Posts Tagged ‘research’

And so the marketing begins

February 27, 2013

Once a book is finished, a writer who is affiliated with a traditional publishing house can wait anywhere from 6 to 18 months for his or her book to actually be released. And yes, there are some sound reasons for this.

But self publishing is a different story. In fact, its immediacy is one of the reasons so many authors are discarding the old publishing model.

In a blog of a just a few weeks ago, I wrote about receiving and proofing the final manuscript of Kiss and Tell from our book designer Brion Sausser. And here I am again, already saying “The book is out! The book is out!”

In between, many things happened of course. Thank goodness for Brion, who navigated all the various sites and formats we wanted Kiss and Tell to be available for. Different platforms are set up for Kindle, Nook and printed books on Amazon, so Brion’s uploads had to satisfy every category for each format.

Once CreateSpace cleared us for take off, I ordered three proof copies of the book in print form. I gave one to Mo’s well-read nurse Mary, one to Mo and kept one for myself. We all spent the weekend reading, trying to find typos and problems. As a longtime newsroom employee, I know only too well that scanning page proofs differs from computer reading—and sure enough, we all found some errors.

But forget about a months-long wait: On Feb. 4, just days after we finished proofing our books, Kiss and Tell appeared for sale on Amazon! I learned this because Dr. Mo sent me a text IN ALL CAPS to this effect at 6 a.m., which definitely got me out of bed and heading for the computer. Honestly, it felt like Christmas morning, complete with the flutter of excitement in my stomach.

Naturally, other titles and products using “Kiss and Tell” (it’s a popular title for mysteries) were the first things that popped up in a search, and at first I was hard put to locate us online. But I’m happy to report that during the past week, most searches on Amazon of just those three words bring our book up as the No. 1 listing. Since we started out three-quarters of the way down on Page 7 of the search, I consider that a nice bit of progress!

I’m a novice on all the nuances of online search optimization, but I do know that good reviews on Amazon by “verified” readers go a long way toward lifting your profile. Verified reviewers—I learned last week—are those who bought their book on Amazon (which Amazon can of course check). The giant book seller instituted the distinction some time back when authors desperate for feedback created fake online profiles in order to “review” their own books. When you write a review on Amazon AND if you bought the book from them, you’ll get a box to check saying you can elect to be a “verified” reviewer.

Yes. Things have gotten very complicated in the world. Since so little face-to-face interaction occurs anymore, the machines are trying to find ways to keep feedback in all forms legitimate. Small sigh. It’s sad how deceptive people are willing to be.

But I digress! Next up for me is the considerable marketing aspect of this process. I’ve been taking notes for months and have a long list of suggestions for who to contact and how to get the word out. Now I’m making my way through the list, although I confess I’m fairly haphazard as to the order. I kind of do what I’m in the mood to do that day, whether it’s calling a book store and exploring their requirements to hold a book signing or writing the PRWeb.com press release (which went out Feb. 8!).

Happily, I’ve already been interviewed by a reporter at the Arizona Republic working on a story about Boomer sex. This is quite a coup, since newspapers still reach a much wider audience than any conceivable book signing could. I have a friend in the newsroom there who told a reporter about Kiss and Tell, who in turn passed my name along to another reporter who’d been assigned the Boomer sex story. Pretty serendipitous if you ask me, especially when you consider that the article came out during a visit to Phoenix I’d already planned, so I was able to use it when I approached an independent book store about a signing.

That book signing, I’m delighted to say, received final approval earlier this week. Therefore, the first “book store book signing” for Kiss and Tell will happen June 1 at Changing Hands, an awesome independent book store I first visited in December, when my former roommate and I flew to Phoenix for a visit that just happened to coincide with Bruce Springsteen’s final Wrecking Ball tour date in the United States. (Bruuuuuuce!)

Patti and I stayed with our pal Diane, a Scottsdale resident who is as bookish as we are, and knew enough to introduce us to Changing Hands, a dream of an independent book store. The store carries every title you hope for, and features a gift and card department that makes it impossible to spend less than an hour browsing. Fortunately, there’s an adjoining cafe/sandwich shop with very tasty food, so you can fuel up and return for more exploration. Yes, we did.

Changing Hands reminds me of BookPeople in Austin, another stellar independent book store where I hope to schedule an event. (Maybe I’ll even get motivated to call them TODAY. I want so much to be on their calendar . . . )

I’ve had some luncheon speaking gigs this month, and last night, Dr. Whelihan and I had a magical evening in the company of a women’s group called Goddess Within. Much laughter, much friendship, much fun around the book signing table. I could do that every night.

