Monday, January 24, 2011

Some ups and downs. But mostly, ups.

There is a saying that whenever God closes a door, He opens a window.  This is supposed to make you feel better when you get fired or your husband leaves you or the manuscript you've been working on for ten years gets burned up in a house fire.  As trite as it is, I believe there is truth in this platitude.  But I can tell you from experience, it's a damned lot harder to crawl through a window than it is to walk through a door.

Oh, don't worry!  I haven't lost my life's work in a fire, nor has Robert left me.  But I did lose my job--again.  As little money as it brought me, my daily dog-walking job has been important to me, as it is good to have some kind of daily schedule and responsibilities.  I was bummed when my puppies' daddy told me he won't be needing me now because he'll be working from home instead of traveling into NYC everyday.  But actually, the news is not so dismal.  His new job sends him off to different cities and he'll be on the road ten days a month.  I'll still be taking care of Casper and Annabelle, but not as often, and not on a regular schedule.  What to do?  I immediately set out to find other things to do with my time, and specifically, other things to do with my time that might be sources of income.

So I applied for and got a part-time freelance copywriting job for an advertising company.  My first task there was to write catalog entries about cheese.  Here's an example of my artistry:

Scamorza means “beheaded,” and refers to the shape of this classic cheese, the result of it being hung “by its neck” to ripen.  Naturally creamy white, the cheese takes on a delicate almond color when smoked.  Made of cow’s milk, it is a chewy-textured pasta filate, or stretched curd cheese, delicious paired with smoked meats and mushrooms.     

Doesn't that just make you want to run out and get yourself a pizza?  It pays fifteen bucks an hour.  I'm also writing copy for a friend who is starting a company to cater to people who need help moving around in their homes.  He'll do things like widen doors to make them wheelchair friendly, and install non-slip floors and walk-in-showers.  All I have to do is describe what he does.  Although copy writing sounds easy and I can certainly do it, it is daunting because I'm always second-guessing myself and thinking I'm not doing a good enough job.  I could write a whole short story in the time it takes me to eke out one silly paragraph about sturdy titanium grab bars, or olive oil infused with the essence of the rare tuber magnatus truffle!  I'm waiting for my next assignment from the ad company.    

Another thing I have been doing is selling stuff on eBay.  I think my experience of emptying the homes of two elderly mothers in a short period of time has me looking at almost everything in my house and thinking, "Do I really need that?"  I have collected all sorts of things, like antique glass bottles and dolls, because I know they're valuable to somebody, though I'm not interested in collecting them myself.  I was shocked when I sold a little paper booklet of Halloween decorations from the 1920s for $65.00, and even more shocked when I sold my cheapie ceramic coin banks shaped like the Beatles in their Yellow Submarine outfits!  Mom bought them for me from the close-out shelf at the Felspauch grocery store in Williamston, in 1972.  They cost her $2.75 each, and had originally been twice that much.  But the movie had come out in 1969 so they were already vintage by the time I received them.  I didn't care.  I cherished them, particularly because 1972 was the worst year in my parent's financial life.  By that Christmas, nobody in my family had owned a single new article of clothing for about two years, so I knew they were a dear splurge. 

In any event, I really didn't want to let go of my Beatle banks but I had no place to display them and they had ended up in my attic.  I contacted a memorabilia broker to find out how much they might be worth, thinking I'd put them on eBay.  He offered to sell them for me and two days later they sold for three thousand dollars.  Yeah.  THREE-THOUSAND DOLLARS.  That's what I've been living on for the past four months.

In any event, my experiences selling things on line caught the attention of my friend, Ralph.  He was a very successful antiques dealer until illness and a divorce knocked the stuffing out of him.  He has tons of things to sell (mostly music and books) and he asked me if I will go into business with him, selling his stuff for a little commission.  So I'll give it a try! 

My other means of making money is to sell more of my own books.  I have recently spent days and days and days getting the final polishing done on THESE WEE BONES.  It's the first in a series of novels I wrote that are based in the Cass Corridor and Woodbridge districts of Detroit.  I've written three of them (including DRY AS BONES and BREAK SOME BONES), but dratted perfectionism (or insecurity) always hangs me up.  I even acquired a literary agent at one point, but I never sent the entire manuscript to her because I thought it needed more polishing!  ARGH!  It's hard enough to get a manuscript published through the traditional process, and even MORE difficult if you never actually submit it to anybody.

So I finally started my own press (Pen-in-Hand Press) last year and published NEVER LOOK A GIFT HEARSE IN THE GRILLE.  It has done very well, inspite of the fact that I never arranged to have it sold on  Because of the European Union, if you can believe it, in order for me to sell books on Amazon they have to be trade-book size (6 by 9 inches) and on a certain grade of paper.  No matter what they tell you about penises (and people are ALWAYS telling you things about penises, aren't they?) bigger and thicker is not always better when you're talking about a book.  They are more expensive to produce.  Also, selling on Amazon and in major bookstores there is a required percentage mark-up over production costs.  The cheapest I can sell THESE WEE BONES is $22.00 (they suggested $26.00).  But I found I could also publish it in a smaller format that I like better (about 8.5 by 5.4 inches).  It's less expensive, but only available to me through Pen-in-Hand Press, and you have to pay me for it by check (until I get my stupid web site set up).

I know it's confusing.  If you'd like to have my book, you can buy it from or (I get a lot more money if you get it from Lulu, because Amazon doesn't take a cut) it will cost $22.  If you buy it from me you can get the smaller version for $15 and I'll autograph it, but it will take a little longer for me to get it to you. 

Anyway, here's the cover: 

On the back it says:

"In a vibrant inner-city Detroit environment, it's a struggle for Callie Sadler and her assortment of odd-lot housemates and neighbors to keep their heads above water, let alone solve murders.  Callie's myriad good works--from coordinating the local art fair to caring for her elderly neighbors and her chosen career as a legal aid attorney--keep her busy and help her cope with her history of failed romances and lost opportunities.  But when a neighborhood clean-up project unearths a sad secret, her special eye for human value where others have overlooked it makes Callie an unusual, intuitive detective, in spite of herself. 

A buried garment.  A blind woman's vision.  New flowers on an old grave. 

Clues from unexpected sources pull Callie Sadler back in time to unravel an old mystery, ultimately to discover that she is not the only one living in the past--and that her life is in danger."

Well, enough of this for now.   It is FRICKING FREEZING here.  I went to the bank this morning to deposit a couple of checks.  I had been wearing gloves and my hands had been in my pockets, but when I got there, I couldn't take the paper clip off the checks!  The teller had to help me!  He said I wasn't the first that morning to discover that cold fingers don't work!


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