Be Yourself? Which self?

“Just be yourself.” I’ve been given that suggestion hundreds of times, and it was particularly unwelcome coming from my waitress who I suspected had indulged in a few too many free shots at the bar.

In a way, it was my own fault. I’d broken one of my cardinal rules and shared a piece of personal information with this complete stranger. Once she knew I was apprehensive about meeting my fellow diners, she proceeded to offer a steady stream of unwanted advice until they arrived. This morning I’m still miffed that my oblivious husband tipped her 20%.

But bad restaurant experiences aside, that is a horrible piece of advice. Pretty much anything you do or say is yourself. Some sides of you are more likeable, or more fully developed, or more integrated into the whole you, but if it is coming out of your mouth without an intent to lie, it is you.

The problem is that we are all complex creatures. I have a squeamish side that gets nauseous at little things. I also have a this-is-an-emergency side that steps in and deals with the grossest of injuries if need be. I’m not faking either one. I’m not a simple person, and neither are you.

So when people tell me to be myself, my answer is “which self?” I’ve got at least dozen different genuine responses in my head to anything you have to say. Some may lead to a budding friendship, others to hostility. Over time you might get to know most of those sides of me, but which one do I let you see first?

This dilemma of defining the real me has recently spilled over into my writing, or more accurately into the marketing of my books. I love my book titles and my book covers. They are the real me. However, I’ve been told by those I respect that neither titles nor covers are helping me sell books.

After quite a bit of reflection, I’ve decided that being effective is also the real me. I’m practical and I like to achieve my goals. My goal is to find more readers. So, the real me is renaming my books and has sought out a professional to provide covers that will be a lot more like the one shown here. (It is for someone elses book about an appearance changer.)

What will those new names be? I’m having a lot of fun deciding on them. What will the new covers really look like? I can’t wait to find out. I’ll be sharing some of both here over the next few months, and if all goes according to plan a new crime novel about a gay genius who can change his appearance will be released in early January 2019.

The real me can’t wait.

 

A better word than joy?

I knew from the beginning that my second novel would be centered around the theme of joy. My first novel was all about our connection to others; I wanted this one to celebrate the authenticity of being oneself.

Because I’m the kind of person who gets carried away with an idea, I decided to center the action around the place on the globe that was exactly opposite of Nigeria, where my my first novel took place. Turns out that location is just south of the equator, smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This fact might have discouraged someone else, I but I was determined to introduce this symbolism of opposites into my already half-developed plot. So I delved deeper and discovered the island nation of Kiribati, and began to write a novel that encompassed a swath of the sea.

Just as “peace” seemed an inadequate word to describe x0, “joy” barely touched the surface of my overarching theme for y1. What I wanted was a word that meant

the sheer exhilaration that can only be found when a person is true to who they are.

We do need a word for that.

The book was orange in my head. Orange for sunsets over the Pacific and orange for crazy-strong exuberance and for all that glows. This had to be a book about the fire within.

I already knew that later in the series I would write a book that was blue, and it would be about the virtues that tug us in the other direction. I’m still struggling to find a single word that encapsulates the theme of my blue book, but I know that it is about something important, too.

(For more thoughts on words we need, see A better word than loyalty?, A better word than peace?,  A better word than hope? and A better word than courage?)

Learning as you go

The story of Biafra’s failed struggle for independence moved me so much when I researched my first book, x0, that I spontaneously decided to pledge 10 per cent of x0’s proceeds forever to the international aid organization that was born out of the conflict, known in the U.S. as “Doctor’s Without Borders.”

At the time I was sort of feeling my way along with this whole book writing thing anyway, and with the idea of blogging as well. I made a blog called Face Painting for World Peace to discuss everything from Nigeria to telepathy to, well, world peace. Turns out that I’ve enjoyed keeping up the blog ever since, and been proud to send a couple of checks off to DWB as well.

When y1 came along, it seemed like I needed a second blog. I wanted it to make the URL http://www.tothepowerofone.org to be similar to the x0 website http://www.tothepowerofzero.org. I liked the symmetry. However, that web address turned out to already belong to a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating poverty throughout the Pacific Islands. Wow. y1 was about Pacific Islands. I decided that was pretty amazing, and meant that ten percent of the proceeds from y1 were destined to be donated to To the Power of One. So while this organization was in no way involved with or endorsed my book, I encouraged the readers of y1 to visit their website and consider supporting them. Because, well, it just seemed to fit.

