Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Experience with Createspace

I'd like to take a moment to share with you my experience self-publishing my book through Createspace, which is the publishing arm of Amazon. I can honestly tell you that it was so much easier than I ever thought it would be.

From the get-go, my sales contact, Jenny, was professional and knowledgeable. When she said, "I will call you tomorrow at 2pm your time," by golly she did!  I was a little skittish at first and made her go through "what would happen next" several times. I also made her do this again at various stages of the process, because I would forget what she had told me, despite having taken copious scribble notes. She always explained things again, patiently.

I knew up front what services I wanted: Custom interior book design and Custom Illustrated Cover, and Kindle e-book design. The custom illustrated cover was important, because it's a children's book. Createspace offers copy editing services, but I chose not to purchase them because I'd had an agent who had been an editor, and I felt that together, we had really vetted the book. There are also marketing services you can purchase, such as video book trailer, but I had a connection for that on my own.

This is what I ended up purchasing:
Custom interior design
Custom illustrated cover
Library of Congress number
Kindle e-book conversion
500 Postcards

The deal came with 50 free copies of the book - a very nice bonus. The Library of Congress number cost $75 and makes your book eligible to be included in the catalog of books from which libraries order. I got the Pro-plan, which only costs a little, but increases your royalties a lot. I honestly can't think of a reason why someone wouldn't opt for the Pro-plan.

I was most nervous about things like uploading my files (would the formatting be all right???). But it turns out that as long as you formatted your document like a normal professional manuscript, there won't be a problem. I actually made one of my Team Members stay on the phone with me when I uploaded the document for the first time! As I said, they were very patient with me. :-)

They commit to turning proofs around in a set period of time and they never failed to do so. The interior was pretty easy, because I wasn't doing anything too fancy inside. Most of my time was spent getting proofs of the illustrated cover and giving feedback. I was SO worried that the illustrator they assigned me wouldn't "get" what I was going for, but she did. When I saw the first drawing, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, because I knew that we were going to be all right. I honestly couldn't be more pleased with that cover, had it been done by Monet or Van Gogh!

You have the ability to submit interior changes without charge, up to a point. It's something like 80 text changes, which at this stage of the game, you would hope you wouldn't have! But I'll tell you, I was surprised at how many little things I did find - maybe 20 or so little things over the course of several proofs. Capitalization, a missing word, missing or unnecessary commas. My errors - not theirs!

Another nice thing is that now the Createspace team will not only create the Kindle e-book file, they will LOAD it up for you, for no extra charge. I was very relieved when they told me this. Apparently a lot of writers are like me, they don't want much to do with HOW those technical things get done...I really like it when people do that kind of stuff FOR me. Just call me Princess Melissa.

This experience was overwhelmingly positive. They were professional, reliable and everything happened as it should, when it should. So, that is the gist of it. If you have questions for me about the experience or specific aspects of it, please ask! I'm happy to share.


Thursday, October 27, 2011


This week I'm taking part in the

It's the brainchild of delightful bloggers Deana Barnhart and E. R. King. You can pop on over to their blogs to get the list of other participants and read their posts.

Now THIS is the one I've been waiting for!
Our assignment today is to present our
from literature.

So let me introduce her ...
She's cold, calculating and controlling.
She's manipulative and mean,
but she disguises it beneath a smooth, poreless mask
of quiet, unruffled calm.

So here she is, ladies and gentlemen ...
Everybody's favorite sociopath ...
The woman voted
"Most Likely to Volunteer to be Dr. Mengele's Assistant " 


Nurse Rached
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Ken Kesey (1962)

Nurse Rached is the head nurse at a mental institution in Salem, Oregon, where she maintains absolute control over the residents. She rewards total obedience and cruelly punishes any behavior that could threaten the perfect predicability of her realm. Nurse Rached is a quiet tyrant, a sick sociopath hidden behind glassy skin and a crisply-sprayed-to-perfection pageboy hairdo.

