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Sunday, January 19, 2014

"Working" from Home

I am a writer. I have written and published 5 books in 3 years, 2 of which are children's books that I fully illustrated myself...and I work from home.

People don't understand the whole working from home thing. By choice, I write late at night, when everyone else is asleep. It's quiet, the phone isn't ringing, there is nobody asking me where this is or that is, even the animals are asleep. A single chapter or illustrated page can take 7 or 8 hours to complete start to finish. 8 hours of sitting at a computer trying to get a story to meld and make sense, or drawing and re-drawing an illustration and adding layers upon layers of color and shading to make it look as perfect as possible. This makes for wonderful things like eye strain, headaches, sore muscles, (you remain hunched over a drafting table or a computer screen for hours upon hours and see if your body isn't stiff afterward, I dare you.)

And then there is sleep. Usually I fall asleep around 4 am and I get up at 6 am to get the kids off to school. Then I feed myself, catch up on the news, answer the phone that rings a thousand times and do the dishes. And then there's marketing. The UGLY side of being an author. These books don't sell themselves. Posting promos on facebook, twitter, lineked-in...giveaways, discount days, blogging. Reading and reviewing other authors so they will read and review your work, beta reading for another author, keeping up with discussions in all the writer's groups, managing your author or fan page. All this takes WORK, and EFFORT.

Now it is about 10:00 am and I'm starting to fade a bit. So I take a nap (GASP! IN THE DAYTIME?) Yes...I take a nap. Remember now, I have only had two hours sleep so far so I try to get about 3 more hours before everyone comes home from work and school. Then it's time to make dinner, do more dishes, help with homework and whatever else I can get done.

I am not looking for sympathy, here. I choose this. I sacrifice so I can do this. This is my dream. Until these books start making some consistent money, I live without certain luxuries like: dinner out, movies, decent haircuts, new shoes, vacations, a car that was built in this know, all the fun stuff. I am not asking for sympathy, only that you think before you speak. Just because I work from home, doesn't mean I am sitting on my ass doing nothing.  Just because I don't punch a time-clock doesn't mean I didn't accomplish something today. Books aren't written in a day, and not everyone can do it. Everyone, whether they want to admit it or not, is looking for recognition,whether it be a raise, promotion, or a bonus. Writers are no different, we are striving to make a name for ourselves in the form of sales, reviews and fans.

So, if you have a writer in the family, don't be condescending. Don't call them "dreamers' like it's a bad thing, Don't make what you do at work everyday more important than what they do on a day-to-day basis. And for heaven's sake, don't come home from work and say "what did you do all day?" or you just might end up being the casualty in chapter 6. Woodchippers, axes, chainsaws... we dreamers have endless ways of getting even.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I write what I write because:

This is The Snake Pit. My very first novella which I self-published in October of 2010. It is a short, but powerful story about a girl who is literally bullied to death in a public school, a subject I happen to know quite a bit about. People often ask me why I write what I write. Well, I can tell you, it's not for the money, that's for sure. I am going to show you why I write what I write. It is a little long, but bear with me, it's worth reading. (I know, I have read it a hundred least)

I received this in the mail just a few weeks ago:

Dear Ms. Donna L. Dillon
My name is __. I am a freshman at__ and I wanted to thank you for changing my life. I have read most of your books and been impacted in some way by all of them. My personal favorite is The Snake Pit. The book speaks to me. It made me realize that bullying is real. i am used to hearing no-bullying and zero-tolerance, but, The Snake Pit made me realize what is going on around me. After reading the Snake Pit, I realized that newspapers, magazines and TV shows are all full of bullying stories: Girl commits suicide. Boy shoots children and then himself in school. Bullies expelled. Victim of bullying tells his story; everywhere I looked someone was in danger and crying out for help. These are kids just like me who deserve a better life. Since I read your book I notice everything, the whispered words and the silent stares that hurt worse than a punch.

