Posts Tagged ‘book proposal’

Another migraine-free month

August 27, 2012

I am pleased to report that it finally happened again: I went four weeks straight without getting a single migraine headache.

Blessed are those who have no migraine experience, for they shall not understand the cause for celebration. But anyone who’s pitched a tent in migraine camp knows how divine this news is.

I’m particularly pleased—and a little surprised—because this is hurricane season, which is traditionally a tough time for those of us saddled with cluster migraines. The atmospheric fluctuations and barometric pressure changes that accompany such weather can be brutal. (In fact, the worst migraine of my life—a three-day killer—happened during Hurricane Frances. Ah, sweet memories of my roomie whisking me to the emergency room for an 8-hour wait for a pain injection.)

Thanks to my obsessive record-keeping (don’t judge!), I can tell you that it’s been almost a year and a half since I last put together four weeks with no headache. That’s a bit discouraging, true. When I hit that milestone the first time, I hoped it meant I was on the way to having frequent spells of no migraines.

That’s not how it’s worked in my case.

Instead, after that stellar month, I went back to three or four headaches a month, although I did have a couple of months last year when I had only one migraine. So far, in 2012, the fewest I’ve had is two in a month, so I’ve been feeling like a backslider and wondering if migraines are perhaps destined to eventually follow me into the nursing home.

I really despaired in May: That month I had five migraines, the most since mid-2010, when I started on Lyrica to reduce the frequency.

Let me pause briefly to reiterate that five migraines in one calendar month is no picnic. Recurrence can cause each headache to affect more than one day, and you also have to contend with the hangover feeling that the powerful migraine medications create. It’s a nasty cycle.

Which makes it beyond lovely when week after week passes and no headaches intrude on your life.

I didn’t realize quite how good a spell I was enjoying until a fellow sufferer texted me the second week in August to ask if the heavy, overcast weather was giving me migraines like it was her. I replied no, and then realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a migraine!

I checked my charts as soon as I got home and saw it was July 20. I tried not to jinx myself by going into cheer mode, but I was already pretty excited because it had been 20 days. When I finally got my next migraine, on Aug. 23, I was in no mood to complain. I took my triptans and counted myself lucky because it didn’t recur the following day.

Since I count my headache totals in calendar months, my chart won’t have a big fat ZERO for August, but in my heart, I am cherishing the victory of 33 days straight with no migraine. Such a sweet stretch of pain-free living.

As for an update on the Kiss and Tell front, that will have to wait until next week when things are sorted out. A few days ago, I received an unexpected response from my editor (who impresses me more and more) and I’m sorting through some thorny structural issues with Dr. Whelihan before we proceed further.

Stay tuned.

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I’ve written a book

August 17, 2012

For more than two years now, “I’m writing a book” has been my job title, my obsession and my reason for being.

On Monday I sent 474 pages of words—95,800 of them actually—to an experienced book editor to see what a professional person thinks of all this research on women’s sexual desire.

While I recognize that revisions—perhaps major ones—are part of the process, I’m naturally thrilled to be done. There’s undoubtedly a line I’ve stepped across; the book is whole now, a complete work. It’s permissible for me to shift over and say “I’ve written a book.”

Though I’m elated and proud and even incredulous about this achievement, I’m a little surprised at how quickly I’ve moved on. The self-congratulatory period was frankly shorter than I think I deserved. I thought I’d linger awhile in the fog of self-satisfaction once I hit that SEND button.

Instead, I immediately began thinking “OK, what’s next?”

First off, I’m way behind on day-to-day tasks and appointments, so I’m scrambling there. More importantly, I have several freelance writing assignments due before the end of the month, so no dilly-dallying in that arena either. In addition, I want to spend some time on marketing and social media (for example: do better at blogging!). And I definitely need to perform major research on the next phase of self publishing. I’ve collected numerous articles about the process and must absorb them in order to determine the best way to go about hiring a designer to pull the book together for publication.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Whelihan wrote a very nice letter to Victoria, our New York agent, and terminated our relationship with her. We received seven rejections (from Perseus Books, U.S. Penguin Group and others), which didn’t discourage us that much. We believe women’s sexual desire is a subject that needs to be addressed in all age groups; New York publishers seem to think we need to narrow the focus of the book and only appeal to smaller slices of the population.