If you’re a Facebook friend, this news about Kiss and Tell finally being available won’t come as a surprise. For you others, I’m sorry for the slight delay in notification. I was out of town for six days in the middle of all this and let my blog duties slide. Shame!

And now . . . I shall return to my awaiting marketing efforts, because I want to give Kiss and Tell every chance to succeed in today’s (crazy!) market.

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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!

Yep. The 50s were fabulous

March 9, 2012

So. Despite a couple of cancellations and some rescheduling, I have now wrapped up the 10 in-depth interviews for women in their 50s.

I suppose it was completely predictable that I would feel connected to these women. They’re my contemporaries and I feel a kinship with each, sharing as we do a list of common points of reference. I find delight in talking to women of all ages, but it’s lovely to note that extra little spark that kicks in when someone identifies with all your childhood memories and markers.

As a prelude to writing, I’m compiling a cheat sheet, a helpful habit I developed four or five chapters ago. It’s a crude chart that simply includes name, age, pseudonym, number of marriages, number of kids, number of sexual partners, frequency of sex … basically just a few quick details so I can do comparisons and know at a glance what percentages I’m dealing with. It helps to jump-start the process of identifying trends within the decades.

One thing I immediately noticed this time was the effect of birth control pills. Not a single woman in her 50s married due to pregnancy, while 33 percent of the 60-something interviewees did just that. Another 33 percent of the 60s women got pregnant on their honeymoons, proving that although The Pill was technically available to that older decade of women, its cultural and practical assimilation took years.

Another difference — which may or may not be connected to the elapsed decade — is the number of women who identified themselves as bi-sexual or lesbian. When possible, we strove to include a lesbian woman in each decade’s interviewees, wanting their voices included. A gay woman in her 60s and one in her 50s were therefore part of our sampling. But two additional 50-somethings told me they were bi-sexual during our interviews.

Their stories were very different but equally fascinating: Christina dated women exclusively during her 20s, but has since returned to a heterosexual lifestyle; Alexa began having sex with women only after she and her husband entered the swinger lifestyle when she was in her late 30s.

Christina lost her virginity to her first boyfriend at age 16 and dated him for 4 years. She had another male lover as well, but then as a freshman in college, began a lesbian relationship, and dated women exclusively for a decade.

“In my 20s and into my early 30s, I considered myself bi-sexual,” she says, “but in the past decade, when I think about making love to another woman, I find it unappealing. So I would not consider myself to be bi-sexual anymore. However, when I was younger, I was open to not only sex with either gender, but a relationship.”

At age 30, Christina started dating a man.

“It wasn’t a gender issue,” she clarifies, “it was a relationship issue. I happened to be attracted to him as a person. At that time in my life, the circumstances were right. I didn’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I’m gonna go back to men.'”

After that relationship, Christina dated one more woman, and that was the last time. She says she stopped being interested in women around the age of 31.

“I think women have much more in common with other women,” she says. “I have a hard time understanding men, I truly do. I understand women much better, but there’s not that physical attraction any longer. There’s still an emotional attraction, but not a physical one.”

Alexa, on the other hand, is attracted to women physically, but has had no exclusive, long-term relationship with one. She considers herself bi-sexual, having engaged in multiple encounters with women in groups through the years (sometimes with one other couple, sometimes with several other couples).

Though she’s now a widow, during the 16 years when she and her husband Greg were swingers, Alexa says she looked forward to sex with the women: “Women know women’s bodies a lot better than most men, I would say.”

However, she never had sex without Greg’s presence.

“He loved to watch two women getting it on,” she recalls. “For guys, it’s like their favorite fantasy.”

There’s more to Alexa’s story (she became involved with a bi-sexual man after Greg died), but it’s all rather involved as you can imagine, so full disclosure will have to wait.

Meanwhile, have you visited the website we set up for Kiss and Tell ? If you share your email with us, we’ll notify you when the book is published.

Yes, that’s still a ways off, but it’s getting closer all the time!

Snug and signed

February 25, 2012

While I continue to chastise myself over the speed at which I write and the ability I have (or have not) to focus on the tasks at hand, somehow things keep moving ahead at a decent clip.

Case in point: The proposal for Kiss and Tell has now been sent out to a handful of publishing houses!

