The Write Stuff

I’ve decided to take a hiatus from writing until after this baby is born.

Author Ashley Crookham baby belly

 

 

 

 

 

Writing while pregnant, with two small children, and a Monday-Friday job goes mostly like this:

  • waking up early on weekends and thinking of ways I can do things efficiently so that I “make sure” to not need to use their nap for non-writing related activities
  • feeling guilty for wanting to write instead of getting caught up around the house or perhaps resting as I should for the unborn baby
  • doing too much around the house and not enough just spending time with the kids so I can “earn” my writing time
  • using their nap (if they nap that day) to finish up other things or get ahead for dinner anyway, saying I will write when they wake up
  • not writing
  • not being able to sleep since I didn’t get enough done, rest enough, play enough, or write
  • repeat

This is our last baby and I want to take the time to appreciate the changes in our family.

If I do have unexpected time I will devote it to marketing and website improvements. I also want to read for enjoyment and perhaps to learn things I can use in future stories.

Author Ashley Crookham writing in the woods

Have you ever taken a writing hiatus? If so, was it a positive decision?

 

How to Sell Your Book on Amazon

As when I begin most research, in order to learn how to self-publish I went to my library and searched for books on the topic. Sell Your Book on Amazon came up, and I placed a hold. When I picked it up I was startled to find out this book was 13 years old, but read it anyway. Most of the tips I chose to believe are antiquated, but it sprung me in the direction of signing up as an Amazon author. For that I am grateful.

Learning to self-publish on KDP is not difficult. You can invest as much time as you like to become successful.

Seeing e-mails from Amazon referring to me as published never get old. That’s not the only reason I self-published. I spent a lot of time researching publishers and could not find one “perfect” for my book. By publishing through KDP I didn’t have to sacrifice anything. Some publishers asked for me to take out the adult content. Most wanted me to expand the book to 80K words. I didn’t look forward to negotiate contracts. Plus, I love to learn and the process of publishing and marketing my book keeps me challenged.

My biggest gains from this publishing adventure since April have been:

1. establishing a brand across your social medias

2. writing a book description that gives your reader everything they need

3. creating a meaningful book cover

4. keeping the marketing going. Something new I want to try are book mock ups thanks to this PlaceIt article

 

If you’ve written and considered publishing, what valuable answers have you sought or found?

Coming Out of the COVID Closet

When I first heard about COVID-19, it was a horrific issue but “over there”. So much has changed since January. As someone who had it and survived it, this is what I’ve learned.

 

I realize when I tell you I had it, you might take a mental step back from me. I would too. I am pregnant and with two small children and I never wanted to endanger them.

Author Ashley Crookham in covid-19 ppe

We went through the normal steps getting used to the pandemic: The life-changing grocery store visit with scary bare shelves where I couldn’t find baby detergent and didn’t know what to do for my child with eczema. This is not the world I’m used to, one where I can get anything I want at any time.

The library’s story time was just a story and they closed the imagination station.

Restaurants posted their struggles to survive without full dining rooms.

Every business I ever subscribed to sent me e-mails to let me know they cared most about safety.

The car seat specialist cancelled our appointment the same day as the baby dentist.

We had our last trip to the store with the me and the kids. I wore one child and kept the other in the cart chair and got mad when an older man touched her leg.

Life continued. The kids got used to hearing “the zoo is closed”, “the slide is dirty”, “the guest room has to stay empty”. The weather improved and we took walks whenever we could.

 

Unlike many people, I know the date I got it. I work in a psychiatric hospital. We found out a co-worker tested positive and our managers told us how to get tested for free. I did so on a Friday. The next day, I went into work for a half day and found out at the end of the day most of the patients tested positive or were showing symptoms. I called my doctor who recommended I isolate myself and my family. The first test from before my exposure came back negative. I got tested again the following Friday and it came back positive. Actually, it said “detected”.

I still worry about the fate of those patients. Although I got it and had no symptoms, a nurse co-worker was not so lucky. She died in the hospital after a few days of battling COVID-19.

