Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What I Didn't Do This Past Summer

This is not what I had intended to write.
Originally, as soon as Mel published Is This Seat Taken? I was going to talk about her experiences, both good and bad.  Then I meant to post these past few months.
Obviously, none of that has happened.
I’ll give you a quick synopsis of that first publishing venture back at the beginning of January:  it was exhilarating, terrifying, and involved eating a gallon (no kidding) of homemade Chex-Mix over a week’s period.
Mel and I have been paying for it ever since.
I keep reminding Mel that self-publishing really is a marathon, and not a sprint.  Mel dutifully repeats this to any person who questions why she’s not a best seller.
As for published works, well, they’ve been slow in coming.  There’ve been the essays, of course, and a few short (and I do mean, short) stories, but over the past month, Mel has produced Penny, a young adult humorous novelette, and And Then He Bit Me, which debuted just a few days ago.  That’s the one Mel’s worked on for ages, with several different versions, and then numerous drafts.  Now the world can embrace a vampire romantic comedy, if they so wish, in a novella format.
Why have things been so slow?  To be honest, real life during spring and summer was one of the Nine Circles of Hell.  Normally, I would be horrified to be speaking so frankly, but it’s the truth.  Mel has asked me not to give out personal details, so I’ll respect her wishes.  Now that things are hopefully settled down, Mel’s been able to play catch-up.
This was supposed to be a funny post.  Sorry about that.  I’m afraid that all of my humor has been temporarily used up helping Mel.
So in keeping this brief, because I’m trying to help Mel finish the ghost story she’s publishing next month and getting the already-finished Claus & Frost detective story ready for November.
For anyone who has purchased a Kate Russell ebook, thank you.  You didn’t have to spend your hard-earned money on Mel’s work, but you chose to.  If you checked out a sample or just thought nice things, thank you.  Again, you didn’t have to.
This self-publishing venture is going to be full of highs and lows.  It’s reflective of real life, I suppose.  That’s why Mel and I continue to embrace it.
Until next time, which will be much shorter—I promise,

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Twenty Random Facts

            Mel accused me the other day of being ungrateful for my new blog.  “You haven’t posted anything new.”
            “I know.  I’ve been busy trying to help you get ready for your first eBook, and trying to help you finish two more.  My brain is starting to melt.”
            Mel claimed hers felt the same way.  I recommended that since the public would soon get to know her pseudonym, they might be interested in the woman behind Kate Russell.
            Surprisingly, Mel agreed, and the list below has been approved by her.  I hope you enjoy getting to know her a little better.  Sometimes she over shares, but deep down she’s a very private person.
            Until next time,

Twenty random facts about Mel that you probably wish you still didn’t know:
  1. When Mel was seven years old, she fell in love with Timothy Dalton in Flash Gordon, and decided she would marry him.  Sadly, he didn’t wait for her.
  2. Mel read Gone With the Wind in second grade.
  3. Mel’s To Be Read pile comes naturally.  When she was small, her mother read a stack of books to her every day.
  4. The only book that Mel and her sister (who normally hated reading as a teenager) both loved was The Count of Monte Cristo.
  5.  Every single time Road House comes on T.V., Mel watches it.  Every single time.  It may be one of the absolute worst movies ever made, but Patrick Swayze is in it.  Duh.
  6. Mel likes to eat dinner for breakfast.  Lasagna, meatloaf, chicken and rice—it really doesn’t matter.  She also likes to eat breakfast for dinner.
  7. Squirrels are her arch enemies.
  8. Sometimes Mel’s characters’ looks are based on actors and actresses.  No, she won’t tell you which ones.
  9. After meeting Mel for the first time, her future mother-in-law asked Mel’s now-husband what country she was originally from.  Later, she would be tempted to change out “country” for “planet”.
  10. In relation to the Harry Potter series, Mel is a cross between Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood.  However, when she’s grouchy, she channels pure Bellatrix Lestrange.
  11. Mel loves red hair.  As a kid, she would soak her hair in vinegar and sit outside in the sunlight, trying unsuccessfully to turn ginger-haired.  She later acquired a mother-in-law and two nieces who are redheads, and a husband who’s a strawberry blond.
  12. Mel learned to drive in the desert.  That explains a lot.
  13. In high school, Mel learned many things, including how to make checkers.
  14. Mel loves the movie Tremors.  Sometimes she makes guests watch it with her.
  15. Mel’s favorite flower is the hyacinth.  She dislikes carnations because they remind her of funerals.
  16. Mel used to know how to imprint Bibles.
  17. One of her upcoming books began with a bizarre dream she had in middle school.  No, it’s not the vampire one.
  18. Instead of English, Mel almost majored in History and Political Science.
  19. In tenth grade, despite braces, questionable foundation and blue eye shadow, stepping on her dress and getting stuck on a fake bridge, and completely screwing up her Q&A session, Mel somehow won 4th Runner-up at her school’s Beauty of the Orient pageant.  I know, I can’t believe it, either.
  20. Although several authors have been kind enough to write back when Mel sent them fan letters, her favorite one is a handwritten note and envelope from Lloyd Alexander a few years before his death.  She cried when she read it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


 This post originally appeared on Julie N. Ford's blog for Cordelia's Corner.