Yes. Dr. Whelihan and I signed an agent’s contract with Victoria Skurnick at Levine Greenberg Literary Agency in New York. Victoria’s a pro with decades of experience, and wasted no time dithering (as I am constantly wont to do). She and I emailed back and forth a few times while I tweaked the Kiss and Tell proposal to her liking and in no time she had forwarded it to several houses, along with an introductory letter that made our team sound sexy, smart and sell-able. Gotta love it.

It’s been just one day since the call went out and we’ve received a response already: a very polite turn-down from an editor who assured us the idea was appealing, but that it wasn’t the right fit for her publisher. I realize a turn-down is supposed to make you feel all rejected and stuff, but instead I’m encouraged. The editor read the information quickly, was clearly engaged by it, responded in a positive way and even signed off with a comment about how sure she was we’d land a publisher in no time. So excuse me for being excited! I can’t help it. We’re another step closer to the brass ring of a good contract with a publishing house.

By the way, I do realize it’s a brass ring. Horror tales abound from writers who’ve seen their precious work treated poorly by publishers. The promise of national marketing is the carrot held out to get you to sign on, despite a paltry advance. But follow-through on those promises to get your book wide exposure is far from a given. Disappointed writers with legitimate reason to feel resentful are everywhere.

Still, we decided against self publishing at this juncture. So far, Victoria makes us feel confident and optimistic. And though Maureen and I both know how to sell this book locally, we have to get a publishing house to really push it if we hope to jump to a broader platform.

Putting the polishing touches on the final proposal hasn’t deterred me from my sessions with the 50-something women. I have completed six in-depth interviews and have another four scheduled for early next week.

I’ll stop at 10 interviews, even though I yearn to interview all 290 women in this decade who completed a survey. I’m 57. This is my decade. Though their stories don’t mirror mine, I feel a kinship with each woman. She feels familiar to me almost as soon as we sit down to talk.

And the stories! Ah, the stories. They are priceless.

I promise I’m putting them down with all the ability I can muster. And I can hardly wait for you to read the book!

Sizzling 60s

January 30, 2012

If the nine women in their 60s I’ve interviewed for Kiss & Tell are representative of their decade — and I have every reason to think they are — readers are in for a big surprise.

What thoughtful, rich material they are adding to the book. And what wisdom they bring. In this decade, I find most women are taking stock of their relationships, their sexual history and their choices — both bad and good — in an effort to glean what lessons they might carry into their futures. It’s been an inspiring chapter, I have to say.

Today’s 60something women were high school girls during the 60s, so the winds of societal change were beginning to pick up. Though the Pill was talked about, virtually no high schoolers used it for fear of the stigma attached. Today, when girls can openly ask their gynecologists for birth control alternatives without fear of moral condemnation, it’s hard to recall how narrow the choices were not so long ago.

I’m sure several of our nine ladies wish they’d had at least the option of birth control. Except for the one lesbian in the group, all the women were intensely fearful of premarital pregnancy, and three had those fears realized, becoming pregnant in their teens. Another three conceived almost the second they married and a fourth became pregnant within a few months. While listening to their stories, I could clearly see why the Pill was poised to revolutionize the female sexual experience.

The total number of marriages for this group — 14 — further illustrates the transition society was making in its acceptance of divorce and therefore multiple sexual partners. Three of the women had 30 or more partners; two had a dozen. Just two of the nine interviewees remain married to their sole partner.

One newlywed, a bubbly 63-year-old, supplied fresh energy to the group. Another described a satisfying love life she shares with a longtime lover. But several of the divorced and single women were between relationships and — despite happy memories of previous partners — had not been sexually active for periods of 7 months to 7 years. Some were on the lookout, while others wondered if their window for a satisfying relationship might be closing.

Sophia, an attractive 68-year-old widow who was introduced to a couple of lovers through her ballroom dancing connections, hasn’t taken a lover in a year and a half.

“I don’t know where to meet men anymore,” she laments. “In my heart, I say I’ve been single too long.”

Another woman, a statuesque and striking blonde named Laura, has come to feel uncomfortable with the increasing demands she fields for oral sex.

“I resent a man that wants oral sex more than he wants regular sex, because it doesn’t do anything for me sexually. If that’s what he wants more than anything, then he’s selfish. I find as they get older, they want that more and more.

“If that’s true, then I’ll just pass,” she concludes.

And then there’s Jana, who at 68 has just discovered she can be multi-orgasmic, and is willing to tell us all about it.

Yep. The sexy 60s ladies have views that are wide ranging, but I find that to be true for the women of each chapter. And yet the similarities are always visible, running through their stories and reminding us all that there is much we share in this realm.

