Monday, September 30, 2013

Is it only Monday?

You know you're in for it when your alarm doesn't go off first thing Monday morning and you oversleep.  Then, when you get to work, you promptly get a phone call because you were supposed to be at a meeting somewhere else.  Yep, one of those days...

I was very scattered this morning, which is not really like me.  But I have good reason to be scattered.  In the midst of a crazy busy weekend, I decided to sit down and try to finish reading what I have on my second book.  Since retrieving my hard drive, I've been re-reading my writing, trying to figure out where to go with the story.  I knew I was about to wrap it up, but wasn't sure exactly how I was going to do that.  I had gone into writing this story with a preconceived notion about where it was going.  But once I got there, I changed my mind.  Anyway, after I got the kiddos in bed last night, I decided to read what I had written.  I got to the end, and it was literally in the middle of the scene.  An idea jumped into my head and I just started writing.  And as I wrote the scene, I realized that this was it.  I was able to wrap up the story.  I was done.

I had finished my second novel.

I'm not sure about this one.  It's totally different than Good Intentions.  This one is told from the third person, rather than the first.  There is no humor in this one-- it is darker and heavier.  I felt like I was trying to expand my writing chops so to speak while working on this one.  Some of it is definitely stepping outside my comfort zone.

I learned that in this process, the people who read your book prior to release are called Beta readers.  Right now, my book is with my Alpha reader.  She is the first person to read anything I write, and if I ever make it big someday, she's going to be the person who keeps me in line and keeps me from missing meetings.  (Obviously, she slacked off this morning.)  Because this novel is so different from the last, I'm more nervous about the story line.  But now that it's done, I can revise and tweak and edit (and correct and correct and correct).  But that is all I want to do.  I want to get this one moving.

Now comes some big I try to get an agent and publishing deal, or do I stick with the Indie route?  What about a cover?  My last cover was one that I designed (using the CreateSpace program) with a photograph that I took.  In a perfect world, I would hire a photographer and model for this one.  I know what I would like the cover to look like, but I'm not sure I can make that happen.  I have a tentative working title, but I'm holding on to it for right now.

So, this is where my mind has been today.  Good thing I got dinner in the crock pot this morning and hopefully won't have to think too much for the rest of the day.  I can't believe it's only Monday.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

Hey, anyone wanna guess what this blog post is about?

This week, Yvonne at Fiction Books is featuring Good Intentions for Mailbox Monday.  What's pretty exciting about this is Yvonne is in the U.K., so this could be an international break for me.  Bloggers like Yvonne (and Naida at ...the bookworm..., Marlene at Book Mama Blog, Charlotte at A Novel Review and the gals at Chick Lit Central) are such a huge force in the literary world, especially for indie authors like myself.  These ladies have taken the time to read my work or promote it in someway to get the word out to more and more people.  I'm fairly certain that, if (when), I hit it big, it will be because of bloggers like this awesome group.

[That being said, there are a few more bloggers who have Good Intentions in their TBR piles.  Anxiously awaiting those reviews!]

Also, at the suggestion of my PR manager (a.k.a., my BFF who is working for free at this job), I've created a Facebook page.  This is a public page, so please invite everyone you know to check it out.  I've done this in order to separate my personal, private page from the word I'm trying to spread to the public.  Also, this way, I can stop bombarding friends and family who really don't care about my endeavors.  While I may still update occasionally about book stuff on my private FB page, all book related stuff will definitely be shared on the Kathryn R. Biel:  Author page.

Thanks for bearing with me on another shameless plug for Good Intentions.  If you haven't read it yet, please check it out!  If you have read it (and thank you so much!), please write a review for it.  You can write one review and post it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, as well as Goodreads.  The more reviews, the more people will talk and the more likely people will take notice.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Scripted Play

My son is on the autism spectrum.  He's not the typical "autistic" kid, although that is the diagnosis that seems to fit closest (although not best).  One of the interesting things about him has always been his scripted play.  From a very early age (about two years old), Jake could recite things, and that is how he played.  We would find him with his toys, narrating an episode of Blue's Clues, but changing the names to "Jake" and "Mom," or something like that.  Not even really understanding what it was at the time, we all thought it was really neat.  He was never one for spontaneous play, where he set up elaborate scenes.  Even to this day, his play is not very verbal.

When Jake started school, we used to laugh at his play.  He would come home and play school.  We would overhear him, even if he was in his room by himself, talking.  Reciting, verbatim, scenes from the school day.  We could tell exactly what went on in the classroom, or the library, or on the bus.  Thanks to his excellent memory, and despite the fact that he did not often tell us about his day, we had good insight as to how he was being treated in school.