Enter Randle McMurphy, a relatively sane inmate with a rebellious streak. McMurphy tries to bring fun and humanity to the ward, and in doing so, threatens Nurse Rached's dictatorship. She retaliates with small punishments at first, but when McMurphy persists, Nurse Rached ups the ante. She gives McMurphy shock therapy to weaken him. But McMurphy is a fighter and his efforts have awakened rebellion in the other, previously docile inmates. Sensing that her enemy's strength is growing despite her efforts to diminish him, Nurse Rached uses the ultimate weapon in her arsenal - she has McMurphy lobotomized.

In the 1975 film, McMurphy was played by Jack Nicholsen. Nurse Rached was played by Louise Fletcher, who won the Oscar for Best Actress for her incredible portrayal of one of the biggest b#tches in literary history. Nurse Rached was voted the fifth worst villian in movie history by the American Film Institute.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


This week I'm taking part in the


It's the brainchild of delightful bloggers Deana Barnhart and E. R. King. You can pop on over to their blogs to get the list of other participants and read their posts.

Today, our assignment is to present our FAVORITE PROTAGONIST from literature.

This was a pretty easy one for me ... it's ...

Gregory Peck! Oh no, WAIT! I mean, ATTICUS FINCH!

It's easy to see why I'd get confused though, because when the Pulitzer Prize winning book, To Kill a Mockingbird, was made into a movie, Gregory Peck became Atticus Finch as much as any actor can inhabit a role. Even the book's author, Harper Lee,  was so moved by Peck's performance in the role of Atticus,that she gave him her father's pocketwatch.

Here are my reasons for choosing Atticus Finch as Greatest Protagonist in Literature:

Atticus Finch is the quiet-spoken attorney who is appointed to defend a black man against a charge of rape in Depression-era Alabama. Atticus is a widower, raising his son, Jem, and his daughter, Scout. Despite antagonism and aggression from the people in his town, Atticus firmly stands his ground and ultimately proves the defendant's innocence. But the racial situation of the times is such that the man is found guilty anyway. Throughout the trial and its aftermath, Atticus Finch's moral compass never wavers and his behavior sets the hightest standard for integrity.

Atticus Finch is a quiet hero, willing to stand up for what is right,
no matter the opposition,
no matter that it would be so much easier not to.

He sets the example for his children through his actions and his simple words,
such as,
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ...  until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."
"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.  It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.  You rarely win, but sometimes you do." 

My Man, Atticus Finch
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee

Monday, October 24, 2011


I need to play a little bit, so this week I'm taking part in the 

It's the brainchild of delightful bloggers Deana Barnhart and E. R. King (Get Busy Writing Blog). You can pop on over there to read about the blogfest and read the other participants' posts - this is a really fun one.

Today's post is on: Killer Supporting Characters. They don't actually have to BE killers, they just have to be "killer" in the sense that they are classic, unforgettable supporting characters - in YOUR opinion! I saw E.R.'s post this morning, and I think she may have come up with the best one of all, but I'll still go ahead and give you my vote for


A Little Drumroll please...............

SEVERUS SNAPE   from Harry Potter

Severus Snape - Evil Villian, or Just Misunderstood?

Severus gets my vote because he is such a classic conflicted villian-hero. You are never sure of him - throughout seven books. Right up until to the bitter end, we don't really know if Severus is really and truly bad.....

If not for the sorrow of his unrequited love, would Severus have been a different wizard altogether? A good man, a family man?

If not for his undying love for Lily Potter, would he have been an irredeemable scoundrel? A truly evil, unrepentent Death Eater?

Who the heck knows! Who the heck cares! He's perfect just the way he is - totally conflicted, tortured  and royally P.O'd about it.

Such ambiguity, such inner turmoil and angst are the stuff of great characters. Plus, I really have a thing for Alan Rickman. He can be cool, and he can be creepy. But most of all, of course, it's the Voice...



Cool...well, maybe a still a little creepy,
but in a cool sort of way....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Make it Easy, Keep it Simple

This Sunday morning, I've at last been catching up on reading and commenting on other blogs. It's nice to hear other peoples' voices for a change! Interestingly, there seems to be a common theme running through the blogs I read this morning: a desire for simplicity.