We respectfully disagree. And since Dr. Whelihan is the expert (and after my research, I’m getting there!), we decided to trust ourselves and publish the book that our heads and hearts tell us is what readers want.

At this point, if a publishing house in New York suddenly offered us a contract, we’d say no. It would be 12-15 months before the book was for sale if that happened. With self-publishing, we hope to have copies of Kiss and Tell in hand by Thanksgiving.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to download the book. You will, of course. And we’re even hoping to make individual chapters available online, in case you truly just want to read about sexual desire for women in one decade only. (That’s another perk of self-publishing; you get to do what you want!)

It feels like everything is moving much faster now. Hopefully the momentum will continue and we’ll see our dreams realized of a book to sell by the holidays. Such a brave new world. Scary, but exciting.

Just look what happens when you hit the finish line … when you can truthfully say “I’ve written a book.”

Good news and bad news

July 29, 2012

The good news is that my surge to finish the book and deliver the manuscript to the editor by Aug. 13 is on track. I allowed myself a bit of padding when I chose the deadline, hoping I wouldn’t panic too much (which I did anyway for a couple days).

The bad news is that I’m using up a lot of the padding with a complete rewrite of the chapter on the 70s ladies. Up until this chapter, the editing process has been a matter of reading along and feeling pretty OK about the work. I occasionally find bumps and even places where I think, “what the heck happened here?” Which means I stop and rewrite, fix the transitions and modify whatever requires it.

But the 70s chapter was the fifth chapter I wrote and I’ve realized my form changed right after that. This was the final chapter where I told the women’s stories more individually, allowing their voice to proceed more or less uninterrupted as they discussed desire throughout their lifetime. The latter chapters, which I like better, interweave the women’s observations and feature several subjects commenting on the same topic, rather than being isolated in their own life story.

I’m editing the book in order, even though I didn’t write it in order. I figure it’s imperative to read the book sequentially at least once. The fact that I made it to the 70s without any chapter screaming for a rewrite constitutes additional good news. And since the 80s chapter was included in my book proposal as “sample pages,” I know it’s going to require very little editing. The 90s chapter is short, so while it may need sprucing up, the work will be mercifully brief.

Meanwhile, I remain bogged in the 70s. The intro to the column wasn’t engaging at all; just dry statistics and overall percentages of what women told us in the general survey. So I went back and read my raw notes for the chapter and found these women imparted surprising and even shocking things about their sex lives.

One woman said she experienced so much pain with sex (right from the start) that it took two years before she and her boyfriend got all the way to full penetration. She delivered this information with no sign of how dismaying a listener might find this. Another 70s lady had several trysts with a 27-year-old lover just weeks after she was widowed and then began a tempestuous affair with a man three decades her junior. During her 48-year marriage, she took an unknown number of affairs or lovers, likely between 75-100. This information was also delivered absent dramatics; the speaker showed no expectation of her words creating surprise.

Another woman in her 70s had gone for marital counseling in her 50s and was able to speak very eloquently to the things which keep intimacy alive in a relationship when sex is no longer possible. (Her husband’s health issues are the culprit.) Yet another subject says, “I guess I got holy,” when describing how her attendance at a new church has made her disinclined to engage in the affairs of her youth. But the thrice-married woman still struggles with her sexuality: She doesn’t understand why she still has passion if she’s not supposed to do something about it. And she feels trapped by the church’s admonition against sex before marriage, since she has no desire to remarry after her third husband’s death.

Given the exceedingly rich material the 70s ladies shared with me, my chapter just didn’t do them justice. Yesterday I wrote 6 new pages of juicier stuff as a fresh introduction. Then I went through the interviews once more with my trusty colored highlighters, using them to mark comments on common topics. This afternoon it’s back to the grindstone, with the goal of more integration of the women’s stories. I’ll still let them speak at length in places, but the group as a whole needs cohesion. I can see that now.