 

So what does a positive test mean for my family?

I knew that the placenta does a good job of protecting the baby from viruses but they just don’t know everything when it comes to pregnancy and COVID-19. I knew as a pregnant woman my immune system was more susceptible which is probably how I got it while wearing an N-95 mask, gloves, and washing my hands appropriately.

Work knew we were isolating, daycare knew I was being cautious and pulling the kids, I cancelled newly rescheduled appointments for places opening back up. We told our families to pause their plans brewing to visit the grandchildren they haven’t seen all year.

In short, we lost what we had been accumulating back.

Since I wasn’t having symptoms, it was less likely I would give it to my family. However we needed to extend our quarantine to see if any of them got it. We needed to wake up every day, take our small children’s temperatures, and just hope they didn’t get sick. For another 12 days.

No one in our family got symptoms. My husband got tested after being cleared back to work and that came back negative as another peace of mind.

For our unborn baby, it meant I needed a special ultrasound with a fetal maternal specialist. This came back so well that the doctor didn’t even see us. He sent in his nurse practitioner to tell us our baby is perfect and they don’t want to follow up.

For the future, the Department of Health is tracking us, especially me as a pregnant woman. They will probably test me again before I give birth in a hospital (and not at a birth center this time). The positive reading can take months to go away after it is first detected. They also don’t know if you can contract it more than once.

 

I am thankful not to have had symptoms. I am thankful I immediately isolated and didn’t pass it on. I am hopeful about antibodies and that maybe our youngest will be immune or less susceptible. I am hopeful I will no longer be showing positive before the delivery and that my first hospital delivery will not be too bad.

 

How will this will affect my writing? You might be thinking I’ve had so much more time for it. However I spent a lot of time worrying, cleaning, and worrying about not enough cleaning. Keeping the kids occupied while we were keeping away from others took a lot of thought, especially without making money from work to spend on them or without the ability to go to stores. We picked up groceries after ordering online.

I can’t say that a world changed by COVID-19 won’t make an appearance in my future works. It seems to me as indelible as a world war and would be stranger to ignore. I can’t even read lately without thinking, “What if this had been written after 2020?”

 

How do you think this pandemic will affect your reading and writing?

The Cover Game

(This post has been delayed due to Covid-19. I’m thrilled to finally be able to share it.)

 

 

I spent a lovely afternoon with my husband at a book store.

 

When we finally found the books there the game began.

 

The Cover Game

What can you tell from a book cover? If you know the book, what makes sense about the cover? If you don’t know the book, what do you guess the story is about?

What clues to genre does the cover give off? Is the book meant to inform or entertain more?

Do only established authors get to put their names on top of the title? Do certain fonts express credibility?

Most interesting to me was the branding of an author. How can you tell it’s from a particular person? Do an author’s books all have something in common? I want to compliment V. E. Schwab on the use of the first letter of her first name in her book covers. It struck me and I’ve since become a reader and fan.

If you’re ever again able to browse in a bookstore, here in Indiana or elsewhere, it is a fun exercise and will give you much to think about.

 

What will my covers have in common?

From now on, I will always make sure my covers convey the visual arrows I want potential readers to have. As far as cohesiveness, they will all be painted by my true love.

Virtue Chasm by Ashley Crookham cover art painting

Have you ever played the cover game? What did you learn?

 

 

 

First Author Interview

Author Ashley Crookham first interview

 

 

 

Friends on Facebook will already know I had my first author interview for Virtue Chasm on 28th April 2020.

This interview would not have been possible, most likely, without the Covid-19 situation since the 4th grade teacher in Colorado invited me via Zoom to enhance her online lesson.

The students were excited. They wanted to know what I read at their age, when I decided to become an author, and how I get inspired.

I gave them an outline to the story creating process. I even did a reading of part of the first chapter. After it was over, the teacher told me three of her students proclaimed they wanted to be writers as well.

They inspired me to keep working and to realize how lucky I am to be on the other side of the publishing process.

