe me. A few days later I received an email claiming the payment message had been sent in error. However, I am hearing from other authors that Barnes and Noble has been sending similar emails to erotica authors.

Funny thing, my titles are still live at Barnes & Noble, at least they were a few minutes ago—telling me none of them were the offending ones. (So what exactly have they removed?) While my books are still there, according to the email, my account is about to be terminated.

Ironically, many of my fellow authors have tried talking me into putting my Haunting Danielle books on Amazon Select. To do so means I have to first un-publish from all non-Amazon sites. I have been reluctant to do this—in spite of the extra money the authors claim I can make—because many of my Haunting Danielle fans like to buy their books at Barnes & Noble, and I don’t feel right about making them exclusive to Amazon, in detriment to my fans.

However, even if I wanted to put them on Select right now I can’t. Why? Because NookPress has my account on hold, and I can’t make any changes—not even to un-publish. So, on one side they claim I can no longer sell my books on their site—and on the flip side, they continue to sell my books, not giving me a way to remove them, therefore making them ineligible for Amazon Select.

Annoying….

 

 

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What we fail to see.

The high school I attended was all white—except for one of my girlfriends and her two siblings. Their father was white; and their mother was Nicaraguan. That was about all the color in the school, except for the one black student who showed up for one day. He didn’t return the next day.

My memory was that everyone was very nice to him and welcoming. I just always assumed he looked around at the sea of white faces and thought, hell no, I’m out of here.

Unfortunately, back then I had a tendency to view the world through rose colored glasses and often missed the ugliness staring me in the face. Until I hit my fifties, I tended to give people the benefit of the doubt. Today, I am more of a cynic.

I hope my fellow classmates back then were nice to that African American student. But, I’m no longer sure. I have no idea what some of the other students may have said to him. After all, it was decades after graduation that I learned how one of my friends had been cruelly harassed by the male classmates for the size of her large breasts, and how another friend had been physically abused by her boyfriend—both popular students in the school. I had no idea, but other kids knew. Heck, when one of my close friends married young, I was probably the only person in the school who never considered for a moment she might be pregnant. She was.

Growing up in Covina, California, I attended what was essentially an all-white elementary school. There were one or two Hispanics and Asians, but no black students the years I attended there. My first encounter with a black person was a student teacher I had in the fourth grade. I adored that teacher, yet now, looking back, I have to wonder what type of reception he had from the all-white school. This was in the mid-60s. I would love to sit down with him and find out what it was like for him back then.

My next encounter with a person of color was a few years later, when my parents were off on a snow skiing trip, and my grandmother was staying with us. My grandmother’s first husband (my mother’s father) had passed away when Mom was a little girl. Years later, Grandma married my Grandpa Pete, a dear man, who was a wonderful grandfather to me.

While Grandma was staying with us, Grandpa Pete’s grandson came to visit, bringing his army buddy with him. The two came to our house to have dinner and to visit with Grandma. I remember Grandpa’s grandson and the friend were very nice, and we enjoyed the visit. Did I mention the friend was black?

It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned my grandma’s sister had had an absolute fit over the fact Grandpa’s grandson had had the audacity to bring a black man into my parent’s home. My parents weren’t upset over the visit, and the story told in following years centered on my great-aunt’s foolishness and bigotry.

It wasn’t until we moved to Havasu did I have any real exposure to minorities. Before going to that all white school I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I attended the last half of my eight grade, and freshman year, in racially diverse schools.

I only recall witnessing one racially motivated conflict. I was riding home on the bus (it was a considerable drive from Parker, Arizona to Parker Dam, California) when a white girl—who was dating a black student—was being verbally harassed by several white girls on the bus. I remember saying something to the boy I was dating, about how I felt bad I hadn’t spoken up, and that I needed to, if it happened again. He told me to keep my mouth shut, that those girls would kick my ass.

My next encounter with bigotry came at that all-white high school. I can still remember; I was in biology class, when one of my classmates, a boy who was a year or two younger than me, declared his hatred of black people.

He had always seemed like such a nice guy; I found that expression of hate out of place. I asked him why he hated blacks. He didn’t really have a reason, he just did. I then told him I was part black; did he hate me too?

I had lied, but I have very dark brown eyes. I used those eyes to convince him, after he initially laughed off my claim.

“Why do you think I have such black eyes?” I asked him in seriousness.

He looked at me strangely, and then said he was sad, but he couldn’t be my friend anymore. He told me he wished I had never told him. Just like that, in an instant, he disliked me for no reason aside from the fact he believed I had a person of color in my family tree. And he was serious. Oh, he didn’t start yelling obscenities at me, or threaten to burn a cross on my lawn—of course no one had lawns in Havasu—but he was instantly cool toward me.

When he found out I had been pulling his leg, his demeanor once again changed, and he figured we could be friends again. Needless to say, I never looked at him the same way. While he was a classmate, I never again considered him a friend.

So what is my point in all this?

Just because you don’t see racism around you, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Back to everyday life.

I always feel such profound sadness when my kids go home after a visit. It was a wonderful week. Our son-in-law was a real sport for coming, in spite of his broken foot. Havasu in August with a cast is no fun, but he toughed it out.

I enjoyed my pool time with the grandkids and our daughter Elizabeth, and telling Addison and Evan stories at night. They don’t want me to read to them—they want me to make up adventure stories where they are the main characters. It is a bit of a challenge to come up with new stories each night where mermaids, giants, and dragons are all included in each story.

I loved seeing how Addison and Evan bond with their GG —my mom, their great-grandma. They both adore her, and each morning they would race out of their room and ask me if they could go see her. They didn’t want to wake her up if she was still sleeping.

This was the first trip where the grandkids stayed in the house with us, while their mom and dad stayed alone in the cottage.

Elizabeth and Joe took off for Phoenix over the weekend, so they could go to a Cubs game. The grandkids stayed with us. Elizabeth and Joe don’t get much adult time away from the kids. Wish we could help them out more.

But now we all go back to our regular lives. For me, it is wrapping up a book and starting a new one. For our daughter it is the busy life as mother, wife and graphic artist. Her plate is especially full at the moment as Joe is hopping around on one leg.

They left early this morning. I’ve put away the blow up bed I bought for Evan, stored the toys back in the closet, and returned our home to one that is strikingly adult–the only toys in sight are dog toys.

But when I came out to the cottage a few minutes ago, I was greeted with something cheerful–something my grandkids left behind. The water picture paintings they made when their folks were off to the baseball game.

The paintings are hanging on the cottage refrigerator, just a few feet from my desk. I think I will leave them there.