The clunkiness of this unedited 70s chapter is reassuring in one other way: It means my skills and expertise sharpened as I worked my way further into the book, and I can now bring them to bear on my less polished work. My voice naturally became more sure as I increased my familiarity with the material and came to rely less on recitations of numbers and more on the truths I’ve found at the core of women’s desire.

This was exciting to realize—and it’s what made me sure I had to rewrite the chapter. Before I turn the manuscript over to editor Tiffany, I’m determined it will be the best I can offer.

But dang. Having to redo a whole chapter is the pits. Mumble, mumble, grumble, grumble.

And now I shall STOP procrastinating and get back to it.

A dash to the deadline

July 13, 2012

Exactly one month from today, on Aug. 13, my book’s manuscript is due to the editor.

This is NOT an editor hired by a publishing house; we didn’t get a book deal for Kiss and Tell. It’s an editor Dr. Whelihan and I hired privately, although she also works for all the big New York publishing houses. I mentioned her in an earlier blog, and was impressed with the sample edit she did on the intro to my chapter on the 80s Ladies. (Plus I met her in Austin when I was in Texas for two weeks enjoying an annual girls’ weekend and celebrating my mom’s 84th birthday. Her name is Tiffany Yates Martin; she’s 6 feet tall, gorgeous and extraordinarily charismatic. Yes, you’re detecting a bit of a girl crush.)

Kiss and Tell‘s book proposal has now been officially turned down by seven publishers. It’s a little bit discouraging, sure. But the reason they are saying no to the book still strikes Dr. Mo and I as just being off. They seem to think readers will only care about the sexuality of women their own age; that our focus is too broad and no one’s interested in the passion of women in other age groups.

I realize everyone is super savvy up there in New York, of course, but I think the suits in the city maybe don’t know as much as they think they do about women’s sexuality. I mean, did they completely miss the uproar over Fifty Shades of Grey? Why don’t they see that women—of ALL ages—who read about desire in the form of fiction will also read about it in non-fiction form?

And believe me, the book is going to be erotic.

I know this because our agent told me after reading the sample chapters that I needed to mention the material’s steaminess in the proposal. “You’re missing the turn-on factor,” she said. I hadn’t really planned that effect, but I was quick to follow through on her suggestion.

And it makes sense that when women talk about what stimulates their desire, and those scenarios are faithfully transferred to words—reading them might indeed stimulate desire.

I digress!

The breaking news to share here is that I have committed to finishing the book’s first draft in one month. I was terrified into paralysis at first. I spent two days assuring myself this was impossible. For so long I’ve been saying, “I’m writing a book.” I still can’t quite grasp what it will mean to say, “I’ve written a book,” since the process itself has defined me for so long.

But then the soldier mentality took over, and I just started marching. I’m digging in every day; I figure it’s a six-day-a-week proposition from now till the deadline. I have to read every single word I’ve written so far and try to drag them all under the umbrella of one voice. As the project unfolded, the narrative shifted, and now it’s time to solidify the chapters under a unifying voice.

I’m also having to finish up certain chapters, which I left undone purposely, waiting for closure on other decades in order to come back and wrap up earlier chapters with more expertise and authority. The overview chapter, which explains what trends we found and sets the stage for the whole book, is proving to be a gigantic time suck. I’m wrestling with whether or not to break it into several chapters, because some of the (juicy) stories that accompany the overarching trends are lengthy.

But big picture problems like that aren’t enough. I’m also doing meticulous copy editing as I go, since there’s no point in ignoring it as I do a final read. Tiffany was kind enough to provide me with some style tips, which is a good thing since it turns out that journalism’s AP style isn’t at all what book editors are looking for. Oh joy. Live and learn.

This final push toward the deadline is a microcosm of what the entire book process has been. If I look up and survey the landscape of what still has to be completed, I become overwhelmed and frightened. If I keep my head down, and put one foot in front of the other, one paragraph after another, I can hold on to the hope of finishing.

Here goes!

Wherein ‘Kiss and Tell’ acquires an agent

December 23, 2011

It’s shaping up to be a very Merry Christmas and not just because I’m in Texas taking a break from my usual routine and enjoying family and friends here in the Lone Star State.

It’s also merry because my spate of query letters sent out around Thanksgiving drew several responses — and an offer of representation!!

