Adventures in the Pacific Northwest

Hello everyone!

What a crazy year 2020 has turned out to be. So many changes, challenges, and uncertainties in life right now, but through it all, my family and I have found new ways to connect and make memories together.

After living in Texas for 18 years, we decided to go back home. So we uprooted ourselves, only a few months before this whole pandemic thing happened, and moved across the country, which resulted in my family being separated from each other for several months. Our lives became a bit more crazy and chaotic. Since that time, we’ve settled into our new home, new jobs, and new surroundings. My daughter has rejoined us, my husband is now able to travel home after being on the road with his job for an extended length of time, and my family has had several opportunities to enjoy the beautiful area we now call home…the Pacific Northwest.

This area of the country has everything we love all wrapped into one wonderful package. Mountains, trees, rivers and lakes, the ocean, and spectacular views surround us everywhere we go. I’ve long awaited opportunities to explore and hike through my old stomping grounds. I thought I’d share some of our adventures with you.

Welcome to Seattle!

I don’t know why, but for some strange reason, I have an unusual obsession with ferries. They fascinate me, and I think they add unique character to the Seattle area.

A ferry on the Sound

Another icon of this area is the Space Needle, which is one of the coolest architectural structures I’ve ever seen. There are similar buildings in other large cities, but in my eyes, none will ever compare to the Space Needle.

The Space Needle, Seattle, WA

Another very distinctive element of Western Washington is lighthouses. We’ve visited a few now, but have many more to see.

Mukilteo Lighthouse

Buildings and boats aren’t why we returned here. The natural beauty of the area is what brought us back home. They say you don’t realize how much you miss something until it’s gone. Never has that statement been more true than returning home after spending 18 years away from it. I didn’t realize how much I missed the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest: Puget Sound, the Pacific Ocean, the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, forests, waterfalls, rivers, and trees…so many trees. It’s green everywhere you go, something I had missed beyond description.

The waterfalls are quite spectacular.

Snoqualamie Falls
Wallace Falls

There’s water everywhere you go.

Carkeek Park, Seattle
Camano Island
Mukilteo
Skykomish River
Wallace River
Bitter Lake
Puget Sound

When the sun sets and reflects off the ocean…nothing compares to that.

Western Washington is surrounded by majestic Mountains. The views are breathtaking.

Mt. Rainier
Mt. Baker
The Olympic Mountains
Winter on Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountains

There are so many places to hike and enjoy the natural beauty of the woodlands in this area.

American bald eagles nesting atop a tree on Whidbey Island

The distinctive change in seasons is yet another wonder of the Pacific Northwest.

Fall in Ballard
Winter in Everett
Winter in Seattle
Spring in Mukilteo
Summer in Seattle

Western Washington has its own culture and quirkiness attached to it as well.

Pike Place Market before the pandemic
Historic Arlington
LaConnor
Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle
Fremont troll
Jimmy Hendricks statue, downtown Seattle
Ballard Locks
Camano Island
Fort Casey
Random art murals everywhere. This particular one is by a local spray paint artist known as “henry”
Seattle Pier, which is about to be dismantled 😞
Leavenworth, one of our favorite places

The photos and images here don’t do the Pacific Northwest justice. It’s one of those places you have to experience in person. Although this worldwide pandemic has put a halt on much of what used to be considered “normal”, such as travel, dining out, and just spending time with friends, one positive outcome from all this has been the bonding time and reconnection my little family has had. We’re enjoying our natural surroundings, getting outside, finding new things to do, and soaking in the beauty around us, PNW “coastal distancing” style.

Needless to say, we love our new environment and have settled in quite nicely to what we now call home (for me, it’s a return home).

Stay safe, everyone, and cherish this time with loved ones.

To Publish or Not To Publish…

To publish or not to publish…

That’s a good question!

Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer. Making the decision to publish a book is very personal, and many factors need to be taken into consideration.