 

Something not possible with the Covid-19 situation is a typical book launch. With my background in activities, putting together such an event seems easier to me than a virtual book launch, but I read an article that made it seem more feasible:

How to host a virtual book launch

The article showed me I have experience with Zoom and reading my book aloud, so perhaps I could still promote my book while social distancing.

 

What do you think? Should I pursue an event for Virtue Chasm online? If so, what would you like to see as a giveaway there?

 

Ashley Porkthief

You may wonder why I chose to write under the name Crookham.

Crook. Ham.

Many people assume I’m too nice to steal.

Many people assume I’m too nice to eat meat. (Especially cute pigs.)

 

 

These are the reasons I write as Ashley Crookham:

Crookham wedding photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The name Crookham comes from my grandfather. He had one sister and two daughters and therefore our branch of the Crookham tree ended when his children married and took their husbands’ names. My grandparents were and are so important to me. Although I grew up and married and took my husband’s name I knew if I ever became an author I wanted to extend the Crookham branch just a bit. It was one of the reasons I strove to finish Virtue Chasm.

 

Now you know too.

 

What role do family names play in your life?

“Recto Verso” by: Scott Parks and Ashley Crookham

Whritmorh Street.  A narrow winding road of clothing stores, café’s, bistros, and curio shops intermixed with art galleries and jewelry stores for the more upscale shopper.  Accustomed mainly to foot traffic, it could be the type of street in any cosmopolitan district.  What makes Whritmorh Street different, is that its clientele are fictional characters. It is one of the many streets they visit after a novel or short story is written.

Miko walked down the street with purpose, eyeing the windows and doors.  She was unaccustomed to the quiet peaceful nature of this town.  Not having to fight for survival since her last novel was as new as friendship and making her own decisions.  She smiled as she walked, she liked this feeling.

She turned into the Recto Verso, her new favorite tea shop.  It wasn’t the tea in the shop she had fallen in love with, it was the smoothie bar inside the tea shop.  The mango fruit smoothies they served were out of this world, literally and figuratively.

Miko waved to the tender behind the smoothie bar and held up two fingers. He was a mind reader from Dale Grove’s Outlier Revolutions and therefore it was an unnecessary gesture on her part but the smoothie bar tender nodded and began clanging glasses readying the frozen mixtures.

At the entrance, Freida held the door for a few more patrons before entering. She meandered past the counter, around a half wall, and through the mismatched furniture until a couple rose from their seats. They were wearing running clothes and stretching their legs as they sought the exit. Even though they had left a signed copy of the short story “Born to Stub” as a tip for their waiter, Freida still thought it was rude of them to leave their dishes on such a busy morning. She bused the table herself, pulling a hand embroidered rag from her skirt pocket to clear the crumbs.

With a final reshuffling of the coxcomb flowers, Freida gestured to Miko to come over, “This one is ready. I’ll wait with you here until your guest arrives.” She leaned in casually, and didn’t notice as Miko stiffened from the proximity, “Ashley Crookham’s book Virtue Chasm actually got me to prefer coffee.”

Miko set down her cups and took off her duster coat. “I’m not meeting anyone here.” She mindlessly wiped dust from her boots, they were still dirty from the novel Helena Chronicles written by Scott Parks, despite the fact that the book had been with beta readers for the past couple of months and the author had only recently reached out to an editor.  It was plenty of time to get cleaned up but she liked the reminder of the adventure she had been on.

“Oh?” Freida took another look at the two beverages but rested her hands on her lap without further comment.

The amber lit shop sloshed with humans balancing things in their hands and tinkled with dishes on lacquered tabletops and metal cutlery on china.

Miko followed Freida’s eyes then glanced sheepishly at her two drinks, “I can’t help it, they’re so delicious.  The drinks here are better than the choices I had in my novel. The food in my hive was packed with nutrients and energy but it lacked variety.  Grimmson and his gang introduced me to some new fruits, but they weren’t very filling.  I was lucky to get orange juice on Helena.”

