So, it's been a bit since I posted. Needless to say, life got in the way of being an author, but I'm happy to report my journey with Hoagie and Katie is complete! (is it ever really though?)
So here goes:
How much is that book-y in the window?
A friend of mine was strolling down the street, and much to her surprise, my book was displayed in the window! Proud author moment!
It’s out of this world!
Hoagie & Katie book two: Hoagie & Katie in Space book launch!
So much fun sharing my latest creation with the kids who choose the topic for the sequel! At the end of the year, I asked a group of third graders what they thought the next Hoagie & Katie adventure should be. I had the kids put their answers in a hat, and I read them out loud. Whichever topic came up the most would be the next book! Some of their hilarious suggestions were:
-Hoagie & Katie go to the mall
-H&K go to the beach
-H&K play soccer
-H&K go to the carnival
-H&K go to the moon
Finally, we settled on what would become my second installment of H&K:
Hoagie & Katie in Space
Wanna frolic in the sun but can’t? Read a book
Here in the pacific northwest, the sun is still a bit shy until around the 4th of July. Sure, we have some beautiful days, but the rain persists with simple showers to downright torrential pours. It can be a bit depressing this time of year if you’re not used to it.
Thankfully, there are remedies for the June Blues. Books. If you get over any expectations what it means to have a normal summer, you can lose yourself in a book as you wait it out ‘til July. In a book, you can pretend you are in perfect weather, feeling the sun beat down on your neck. You can imagine a beautiful landscape, and incredible creatures. You can eat whatever you want and feel any pleasure you can dream of. Don’t fret, sun worshipers, bide your time while reading!
Paying my dues
Self-publishers must figure out creative ways to showcase their product. I have submitted my books to local libraries. I’ve paid high prices to secure a table at fairs to sell my stuff. Of course, I have read at local primary schools to share H&K with my target audience. My most favorite way to share my books and expose them to others is simply to attend my local farmer’s market. I get to talk with people, share my stories, eat fun local food, listen to music, and hopefully sell a book or two!
It never gets old
Every time I see my book somewhere, I get all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s like a little part of me exists outside of myself and will live on. To see an actual copy of my work reminds me that I’m not just a mother, wife, homemaker, employee, pet owner. It reminds me that I have a creative side, that I have dreams, aspirations, and a passion. It reminds me that I can shoot for a goal and accomplish it against all odds. And it reminds me that there is always something more to strive for, to attempt, and to enjoy.
The end of the year always causes me to reflect on the year and my expectations for the next. I have grown a lot as an author and self-publisher this year, but there is much room for improvement. I still need to get my head around the publicity/marketing aspects of being an indie author, as this is not my strong suit. In an ideal world, I’d like to hire someone so I can sit back, relax, and reap the benefits of my hard labor. Alas, that is not possible, and I must learn to wear many hats.
So, here’s to all of you who are attempting to become better at life -I am trying also! See you next year!
And so it begins…
I am working on the final installation of H&K. I try to write when (and where) I can. Sometimes it’s at a café. Sometimes, I run away for a few days and rent an Airbnb for some quiet time. Whenever I can, I squeeze in time to create this world that I love so much. These characters fill me me with such joy it’s as though they truly exist in a real form. Their voices echo in my head and make me giggle. I’m proud of them when the surpass their challenges, and I sigh with them when they aren’t doing well. This is the absolute best part of the journey-the writing process. It is freeing, exciting, and invigorating. If I could do this every day, I would. For now, I’m just grateful to be with them when I can, free of distractions and noise. Where we can commune together as one.
Time to play!
I have to admit, I haven’t been writing very much over the last few months as I’m been immersed in family activities. As the kids get older, there’s always more things to explore. There are pool parties, river trips, carnival rides. There are summer excursions to visit family, camping trips, and bbqs. Needless to say, there isn’t much quiet time for a budding author. Ah, well. I’m enjoying this time with my family as I know it is fleeting!