A matter of balance

November 26, 2011

Libidos, for women, are an inconstant thing.

My research has proven this again and again, and while delving into sexual desire for the ladies in their 60s, I encountered an imbalance I was forced to address.

Here’s what happened. After we selected 16 excellent and balanced surveys, I started calling the respondents, hoping to set up 8 interviews. Some said yes, some had voice mail machines, some had left the state. The out of towners all expressed a willingness to do phoners, but that’s never my first choice — so I thanked them and moved on.

And I started doing interviews.

Wonderful interviews. With women who shared very interesting stories.

But a little ways into the process, I realized my subjects were trending toward the low-libido side. One married woman hadn’t had sex in 7 months; a single woman said it had been 7 years. A married lesbian said she and her partner hadn’t made love in over a year.

All of this is to be expected in a chapter dealing with women in their 60s, but I knew from the 193 surveys in this decade that other women were having a different experience. I flipped back through my 16 chosen surveys and realized that all four of the Florida evacuees had filled out surveys indicating a high libido and sexy stories to share.

Darn!

I became more aggressive about reaching the remaining women in my batch that were interested in sex, but even so, when I sat down to write the chapter, I realized the overall balance was tipped too far in the “no, thanks” column. So I called Dr. Mo, told her the situation, and suggested I go back for more interviews before I tried to write the chapter. Though I already had 7 interviews, enough for a chapter, she agreed — and we moved our deadline date for the chapter to be completed. I lined up another interview the next day and then called one of the relocated gals who was returning to Florida for Thanksgiving and pigeon-holed her for a face-to-face interview while she’s in town. She was a great sport about sacrificing some of her vacation, and our talk is scheduled for tomorrow.

And then — we’ve allowed just 5 days to write the chapter. I know. Very tough. I had 57 pages of notes last time I checked, which is even more than the 40s. But I’m hopeful. The 60s feel less scattered and somehow more manageable material-wise than the 40s. The ladies seem to fall into groups more easily, instead of being quite so distinct — although of course each woman’s story is filled with unique details. Two women began having sex at age 16, two more at 17, one each at 18 and 19 and one at 22. Kay, the lesbian of the group, started earlier, at age 14 with a girl a couple of years older.

And most of the women are in their late 60s; the youngest is 64, though tomorrow’s interview is 63. The older ages are partially a result of the sheer length of time it’s been since they filled out their survey. We spent 15 months accumulating the 1,300 surveys and it’s taken me this long to work my way through all of the decades. So most of the women are two years older now.

I’m not worried. The project and research are valid; that I know. I still feel confident about landing an agent with our good idea and the book’s progress so far. Just this week I sent out six query letters or proposals to agents I feel are a good match for the material. Keep your fingers crossed that the right person signs on to help us turn this project into a book you’ll find at Barnes & Noble.

Meanwhile, I am struggling through the final indignity of my ordeal with adult braces. I write a monthly column for The Palm Beach Post and I’ve decided my next one will deal with the topic of outright deception by orthodontists. The information they don’t give you on the front end of braces could easily fill a file cabinet, and while I understand the impulse, I cannot forgive it. Again and again I was blindsided by unpleasant surprises and unforeseen requests. When this is over, I will never look at rubber bands the same. They are no longer friendly, helpful office supplies; their evil twins are instruments of torture.

The zig zag elastics I’m wearing now are woven criss-cross between my bottom and top teeth to “set” my bite, and they do not allow me to talk, drink water except through a straw, take pills or even lick my lips. It creates this weird claustrophobia, where you feel trapped inside your mouth. I distract myself in order to not get panicky about it. Then when you remove them to eat, your teeth feel all loosey-goosey and it hurts to chew meat or anything crunchy.

But what else is new? After 16 months, I should be used to this. Funny thing: I never got used to it.

HOWEVER … God willing and the creek don’t rise, the braces come off Dec. 6, which is a few weeks before my predicted removal date. I attribute this to my dogged insistence on following every rule laid down for me. In all this time, I have only once forgotten to wear my bands at night, and I’ve been pretty compulsive about daytime wear as well.

Yes, I’ve been a good little patient — but I haven’t been good-spirited. A girlfriend who’s well acquainted with my usually optimistic nature told me recently she loved that for once I was not taking mistreatment lying down. She made it clear she was fine with me refusing to look on the bright side and instead complaining with gusto.

Needless to say, she immediately became my favorite person.

