Mourning

I realize this is sort of an odd topic for a blog that mostly focuses on writing and publishing, but I figure that since I wrote a book about ghosts and cemeteries and stuff, this also has it’s place here.

Last week, I was hanging out with a group of friends I see every week.  Somehow, we got on the topic of loss and grieving.  Depressing, I know, but we’ve all lost love ones, some of us more recently than others, and it just came up. 

Unless you’re a sociopath, chances are you’ve mourned the loss of someone at least once in your life, be it a pet, a grandparent, a friend.  Losing someone is awful and it’s painful.  Sometimes, it shakes you up so much that you have a hard time figuring out how to go on now that that person or pet is gone.  In such circumstances, grieving is only natural.  According to a few of my friends, however, it is also selfish.

Now, I’ve mourned the loss of three grandparents, several cats, a bird, a fish, a killer whale, and even my mom’s best friend.  But I’ve never thought of mourning someone as selfish.  To me, it always seemed like the least selfish thing in the world.  I mean, no one likes to grieve.  It’s no fun at all to feel your heart break every time you think about your loss.  

My friends’ reasoning, however, is that when you grieve, you’re crying because you’re sad for yourself.  You’re sad that you’re never going to see that person (in life) again when really, you should be glad that they’re not in pain or suffering anymore.  I get that.  I remember when my oldest cat, Basil, passed away, I was so relieved that she wasn’t in pain anymore.  That doesn’t mean that it didn’t break my heart to not have her with me anymore.  

If you ask me (and technically, no one did, but I’m going to tell you anyway), grieving for someone is not selfish.  In fact, it’s the opposite of selfish.  Grieving means you loved someone enough to miss them when they are gone.  As humans, yes, we are selfish by nature, but I think the fact that we are capable of feeling loss proves how unselfish we actually are.  If we were truly selfish, we’d be thinking, “Oh, good.  One less person breathing my air and taking up all the good parking spaces.”  To be able to love someone so much that it hurts when they’ve gone is extraordinary.  It’s not selfish at all.  Heck, I’d be really mad if I died and no one mourned me.  I’d come back to haunt them!     

Furthermore, how is it selfish when dogs grieve for their owners?  I’ve read stories of dogs who spend the rest of their lives at the graves of their masters.  Those dogs are incapable of selfishness.  Or what about 9/11?  I didn’t know anyone who died in those towers.  My life shouldn’t have been altered in the slightest.  Yet my entire class cried for those lost in the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon and in the field.  I still cry for those families.  I cry for animals that don’t have homes, or who have been abandoned, or who have died because they were mistreated or neglected.  Heck, I’ve cried for fictional characters in books and movies more times than I can count: Rue from The Hunger Games, Jack from Titanic, every single one of my favorite characters from Harry Potter.  That might make me a little crazy, but I hope it doesn’t make me selfish. 

I don’t think it does.  I think it makes me… I don’t know.  I can’t even say “human,” because humans are not the only animals who grieve.  I think it means that we are all capable of love and compassion.  I also think it means that there is more to life, and death, than any of us will ever know.            

 

 

Fangirling

So, I think I’ve mentioned before that I am a huge nerdy fangirl.  I geek out over so many things; Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Tolkien, Sherlock, Ghost Adventures, etc…  I’ve also mentioned that I have several guilty pleasures. 

One of my ultimate guilty pleasures in life is reading Nicholas Sparks novels.  I own every single one of his novels.  In fact, it was reading one of his books (At First Sight) that made me realize that I wanted to be a writer. 

Well, I just found out that his next novel, The Longest Ride, will be released the same day as Cemetery Tours!  I find that so incredibly cool.

Pearls of Wisdom

It’s late and I’m sleepy, but I’ve been wanting to write this blog post all day and somehow, time has been evading me.  So I figure there’s no time like the present.

Now that I’m over my mild business panic the other night, I’ve been thinking about everything I didn’t think I’d ever have to know and how glad I am that I’ve been constantly learning throughout this whole experience.

That’s actually something that Josh Groban said to the audience when my sister and I went to see him in concert (yes, he actually DOES sound better live than recorded).  Someone asked him if he had any advice for anyone going into the performing arts.  His answer applied not only to those going into the arts, but to anyone who has ever hoped to accomplish anything.  “Never stop learning.  Stay a student for as long as you can.”  He was right.  You’ve got to stay open to learning new things, otherwise you’ll never move forward.

I know I’ve done several of these little “What I’ve learned about self publishing so far” entries, but I enjoy them and I think (or at least hope) that they’re at least a little helpful and encouraging.  So, here you go.

1)  Don’t procrastinate.  I’ve been a procrastinator my entire life.  My thought process was, “Well, if I write this term paper early and then I die before I get to turn it in, then I’ll have wasted my last days on Earth writing a paper.”  I ALWAYS waited until the last minute to do any sort of assignment.  Bad, I know.  But I still got them done.  In some instances it actually paid off.  For example, in one of my classes, we were supposed to read this godawful, boring book and then write a paper on it.  The week before the paper was due, I still hadn’t even bought the book.  Later that day, however, our teacher announced that the paper was cancelled.  I saved myself about fifteen dollars that day.  With publishing, however, it’s different.  Procrastinating is bad.  No matter where you are in the process or what you’re doing, everything will take about five times longer than you think it will.