No time to dilly-dally
I am ready to buckle down and write again! Summer and birthday parties have passed. Kids are back in school and are getting into a good rhythm. I’m feeling somewhat refreshed and ready to focus on my favorite hobby: H&K. I’m so sorry I left them alone for so long! Now I’m back at it and loving every minute of it!
This is how we do it!
My birthday month. Years ago, my husband (the talented book designer Mr. Koviak) started a tradition of spoiling me during my entire birthday month. Almost daily he would gift me something small (little chocolates, a candle, incense, a foot massage, a bubble bath, etc.) Little did he know that he created a monster! When I used to hate my birthday, now I look forward to it like a little kid on X-mas eve. This year, he was the “waiter” during my annual “Mamas Gone Wild” dance party. After serving about 50 crazy ladies drinks and hor devours, he was ready to get outta dodge!
All I want for X-mas is….
I already have my two front teeth (thankfully!), but all I want for X-mas is to see kids enjoying my book. Here’s a few kiddos reading about their favorite hamster and capybara :)
Where my peeps at?!
Like most authors, I get my energy and passion from my readers. Watching their little faces light up when they hear their favorite character’s “voice” warms my soul. Once the schools closed due to Covid 19, I was robbed of reading in the classrooms. And once my muses were gone, so was my motivation to finish the latest book.
Disinfect, rinse, and repeat
Finding time to write amidst this pandemic is nothing short of a miracle! The entire world is trying to find some sense of balance in their lives as they learn a new way of living. The stores are sold out of basic things like toilet paper and essential foods. People are in a panic, researching which masks are most protective, and if they should even go out to the stores at all.
Our family has developed a strange grocery shopping ritual in our garage:
-don disposable gloves
-soak produce, then rinse
-wipe down all other items
-take off shoes worn to the market
I’ve somehow carved out some time between all the homeschooling, computers crashing, zoom meetings, a million meal preparations, and pulling out my hair in times of stress to complete the third (and final) Hoagie and Katie book (whew!!)! My goal is to get this ready for my focus group (primary kids) by the time they get back to school (whenever that will be). Now that bones of H&K are done, I need to focus on teaching my kids math…uh-oh, we are all in trouble!
Kids are doing it for themselves
So proud of all the kids out there doing their best in these strange times. All the zooming, home-made projects, entertaining themselves without friends, and focusing on their on-line schoolwork while in their pjs.
Enough is enough!
This is getting ridiculous! How much are we going to be able to take these changes in this new world we are living in?
Join the parade
Another school year ending, and this one will be remembered as the weirdest ever! Teachers in car parades bidding farewell to their students. Graduating kids not being able to attend their graduation ceremonies, and older kids not going to prom, football games, or being able to do all the usual coming-of-age rituals before moving onto adulthood. Will they be able to attend college next fall? Nobody knows yet. For now, all we know is this pandemic still has us in its steady grip. Thank goodness, summer is coming and at least we can hit the trails, river, and beaches unperturbed by the burden of the dreaded mask.
It takes a village to create a book
Pandemic is still going strong, but at least the weather is improving! Kids are mostly out of the house now enjoying the sun, and you know what that means: I’m able to focus a little on a neglected project known as the Hoagie & Katie series.
I found an amazing editor Varsana Tikovsky! While she is ensuring I’m not repeating myself, the characters are consistent, and, of course, there aren’t any typos, my favorite book designer is working on my images.
Even if he wasn’t my husband, I would choose Ian Koviak at theBookDesigners any day of the week for my book needs! With this project, we have chosen to create images in which the characters are photographs, and the background is a complex layering of illustrations. At first, we thought this was only a temporary solution until we found an illustration to actually draw my scenes. However, once the first book was finished, my readers professed they loved the actual pictures of the animals.
While the effects are a complicated process for my designer, the final result is practically flawless, and satisfying to behold!
Can they handle it?