This definitely resonates with me. All of the changesthat  my husband (that cuddly faux-curmudgeon known as RVPainter) and I have been making have come about because of the desire for a simpler life. The road to getting here has at times felt complicated: Putting our house on the market at the worst time in history; finding temporary digs here in Santa Fe for the winter; getting our RV built; and all that while I'm in the middle of publishing, and now promoting, a book.

But through it all, we have kept these two mantras in mind: Make it easy. Keep it simple. We now test every single decision we make against these two barometers. Is it simple? Does it make it easy? If not, we re-think. We both recognize that we BOTH have the tendency to make things complicated, so now we stop and ask ourselves these questions. Nice to know we've learned something in 30+ years together!

We have another motto: Get Stuff Free. It seems as though ever since we put this one out there, we are getting more stuff for free. Last night, we went - for free - to a gala fundraising event for Cornerstones, a Santa Fe non-profit that raises money to rehab old, historic New Mexico buildings. Dick, aka RVPainter, donated six paintings for the silent auction. A chorus of talented young people entertained us (for free), we munched on free hors d'oeuvres and drank free wine, and dined on a delicious dinner. Free. I love free.

Hope your Sunday is easy and simple, and that you get some free stuff too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It All Started with the Bad Hair...

Am I the only who does this? I have needed a haircut for over a month - meaning that a month ago, I should have already had a haircut two weeks before.  So for 45 days now, I've had bad hair. My usually perky curls have been limp and floppy and dull and gray - not silver as I like to think of them. On top of that, I've looked exhausted - dark circles under my puffy eyes, skin looking about the same color as my hair.

So since I've got bad hair AND I look tired, of course I start dressing badly too. I work at a yoga studio, so I can get away with a lot, but even so I've sunk to new lows: black cropped yoga pants worn with brown clogs and no socks. Tops that don't go with the pants, and my brown Woolrich jacket thrown over it all, because it's warm and makes me feel cozy even though it's the ugliest thing in my closet. Even for Santa Fe, which is known for it's "anything goes" fashion-sense, I've been looking like a promising candidate for What Not to Wear.

Actually, I wish someone had been filming me and sent the video to the WNTW folks, because I'd love to go to NYC with a $5,000 charge card and get new clothes...but anyway....

Today I finally had my hair appointment. My curls are bouncy again and I look 10 years younger. I felt so good that afterward, I went shopping for a Book Signing outfit at the boutique across from the salon. I got a gorgeous belted sweater and a tank to wear under it. I also got two pairs of really nice socks. I'm human again.

So the moral of the story is: Spare society your inevitable downward spiral and get the darn haircut.

Monday, October 17, 2011


And now for the most fun thing so far, the video trailer for my book! My brilliant film-maker nephew, John Goodwin created this for me to put on YOUTUBE. Pass the word, and let's go viral :-)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Place Called Home

I have always wanted to have a lovely home. When I was a little girl, we lived in a modest Cape Cod house on a street of large, beautiful homes, some bordering on mansions. Our street ran from the town square to the Horn Bridge, which was a short tunnel bridge under the railroad tracks. The bridge was narrow and on a sharp curve with a blind spot, so you had to honk your horn before going through to let the folks on the other side know you were coming. Hence the name.

But I digress!  Around the age of eight or so, I became keenly aware of the difference between our little house and the big ones up the street. Walking home from school, I'd fantasize about the insides of those houses, even imagining how I would decorate the rooms. Okay, I was a little weird!

My grandparents had a lovely home, and it was only recently, when we were selling our house here in Santa Fe, that I realized how much the home that Grandma Goodwin created had influenced me. Lovely and gracious are the words that come to mind. All my life, I've been trying to create a lovely and gracious home like Grandma's.

My mom, God bless her, wasn't that great a housekeeper. I was the one who would go around picking up the house, placing candlesticks on the mantel, arranging flowers in a vase on the table. Always trying to make our humble house nicer.

Well, I have now had a number of lovely homes - four of them, in fact. I've had spacious rooms, filled with light and lovely furniture and art. I've created pretty gardens and had glorious views of the ocean or the mountains. I've worked hard to afford those homes, but I've also been lucky and blessed.