Healing Light 1Several months ago I finally got around to sending that first check off from my y1 sales. At least I tried to, and was sad to see that To the Power of One had vanished from the web. I was unable to find another organization that they had perhaps morphed into, and concluded that for what-ever reason, the group no longer exists.

It’s not like I have a lot of proceeds from my books to donate. If you know a self-published author you probably realize this. But a promise is a promise and I was determined to send my small check off to someone. But who?

Afi, one of the main characters in the book and Zane’s eventual love interest, is from the islands of Kiribati. These low lying Pacific atolls will likely be one of the first causalities of climate change as rising sea levels submerge an entire nation.

I looked around for a group working to abate climate change in sensible ways and I was delighted to discover the World Resources Institute.

According to their website WRI’s mission is “to move human society to live in ways that protect Earth’s environment and its capacity to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations.” You can hardly quarrel with that. The organization receives top ratings from GuideStar, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, the Better Business Bureau and Philanthropedia. They organize their efforts not just around climate change,  but also around clean energy, food, forests, water and cities and transportation.

So off my check went, and now I get regular updates (and requests for more money) from them. It’s okay.  I like them and what they do and I like the idea that y1 is in some small way making a contribution. It’s not quite what I had in mind when I started this, but then none of this adventure in writing novels has turned out quite like I expected. I’m learning as I go. I think that’s a fine thing to do.

 

with a breath of kindness blow the rest away

New Year’s Eve plays a role in y1. Each Dec. 31 since I wrote the book, I find myself thinking of adolescent Zane throwing up on coffee liqueur as he attempts to greet the new year like an adult. Creating this scene required a better sense of balance than most. I meant to capture both the fear and joy of letting go of childhood, and in fact of letting go of anything, in such a burst of determination that it leads to inappropriate behavior. I wanted my readers to cheer on Zane as he tried to be older, in spite of their hopeful disapproval of children drinking alcohol. I wanted them to empathize with how the process of releasing the past is seldom an easy one for any of us. Metaphorically, a lot of us end up with our heads over the toilet bowl when we try to move on.

farewell 2014That is what New Year’s Eve is about, isn’t it? Drunk or sober, alone, with family or friends or surrounded by loud strangers, we each find out ways to release the joys and failures of last year as we resolve to be stronger, better, and happier during this next trip around the sun. Some of us do it from the comfort of our couches, others while setting off fireworks in our front yard. (At least if we live in the country in Texas we do.) Some will acknowledge the moment with a quick sigh as they go on about their work, keeping hospitals running, drilling rigs drilling, and streets safe for those who had the luxury of deciding what they wanted to do tonight.

New Year’s Eve is an ending and a beginning, whether we like it or not. Maybe that is why so many of us drink so much. There will be jobs, relationships, possessions and habits that won’t go with us through 2015 and we know it. Replacements and voids will be there instead when we greet 2016. They’re gone or going. Say good-bye. It’s not an easy thing to do.

A friend shared the above saying with me, and it has become my New Year’s resolution. I’m going to work a little harder to keep what matters healthy. I’m going to make a better effort to send the rest softly on its way.

Here’s a gentle kiss, 2014, with gratitude for all the good times, and for all the lessons, too. Welcome 2015. With a breath of kindness, blow the past year away.

 

 For more thoughts on letting go, check out my post Face Painting for World Peace.

 

 

Who says the end of the world can’t be fun?

good sign 4Arggghhh … this happens every time I finish a book. I forget to pay bills. I forget people’s birthdays. I forget to post on my blogs and I love writing on my blogs. (I’m okay with birthdays and not terribly fond of the bill paying). And I’ve had so many great ideas to post about here, too, over the last few weeks … but never got them down on paper.

What I did manage was to get the newer, sleeker, better version of x0 out on Kindle, repubbed as a 2nd edition in paperback, and — finally late last night — resubmitted to Smashwords where it is now part of a site-wide promotion and available for exactly no dollars and no cents. Check it out!

What I also managed to to was do get my latest and greatest love — d4 — to the point where it is only three writing days away from being done and ready to share with the first of my beta readers. I’m lost in this story. It is unlike any of the previous ones, and yet carries a connection to the novel y1 and to the organization y1 as well. Zane and his shape shifting talents make a second and crucial appearance and Toby comes out of the shadows as well to help save the world with his philosophy of economic fairness.The encouragement to be the person you were meant to be continues, but the melody is perhaps sung an octave higher or lower, with a few new interesting minor chords as well.