School is starting soon, and kids are still doing everything online. None of us can believe this pandemic has lasted this long, and still with no end in sight. The simple fact that I know I won’t be working in the classroom or reading to the children has rendered me lazy in finishing the final touches of the book. I was thinking for the completed product to be available by September, but now I’m hoping to have the final edits and pictures done by Thanksgiving.
The thing is this book is different from the last two. The series has matured as my readership has matured. The final book is almost twice as long as the previous two, and the language is a little more complicated. I had originally written the first book for my daughter’s kindergarten class, and when they asked for a second book, I obliged. Then at the end of 3rd grade, they were offended that I didn’t have a third waiting in the wings, and they were complaining the second book was too short-they wanted more.
This book is almost three times as long as the first. The idea is that the book grows with the kids (as they learn how to read better and can focus for longer periods of time, the books will get more challenging). Will they be able to handle the vocabulary, and lengthy chapters? Only time will tell.
Speaking of time- longer book=longer wait. Longer book also equals more expenses (editing, printing & shipping costs). Wish me luck to meet this self-imposed deadline!
Oh yeah and since I can’t go anywhere for pie, I finally learned to make my own.
What’s next, flying locusts?
As though it wasn’t hard enough already with the pandemic, kids being at home, and still not being able to go back to in-home school, now we’ve been hit with the fires! Now we can’t even separate from each other by being outside in our yards because the air is so smoky and ashy. Air quality is at an all-time low and we are forced to stay indoors. So tired of puzzles and board games to keep us occupied. I guess we’ll have to finally break out the karaoke machine!
Kids want to do all the normal things like get dressed up for Halloween without worrying about social distancing and sanitizing their hands constantly. The questions remain: Do we take them trick or treating? Do we bring our own sanitizer? Do we just buy them a bunch of candy and eat it at home? In the end we decided to take my youngest out, and I’m glad we did! She and her friend had a blast and they said they felt “almost normal”
I’m not gonna lie, this sucks.
I know I’m spoiled, okay. I know I should be grateful for all that I have, as it is more than I should expect. But damn! This pandemic is really taking its toll on me. I’m starting to get run down by the isolation, the constant worry, the relentless neediness of my household, and the lack of quality alone time. No dance party this year, no quiet writing retreat, not even a solo bathroom break at this point (even the animals are all up in space everywhere I go!)
It’s been mentally exhausting, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is wondering, “When will this end?”
All I want for X-mas (part deux)
Like most of us, all I want for X-mas is a return to normalcy. To hug, laugh, dance, and commune with others. To share in our joy and sorrows together (face-to-face). To personally give out new editions of Hoagie & Katie during my annual Christmas party. Alas, this year, the party (like all parties) is canceled. It just doesn’t feel the same to send the fresh new copies out-I need to see those happy faces as that is the main reason I love to do what I do!
I didn’t reach my Christmas deadline. Part of it was that I felt the manuscript needed more editing, and since there are so many pictures this time around, my poor busy husband has found it hard to find time to finish the images. Not only is he working from home, but he also must contend with the busy household always being around since none of us can socialize outside of the house with anyone else.
Who knew my last x-mas shin-dig would be my last for a long time to come.
After contacting multiple photographers, we decided it would be easier during this pandemic (and cheaper) to take our own pictures of my dog Dipper for his appearances in H&K. We set up a space with a white background to make it easier for Ian to layer in images later. I taught Dipper how to growl and look vicious. I used the phrase “Fingers!” and would hold up my fingers to get him to curl his lip up. Of course, we had practiced for about two weeks before the shoot began. So proud of him! He was so patient, and ultimately gave a great performance!
Some outtakes and the Final product:
Ice, ice, baby!
There’s always something! While I have never been one for New year’s resolutions, I did finally feel motivated to finish up already. I carved out a little piece of quiet space for myself in my husband’s studio. I had all the necessary pieces to ensure my success: coffee (with Baileys added), lyric-less music, fake fireplace/heater on, cozy writing clothes, chocolate, old copies of H&K for inspiration, this lasted for half a day, and suddenly, all hell broke loose! First, the snow came in, and I had to break for two days so I could supervise my daughter as she and her friends sledded down our local hills. Next, the snow melted and froze multiple times, creating awful layers of ice on the streets, and most importantly, on the trees and power lines.
