Michael Phelps, the Olympics and Writing

Doesn’t he remind you of Sam?

It seems hard to believe that four years ago I was hard at work on a major revision of Dolphin Girl, pulling apart every chapter in an effort to make the story more focused.  In the book, Jane, the main character, has a crush on a popular athlete Sam Rojas.  In the original version, Sam was a baseball player.

During the revision, I spent a lot of time thinking about why Jane felt a connection with dolphins and why she felt a connection to Sam, too. I believe I had an a-ha moment during Michael Phelps’s 200 butterfly in 2008.

It went something like this – Omigod, he’s Sam.

Phelps even looked a little bit like the way I’d already written Sam—tall, gangly arms, boyish grin.  The only problem was Sam played baseball and he needed to be a swimmer so that dolphin girl Jane could have her dolphin boy.

Out of the Olympic swimming, came huge slashes to the manuscript and new chapters. I obsessed about everything Phelps-ian. In one of his races his goggles filled with water, so I used that. Sam shows Jane how to use the goggles before her swim with the dolphins and he tells her it sucks when you get water in them. And, at a swim meet Jane is there to photograph Sam as he swims the fly. She wishes momentarily that she could be on the bottom of the pool to capture his swim from a dolphin’s point of view. If you’ve spent any time watching NBC’s coverage, they definitely have the dolphin-cam.

All of this proves, that writers write when we’re not in front of a computer, which means no one should feel bad about slacking. Life is our material.

I’ve been spending a lot of time watching the Olympics and Phelps…and other sports, too.  Dolphin Girl is already written and I doubt there will be any kind of sequel, but who know what material might come from other events.

At the beginning of this year’s games, I was heartbroken (like some other Phelps fans, I’m sure) with his fourth place finish. Fourth in the world didn’t make him a slouch, but I wanted more for Michael/Sam. So…I was extremely happy that the games turned around for him. It’s been wonderful to follow his success and as he swam the medley relay last night, I hoped that Phelps might swim one event—a fly—in Rio.

But, if he doesn’t, there’s always YouTube.  🙂


August 5, 2012. Tags: , , , , . dolphin girl. Leave a comment.

Belated Milestones

The tenth of January seems ridiculously late to still be talking about 2011, but maybe I’m nostalgic.  Or maybe we move too fast these days.  Then again, maybe I’m just late.


I always enjoy watching the network’s year-in-review coverage when we all reflect on the milestones we experienced collectively. For me 2011 will always be the year of the Arab Spring, the royal wedding of Kate and William, the passing Steve Jobs. Those milestones   make me think about what I did or didn’t accomplish, what I’d still like to do.

Last year was a very big year for me.  An incredible year really.  To speak of last year’s personal milestones is to think in terms of Stonehenge.  At least,  it felt that big to me. 🙂

The beginning of the year was fairly quiet until March. Using e-cigarettes, I quit smoking after almost thirty years. Big stone, right?

In April I began toying with the idea of indie publishing. I spent a lot of time reading popular blogs about it, including those written by Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith.  Sheesh, there was a lot of catching up to do.  Not only had people been doing this for a while, but it seemed like every day there was some new twist.  When I wasn’t reading blogs, I lurked on the Kindle Boards, where I found an incredibly supportive community of authors who share their self-publishing experiences.

By June, I decided I would try indie publishing.  This was another huge milestone for me as I’d already spent the last eight years of my life in pursuit of a traditional publishing deal.  What if I was close and a contract was right around the corner?  I decided, “Oh well, what if it isn’t?”

In July, we took a family vacation.  This might not seem like a milestone (and we do take one every year), but it feels like such a major production to get ready for it and then it’s such a wonderful time when we’re actually on it.  So, my 2011 memory bank is filled with images from a week on the beach and the cute little downtown of Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island.

Along comes August with a meteor-sized stone.  My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.  Anyone who is married, or has been married, or hopes to be married  knows that’s a big one.  Typically, I wouldn’t call myself a lucky person, but meeting him was one of the luckier moments of my life.

I spent September getting ready for the last three months of the year.  Those months were crazy, exhausting and fun.  In October, I launched Dolphin Girl as an e-book, following up in November with the paperback.  Sales were small, slow, and steady and I was just thrilled to have any sales at all.  Then, the most amazing thing happened. A complete stranger read my book. And enjoyed it. A lot.

Then another and another. And some more.

To me, this is the milestone. Sure, holding the book in my hands like a baby was thrilling, but more than anything complete strangers reading my writing  meant I was real. Turns out readers were the validation I’d sought for eight years and now that I’d gotten it, I have to say I can’t imagine a contract would ever be more satisfying. Of course, that’s only one writer’s view. Mileage may vary.

Another November milestone was redecorating my living room – yay! The couches we had were almost as old as our marriage.  Yes, I am kinda’ sentimental.  But not about those old couches.  So, I was thrilled that with everything else going on I was able to squeeze in a little home improvement and – whoosh – to get those peach and aqua monstrosities out the door!

Finally December.  It’d already been an amazing year, so I planned on finishing out the book blog tour and then get ready for the holidays.  I’d signed up to participate in a joint IBC promotion where Dolphin Girl would go on sale starting December 12th.  Right before the start of the promotion, Amazon launched a program for self-published authors where they could be included in Prime and could be compensated through the Lending Library for borrows.  I decided to put Dolphin Girl into the program despite the fact that the royalties from the program were an unknown quantity.