I promise, it will be the most enjoyable pre-apocalyptic novel you will ever read. Who says the end of the world can’t be fun?

(Please drop by Facebook and give the clever folks at This s a Good Sign a like for the great visual above.)

Still caring about those reviews

Hope 1y1 has been out for a while now, and it has several dozen reviews under its belt, here and there. None-the-less it makes my day when I find a new one, especially when the reader enjoyed the book. Let’s face it. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this story, and yes I do crave feedback. Sales only provide me with a cold, dry number.

A writer wants to know what total strangers, ones who like the kinds of books she writes, think about her book. So yes, reviews matter to a writer, whether they should or not.  I imagine they must mean as much to an actor, or a musician or anyone who puts themselves out there to entertain and amuse the world, and there is no way around that. Once a books has hundreds of reviews, I suppose that individual ones matter less. I hope some day to find out.

Imagine my joy the other day when I was doing a search for something else and found the wonderful blog The Printed Word which features reviews by Melissa. There it was, a review of y1 posted January 10,  2014. Her review begins with “I give this book a 5 out of 5. Once again, Sherrie Cronin shows off her amazing research skills! Like the first novel in the series, x0, she weaves real facts and controversial, sensitive topics in with the fictional Zeitman family. This time we follow Lola’s son, Zane, as he learns at a young age that he can adjust his appearance to better blend in, much like a chameleon.”

What a wonderful surprise. I’m going to kick up my heels and dance for joy.

(Thanks to Zen2Zany on Facebook for the image that appears above.)

Writing for a Cause

blessed weird 2I had no intention of writing for charity when I began my first novel in the collection of six interrelated stories that I wanted to tell. Much of the action in my first book x0 takes place in Nigeria and as I did my research I became fascinated with the organization Doctors Without Borders. I learned that it was formed by frustrated French doctors who were forced to remain silent about the starvation in Biafra during Nigeria’s brutal civil war. Today they send physicians worldwide with the charge of never keeping quiet as regards human suffering.

That’s incredibly cool, I thought. In a burst of altruism I decided to donate ten percent of my proceeds from the book x0 to this organization. Be it a little or a lot, it seemed a good way to put something back. And that was that.

Then I had this idea of creating a blog for each one of my six novels with the URL’s all matching. Much to my surprise the second URL, the one for y1, was already taken. A little research showed that it belonged to an organization called To the Power of One that was headquartered in Hawaii and worked exclusively to develop self-sufficiency throughout the Pacific. This was surprising because much of the action in my second book y1 takes place in the Pacific. While x0 explores the theme of how we are all alike, y1 focuses on our own uniqueness and self-sufficiency. It was just too good of a fit. I pledged ten percent of the proceeds from y1 to them.

By the time I finished z2, I admit that I was sort of looking for a cause. Racism plays a major role in this book about time and changing attitudes and I often turned to the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center for information. It’s a nonprofit civil rights group dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry. It wasn’t difficult to decide to continue my unintentional trend and earmark ten percent for these fine folks as well.

Lest I sound more generous than I am, it is fair to mention that my husband and I have a fairly dismal record donating to charities. We mean well, we really do, but we tend to be too busy or having some kind of costly emergency ourselves and giving money to worthy causes just doesn’t seem to happen. On the other side of the coin, we aren’t relying on my writing to pay our mortgage or buy groceries, which at this point is a good thing. So while we can always use a little more income, it’s not so difficult for me to make a pledge like this.

Have I done it yet? I set a threshold of a certain number of books sold before I would declare the check big enough to be worthy of sending. So far only x0, first published on Kindle in February 2012 and in paperback in December 2012, has sold enough copies to qualify, although y1 is getting close.

So yes, I sent the check off to Doctor’s Without Borders a few weeks ago, and just got back a wonderful little letter acknowledging what I was doing with my novel and thanking me for it. Terribly cool. I’m going to frame it and hang it in my study. I had no idea that being an author would have the potential to provide joys in so many ways.

(Thanks to the Facebook page Blessed are the Weird for the wisdom pictured above. Please drop by and give them a like.)

Note that this post was originally written for an Orangeberry Blog Tour and has also appeared at Kindle Nook Book, Writers & Authors, Paws on Books, and Blog-A-Licious Authors.