I have changed since reading The Snake Pit. I was not always willing to stand up and voice my opinion just to make things right. I didn't know how to sit down and help a stranger without saying a word. I didn't care about the bullying videos and posters shown at school. I couldn't even help my sister make friends. I was just like everyone else, and I was not proud of it. I was afraid. I was tired of pretending there was world pace and everyone was liked by everyone else. I couldn't ignore the pushes and shoves in the hallway; it was time to push back. I was not the person who I wanted to be, and it was up to me to change that.

Every word made me want to keep reading, even though I knew what lay ahead I had to find out. I want to thank you for influencing me through your book. It targets real life problems that apply to all ages. My sister deals with some bullying and so it's hard for me to watch her cry and stand alone. This book taught me that all she needs is a friend. It taught me to stand up and voice my thoughts I listen and I help her through the rough spots. I am there for her. I could read this book a hundred times and still cry because the pain and torture Cinda endures are almost like I am there enduring them alongside of her. Bullying is seen as a big issue and adults try as hard as they can to stop it but they are not there they don't see what happens when the teacher walks out or turns her back. They do not really dig down deep enough to uncover the secrets of their manipulative students. No one ever really knows until it is too late. This book teaches about life and what goes on underneath the glossy surface.

She stands alone and never speaks. I didn't know her name and I never made an effort to include her. She is smaller and doesn't act like the rest of the kids. She was basically ignored by everyone, seen but just not acknowledged. One day I decided to introduce myself, that was all it took. Now we are close friends, she talks and laughs with me, it's like we have been friends all along. I know I was influenced by The Snake Pit. I stopped judging people by their appearance. I learned that everyone matters and no one should be bullied. I reached out to those who needed help. I am not afraid to stand up to bullying, and am trying to change the world one step at a time.


Well, I won't use her name, but you can imagine what emotions I went through when I read this. And this, my dear children, is why I write what I do. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year, new goals, let's see if we can pull it together.

I will admit, I am a terrible blogger. I'm lazy. I let it go for months and months and try to forget about it. I don't market the way I should, I don't tweet every day like I should, and I wonder why my sales are less than stellar.

I don't know why I am not a good blogger. I have ideas, clear opinions on all kinds of interesting topics, and if we were sitting here face to face, I would talk your ear off. But, when it's just me this blank screen...not so much. I think most people experience the opposite: face to face they can't quite get their feelings out, but given a blog post and they all become Nicolas Sparks. I envy those people.

Well, this year I am leaving my comfort zone and I will blog, and tweet, and market. Anti-bullying is still my platform and so these two books will be my focus for 2014.

They say you should write what you know. Unfortunately, I know quite a bit about this subject. I was bullied mercilessly because of a birth defect. Basically, people didn't like my face. And what was I going to do about that? Nothing. There was nothing I could do, and they all knew it. I finally quit worrying about it and stuck with my true friends, they shielded me as best they could, and I managed to enjoy at least part of my school years. But, it hurt. I'm not going to lie about that. It got better, but now and then I still hear the voice of a particularly nasty bully in my head. In times of stress, or feelings of self-doubt, that cute little cheerleader's vicious little taunts echo in my head and will wake me from a sound sleep. All of the sudden, I am no longer a 46 year-old mother of four, published author of five books, one of which is an amazon best-seller. I am a fourteen year old ugly girl who hides in the bathroom at school because she is afraid of what the cheerleaders will say to her when she tries to walk past them in the hallway. 

The scars I carry on the outside, from all the surgery I endured growing up, are nothing compared to the emotional scars I retain at the hands of the pretty girls. We are all grown up now, me and my bully. We are both mothers, wives, professional women...but I haven't seen her in over 25 years and I doubt very much if I could be in the same room with her even today. Bullying hurts. Bullying scars. Bullying kills. And this is the message I want to hammer home in 2014. 

So, I will try my best to make these blogs at least interesting, if not amusing. This one wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be, but it's easy to write what you know.