Yes. We are one step closer to publication for Kiss and Tell.

If this does not strike you as exciting news, then you are not familiar with the ins and outs of acquiring an agent — and lucky you, by the way. I had heard from more than one reliable source that I should expect to contact anywhere from 30 to 100 agents before receiving an offer of representation. In fact, the process of agent hunting was described as every bit as arduous as writing a book. Say what? I did not want to believe that.

Which is why I was pretty much in denial about the difficulty of the task. Back in the summer, I emailed a New York agent about flying to an Agent Fest there to pitch her on our idea. (Agent Fests are events where you have 5 minutes to deliver your book concept and snag a potential agent’s interest, sort of like speed dating.) Anyway, this agent, Andrea, who I decided was perfect for our book, said not to fly to New York but to send her a proposal.

Which I did. And then I waited 2 weeks. And then sent a ping to see if she’d even received it.

She had. She was swamped. No time for my proposal yet.

More weeks of waiting. Like maybe 12 weeks … I wrote another chapter. And another.

In early November, Dr. Whelihan was featured on a 4-minute clip on a local TV station — I was even on-camera with one quote about the book! —  so I sent Andrea a link, thinking our astounding media savvy would entice her to read my proposal. I got a bounce-back email saying she was on maternity leave.

Ouch! Hard lesson.

I’d put all our eggs in her basket, not realizing her basket was already spoken for. Here I was foolishly hoping we’d have an agent by year’s end.  I had no time to lose.

The next week, which was the Thanksgiving holiday, I gathered up names and agencies I’d heard were “right up our alley” or with whom I had some sort of connection. Each agency’s requirements vary, so I spent a half day or so per submission. At week’s end, I’d sent out just four — enough to know that sending out 100 was likely to be the death of me.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving I received an email from a wonderful woman at Levine Greenberg (who was recommended to me by Jeannette Walls of Glass Castle fame) saying she found the proposal most interesting and would love to represent it.

Yep. Just like that.

My pal who is books editor at The Palm Beach Post called an acquaintance in the publishing biz to find out the agency’s reputation, and discovered it was stellar. We had a conference call with the agent and are thrilled with all she’s told us, and satisfied with her ideas and input.

I composed the requisite “Offer of Representation” emails to other agents I had queried; it’s a courtesy that allows them to look over your proposal quickly and jump into the fray should they choose. I received valuable feedback from two additional agents this way, though neither offered representation.

So now we’ve progressed to the contract stage with Levine Greenberg. (Contracts are standard proceedure for many literary agencies.) Dr. Whelihan’s lawyer looked it over and made a few small suggestions, which is nice because all the legal stuff is a tad scary, truth be told. We got the last changes ironed out just before everyone left for the holidays, so we’ll be signing something right after the first of the year.

Call it a Christmas miracle. Despite my novice mistakes, despite the dire predictions, despite the odds — Kiss and Tell has acquired a wonderful agent dedicated to selling it to a publishing house.

Happy 2012, indeed.

Book? What book?

July 28, 2011

Yes, I realize it’s been some time since I blogged. Believe me, if I had amazing progress to report, I would have, you know, reported it.

Instead it’s been an unsettling, unproductive, nay depressing 4 weeks. Not to put too fine a point on it.

However! In the good news column: I finally got on the phone earlier this week and set up interviews for the chapter on 30 year olds. You just know the 30something ladies are going to have fascinating stories about desire and how the process of having a family figures into things. I feel eager to reengage with the book — and that’s a huge relief after my month of inertia.

Plus, I have a meeting with my book partner this Sunday, where I have pledged to have a revamped book proposal ready to show her. With Mo’s sign-off, I’ll send it to an agent (yes!) in New York who expressed interest in reading a full proposal.

This agent thing is quite an exciting little side story, actually.

I found this (well-known!) agent’s bio in a post about ThrillerFest, a summertime New York event which had an agent fest component. I showed it to Mo and she agreed the woman was a great fit with our book and suggested we consider flying up just to meet her. Because of the cost involved, I emailed the agent to ask if she was going to be appearing at any events closer to Florida or ones that were more up our alley than a gathering of thriller writers. (Not that our book won’t be thrilling, of course.) In that email to the agent, I included 3 or 4 sentences sketching the premise of our book.