Freida pointed her chair in the direction of the juice bar and scooted to the edge of her seat as though she were going to stand but the mind reading tender was already placing a perspiring cup in her hand. She reached for some Venuside bills, each with a different female figure. The bill on top featured Annora, lying on her side in her classical pose, torso raised in the air.  Her tunic and pleated ruffled by the wind, she had just loosed an arrow from her intricately carved short bow.  A colorful duck is flying in the background, a moment before her arrow strikes.  Underneath was written “May Annora Guide your arrow.”  When she looked up to pass them to the man, he had evanescenced with the rustle of a page turning.

To Miko she said, “I hate when they do that.” She sipped the blend and smiled. “My friend Orla would like this. Do you see any of your other characters here?”

Miko donned her helmet to check where the blender yielder had stood, “I’ve never lost anyone yet.”  She paused, “My crew is still two blocks over.  Ox, one of the main characters plays a mute in the story.  He’s been enjoying his time here, he goes to karaoke bar almost every day and stretches his vocal cords.  He’s got a decent voice, I have no idea why the author didn’t give him a single line of dialogue the entire book.”

She took her helmet off with a shrug, set it next to her and picked up her drink and sucked through the straw.  “Besides, the boys aren’t suited to tea shops.  We stopped at a nice restaurant a couple of weeks ago.  I wanted to go somewhere new and I thought some culture might do them some good.  So, we sit down and the waitress comes over, see’s Grimmson’s side arm in his holster, gives it a glance and clears her throat.  Of course, he completely missed the sign out front saying to leave firearms outside and instead thinks he’s forgetting his manners.  He pulls his gun out of the holster, and places it next to the dessert fork and says “See I know what I’m doing!  Salad fork, dinner fork, dessert fork, and revolver.  Just like in Oceanfront.”

“He didn’t!” Freida covered her gasp with her hands.

“He did!”  Miko laughed, “Then he sat back with this smug grin on his face like he did the right thing.  What about you?  Where are the other characters from your book?  Where is this Orla at?”

“She’s not here. None of us have seen her, not even my brother, and he got here before the rest of us.” Freida nudged the cup aside and rested her elbow while twirling a dark lock. “Ward guesses the next place we go will be permanent and we’ll all be there. He has a whole flow chart, I won’t even try to explain. Basically, his hypothesis is that this place doesn’t want us to resist moving on, so it doesn’t quite give us everything.”

Miko thought. “You know, I did wonder why none of the shops do dirigible repairs.”

“Exactly. Whritmorh is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. It has thoughtful womanly touches and sturdy manly implementation.” She gave a shrug and flicked her hair behind her shoulder, “I’m not trying to be all main-charactery, but all of the bed covers stay in place. I’m tired of sleeping on top of the comforter.” She took another sip. “I won’t be one of the ones who lingers forever.”

“That doesn’t bother me at all,” Miko replied.  “I’ve been sleeping under my bed, it reminds me of my hive.”

Freida laughed. “Well, you sound pretty content. I believe you’ll be okay if your author takes as long as mine to publish.”

Miko chuffed, “I’ve already been here a long time.  I’ve seen a lot of other characters come and go.  I was in my author’s first novel but instead of publishing us he decided to do a series of short stories and to start a couple of other novels like he was Don Quixote tilting at windmills.  Different genres, different styles, the works.  It’s like he has a writer’s form of ADD.  He’s a master of chapter ones.”

She adjusted herself in her seat and took another sip, “I’m not too worried though, he did come back and do some serious editing to clean the story up and he has promised us a second novel, maybe even a third one as well.  Of course, he’s currently working on two other series and a collab with another author so I don’t know when the other books are coming.”

“I hope the best for you and your crew,” Freida squeezed up her shoulders, then relaxed them when tables cleared at the same time for the queue of waiting shop goers. She gestured a flat hand, “Things could always be worse. No one I’ve met here was from an unfinished story. I’ll bet their version of Whritmorh is not as classy at all, if they even get one.”