Publish_bookYou spend months, maybe even years working on writing a book. You slave and bleed over every word, every detailed description, every conversation and interaction between characters until you finally type the last word. But the journey isn’t over yet.  It has only just begun.

Once the final word is put on paper, the arduous process of revising and editing begins. However time consuming, stressful, or mind-numbingly mundane the editing process can be, it is a necessity in the writing process. Afterall, you want your book to be the best it can be, right? So you sit for hours on end rereading, rechecking, and correcting, over and over again, errors, inconsistencies, and word choices to make your book “perfect” (for lack of a better word). You instill the help of others and ask for a second set of eyes to read through the manuscript you’ve put your whole heart into. They will criticize. They will correct. They will cut and shred and rip apart every aspect of your work. That is their job. You will tear this manuscript to shreds and read it over so many times that you are tired of looking at it. It’s all part of the the creative process.

Ok. So now that you have the perfect story, what are the next steps? Do you take the plunge and publish it, or do you sit on it and never show another living soul as long as you live?

Before you make that decision, there are many things to think about. First off, how open are you to criticism? How well do you take feedback? Do you have the time and patience to contact agents and publishing companies? Do you have thick enough skin to handle rejection? Are you willing to change your book’s content or sell off the rights to someone else? Do you have the resources available to seek alternative publication options? Have you researched these options? Have you considered every option and not limited yourself to just one path? Do you have the funds available, should you choose the self-publishing route, to cover the formatting, editing, and marketing costs of publication? All of these are important questions to ask. Publishing a book involves many things. Things I had no clue about when I first began this process.

Over the last five years (Has it really been five years?), I have learned many things about the publishing world. First and foremost, book publishing is an extremely competitive environment. There are millions and millions of books out there, and in the scheme of things, the author is merely a tiny minnow just trying to survive in a much larger ocean of bigger fish. Unless you stand out in the crowd, no one will even know you exist.

Many writers are under the misconception that they can publish a book and the sales will come. This is a load of BS. Sales don’t just come. Marketing involves a whole other layer to book writing that I knew nothing about when I began this process.

The whole “sell your book” process begins well before publication even happens. Marketing must be on the back of your mind from the minute you begin writing. Who is your target audience? How will you reach this audience? Where will you find people who might potentially buy your book, and how do you get them interested without constantly shoving your book in their face? (That is a huge turn off, by the way).

Content is your main selling point. What is your book about? Is it unique with content no one has written before? Can you summarize it in 30 seconds or less and make it interesting enough that people will want to buy it? Is the title catchy? The book blurb on the back is probably one of the most important things you will write. It can either make or break sale potential. Choose your words carefully.

Although people say you should never judge a book by its cover, they do. Does your cover look professional? Does it match other books in the genre and have “eye-catching” appeal? Is it colorful, but not cluttered? Does it pop and make people want to pick it up?  These are all factors to consider. And if you don’t have the skills to do this sort of thing, where can you find someone who does? Do you have the funds available to pay for their services, because they will not and should not do it for free. To me, this is an art, and a skill I don’t possess.

The outside of the book must look great, but formatting the inside is just as important. Different book formats require different formatting and file types, something I know next to nothing about. Kindle versions require one file type with specific formatting requirements, whereas paperback books require a completely different type of formatting. It’s confusing, and unless you are an expert on this and know precisely how to do it, your book could end up in the Kindle store with the spacing all messed up. If not done correctly, the margins in your paperback could be off or words and paragraphs could be cut off or sized incorrectly. I hired someone to do this, which goes back to my previous statement of having available funds. Hiring out for these services is costly.