2) Don’t get complacent.  I’ve been through high school, college, and grad school, and let me tell you, the senioritis only gets worse the older you get.  With publishing, like with anything to which you devote a lot of time and effort, it’s easy to get bored, to get tired of your project, to think, “Okay, I’m just gonna half-ass it and be done with it.”  No.  Don’t do that.  This project should be treated like it’s the only thing in your life.  You can sure as heck bet that big time publishers make sure their books and projects are PERFECT.  As an independent publisher, you should aim for no less.  In fact, you should aim for more, since, unlike big time publishers, this book actually means something more to you than a paycheck.

3) Be flexible.  It’s good to set deadlines for yourself and it’s good to stay on task, but things aren’t always going to happen when and how you want them to happen.   If you want to succeed, you need to be able to work under any circumstances.

4) Get things done.  Finish what you start.  I’m pretty sure the reason that most would-be writers don’t succeed in their publication endeavors is because they give up.  They decide it’s not worth it or it’s going to be too hard or it will never happen, it’s just a pipe dream.  If you don’t even try, then of course you’re not going to succeed.  But if you take a chance and give it all you’ve got, then who knows?  See this through to the very end.  You’ll be one of the rare few who does.

5) Don’t get discouraged.  There will always, ALWAYS be naysayers.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve had this conversation:

“So, what are your plans?  What do you want to do with your life?”

“I’m writing a book.  I’d like to be an author.”

“No, I mean what do you want to do?  Like for a real career?”

I’ve been told over and over and over again that I’ll never get anywhere writing, that I need to get a “real job,” that I’ll never be able to support myself, that I’d be much happier if I just gave up and accepted that this is the way life is.  It is so easy to get discouraged when that it all you hear.  It got to the point that, when people would ask me what I wanted to do, I’d lie and say, “I don’t know.  I’m still figuring it out.”

Well guess what?  Now that I’m actually publishing my book, going through with my plans, I’ve gotten nothing but “Congratulations,” “I’m so proud of you,” and “I can’t wait to read it!”  The best way to handle naysayers is to prove them wrong!

For a long while, I had several back-up plans for what I was going to do if the whole writing thing fell through.  I wasn’t very enthusiastic about any of them, not the way I am about writing and publishing.  Then one day I realized that having those plans in the back of my mind was actually my own mind discouraging me.  Having a back-up plan, I realized, meant that on some level, I expected myself  to fail, and that was not a good thing.  You can’t expect anyone to believe in you if you can’t believe in yourself.

And with that, I will say good night, because I am very sleepy.

Good night.

To Do List

Hi friends!

Just a few updates.  Today, my graphic designer, Ben, sent me the FULL cover design, front, side, and back.  All I can say is “WOW!”  It seriously looks INCREDIBLE.  I’m not just saying that because it’s my book.  I could not find or design a better cover if I tried!  It is THAT awesome.  I can’t wait for everyone to see it and to have the real thing in my hands!

However, I still have quite a few more things on my To Do List before that can happen.  I have accomplished about half of my goals for this week so far.  I finished the for-real, final edits on the manuscript.  I think I’m going to try uploading it tonight or maybe tomorrow if I need a PDF.  My poor little PC doesn’t know how to do that for some reason, so I might need to go to the library or use a computer at work.

Still, I have a lot of things I need to get done before September rolls around.  A few of them include…

1) Securing a place for a release party.

2) Sprucing up Wind Trail Publishing’s website.

3) Making sure all business stuff is in order.

4) Marketing!  A lot, lot, lot of marketing!

5) Do some more research on eFormatting.

6) Marketing.

7) Set up a bank account for the company.

8) Figure out how sales work.

9) Did I mention marketing?

But instead of doing all of that, I think I’m going to read the new Meg Cabot book.  Until next time!

Oh, and in the spirit of marketing, go like my Facebook page and I will like yours!  https://www.facebook.com/CemeteryTours

Business is Stressful

I’m pretty sure that as a certified business owner, I’m never supposed to lose my cool.  I’m supposed to act in charge and confident and like I have total control of every situation.  Everything is hunky dory.

As a writer, however, I feel I am allowed to be as stressed out and neurotic as I want to be, and that’s a good thing too, because I am a stressful and neurotic person.

There are a lot of things that contribute to this.

1) Genetics.  Anxiety runs rampant in my family.  A few members are very prone to anxiety attacks.  Me?  I’m more of the obsessive-compulsive/controlling type of anxious.  I used to not be able to sit through a movie without stressing myself out about something that was totally beyond my control (and not at all likely to happen).  I’m a lot better now, but the urge to control and make sure everything is going exactly the way I want it to go is still there.