Just think, Faithful Blog Readers. Very soon these posts will no longer contain my grumblings and whinings on the oh-so-absorbing topic of braces.

I’m thinking that will be a day we can all celebrate!

Longest. Chapter. Ever.

October 31, 2011

While summer’s woes kept me from finding a productive writing routine for my 30something women, a challenge of a different sort emerged as I leafed through the 47 pages of notes I collected while interviewing ladies in their 40s about their sexual desire. Every single sheet held such relevant, riveting content that the trick was deciding what I could leave out.

Not knowing what else to do, I just set sail on the chapter in the same fashion as I have for all the others. The process of coming at the decades from both ends (i.e. I started with the gals in their 90s, then went to the teens, then back to the 80s, then the 20s etc.), means I have left the most well-represented decades for last. I call the 40s and 50s our “fat decades,” because 300 women in their 40s filled out our survey and 290 50somethings. Compare that to 11 women in their 90s and just 27 teenagers and you can see why my moniker fits. (Since our surveys come from gynecological patients, it’s hardly surprising that women this age are heavily represented.)

Anyway, early this month, I began writing this chapter like all the others, thinking I’d finish in a week if I maintained my usual pace. At two to six hours a day (with six being amazing for me, admittedly), I can generally see the light at the end of the tunnel before too many days have passed.

Wrong. Deeply wrong.

After five days, I’m still just scraping the best stuff off the surface of my notes. At 10 days, I’m into the meat of things, but nowhere near the end. At 12 days, I experience a bit of panic because I still can’t see how the chapter will end.

Fortunately, I had breakfast the next day with a helpful friend. When I  poured out my problem, she suggested a solution that — while not ultimately workable — pushed me to think about the problem in a whole different way, thereby enabling me to see how I wanted to close the chapter.

I went home from our breakfast and worked all afternoon. The next day was a Saturday. I wrote for 4 hours. Ditto Sunday. Ditto Monday.

Still the chapter was not complete. I felt like I was in some weird circle of hell and no matter how much I wrote, I would never, never find the end of my chapter.

It’s not that I was unhappy with what I was writing. The material was fascinating and I kept finding new commonalities. And I wasn’t engaging in excessive procrastination: I was working daily. And yet — the chapter was like the Energizer Bunny; it kept going and going …

Toward the end of the month, I took two days off for a short trip with my Mom, who had arrived in the midst of my angst for a week’s visit. (She happily read books on my sun porch while I struggled to write my own in the front room.) Finally, with a last burst of energy fueled by those relaxing days, I was able to finish the chapter by month’s end. It clocks in at 32 pages, a full 10 pages longer than its closest competitor.

Even though it took so long to finish, I didn’t lose faith in the material or my process. And I reminded myself that women in their 40s are a huge part of the market for this book; I don’t think they will grow weary of reading their contemporaries’ stories and insights about what creates and sustains desire, especially in long-term relationships. That’s the heart of the book, and I wanted to stretch out and treat it as such.

No way to know if I’ve succeeded on a grand scale, of course, but Dr. Mo read it yesterday and proclaimed it chock-full of amazing stories and insights. (Tidbit: It turns out that four of the eight women who gave in-depth interviews for this decade had participated in a threesome. For the 40s decade, that’s a pretty significant number. So of course, an entire section is dedicated to those stories.)

Though I would love nothing better than to rest on my laurels and celebrate finishing the Longest Chapter Ever — which unfortunately followed the Slowest Chapter Ever — I cannot. It is time to throw myself into the 60s. With 193 women surveyed in this decade, I’m aiming again for eight in-depth interviews, though I bet I’d settle for seven.

And now I have to wonder … will I be able to write the 60s in a week, or will their stories once again force me into overtime?

Slowest. Chapter. Ever

October 4, 2011

I am ecstatic to report that I completed the chapter on how women in their 30s view their sexual desire.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

If — like me — you thought I would never finish, you are excused. You certainly had justification for doubting my ability to git ‘er done.

But finish I did, and I was extremely gratified to hear from my book partner that she considers it perhaps her favorite decade so far. As painful as it became for me to overcome all the hurdles (a friend’s death, my broken rib) and write that chapter, it was truly a relief to hear my partner say she couldn’t detect any of my angst in the finished work.

So. Giant, satisfied exhalation of breath after that Sunday morning work session with the doc. But the celebration didn’t last long. That afternoon I got on the phone to begin setting up interviews for the 40somethings. With only 6 in-depth interviews for the 30s, I decided I wanted 8 for the 40s. And thank goodness I wasted no time. I have made at least three phone calls for every one that has been returned, a percentage I remember being higher when I was able to say, “I’m calling from The Palm Beach Post.”