Now, Jake's sister is the total opposite.  She disappears into her room or the playroom, and sets up elaborate scenes.  Her toys act out complex dynamic relationships, complete with sound effects.  She loves animals, and has a whole set of animal "action figures."  The noises they "make" are hysterical.  She very verbal.  Excessively so.  What Jake struggles with pragmatically, she has in spades.

Sophia is in first grade.  She is the reluctant student.  Although curious by nature, she has bucked against learning to read.  She could careless about how she forms her letters, and doesn't take the time to sound out her words to attempt to spell them correctly.  She has trouble with how she holds her pencil (and crayons and markers).  Although bright, she only seems invested in school for the social aspect.  However, her teacher (who is the same one who had Jake) must be working wonders.  Sophia is getting praised for her effort and hard work.

Tonight, Sophia brought me her supplies (paper, pencil with grip, crayons and markers) and said, "I want to write a book.  Will you help me check my words for spelling?" So, she's sitting here next to me, writing and illustrating her book (which will be a gift for her teacher).  We're working on the grip.  She's attempting to spell the words first, and writing carefully.  Her first page was about art class.  She drew a detailed picture.  While drawing the picture, I realize that she is explaining to me how art class works, just as it had been explained to her.  Tonight, she's engaging in scripted play.

I feel like we've come full circle.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Eleventh of September

For my generation, September 11, 2001 is that pivotal day when everyone remembers exactly where they were when they heard the news of the devastating terror attacks.  My story is no different.  However, if you follow the blog and read my post last week, then you could have figured out that I was on my honeymoon when the events of that day went down.  And for the rest of my life, when people talk about "that morning," to me it will always be "that afternoon," as Pat and I were six hours ahead in France.  Being such a world-changing event, I obviously included the day in my honeymoon scrapbook, although we took no pictures that day.  I wrote a long narrative and have included the Time Magazine that covered the story, as well as a copy of 'Le Monde,' which is the main Parisian newspaper, from 9/12/01 in my scrapbook.

Here is my narrative from my scrapbook, describing the day from my perspective:

***We spent our last night in Nice in the Comfort Inn.  Unable to fall asleep, despite our early, impending arousal, I watched a Bosnian movie subtitled in French.  I had gotten fed up with CNN (the only English-speaking channel) and their stories of Michael Jordan's return to the NBA.  My sleep that night was repeatedly interrupted by dreams of fire.  I awoke several times, planning how to flee the hotel with our important belongings.  The alarm went off around 4:45 a.m.  We checked out and walked through the dark streets to the train station.  The desk clerk had told us the train station was 2 blocks away-- it was a bit further.  [More like 6 or 8, from what I remember]  Our train ride was uneventful.  I slept most of the way.  After retrieving our extra bags, we got a taxi.  Unfortunately, the driver spoke neither English nor French.  He had never heard of Rue de le Bouteaux, but he knew Rue de le Pouteaux, so he figured it was a typo.  After a 45 minute taxi ride, we arrived at the street.  There was no hotel, but the taxi driver unloaded all eight bags and demanded 160 franc.  We were stranded.  We started to walk to the nearest taxi stand, but couldn't make it.  Finally, Pat left me with the bags and went ahead to the taxi stand.  It began to rain.  Feeling the lowest of low, I was about to give up when I saw a mini-van taxi pull up with Pat in the back, smiling like a knight in shining armor.  We were successfully delivered to our hotel, Hotel Villiers, but we were angry at being taken advantage of.  The concierge did not have our reservation, but we were finally able to get a room.  We got to our room just before 3 p.m.  On CNN, we saw that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.  Our first reaction was disbelief-- I mean, who couldn't see the big building in front of you! At this time, we thought it was a small CENSA. Our second reaction was relief--the odds of second plane crashing in the same week was good prognosis for our return trip.  At that point, Pat left to go survey the area (we thought we were in the ghetto).  I sat on the bed watching CNN as they interviewed eyewitnesses.  I saw the 2nd plane and initially thought it was the media.  Then, there was the 2nd explosion.  I thought the top of the North Tower was going to topple then.  Then, it was learned that one of the planes was a Boeing 767 from American Airlines, which was what we were supposed to fly out on, on that Saturday.  We watched in horror as the events unfolded and the South Tower collapsed.  We left briefly to get something to eat, but all the radios were broadcasting in French.  We returned to our hotel to find the World Trade Center gone and part of the Pentagon destroyed.  We then began the frantic phone calls homes.  The phone lines to NY were a mess, so the panic continued for a few hours.  We did recognize that life had changed forever, and that the world would never be the same.***

At the time, I had two cousins who worked in NYC.  One actually worked in the World Trade Center.  Both of those cousins are the same age as I am, and had attended our wedding just a week before.  We were very lucky that both were safe that day.  My brother was stationed in England at the time, so we had a contingency plan to go to England, in the event that we could not fly back to JFK.  This brother lost co-workers and colleagues in the Pentagon that day.  My college roommate lost her cousin.