MIko shrugged, “There has to be something else, characters in a series have to go somewhere, right?”

A waitress came by and flipped down the bookmark-shaped flag Freida had repositioned. Her name tag said “Celess”. Freida squinted. “You’re all glowy. Do we share an author?”

“Could be, or it could be that I’m a fairy godmother.” Celess flicked through the screen of her tablet without looking up, “Are you ready to order or what?”

Miko asked, “Is that a joke? I’ve lost touch with my sense of humor after Helena.”

“Two parfaits, one to go.” Freida cleared her mouth, then added, “If you have time in between looking at single mens’ profiles.”

Celess left, muttering about necessary research.

“You recommend the parfaits?” Miko asked after inspecting the waitress signal.

Freida pulled in her chair to let someone pass behind her, then scooted back to make room to don her shawl. “No idea. I never eat the same thing twice. My book father taught me to trust my gut though, and the description included honey drizzle so I think you’ll enjoy it.”

“I may have to try one of those parfait thingy’s the next time I visit this shop,” Miko said thoughtfully.  “I’ve learned to enjoy my time here, it’s more peaceful than Helena.  I miss the action sometimes but I can sleep a lot easier at night knowing I’m not being hunted.”

After a pause, Miko continued, “This is a nice place, hopefully we’ll run into each other again, either here or wherever it is characters go after they’re published.”  Her helmet beeped, she stole a quick peek.  “The boys are done with karaoke and are heading to the range for some target practice for the sequel.  I’m going to meet them there, you should join us, if not today then maybe soon.  I think I still have some time here. ”

“Don’t stay here too long, you might meet the fan fiction version of yourself.” Freida stood, then clutched the bagged parfait. “Ward never speculated about what we could bring to the next place, men tend to forget such details.” With a wave and a sound like a hardcover book closing, she was gone.

Miko glanced at the abandoned parfait. Freida had somehow left a drawing on a napkin with a girl in Amish-looking clothes handing a waspish warrior a cup of layered dessert while Miko was absorbed in her smoothie. Also, a fan of Venuside bills lying on the table led Miko to briefly wonder if the fictional characters portrayed on fictional money had their own version of Whritmorh after their scene was over.  She shrugged, sipped down the last of her first drink, then picked up her to-go snack and slipped back out into the busy street.

5 by 3

A friend recently asked how my writing is going and I admitted I’ve got multiple projects in mind.

Typically when I’m writing I have one binder to contain all my planning.

These days I get thoughts about different stories throughout the day. My purse can’t hold 5 binders. So I’m trying something new.

Index cards.

 

The benefits of index cards are that they can be lined and contain a short idea or more complicated concept. They can be easily shuffled and reorganized as I make decisions on plot. I can use headings or not, when I choose.

The best part of all is that I have tabs for each rough draft and I keep them in one stack I can carry with me easily.

 

Before this, I had mini notepads for each potential book and the notes were in no order and drove me crazy. I’ve been loving the fluid nature of this planning method and the portability.

 

What do you use when you have more than one undertaking in the works?

My Unpopular Thoughts On Self Care

Recently, I had a birthday. My younger brother assumed I was not excited about it. He is thinking about the fanfare being over. No more themed cake, plastic table cloths, or party favor bags.

That is true. My mom did not rent out a roller skating rink and send up to eight hand written invitations (one whole pack) to those who wouldn’t be offended with a less formal query.

Actually, though, my birthday anniversary is more exciting than when I was in middle school. I did not know it then, but I had plenty of opportunities as a young teen to celebrate myself, demand attention, and direct my spare time. Now, my birthday is one of the few times, I told my little brother, I get to make the day about me.

What I really meant is that it is a time I don’t feel guilty about making things about me. I have a husband, children, family, pets, and a household. I work and care about my friends. I worry about planet Earth. There is always something I could be doing for someone else.

The self care movement portrays this very situation. A person putting everyone else first, and finally putting themselves first although the concept is foreign to them since they’ve felt too guilty to do so before.