Yes. Officialdom certainly had its perks. A first-time author just doesn’t have the gravitas once accorded to newspaper reporters.

Nonetheless, I have soldiered through and completed six interviews, with a seventh scheduled Friday. I’m hoping now that one of the 11 (!!) women I’ve contacted in my zeal to find one more interviewee will call back.

Despite the difficulty in wrangling interviews with women in this decade, 40somethings pay off with fascinating life stories. I’ve spoken to a former call girl who estimates she was with 500 johns during her two to three years in the business, as well as a happily married woman who’s never experienced an orgasm. I talked with a 49-year-old beauty who dates a much-younger man and has participated in threesomes in order to keep him interested, even though group sex isn’t among her fantasies. I’ve also met a woman who was molested by her father at age 9, which, not surprisingly, has had a pronounced and negative affect on her sexual desire to this day.

But getting back to our call girl for a moment. Long-term readers of this blog will recall that 75-year-old Veronica previously held the distinction of ‘most lovers’ among our interviewees: She stopped counting at about number 50 when she was in her mid-40s, but continued her sexually active lifestyle for two more decades. She is now surpassed by Heather, who in addition to her days as a working girl, says she’s been “in the lifestyle” since her 30s. That phrase refers to a sexually open society inhabited by swingers, and Heather shared some revealing stories about her years in Los Angeles at swingers’ clubs and private house parties. She estimates that she’s been with several hundred lovers in her personal life, apart from her working days.

So Heather steals the title from Veronica — for now. Keep in mind we still have two decades yet to go: the 50s and 60s. Who knows what sexy stories lie ahead?

30somethings; here we go

August 22, 2011

Though my August sights were set on corralling nine women in their 30s for in-depth interviews about their sexual desire, I was only able to connect with six.

One woman insisted she would be honored to participate, and we agreed on a tentative day, with time to be determined later. Subsequent calls went unanswered, until the day of the interview, when she called to say she’d lost her phone. Happily, it had been found, so we set up another interview day. And then she disappeared again. Or maybe she re-lost her phone. Who knows? My voice mails fall into some lonely message box.

Another number led to a husband who asked me question after question about why I needed to speak to his wife. Sounding reserved, he agreed to have her call, but I was suspicious when she never did. I left him a couple messages asking if I could have her direct number; I wonder now if she even had her own phone. He eventually called to assure me he’d told her to call me and that since she hadn’t, she clearly didn’t want to talk with me. Don’t know why she couldn’t tell me that herself.

Anyway. It’s a marvelous mixed bag of 30somethings that I did connect with, so I’m satisfied. Three are married, two are single and never married, one is divorced. One of the married women is in love with a woman, another waited till age 26 to have sex and is married to the man she chose. He’s older than her by 15 years. One of the single women is a bi-sexual, but calls herself a “true bi-sexual,” which to her means she’s not only interested in having sex with men or women, she’s interested in long-term relationships with either gender. In talking this out, we realized that the term bi-sexual is very accurate, and refers, of course, to sex. So we decided to trade “true bi-sexual” for the term “relationship bi-sexual,” since that best describes her situation.

After a 7-year engagement to a man, Cyndi then spent the past two years having relationships only with women. “Are you a lesbian now?” her friends ask her. “No,” she says. “I just want to find someone I can get along with that I enjoy being with. They ask, ‘Which way do you lean, who do you think you’ll end up with?’ I have no clue. I really don’t know. I just know I’ve increased my chance of meeting that person by 100% because I can do man or woman. People want to label people too much. I’m like, why? All this classification stuff. Don’t box me in.”

Fascinating, yes?

Also in my 30somethings women: a woman who confessed to suffering long-term childhood sexual abuse (extremely sad), a young mom who became pregnant her senior year of high school and an athlete who gave up on empty relationships and unsatisfying sex at age 24 and became a born-again Christian. She met her husband of 13 years a short while later and they waited until marriage to consummate their relationship.

See what I mean? It’s a truly fascinating mix of women and I’m eager to write a chapter to do them justice. I’m thinking the theme of the 30s decade is decisiveness or being definitive. (But neither of those words sounds powerful enough to be a theme. Isn’t it weird that the word definitive sounds wimpy?)

Oh well. We’ll see. What I do know is the women deserve the best I can give them.

So I better get to it. This is writing week.