Five Things I’m Grateful for in 2015

10509679_10204682674124685_4537211730364252991_nToday is winter solstice, the longest and darkest day of the year. Nowhere is it felt more powerfully than here in Alaska, near the top of the world.

I’ve spent years loathing this time of year, which regrettably falls right on the holidays. This has been an especially great year for me, and I’m more than a little sad to say goodbye to it.

Do you ever look back at the things you were most grateful for before the New Year? Doing that, rather than making lots of resolutions, has been a boost.

So for the chart toppers on my 2015 gratitude list—

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  • Facebook helped me to reconnect with two young men I knew and loved as children, and I missed them after their dad and I broke up fifteen years ago. So what a surprise to hear from them, and to have them back in the fold.
  • My family reunion in Kentucky and Indiana is always a hit. I have eleven siblings, plus aunts and uncles and cousins, and see most of them ever two years. I actually rented a car and drove on an interstate for the first time. Yay, me! And learned my anxieties are too strong to repeat that effort.
  • I loved spending time with my grown girls last January in Mexico. It’s rare that our schedules sync any longer for vacationing, and our trip was filled with sun, silliness, and no family irritations.
  • rs when I make the journey. This time, I was able to see my old dear friends in Ohio and squash 30 years of catch-up in the space of a couple of days.
  • I adore traveling alone, and this October, I zipped over to Australia for a long-planned trip. What I didn’t plan was getting ill on the way over. I chit-chatted with an Aussie couple at my layover in Los Angeles, and they invited me to train over to see them the following weekend. When that weekend came, I was sicker still and wondering if they’d hate me for bringing sickness to their door. It turned out, the wife was a medical doctor. I got the best treatment and company and hopefully, lifelong friendships. I met a new friend, artist Will Stackhouse at a train station, and spent time with several other Aussie friends I’d made over my years of traveling.
  • And then there’s my book. My baby! Pieces of Me is due on September 20, 2016 for publication with She Writes Press.

My year, probably like yours, was also filled with normal life stuff. Disease and car accidents, unexpected expenses and unexpected losses. But on rewind, it was still a banner year.

So goodbye 2015, and thank you endlessly for the new and  the old connections.

And I do resolve to stop slouching in 2016!

What are you grateful for today? Leave a comment below.

The Journey of Turning my Manuscript into a Book, part 1

I’ve wondered if it would be hard to be self-promote(y) before my memoir is published.

It turns out– and this may be a sad fact for you to hear– it’s astonishingly easy! Because lately, my book is all I think about. I fall asleep thinking of details, and I wake up making lists of those same ones. And there are lots of details to mind.

I’ll list just a few.

The title. My book had to be renamed since two recent books were published with nearly the same title. How hard can that be? What’s in a name?

Pretty much everything, I’ve learned.  I looked up How to Pick a Title for your Book on Indiebooklauncher. The title’s length can determine how the book cover looks. It’s title can promote Google-ability.  It can enhance or kill sales. And since I’m not working alone, I need to convince the editor, publisher, and team who frankly know much more than I do.  I couldn’t do it. In the end, I chose from a list the editor provided after we went back and forth, and finally, it’s titled.

2015-12-02 (3) 0003GreeceDrumroll, please!
Pieces of Me. There will be a subtitle, of course, but Pieces of Me sounds just right. My book is about finding my kidnapped daughters. Finding my missing family. Finding me along the way. I think it works. I’m thinking of this picture to be on the cover, just after the girls and I were reunited in Greece in May of 1996.

What do you think?

Then there’s the stuff  to include inside the book. The Thank you to this person and to that. Not easy, because there is limited room and the thank you’s are meant mostly for those who’ve helped directly with the book, but I want to thank people who helped me find my daughters, and people who stayed in their lives while we continued to move forward, post-1996.

Lindexet’s not forget the author photo. This picture also can enhance sales or detract. Any article on the topic will confirm it. I know. I read many before I felt comfortable proceeding. My favorite was by Tucker Max in Book Publishing.  So I hired a photographer I adore. I picked good colors. I even read a helpful blog post online about the importance of taking selfies in advance to find your good side, your best colors, etc. And I tried to get my curls unwound so the picture would look good. But nothing worked.

I went for a look of friendly and approachable. A team of three photographers helped me with lighting, positioning, and calming my unruly hair. “Stop slouching! Shoulders back! Stick  your neck out and look up and then over! Relax!”

I ended up looking like a linebacker.  A friendly and approachable linebacker. It was my choice of clothes. Too big and boxy. It’ll have to do, and I think the pictures are starting to grow on me.
Next on the list is obtaining licensing rights to reprint newspaper snippets and such, finding the right venue for a book launch, and getting blurbs from authors I admire.

Sometimes it feels like this is an impossible feat. I know my book is a developing fetus, but my initial manuscript is nearly of drinking age. Still, it’s finally happening. My book within nine months of it’s birth!

Thanks for joining me during the process.