Beautiful, old growth trees cracked like toothpicks, blocking roads, and creating such hazards as toppling on cars on roofs. My family scrambled to cram our perishables into large ice chests and pulled out all our candles and bbq. We thought we were prepared and didn’t worry too much about staying put for a few days.
Well, the “few days” turned into nine! We layered up under piles of blankets. We eventually figured out a way to hook up our large generator which allowed us to have two lights on, one space heater, a phone charging port, and eventually our refrigerator. We had it better than most and were very grateful.
A state of emergency was declared. Once again, people panicked, and once a few grocery stores opened, the shelves ere quickly emptied of all essentials once again. Once 5pm rolled around, and darkness settled in, we were all rendered helpless, only to share each other’s company and limit our resources.
Even know I was in survival mode, Hoagie & Katie was always in the back of my mind. I knew then that as soon as I was given the opportunity to tie up loose ends, I needed to get on it-we are never guaranteed another day, so embrace it while you can!
The light at the end of the tunnel
Ice storm has passed and while the freeways are still congested with clean up vehicles, life as we knew it (post pandemic) has returned. Still wearing masks, still sanitizing/washing hands. No longer soaking/cleaning stuff from grocery stores though! Little by little we have eased up some. Seeing a friend for happy hour. Kids playing with each other again. It only goes to show how resilient and adaptive humans can be.
Still, there are friends who are high-risk, and if I want to see them, I gotta keep my distance. But it’s worth it to keep that connection going!
Yes, the pandemic sure put me back on rolling out the latest Hoagie & Katie adventure! Many deadlines weren't reached, but better late than never!! Final edits and pictures chosen at last! Now I need to submit it to my printer (Ingram Spark), and review my first copies. Then we will be ready to share them with the rest of the world!!
Long road to recovery
Things continue to ease up. Vaccinations are rolling out, and people are getting more hopeful that perhaps we might be able to enjoy our spring flowers in our gardens amongst loved ones. People are making summer plans, and some are even traveling again. We are not completely out of the woods yet, but we are getting closer to a semblance of normalcy.
I personally have finished my H&K project! I have the actual book ready and waiting for those who love my little characters, and my next goal is to record it so that the kids at my daughter’s school can see/listen to it via a link since I still can’t go into the classroom for an in-person reading. Once the link is completed, I’ll post it here for anyone interested!
Every once in a while, I get a little perk. A reminder of why I like to write children's books. A virtual hug to my soul from those little people who are the reason why I started this journey in the first place. Meet Chris, my newest fan! According to his mama: "He is in love! He is smitten with thoughtful and provocative writing!" Thanks, Pearse family for sharing!!
So, you got a book that you're relatively proud of. Friends and family seem to like it. You go out of your way to self-publish: hunting down a designer, editor, distributor, and printer. You design and pay for business cards, a website, and other marketing material. You establish yourself as a publisher, get your DBA, and secure ISBNS. Then you're like, "Who is even going to know my name or care about my book?" And the fretting begins...
Since you are a self-publisher, you find out that you have to be your own publicist too if you're ever going to get your name out there. That means, you have to book your own "gigs" at libraries, schools, book, and toy stores. You realize that you have to supply your book to local libraries for free. During your "down time", you make arrangements to set up booths at fairs and farmer's markets (selling your stuff for 1/2 price at least). You think about doing readings in other cities, and even land a sale for a few books in a random store in the next state over.
Then taxes come and you realize that you have been paying out more than you have made, and you wonder how long that will last. You understand that you are a newbie, and still need to climb the ladder to reap even an inkling of what you've sowed. Suddenly the idea of being your own publicist seems like a necessity, but will it really help?
