It’s suddenly Fall in North Carolina. One day we were sweltering in shorts and T shirts, and the next day we froze in long pants. Flowers are still blooming, even while the leaves on the trees turn orange. It gets dark early and the sun comes up late. Soup sounds better than salad now. Here in the neighborhood, people are becoming friendlier as working from home means we are around each other more - which seems like a paradox, because at the same time, we keep our distance as we call out our conversations. Many of us are retired, and some are no longer empty nesters, as the young adult generation gives up their apartments and works from their parents’ homes (my kids are spread out all over the country, but a grandma can hope).
I’ve been dividing my time between writing, editing, and getting out the vote. I’m also teaching a class on memoir writing under my actual name and participating in two Elderotica writing groups as Stella. And I’ve recently been asked to be a beta reader for two projects: one a memoir and the other an erotic novel.
Being a beta reader is a great responsibility. I was a beta reader years ago for a novel that has sold more than a million copies, no thanks to me, because I didn’t know what I was doing back then. By now I have more of a sense of what to do and not to do. As a beta reader, I start by asking the writer what kind of feedback they want. If they’re still completing a first draft, they may need encouragement to finish the project. Many of us get sick of our work and wish we were finished with it before it is finished with us. The writer may also want to know what questions we have about their work. Where did we want to know more? Finding typos and minor grammatical errors is less important, unless the work is nearing completion.
As for my own work, I’m still completing edits on my stories of erotic life in lockdown. At the same time, we are transitioning into production, because this Love in Lockdown series will be my first venture into self-publishing. I’m looking at the genre expectations for erotica covers and thinking about what it takes to turn a complete manuscript into a published work.
I gave a presentation to a local writers’ group this month about the process of negotiating with a publisher without an agent. That presentation also got me thinking about the pros and cons of self-publishing. The bottom line is: The more you do yourself, the bigger a piece of the revenue pie you keep. Going direct to a publisher without an agent saves you the 15% of your royalties an agent would take. But self-publishing saves you much more: the 85% of revenues a publisher would take. At the same time, it means you do extra work, everything from obtaining your own ISBN numbers to taking full charge of your own publicity. After going through the publication process twice, I feel ready to take on the challenge (in part because my partner is doing a lot of the production and publicity, and my daughter designs book covers professionally). Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it goes.
Meanwhile, as of this writing, we are 45 days from an incredibly high stakes election. The loss of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a towering jurist, has made the stakes just that much higher. I contribute what I can to candidates I believe in, make canvas phone calls, write voter postcards, and am about to begin a letter writing campaign as well. In 2021, state legislatures all over the country will determine the congressional districts for the next ten years based on the 2020 census, so it is extra important for all of us to vote the full ballot this year—not just the top races. And today I voted. In North Carolina we can deliver our absentee ballots to the County Election Board even before Early Voting begins, and that is what we did. It was a solemn moment. Living in a Swing State, I felt my vote counted for much more, and I was very glad to be able to vote.
May November see a free and fair election in which Americans affected by a pandemic, an economic downturn, heightened awareness of racial injustice and a devastating fire season bring our collective wisdom to the task of choosing the stewards of our democracy.
Wishing all the best to you and your family.