The next day, Pat and I actually had one of our favorite days of the whole trip.  We went to Sacre-Coeur, where I lit candles for the unfortunate victims and their families.

Just four days after the attacks, Pat and I had to fly home.  Air travel was at a virtual standstill, with many flights still being grounded.  No one from American Airlines could tell us if we would be able to fly back.  JFK was scheduled to open up that day, but it was unsure.  We went to Charles de Gaulle 6 hours early, and just waited all day.  We boarded the plane virtually on time, but then sat anxiously on the plane for about an hour while they did background checks on the entire passenger manifest.  At one point, some sort of special agent (in a suit, and with a holstered gun) came onto the plane, escorted by two American Airline employees and ran to the back of the plane.  Everyone was on edge and nervous, literally holding their breath.  A moment later, the captain came on and said, "You may have noticed an Air Marshall and American Airlines employees board the plane.  There is no problem; they merely wanted to say 'hi' to the crew before take-off."  There was a collective sigh of relief.  The flight was a long eight hours, with everyone nervous about making it to our destination.  When we touched down, at about 1 a.m., EST, there was a collective round of applause for the captain and crew.  I know I felt like I wanted to kiss the American soil.  My dad and brother were waiting for us, so we quickly loaded our bags and were off, headed back to Albany.  Driving around NYC that night, the smoke from what would soon be known as Ground Zero was still billowing as if there were fire present.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bed-side Manner

Although I'm sort of having a small career identity crisis at the moment, very rarely have I second-guessed my decision to become a physical therapist.  Occasionally, I think that I should have gone to medical school, but that thought is often fleeting.  With the imminent danger of Obama-care looming, I'm often comfortable in my decision.

In fact, I often marvel that I was fortunate enough to figure out, at the age of 18, what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I went to a top-tier program and did fairly well there (once I figured out that attending class was actually necessary for passing said class).  While the economy was bad when I graduated, it took me less than a year to find employment, and I have been steadily employed since.  Often, I even have two or three part-time jobs in my field.

Sometimes, working in the school is thankless.  Just like any job, there are people who make your days more challenging.  And just like any rewarding job, there are the intangibles that you cannot put a price tag on.  The joy of a child's first steps.  The relief of new equipment.  The comforting words and care when there are no other options.  And in outpatient, there is often the immediate pain relief or return of function.

One of the aspects I enjoy most about being a physical therapist is the educational aspect.  Educating patients about their bodies and how their body is supposed to work (as opposed to how it is currently working), and how that relates to their pain and dysfunction.  Healing and re-learning skills and movement patterns takes time.  Being able to arm the patient with knowledge helps them to understand how and why quick fixes may not always be possible.  It gives me the time to help them heal.

When my son was just an infant, I went back to school for my doctorate.  The PT profession was moving towards a doctoral level profession in an attempt to gain professional autonomy (so that patients may directly access physical therapy services without first having to go through the rigmarole of physicians and specialists).  I agreed with the thinking, and pursued my degree.  I have a clinical doctorate (Doctorate in Physical Therapy, or DPT).  It earns me the title "Doctor" as long as I follow with the PT credentials.  It is a comparable degree to a Doctor of Dental Science (DDS), a Doctor of Optometry (OD), a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), or a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD).  Although my doctorate has not been financially worthwhile, I value the education that I received, and I hope that my patients benefit from my additional schooling, in addition to my 14 years of practice.

So, this morning, I found myself at an "Immediate Care" medical facility.  An urgent care.  A doc-in-a-box.  I try NEVER to utilize these types of places.  I feel the care is not only substandard, but can, at times, be detrimental.  I have an excellent relationship with my physician, but alas, my body LOVES to become in need of medical attention on the weekends.  My physician  understands me and my medical background, and most often defers to my judgement.  He knows that if I'm seeking help, then it is a valid problem.  He also knows that I know what I'm talking about, and that I do my research. I very rarely see the doctor for myself, trying to treat myself with preventative and over the counter remedies when possible.   Alas, I have an infection that requires antibiotic treatment.  Being Saturday morning, I am forced into going to the doc-in-a-box.