            Dear Readers, this is not what I had intended to write.
            You’re probably too familiar with this phrase from me. After all, in my last post, I mentioned that I had several posts ready/almost ready to go. It’s still true, and I contemplated uploading at least the first one, which was originally part of the Manwhores, Baby! Yeah! post.
            Obviously, this is not it.
            Several things have happened since then. Julie and Mel had breakfast one morning, and Julie had a brilliant suggestion. Why didn’t Mel let me have my own blog, so that she could also put up her own essays that hadn’t found a home? Mel wasn’t sure, since she’s still not that great with technology, but I knew something important:  I deserve it.
            And you know what? I think Mel deserves it, too.
            Anyway, Mel and I started going back and forth; just trying to figure out the style we could both agree on. Finally, we were getting somewhere! However, my wishes had to be put aside for the time being, because other stuff happened.
            Mel, after many first readers and my questionable skills as an editor, submitted her short story/novella sample to the Christian internet company she was targeting. Then she was promptly sick for the next week or so with a sinus/bronchial infection that kept her propped up, high on medicine and Lysol.
            I’ll give credit to the publisher. They sent Mel a response the following week. Mel checked her emails the day before Thanksgiving and saw two from the publisher. Shaking from both nerves and the effects of the medicine, she thought, “This is it.”
            Well, she was right. When she clicked on the older email it was a standard polite rejection letter. At the bottom was a list of common reasons that people get rejected. Swallowing her dismay, she clicked on the newer one. They must have made a mistake, and this was the correction. They wanted the manuscript. She knew they did.
            When the email opened, she had to get rid of her small piece of hope. The publisher did not want the manuscript. The email was simply an exact copy of the previous one.
            Mel cried, texted her husband, cried, emailed Julie, cried some more, and sent a polite thank you to the publisher. She still wasn’t feeling well, and her stuffed nose and head were that much worse from all the crying. I told her that licking her wounds was unsanitary at that point.
            She channeled Niagara Falls off and on, and when her husband wrapped his arms around her, she cried some more. Honestly, I was a bit concerned, because Mel is one of those blotchy-face criers, and as everyone knows, that’s just not really attractive. She and I were both surprised when she blurted out, “I guess I’ll be self-publishing this.” Her husband just said, “Okay.”
            Self-publishing has been in the back of her mind all this time. There were some things holding her back:  for many years, there was the stigma of self-publishing; she wanted an editor, if not also an agent; and the support that came with a publisher. However, that hasn’t worked out for Mel, and that’s just the way it is. She’s finally realized she’s okay with it.
            By that evening, Mel quit crying. She had a plan. She was going to go ahead and self-publish her work in the eBook format, and not worry about paper books for awhile. The explosion of eReaders was making the playing field completely different. Mel could now publish short stories, longer works, and quirky things that couldn’t find their niches. She didn’t have to worry if her fantasy manuscript could only be one book, in case a publisher didn’t want to deal with the rest of the story. She could write it the way she wanted. She could also price her books the way she wanted.
            She could live up to her full potential as the control freak she’s always been.
            Oh, there’s a downside to this venture, just like with everything. Her work may get bad reviews. Nobody may buy her eBooks. She regrets not getting to pay a professional editor, but instead is grateful for the kindness of other first readers and writers who have given helpful feedback. Also, Mel’s mother, a former teacher, did a thorough editing the other week. I told Mel that I didn’t care that Mel’s mother should have become an editor; she was NOT taking my place.
            There are bank accounts to set up.  There are questions to brothers-in-law who are accountants and to other writers.  There's formatting that has to be done for each edition of the same book.  There’s the issue of marketing.  There’s…
            There’s always something.  This is what Mel wants.  She has always been writing, dreaming of people reading her work, getting paid to do what she loves and is driven to do.  This is a way of getting to live her dream in a practical way.  She doesn’t want to wait until she’s 65 years old and—still not having found a publisher—decide to finally do it.  Why shouldn’t she do it now?  After all, what does she have to lose at this point?
            When she was first almost published, her children were small.  Lizzie and Logan made her promise that when she got published, that she would take them to McDonald’s and let them get Happy Meals and play inside, instead of going through the drive-thru.  Mel doesn’t think her now fourteen- and nearly twelve-year-olds will still want to do that, so she’s coming up with something else, that will probably involve ordering off the adult menu.
            So this is it.  I will miss posting here on Julie’s blog, and getting to share Mel’s progress with you as her unpaid assistant, as she sought to change her unpublished status.  She’s reached her goal, but it’s just a different path than she’d planned.  This Wild West of the publishing world is confusing, frustrating, and pretty wonderful.  Thankfully, Mel and I like westerns.
            I doubt I would have ever made my public appearance had it not been for Julie’s encouragement.  Mel and I will always be grateful for the opportunity she offered, when she believed in us enough to associate with us.  For those of you who don’t know Julie personally, you’re missing out.  However, Mel and I are lucky enough to have her as a dear friend, who loves Chick-fil-A breakfasts almost as much as we do.
            So where do we go from here?  My blog, like the Nashville interstates, may be under constant construction.  But that’s okay.  After all, Mel’s not that great at technology, but she’s learning, one brain cell at a time. You can find me now at 
            As for Mel?  She’s trying to get everything set up, so her first eBook will be available for sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. early- to mid-January.  Mel, with her penchant for separating her personal life from work, will be going under her pen name, Kate Russell, for Is This Seat Taken?, a short, sweet romance.
            Dear Readers, all that’s left to say is thank you.  Thank you for reading; for taking time out of your busy schedules to find out what’s been going on with Mel’s writing.
            Mel and I appreciate you so very much.  We’ll see you out in cyberspace.
            Until next time,