Now, we've sold our Santa Fe home and tomorrow, we fly to Elkhart, Indiana to go over the specs for our next home: an RV.

Okay, that's a big change for a girl who gets very attached to places and is pretty much a homebody. But I am oddly up for this adventure, because in some ways it feels like I'll be going home. We've lived in the southwest for more than 10 years now, and I am ready to head back east and spend more time near the ocean. To me, that's home. I also like the idea that we will be passing through all the places where we have family and friends. That's home too.

This process of letting go of our Santa Fe home - in both the literal and figurative senses - has been liberating. I've realized how much a house can own you, how limiting it can be to always be in one place, how much we sometimes give up for the sake of having one. Don't get me wrong, I still love the idea of having a house of my own, and there is great comfort in being attached to a particular place and the people there. I think what I am understanding now is the difference between having a house, where you live, and having a home, which is something you can take with you wherever you go. In an RV, I guess you kind of have both!

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm Looking for Guest Bloggers!

Hey everyone,

I am looking for people who would be interested in doing guest posts on my blog over the next two months.

With my book coming out, I feel like I am talking about myself and my book ALL THE TIME, and I am getting sick of Me Me Me! So, I'd love to host You You You!

Of course I am thrilled beyond words about the book, but there are all sorts of places I'll be talking about it, and about writing - I'm doing a WOW Blog Tour starting 11/7 that goes into December. I've also got some interviews and book reviews coming up later this month on other sites. So, there will still be plenty of Me Me Me going on.

While I'm doing that, I'd love to support some other bloggers by inviting you to post here. So, if you would like to do a guest post between now and year-end, please leave me a comment or drop me an email.

Hope to hear from you!


Sunday, October 9, 2011


Hello my friends!

is now available for ebook and digital formats on



Thursday, October 6, 2011

Houston, We Have a Book!

Yes, indeedie, my friends,
The Christmas Village
is a BOOK. And the book is available in print NOW on

Please check it out by clicking on this link: 

And please tell your friends to tell their friends and so on!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011


One of the yoga teachers at YogaSource here in Santa Fe is hosting a book signing party for me at her house later this month. She sent out the invitations yesterday. Today, one of the people on the invitation list came into the studio and told me, "I'm opening a children's book store in early November!" I asked, "Do want me to do a book signing?" She answered, "YES!!!!!" She was almost more excited than I was.

I just love those little moments of serendipity, when it seems like things are just falling into place. We work so hard to put ourselves out there, and sometimes I remind myself to just back off a little, and let the spirits do their work. When stuff like this happens, I feel like I can hear them chuckling.

Have you had any serendipitous moments lately? Don't you love the word serendipitous? Can you spell serendipitous?

That's a picture from the movie, "Serendipity." I love John Cusack. We need more John Cusack.

Monday, October 3, 2011

My Brother's Friend

My brother Tom's best friend, Steve Daley, died yesterday. It happened unexpectedly, just like that. Boom. I didn't really know Steve, only through his comments on my brother's Facebook page, which were always witty and honest and pulled no punches. Steve was a writer - a well-known and respected journalist for the Chicago Tribune. Tom met him when they worked together at Porter-Novelli in Washington, DC. Steve's Facebook wall is now page after page of friends expressing their shock and sorrow and sharing their memories.

Tom just posted "I'm SO SAD," and I know that those three little words don't even begin to describe what he is feeling.

I remember when my Uncle Dick died. I was probably 12 or 13 at the time. Uncle Dick was a doctor, and I thought he was the handsomest man in the world. He died in such a stupid way - he choked to death while eating. He was, I think, in his late forties or early fifties. Uncle Dick was my dad's best friend. I remember that day so well, because even now, forty years or so later, I can still see my dad crumpling onto the couch, covering his face with his hands, and sobbing his heart out. I'm not sure anything to that point in life had ever shaken me as much as seeing my father's heart breaking for the loss of his best friend.

My brother has lost his friend, and he is SO SAD. And I am sad FOR him.  Here is the link to the Chicago Sun Times story on Steve's death: Steve Daley