You now have solid content, an eye-catching cover, and proper formatting. Now what? Selling! How do you sell this book that you’ve slaved over for months? Pricing your book is definitely something to seriously consider. Remember that the publishing world is highly competitive, and in all honesty, who wants to purchase a $20 book from a no-name author? Most people don’t. If you want to compete in this world, you have to offer something no one else has. You have to give people a deal and make the price they pay worthwhile. This has limitations. It costs publishers money to print out copies of your book.  The price you/they charge has to be enough to make a profit. And unless you are Stephen King, JK Rowling, or James Patterson, there is absolutely no guarantee that your book will sell enough copies for that to happen. You are a writer no one has ever heard of. Buying a book written by you is risky. Consider your cost carefully. Lower is better; there is less risk involved.

How comfortable are you with social media? These days, you can’t get attention (although I HATE being the center of attention) without being active on social media. Everyone uses social media in one form or another: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and a handful of others that seem to be popular today. You might be able to reach some potential readers through social media, but don’t count on it. Most people don’t use social media to look for books to read or discover new authors. They use it to socialize, in a sense. If you don’t have the time, energy, or patience to manage multiple social media accounts, no one will even know you exist as an author. I would strongly advise you NOT to constantly post your book online. Quite frankly, no one cares, and you will lose engagement and followers if you are constantly shoving your product in their faces. Think about it. Do you like it when people push products on you? Do you like the presence of ads constantly flashing in front of your face? Well, your followers and people you interact with on social media don’t like it either. Use the internet to make connections, not as an advertising agent.

Are you comfortable speaking or reading excerpts in front of an audience? Are you able to set up an appealing author table and talk about yourself and your work at events? How do you sell yourself at book signings? What “brand” do you have? (Yes, that’s a thing). Do you have the support, resources, and connections needed to sell books at events? Joining local writing groups can sometimes help with this. They tend to have an “in” with local agencies and know about upcoming events. Some even work together to set up booths and tables as a group to sell books. You can also research events through media sources and find upcoming events through local agencies and news articles or speak with other authors, if they are willing to share that information. Making your presence known and getting yourself out there is a full time job in itself.

Then, once you sell your first book and find your first reader, you face the fear and uncertainty of whether or not they like your work. What kind of review will they give you? Will readers spread the word about your writing? Will you sell more books? Will the months you dedicated to this offer any sort of financial compensation? Will others enjoy your work? They might. They might not. As writers, we live in this world of constant judgement. Our writing lives hang on the opinions of others.

While you’re debating and contemplating all of this, you are probably working on writing your next book, where the process begins all over again. But by this stage in the game, you are feeling so overwhelmed and have so much self-doubt, not only in yourself but with the entire process, that lifting a pen can sometimes be a challenge. Yet you keep at it, and one way or another, you find the energy to write.

So the question remains, should you publish that book you’ve written? That depends on you. Are you willing to dedicate the time, money, and energy needed to do so? Are you willing to face criticism, rejection, and judgement? Are you willing to do the necessary research and find the proper resources needed to publish and sell your work? Are you willing to make your presence known to the world without any promise of results? If you are, then go ahead and publish.

I’ve published five books over the last five years. Would I do it all over again? Yes, I would. I have no regrets. In fact, I’ve gained much knowledge over the years and learned many hard lessons about the publication process. That alone has been worth the ride. As a result of all this, I have changed a few things with every book I’ve published. I’ve used the knowledge I’ve gained about the process, taken advice from others, and changed my thinking to make the experience easier and less stressful for myself.

To publish or not to publish…you decide.

 

 

New Beginnings

Well, here we are. After the last 9 months of craziness, we are finally moving into our home. This has been a long anticipated adventure with many ups and downs. We had the wonderful privilege of watching our home being built from the ground up. We chose interior layout, color schemes, etc… and will FINALLY get to enjoy the benefits of living in our newly-built home.

It all started with a basic frame.

Which gradually built up and began to take shape.

Details were added.

Concrete poured and fences were built.

It wasn’t long before the interior began to take shape.

Landscaping was added, which makes me happy. 😁

And details were added inside.

Over time, our new house began to feel like home. Finally, after a very long wait, we are ready to move in.

It feels good to be back home in the Pacific Northwest. 🏠🌲❤