The parking situation is not ideal.  The front desk staff is rude.  I put up with it, knowing that I need that antibiotic.  And as much as I hate to have to take an antibiotic, I know my condition needs one.  I also know that I am allergic to the three most common antibiotics used to treat my condition, and I know I'm going to get flack for requesting the specific antibiotic that I am able to tolerate and that has been successful in treating me in the past.  But what I did not expect was this ...

The nurse taking my medical history, on her last question, asked me my profession.  I responded, "Physical therapist."  She then asked me if I had my PhD.  I did not want to correct her and get into the whole clinical doctorate discussion, so I just replied, "Yes."  To which she replied, "Well, that's dumb."  I was taken aback and calmly said, "While it has not had the financial benefit that I had hoped, I don't regret the schooling I've had.  I can read my patient's MRI's when they bring them in, and explain them to them.  I can discuss with my patients how their medications may be effecting them."

She nodded, and said, "Yeah, I guess. My friend's boyfriend is just completing the PT program at ______ College.  He's been working so hard, and I'm like, 'That's so dumb, why don't you just be a real doctor!'"

I again calmly explained to her why being a PT was a valid career choice, including being able to balance family and career, and getting to see patients for more than 4 minutes, which is the average length of time an orthopedic physician spends with a patient.  I explained and validated myself way too much to this ignorant woman.  She left, and I stewed for a moment.

When the physician came in, after his lackluster exam, I asked him who the woman was who took my history.  He told me that she was an LPN and was working towards her BSN.  I told him what she said.  And, professional "real doctor" that he was, laughed.  He kept laughing, even though I told him that I was highly offended at her comments.  He tried to justify it, saying she was young and that she and her friends are in the frustrating position of having degrees, but are unable to find work.  He finally said, "Oh, I'm sure you are very successful at what you do" in a patronizing voice.

I guess, when you're in school to be a "real doctor," they don't teach you how not to be an asshole.

So, local readers, avoid the Urgent Care on Troy-Schenectady Road.  Unless you feel like being insulted.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Blahs

I hope this post doesn't come off sounding too whiney or complain-y.  I'm just in a bit of a weird spot right now, and want to process through writing.  Take this as an expression of my thoughts and feelings, but please give me good advice if you have it.

I'm stuck.  I don't know what to do or how to proceed.

I have my book.  I'm happy that I published it.  Now, I need to figure out how to sell it.  I spent two years trying to get agents to look at it, but to no avail, which is why I went the indie route in the first place.  As I told someone yesterday, publishing is easy.  Selling is hard.  This is why there is big bucks in marketing.  But now what do I do?  I'm sure all of my family and friends are tired of hearing me talk about my book.  I've sent it out for reviews.  Two have come back very favorable, but I only sold a handful of books from it (although any is better than none!).  I'm waiting on a few more reviews.  One, I think may never happen.  The other will happen, but it may take up to a year.  However, that blog has over 22,000 followers, so that could literally make or break me.  But now, I sit and wait.  But I'm not so patient, you see.  I want the instant, overnight success that Colleen Hoover (who is totally awesome, BTW) and E.L. James have had.  I want to wake up one morning and have sold hundreds of books in a day.  I want to be invited to author events and hold book signings.  I want to be an author.

I don't know how to get there, though.  I get emails from various sites who will market my book.  Are they legit?  How do I know what is a worthwhile expenditure?  How do I know if I'm just getting ripped off?  Should I pay for a Kirkus review?  Should I send to agents again?  Do I drop the price of my e-books in hopes of selling lots more?  Why are there terrible books out there that have sold thousands of copies but I've only sold 89?

And then, there is the second book.  As I may have mentioned, I was about 65,000 words in (more than 75% from my goal) when my computer died.  I have about 75% of it backed up, but haven't tried re-creating it, because I'm hoping my hard drive can be recovered. The hubs ordered something to do that (insert computer-geek-speak here), so hopefully I will know soon.  I just got my new computer three days ago, so writing was seriously derailed for most of August.

Even without that roadblock, I'm a little stuck.  This new book is totally different.  It is darker and heavier, and lacks the humor that Good Intentions has.  It is a departure for me, partially reflecting my mood and partially me wanting to stretch and grow as a writer.  Since I have no formal training as a writer, I pretty much write by the seat of my pants (which makes me a "pantser" rather than a "plotter").  With Good Intentions, I didn't know where the story was going.  I didn't know who she was going to end up with.  Once I figured it out, I went back and manipulated the story to better support the outcome.  With the new book, I have a better idea about where it is going, but I'm at a point that I don't know how to get there.

