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!