I myself don't mind doing all that publicity stuff, but I really can't my head around all the new technology. I don't want to learn more about how to use social media to my benefit, much less master it. I guess I'm old-fashioned that way.
Everyone says I'll get burned if I don't get with the times. It's just that, computers and the constant learning curve just triggers me; it gets me pissed of, to be honest. And when I'm in a ka-ka mood, I can't write children's literature with a pure, childlike heart! That is when I feel like writing blog posts complaining about having to delve into social media in order to get noticed. Thank goodness I know how to assimilate into FB, and have the where-with-all to always carry my phone around so that I can capture any spontaneous photo ops.
So, yeah, I need to put myself out there more. And I will try, I really will. But to make it a job? I can't do that. If I could do that, I might as well be working in an office like I used to instead of doing what I like the most...writing.
One day I was convinced to take my kids to the mall for some much-needed junk. At some point, we found ourselves waltzing into Barnes and Noble for my daughter had heard that they had a diverse toy section upstairs. While the kids were ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the plethora of boxed science experiments, pop figures, and 500+ piece puzzles, I perused the children's book section. And I thought to myself, how can I get my books in here? As it stands now, my books are offered in many different online bookstores, Audible, and a few gift stores. But to have them available in a bona-fide brick and mortar bookstore? That would be icing on the proverbial cake.
After the kids picked out their treasures, we went downstairs to the reference desk. I asked the representative how in the world I could get a copy of my book in their stores, as it was already on their online Nook bookstore. She seemed disinterested in helping me at first, but then my kids ran up to me asking for cookies from the B&N Starbucks. The representative was immediately drawn to my children, thinking that they were special in that they were in a bookstore rather than a video game store (which we had already hit up beforehand). She began asking them questions about their favorite books, and authors. The children stared blankly at her, until one of them belted out, "Hoagie & Katie!!"
Thus began our conversation about my book, website, audiobook, etc. I was very fortunate to actually be talking with a B&N book buyer, and after handing her my H&K business card, she simply informed me that she would have someone call me once the book was on the shelves. I didn't know what to do with myself, as I couldn't believe it had been so easy. I thought I would have to haggle, open up my website on her computer, set up a meeting to show her hard copies of the books...you know, beg. Then she did the unthinkable. She told the kids to choose their favorite cookie and she'd take care of the payment!
As the greedy kids ran off to choose their booty, I stood there stunned and grateful, offered my thanks, and tip-toed away hoping I wouldn't break the spell.
Guess what? She delivered. A few weeks later, I got a call stating my book was on their "Local Favorites" shelf in the children's section! Now I know the secret, bring my kids with me to do the marketing for H&K!
Have you ever written a book, edited it, had it professionally edited, sent it to numerous readers for approval/suggestions, and even went so far as to publish the project only to later realize that there are more edits/re-writing to be done?! Part of you says, "Screw it! It's good enough." The other perfectionist part of you insists, "back to the drawing board...let's do this (again)!"
The editing never ends, it seems. Thankfully, I have finally come to a place where I know I need to just...stop. This is where I'm at with the second installment of Hoagie & Katie in Space. I learned a valuable lesson to never promise anything to children, as they will call you on it.
Case in point: My daughter's 2nd grade class had been chomping at the bit to have H&K/Space available to purchase by Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, I promised goods I couldn't honor due to all the recent revisions on text and illustrations. The kids weren't having it, and bombarded me with questions, accusations, and long faces. I tried to employ an exercise as a "teachable moment", relaying writer tactics, obstacles, and logistics. I even showed them my pathetic marked up copy of my proof to instill empathy in their stony hearts. Their cold stares bore right through me and only softened when I promised new bookmarks as soon as the book came out.
Sorry, Bolton Primary second graders, I tried, I really did. Please forgive me. I was just trying to make the book more readable for your little ears. Make the pictures pop for your little eyes. Don't fault me Masters, but it's looking like Easter will be our new launch date with a new and improved paperback format to boot! Trust me, I think you're gonna like it!