A lot of times, while writing, I go back, review what I've written, edit and change things and then am able to continue writing the story.  Right now, I don't have the last 4+ chapters that I wrote, so I don't really know where I was.  I finally started writing again today, and when I get the rest of my material back, I'll bridge it together if it doesn't already fit.

I think the difficulty with writing has deterred me from writing more, if that makes any sense.  I worked a lot more this summer than I had planned, so I didn't have as much free time (or energy) to spend on this project as I had hoped.  For a while, I was very excited about what I was writing, feeling that it was stronger than my first novel, but that energy has somewhat waned.

Thanks to a warped sense of humor and a very good friend, I was inspired last night for my next novel.  And then, when talking about it today, ideas kept flying at me.  And I got excited again.

My excitement was short-lived however.  Still looming over me is how to sell Good Intentions, and how to remain inspired over work #2.  I jotted down my ideas for #3 so I don't forget them.  But I want to work on that project.  However, I've come too far with #2 to abandon it though.  I need to push forward.

I need to remain optimistic, and not let myself become dejected.  Originally, I had hoped to sell 100 books.  I'm 11 away from that goal.  I think it will happen. That goal is within reach. But now that I'm that close, I want to sell 1,000 or 10,000.  I need to keep focused and be patient.  Easier said than done.

Thanks all for listening, and letting me have my outlet.  Writing is my therapy, whether it is novel or blog form.  Any advice would be appreciated, if anyone out there has it.

And for my local peeps, you can check out two of my friends who have made it, Eric Devine and Dennis Mahoney at Troy Author Day on October 9, 2013.  I was lucky to know both of these guys in high school, and am utterly impressed at what wonderful writers they have become.  My goal is to one day be considered in the same breath, and maybe, just maybe, have a signing with them as well.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A dozen...

A dozen eggs does not go very far.  A dozen doughnuts travels even less far.  But today, I'm reflecting on another dozen that seemed to fly away in the blink of an eye.

A dozen years of marriage.

Twelve years ago today, I left Kate Kopach behind and became Kathryn Biel.  I was so very sure of my decision.  Well, except for those brief moments the day before when Pat almost missed the rehearsal.  Then I questioned everything.  By the wedding day, I was nervous, anxious even, but sure of my decision.

I can't picture my life any differently.  Sure, sometimes I try.  Sometimes, like when I hear music from my college days, I wax nostalgically upon days gone by and wish for another chance.  But when I am honest with myself, I know that this is all I've ever wanted.

Sure, there are days (or nights, depending on what we're going through), that I play the "If only" game.  There are times when I want to hit my husband in the head with a frying pan.  There are days when I want to pull my hair out.  There are moments when I want to run away.  But all those moments are fleeting, and are often a result of my own shortcomings in being able to deal with this thing called life.

Marriage is tough work.  No doubt about it.  But I cannot picture my life with anyone but Pat in it  (Ok, maybe Henry Cavill, if you really pressed me for an answer).  Some days are easy.  Some are so unbelievably hard that I don't think we'll survive.  But we do, and we come out stronger for it.

When we laugh together, everything cements together, stronger for the next time something tries to shake us.  Our children further provide the glue that binds our family together.  We, Pat and I, created this life together.  We built the people, we designed the house.  We sculpt the roles so that each of us becomes a better person.  I often get irritated when upon hearing that we have a boy and a girl, people will say, "Oh you have the perfect family!"  Having a boy and a girl does not make us perfect.  Our four personalities together, the dynamics we have created, that is what makes us perfect and complete.

Here I was a dozen years ago:

I totally smashed the cake on Pat's face, but only after he did it to me first.  I had warned him not to do it.  In hindsight, I wish I hadn't done that, but we were having fun.  That is one of the things that makes Pat and I work--our senses of humor mesh well.  Not everyone else finds me so amusing.

Here is a good shot of our wedding party.  Now, between all of us, there are FIFTEEN children!  The ring bearer is starting his freshman year at St. John's (Good luck, Tony!) and the Jr. Bridesmaid is on a semester abroad in Italy (Divertirsi, Genny!).  We had good friends and family who stood by us and made our day special.
Oh, see the bridesmaid directly behind me?  We got married on her birthday.  Happy Birthday Christine!
 So, as I type this from my new computer (which was my anniversary present--he's getting a weed wacker, which is not nearly as fun), I just want to say, I can't wait to see what the next dozen hold for us.

Happy Anniversary!