Well, the agent emailed back quickly to say we shouldn’t make the trip solely to meet her, but that she’s interested in taking a look at our proposal online!

Awesome, yes? Very exciting.

Unfortunately my proposal needed massive revising and all this occurred just three days before my trip to Texas for Mom’s birthday, girls’ group gathering and a special memorial event I’d been planning for a while. Also, it happened about two hours before I got the phone call letting me know my friend Clarence was in the hospital with a stroke.

And that’s pretty much when things went off the track.

Dealing with my friend’s unexpected death was truly bad enough, but layered on top was Dental Nightmare No. 718: the dreaded cross-angled rubber band configuration the dentist delayed on my previous visit. At least I was prepared with a few days worth of pain reliever prescribed by my migraine doctor. (Guess what he ordered? Oxycodone. Yikes!)

Nevertheless, the pain was still so bad from the sharp hooks (which serve to “catch” the rubber bands), that I was pretty much unable to function for five days. By function I mean I couldn’t eat, couldn’t talk, couldn’t swallow — because all those movements require you to move your tongue, and each time I did that, it felt like a wasp was stinging my tongue. Truly awful. I finally returned to the dentist for an emergency visit, told the sweet young assistant on duty that something was terribly amiss, no one could possibly intend for me to be in this much pain and to please HELP ME.

She carefully studied my situation, restored the offending hooks to their neutral position and instead pulled out a different hook from the opposite side of the tooth, and then angled it downward in such a way that it didn’t pierce my tongue with each movement. I quit taking the oxycodone the next day (which had not alleviated the pain anyway) and began to feel like life was worth living again.

And those cross-bands on the back teeth weren’t the only bad news; I was assigned bands on my front teeth as well, encompassing two teeth on the top and two on the bottom on each side of my mouth. The rubber bands I wore at night on these teeth were so unyielding that I was almost unable to open my mouth while wearing them. Daytime bands were lax enough to allow speech. For this I assume I was to be grateful.

For anyone who’s counting (I was!), this all meant that a total of 12 of my teeth were constantly being adjusted by rubber bands for an interminable 4 weeks. I was not a happy camper.

Fortunately, that particular era of torture ended yesterday; I am now back to two fairly standard rubber bands in a new configuration. Even so, I feel marked by the previous miserable month, perhaps because I was simultaneously experiencing grief over my friend’s death. I feel like a soldier who’s too wrung out to offer any further resistance. My last impulse to fight has drained away. I can’t win against these braces and nothing I do seems to make it easier. I just want it over with.

From here, six months feels like a long time, ya’ll.

Meet the new roommate

March 11, 2010

I wish I could say the transformation from journalist to author is further along than it is, but honestly . . . it’s taking me a while to switch from worker bee who buzzes around weekly deadlines to self-directed, disciplined writer who turns out solid, scholarly manuscript in 9 months.

In other words, gack.

I’m doing research, studying the 950 surveys we’ve collected so far (1,200 is the goal), taking notes as I go and marking potential interview subjects along the way — but it’s so different from actually writing and completing a story. Yesterday, after studying some excellent samples of non-fiction book proposals an agent sent me, I dove back into my own proposal, and did some serious tinkering. That felt really good, actually writing, so today, I’m going to continue. I need the feeling of mastery that controlling the words gives me, no matter how necessary it is to lay all the groundwork in the research arena of this book-writing process.

Meanwhile, as hinted previously, my roommate has indeed sold the house, which means my workspace will soon double as my living space. This has entailed the gradual filling up of my empty-except-for-a-desk condo to a place that only awaits my bed and chest of drawers. Final move-in is a little more than a week away.

But before I move in, I’m making the trek to Cleveland with my roomie, who’s moving there to live in the same town as her dad — for the first time since high school graduation. She isn’t crazy about driving, but I’m a fan of road trips, so she asked for my company on this last rendezvous as roommates, before we split off and begin new chapters. After 7+ years, I can honestly say she’s the easiest person I’ve ever lived with. By far, actually.