Somehow, I got lucky.  It’s bound to happen every twenty-five years or so.  Between the blog tour, the joint promotion and Amazon’s Prime program, it created the perfect storm and my sales started to increase. Like really increase.  Not at some crazy Amanda Hocking level mind you, but two digit sales and borrows every day. It peaked on Christmas Day, when people bought 259 copies of Dolphin Girl.  Crazy.  And I gotta say, that was one wild, unexpected and completely exhilarating ride!

So that’s my 2011.  Which, by the way, is so ten days ago.

Now 2012.

Quitting smoking and reaching a certain age and writing means I need to keep a much closer eye on diet and exercise.  So, I hope to take care of that this year.  And to end up looking more like the people in the front row, instead of the people in the back row of the picture at the right. 🙂 The 2012 home improvement list is long – some painting, a new kitchen table, some work on the patio.  I don’t expect complete all of it – although that would be awesome – but I do expect to do some of it. We’re already tossing around and debating vacation destinations.

As for my indie publishing experience, Dolphin Girl continues to sell.  This morning’s numbers put me over 400 books year to date, so I’m averaging over 40 sales/borrows per day.  With those results, I plan to do more.  How much more? No idea, but more.

So I’d love to hear about your year.  How was it?  What was your biggest milestone?  And what do you have planned for this one?

January 10, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . dolphin girl. 1 comment.

Is your muse like my muse?

What is your muse like?  Do they show up when you least expect it? Unannounced, like a relative or friend that barges in when you’ve got a ton of other things to do?

Or do they sometimes whisper so softly that it’s hard to hear them?

Have they ever take a vacation and forget to tell you they’re going?

Mine–and I love him or her–does all of the above.  But the thing that really blows me away is that sometimes mine can be a bit show-off-y. You might wonder what I’m talking about here. So I’ve got to tell you this one story.

I mentioned in an earlier post, right here,  about two times my muse has shown me something through music.  This story is about the second time.  I’ll save the first time for later.

So, a few months back, I was working on  my novel, Dolphin Girl, and I was thinking about how a theme in the book dealt with her being tugged on by an undertow or pulled along by a current beyond her control.  While I was thinking, a song came on the radio, an old song that I hadn’t heard in a long time.  “Numb” by Linkin’ Park.  Do you know the song?

Anyway, the lyrics “under the surface” and “caught in the undertow” along with some others really hooked my imagination.  This song completely summed up exactly how Jane, the main character, was feeling! I couldn’t remember ever seeing the video, so I wrote Numb on a slip of paper and set it aside to look up the video later.

Fast forward a couple of days, maybe a week, and I find the paper–LOL, yeah, that’s how I roll with my muse–and decide to watch the video.  Can you say creeped out?  I’m embedding the video below so you can watch it, but I’ll just mention that in the book Jane is an artist who has always her sketch pad with her.  The relationship with her mother is stifling and she’s got some issues with cliques at school. Beyond that, there are a few other doozies that are eerily, eerily similar. I literally shivered when I watched this video.  ‘Cause my muse was showing off, that’s why.   So, if you’re maybe a little curious about the book or about the song, here it is.  Oh, one more thing, if you know my writing, pay attention to her first sketch.  No, it’s not a dolphin, but you’ll see. Shiver.  See?  Show off.

October 6, 2011. Tags: , , , . dolphin girl, music, YouTube stuff. 3 comments.

Music Monday with U2

Jane, the main character in Dolphin Girl, definitely gets herself stuck in a moment.  Don’t we all?  So, this song has always felt like it’s a good fit for the book .  It’s a beautiful song with a beautiful message.  Hope you enjoy it.

September 19, 2011. Tags: , , , . dolphin girl, music, YouTube stuff. Leave a comment.

Are you a horse or unicorn or dolphin girl?

Recently, I read an NPR article that explained girl power is the reason why so many girls love horses and dolphins and unicorns.   In the article there was a quote by Laurel Braitman, an MIT graduate student in the history of science who writes about animals and what we think about them.  She says girls’ fascination with these animals is more than power — the animals fuel girls’ imaginations.

“Horses and dolphins and unicorns — these are all borderland creatures; gateway animals to other worlds,” she says. “They help us imagine wonderful other ways of being in the world. They let us be cowgirls and oceanographers and mermaids and princesses.”

Apparently, each animal symbolizes how we view relationships and using our power.

Horses: Horses are all about control, about harnessing and taming our masculine energy. About charging forward in the world at a sure-footed pace. Also, horses are loyal, steadfast, and true, qualities that appeal to our relational nature.

Dolphins: Dolphins are sleek and sensitive, about following your instincts and following them quickly. They are constantly pushing or pulling, in tune with the tide. And they live in water, which typically represents emotion.

Unicorns: It’s not all about the horn. Unicorns also represent mystery, spirituality, beauty, hope, uniqueness, and purity. The unicorn is all about what you can become. What has not yet been revealed to you, but what is waiting just around the corner if you believe.

So which one are you?  Or did you give that up when you grew up?

September 2, 2011. Tags: , . dolphin girl. 5 comments.

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