2) I was raised in private school.  Now, I’m sure they crack down on homework and assignments wherever you go to school, but in my elementary school, we had the “yellow card” system.  If you didn’t do your homework, you got a yellow card, a physical representation of your disgrace and failure which you had to sign in front of the entire class.  I, being the perfect goody-two-shoes that I was, made a vow that I would never get a yellow card throughout my entire elementary school experience.  Well, guess what?  I got two, both of which not only ruined my entire week but totally obliterated my already fragile self-worth.  I made sure I was even more perfect throughout high school.  I never once missed an assignment or served a detention.

That fear of failure and humiliation, combined with my near-crippling need to control every aspect of my life, has followed me all the way to my adult years.  It’s the reason I never cook. I always joke and say that I can’t cook, I’m horrible in the kitchen, I’ll make a terrible wife, etc…  But the truth is, I really don’t have all that much experience cooking because something in my crazy, neurotic brain tells me that if I don’t measure everything exactly right or if I don’t time everything to a tee, then everything will be ruined and I will be a failure.

I thought (or at least hoped) that with this business, I would stay on top of everything.  I would make a list of goals, accomplish those goals, and voila!  My life would be awesome and easy.

Add that to my ever-expanding list of things that I have learned on this publishing venture.

I’m finally reaching the point where I’m realizing that I can’t be in control and perfect all the time.  Things aren’t always going to get done when I think and hope they need to get done.  The thing that I’m writing about right now is honestly so small and insignificant that it should not be bothering me, but it’s bothering me enough for me to write out this long, angsty story about my control issues.  But you know, in the long run, I think it’s important that I get this out and come to terms with it.  I won’t be able to control everything, and it’s okay.  I’ve been in this situation before and everything has worked out alright in the end.  I see no reason why this time should be any different.  I’m hoping that this might even help me in the future, because I know this will happen again.

All that being said, I am incredibly, incredibly proud of my little business.  Even if Wind Trail Publishing doesn’t earn a dime, I will always be happy to say that I founded it, and not just because I’m able to publish my own books.  It’s because I set out to do something, and I did it.  I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be learning a lot more in the coming weeks.

Speaking of, it is officially Tuesday, which means there are only six more weeks to go until Cemetery Tours is released!  I’m officially past the excited part and now onto the “Oh-my-God-I-still-have-so-much-to-do-what-if-I-don’t-finish?” part.  Even so, I’m still betting that it will all work out.

Ghost Stories

So, I have had a few people ask me if Cemetery Tours is a book about cemeteries.  I guess the title is a little misleading.  Clearing it up once and for all, no, Cemetery Tours is not a book about a bunch of graveyards.  Cemetery Tours is a novel, a fictional story, about a young man, Michael Sinclair, who can see and communicate with spirits, and who has tried to keep it a secret for his entire life.  The title Cemetery Tours comes from a paranormal investigation television series in the book, also called Cemetery Tours.  The television series was inspired by real TV shows like Ghost Adventures (my favorite!), Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, etc…

I’ve enjoyed ghost stories my entire life.  When I was a kid, I would get all sorts of nerdy science books on the solar system, volcanoes, dinosaurs, you name it.  But I was particularly into marine mammals and ghost stories (I know, the marine mammal thing is kind of irrelevant, but I would be lying if I said I was more into ghosts than whales and dolphins).  The idea that there was something beyond the physical realm, what we can see and hear, fascinated me, and it still does.  I love the possibility that there are things in life that can’t be explained, and maybe aren’t meant to be explained.

Last year, I discovered a new ghostly television show called My Ghost Story: Caught on Camera.  One episode featured a small town in Texas called Jefferson, said to be the  most haunted city in Texas and one of the most haunted in the nation.  This episode aired in early October, so in the spirit of Halloween, my dad and I decided to take a road trip out to explore the haunted town and to see if we would encounter any ghosts ourselves.

Jefferson, it turns out, is a really cool, historic town.

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It has some really beautiful cemeteries also.

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But my favorite photograph that I took on this trip was of a window on an old, boarded up building.  I was trying to peak inside, but the window was so dirty that I couldn’t see through the glass.  I noticed, however, an interesting pattern on the glass, so I snapped a picture of it.

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Now, I’ve caught orbs on camera before, but I’ve never been entirely sold on the notion that orbs are ghosts on film.  However, this orange and white mist, I can not explain.  It can’t be a reflection or a glimpse of something behind the glass, because it’s clearly in between the window and my camera.  My flash wasn’t on, and even if it had been, the distortion or anomaly would have shown up on the other side of the photograph.  It’s not a strand of my hair, because my hair is dark brown and was tied back that day.  By all accounts, the entire picture should have looked like the upper left-hand corner.  That’s all I saw when I took the picture.  But this is what showed up on my memory card.  I’m not saying it’s definitely a ghost, but I will say that I have absolutely no explanation as to what it could be.  All I know is that it shouldn’t be there.

All photographs copyright © Jacqueline E. Smith 2013