And now I’ll be living with myself. Alone. For the first time in my life. My ex used to travel alot, but I imagine that living with two dogs and expecting your husband home for frequent visits doesn’t feel the same as rattling around a place all by your lonesome, absent the heartbeat of even a pet or the expectation of a visitor.

Nonetheless, I am eager for this. It’s time to see how I function solo. In fact, it may be past due. I’m ready to see what surfaces when there’s no one else’s opinion to ask, no one else to accommodate. I know challenges are inevitable, but this seems like the perfect chance to explore a side of myself I’ve never had the chance to meet.

Let’s just hope we get along!

An agent weighs in

January 19, 2010

People much more experienced in the book world than myself assure me that one needs a good literary agent in order to get a good book deal.

Since my fondest wish is to get a good book deal, I have taken heed of the wise counsel of the published writers I know and have been seeking out names of literary agents to approach with my book proposal. I say ‘my’ proposal, but my partner in the book, a local gynecologist and sex therapist, is hardly silent. Her clients are providing the surveys that will provide the research base for our book. But I’m doing the actual writing, which is why I keep saying ‘my this’ and ‘my that.’ So forgive me; I’m not trying to diss my worthy partner. I just feel solitary in the writing process a lot and thus gravitate to the singular pronoun.

Anyway, I’ve already sent my proposal to three established agents willing to read it, and one of them quickly sent back wonderful, smart comments on how to sharpen it up. She told me exactly what’s missing that a publisher will surely want included.

Is this great, or what? Every time I turn around, I’m receiving amazing help from generous folks.

A well-known writer friend at the newspaper read my initial stab at a book proposal as early as the middle of last year and helped me get it ready to even submit to agents. For instance, he clued me in to the fact that I’d need a sample chapter. I had no idea; that’s how little I knew.

Now with this agent’s help, I have more excellent suggestions to incorporate, which will take some time, but won’t be a problem because my doctor friend has now collected 950 surveys! Our goal was to have 1,200, so we’re gaining ground. I’ve been working with just 450 of the surveys, but now, with all the additional data, should be able to draw some conclusions for the book proposal that will whet publishers’ appetites.

Lots to do, so thankfully, my workspace is finally ready! The painting project from last weekend was a huge success, and though the yellow was a bit brighter than I’d imagined, its cheerfulness is undeniable. I met the cable guy on Friday and have wireless capability throughout the condo—not that the place is large, mind you. Check the picture above if you don’t believe me!

Coming soon! War stories of organizing the reams of surveys we’ve collected!

Hello everyone — and ugh

November 9, 2009

So I wanted to make my first blog about something incredibly universal that us women of a certain age all have in common, but I woke up with a migraine, which makes it hard to be smart and creative. Actually, this is the third day in a row for this particular migraine. And though I’m not in pain now, the meds really give me cotton head, so, you know, ugh.

The headache gave me a slow start to the day and I was late getting to work but wasn’t too worried because I had a 4 pm interview and knew I’d be working fairly late. Besides, the cool thing about being in a career for 30+ years is that the people around you give you the benefit of the doubt. They trust you to do your job because you’ve been competent at it year after year. Remember early in your career when you were an agony of nerves all the time, terrified to make a false step or do something foolish and be revealed in all your ignorance? Yeah, me too. Only too well. Those years lasted a looong time.

But they’re over now. In fact, my whole journalism career (with the good years and bad years) is about over — although I still plan to write and have even started a book. Yes, yes, we all have one in us but I’m actually going to try to get mine OUT of me. We’ll see. And I’ll let you know how it goes. When I wrap up my newspaper work I’ll keep a presence here so I don’t lose touch with all my peeps, aka midlife women and maybe a few stray guys.

But ye gods, I just realized that since I’m leaving the only career I know anything about, I’m doomed to repeat that whole novice phase I so airily described just two short paragraphs ago. I’ve been telling myself I’m entering a new phase and all, but I never actually equated it with that whole beginners’ phase where you feel untested, foolish and nervous. I thought it’d just be exciting, challenging, different — all that stuff. Now I’ve flipped over the coin.

Gulp.

Is retirement always going to be this scary?