When I'm delving into my creativity, holed up for hours at my desk, with the voices of my favorite creatures bantering in my head, at times I forget to get up and stretch my legs. When I finally take notice, I saunter down a country road toward the heart of town in Vashon. There are a few little boutiques, cafes, eateries, and such, but the go-to place for me will always be The Vashon Pharmacy.
VP isn't what its name implies. One might believe that VP is a supplier of headache meds, cough syrup, and the occasional sleeping aid. While VP does supply these things, they have proven to be motley establishment. Vashon Pharmacy is a sweet, cozy, country store that sells local wares, clothing, toys, books, kitchenware. They have a few blokes who will put in a new watch battery and size your watch for free. In fact, the vibe hearkens to a better time, when local stores drew in the community, and the owners knew the customer's names. I feel like I've walked into a scene from Little House on the Prairie or Anne of Green Gables (just on a grander scale) when I visit VP.
This last visit, I was able to visit with one of the owners, and after sampling a piece of delectable home-made dark chocolate, they decided to add Hoagie & Katie to their book collection! I was floored when they offered to buy six copies right off the bat! Hoagie & Katie...coming soon to your friendly, neighborhood, country store!
Check it out! The long-awaited audiobook version of Hoagie & Katie is now available on Audible
The audiobook cover was designed by the talented Tina Klinger.
While I still have a few chapters to go on the final installment of the Hoagie & Katie series, I thought I'd drop a little hint of what's to come. Is that a hamster riding on the back of our old friend, Flamingo Joe, you ask? Well-yes, yes, it is ;)
November is National Novel Writing month, and it's also my birthday month! Every November, I try to schedule a personal writing retreat away from all the hub-bub and daily distractions of my busy life. This year, I chose to return to one of my favorite B&Bs on Vashon Island, WA vashongardencottages.com/intro.html. The hostess Jacqueline, creates such a serene space, and I was able to delve into my imagination while gazing out at tangerine & crimson leaves, and watching the horses graze.
After much discipline and self-care (yoga, soaking, sleeping in), I had 3/4 of the third Hoagie & Katie book written, and it was time to kick up my feet and reward myself!
And have pie, of course!
The second book in H&K series is DONE with the final edits! Receiving the proof this week to check out printing quality, marginal errors, streaking, and any other possible printing & textual problems. Even if the proof looks great, it's so challenging to simply put the book down,call it a day, and release it for publication! I'm hoping I can take a breath, say good-bye to my characters in this orbital installment, and release my furry rodent friends out into the world for a Valentine's Day release date (Feb 14th). Stay tuned!
If you want to see an embarrassing photo of me, check out my interview with BookGoodies!
Look who's featured on Wiggles and Giggles online bookstore ;)
Smashwords interview, I feel too legit to quit!
For a short time, Hoagie & Katie ebook will be offered for free (a $9 value)!
Check it out: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/754211
Certain aspects of the Hoagie & Katie didn't translate well over to audio. So, more edits!! The final revised version is complete, and I'm also trying out a gloss finish on the hardcover this time!
*For those local folks who would like an updated version, I'm offering a FREE soft bound copy; just pm me!!
I managed to get some writing done in the comfort of my own home, with views of my garden, golden milk in hand, and a warm cat at my feet. And now, for the grueling editing process of
Hoagie & Katie in Space!!
Sometimes you just gotta get outta the house in order to write! Just one more chapter to write for next H&K book!
I'm very happy to share this latest news about our dear friends Hoagie and Katie! How adorable is this picture? Please take a moment to sign up for the giveaway.
This is the big day that I've been waiting for! All three platforms are now available on: Amazon & Barnes & Noble and other online retailers). Please visit either Hoagie & Katie (FB), riokoviak.com, or https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01MEE9G61
And if you think you'd like to purchase the book on any of the platforms, please feel free to leave a review on Amazon, I'd so appreciate it.
Hope you enjoy my humble contribution to the children's book industry & I hope your children enjoy the story!!