 

Birthdays are a great time for indulgences. Asking to sleep in or for someone else to watch your kids while you get caught up on laundry and dishes without tiny interfering hands is a luxury. You can buy things you want but don’t need. You can pick where you order delivery and not feel greedy for adding a dessert to your online cart.

Breaking rules is an indulgence. We like to think of ourselves as good rule followers most of the time and that by doing so we earn the right to break a rule more than the other breakers of rules. In order to avoid guilt, we weigh ourselves as worthy.

 

So what would it take for us to feel good about “self care”?

I believe it demands you feel like you’ve been guilty whenever you thought about putting yourself first in order to feel good about now “changing” and doing something you enjoy. This may be re-writing the past just as people do when they want to believe they are good rule followers.

It demands you earn the right to put yourself first by being unselfish, although if you’re doing unselfish things in order to being selfish…

It demands there is a right way to do self care, and that those who do self care too much or without guilt are not as worthy of it.

 

People don’t like to admit how much they do for themselves, for some reason. If I focus on the negatives of today: I didn’t get as much sleep as I wanted, did chores instead of sitting down, and didn’t get to buy things that could have made my day easier. If I focus on the positives: I made the most of getting woken early by the dog to drink coffee while it was still hot, chose dinner tonight based on what I fancied out of our choices, and did laundry for the reward of wearing a new hoodie. Yes, I spent most of the day slaving at the sink in purple gloves, at my children’s butts, and stooped in front of the litter box. I still can’t deny that I listened to my music when my children would have preferred Baby Shark on repeat.

We help others at times because we enjoy it, and deny others the joy of doing things for us when we don’t allow them to aid us. Who can say they are wholly worthy?

 

Self care might lead us to thinking more negatively about our lives in the anticipation of accruing the right to luxuriate. Perhaps companies are hoping this will lead to us spending on our self care.

This reminds me of the push towards efficiency.

“You work hard.

You get a lot done.

You deserve this tool

to make things easier

so you can be more efficient than others

and get more things done than them in less time.

Your reward is time to yourself

without sacrificing the prestige.

All you have to do is buy our product.”

This led to more efficiency as an expectation without prestige or more free time. I’m tired of thinking that things need to equal out and I’m afraid for this new trend. What will self care lead to? What will need to be elevated or demonized in order for the new rules to be written?

 

Personally, I want self care to be a normal part of life, free from scrutiny of others. I do not want to wonder what sacrifices warranted someone getting their own preference. I think serving others and our selves can be balanced if you want, unbalanced if you do not. I do not crave a reward of approval if I choose to serve others. I want to be happy when people treat themselves no matter the circumstances. I think taking cares of ourselves helps us all be stronger as a whole just as much as bolstering others.

 

What are you thoughts on this? Do you think #selfcare is benefitting us all?

Why I Can’t Write About What I’m Writing About

When a writer comes up with a story idea, they want to share it just as they would good news about love, work, or family. However there are very good reasons not to tell others. To prevent anyone feeling rebuffed, here a few reason I feel I shouldn’t write about what I’m writing about:

  1. You may have questions I don’t know the answers to yet. I want you to be excited, not inquisitive, and avoiding the subject until every detail is set can prevent unwanted queries.
  2. You might influence the writing. You may give feedback that leads me down a path that would not have been as good as the one I would have carved for myself. Feedback can feel refreshing during creating but can also plant doubt that I’m not good enough to think the idea through on my own.
  3. When you read it, I want you to experience it afresh. If I’ve given you information about it beforehand you will have notions going into it and not be able to give feedback as if you were a reader picking it up off a shelf.
  4. Not telling you will make me want to finish the story. Planning, writing, editing, post-editing, and preparing to publish are all intense processeds. Knowing I will not get to share the story idea I’ve found so important I put the effort into it unless I do my best and complete it all will give me motivation.

These are my thoughts, and the reason I held back on plans after an engagement and a child’s name before she was born.

What are your thoughts on telling a story before it is complete?