Obtaining Permission

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As part of my publishing contract, I am responsible for obtaining permission to quote copyrighted material.

At first, I debated whether or not I wanted to rewrite my manuscript omitting any references to copyrighted material. But after reading the selection over and over again, I decided to go through the process of obtaining permission.

In the manuscript, my mother and my sisters are rebelling against my father’s mandate to live in isolation. My mother, in particular, yearns to experience the freedom of friendships outside of work and home. She starts to sing “American Pie” and my sisters and I join her. The song is iconic of an era. It captures the mood of the scene, defines the chapter, and colors the entire book with its flavor.

I started my research by contacting the singer, Don McLean, who directed me to United Artists who directed me to Hal Leonard Corporation. Over a period of two months of negotiations, the corporation and I finally reached an agreement on the terms and conditions in which I could use a few lines of the lyric to “American Pie” in exchange for payment. Yes, I paid money for the right to quote a few lines from a song and I feel it was worth it.

Not every writer is willing or able to buy the right to reprint copyrighted material either because the copyright holder is unwilling to extend the right or a writer is unwilling to pay the price. A mutual agreement must be made.

In the event someone wants to quote from one of my books in the future, I will be in the position to negotiate the terms of the agreement. I can offer permission to use the quote for free, for a set dollar amount, or a percentage of the gross or net sales, or any other terms and conditions which are mutually agreeable. Until then, I will continue to be cognizant of what quotes I use in future works and diligent about obtaining permission.

Unveiling the Cover

Here is a sneak peek at the cover of my memoir:

Book Cover

Here is a sneak peek at the “ghost cover” I did not choose:

Ghost Cover

The quote will eventually be replaced with an excerpt of Amanda Zieba’s endorsement. Amanda is the author of Breaking the Surface and the Orphan Train Rider Series. To read more about why I chose the cover I did, visit my blog post, “Beyond Words”.

100 Years of Memories

Photo courtesy of Ed Turpin
Photo courtesy of Ed Turpin

I was honored to be one of several women who read excerpts from Suzanne Sherman’s book 100 Years in the Life of an American Girl to help celebrate the launch of a new series of books chronicling the lives of American females. The first book in the series features stories from girls around the age of thirteen sharing what it was like to grow up in each decade from 1900 to 2000.

The event was held in the main dining room of the French Garden Restaurant in Sebastopol. Photographs from the book were presented in a slide show while music from each decade filled the room. Guests enjoyed champagne, sparkling water, and orange juice while listening to Suzanne share her insights into each decade. Each reader presented a snippet of their stories to a rapt audience.

My story about growing up in the shadow of the American Dream was a prelude to my book-length memoir that will be released later this year.

For those who missed the event, Suzanne will be hosting other readings in the future. You may also purchase a book either directly from Suzanne’s website or through Amazon.

Experience History!

Come celebrate 100 Years in the Life of an American Girl on Saturday January 10, 2:00 – 4:00 at the French Garden Restaurant, 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol.

This is not your average book launch party! Bring your family!

* Listen to readers featured in the book from every decade, with stories of girlhood (before age 13) from throughout a century.

* Hear music from the 1920s through the 1990s — from Scott Joplin to Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson to Taylor Swift!

* Taste treats you’ll remember — or discover them for the first time! There will be candies popular since the 1920s, like Walnettos and Mary Jane’s, and candies from more recent times, like Pop Rocks and Nerds!

* Toys from the twentieth century are still fun! Try your hand again at jacks or Barrel of Monkeys — it’s been awhile, right? Slinky and Silly Putty will be here too, to laugh about and play with.

* Buy your author-signed copy of the book, for yourself and for friends and family.

For more information on how you can make history in the next 100 Years book series, visit Suzanne Sherman’s website.

A Look Ahead to 2015

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“A goal is nothing more than a dream with a deadline.” Napoleon Hill

Usually I take a moment to set goals for the upcoming year. However, after a grueling year of too much work and not enough play and too much stress and not enough relaxation, the last thing I want to do is endure another set of to-dos on top of the ones I already have outlined for me by others.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have any goals or dreams or New Year’s Resolutions. It means I don’t want to commit to the same structure I have been accustomed to using. No list on the back of the front door with each task clearly marked with a deadline. No dream boards floating above my keyboard. It’s already too much having a calendar clearly marked with essential items to complete, both professionally and personally, each day of the year.

But if I look at my overall goals, they boil down into two general categories: professional and personal. My professional goals can be further broken down into my different jobs and what I hope to accomplish from each this year. My personal goals can be broken down into my interpersonal relationships, my spiritual relationships, and my relationship with myself.

In my writing life, I would like to find an appropriate publisher for my sweet romance, Just Juliet, and I would like to have a successful launch for my memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck. I’m not committing to any other writing projects at the moment, although I have plenty to tackle if I decide to change my mind.

In my personal life, I would like to express my appreciation through each interaction I have, no matter how brief or seemingly insignificant each encounter might be. I feel it’s imperative that I take each thought, action, and feeling both with the curiosity and joy of a newborn and the gravity and depth of someone near death for it is only through an awareness of the ephemeral that we may touch upon the eternal.

How are you approaching 2015? Click on the “Comment” next to the title and a box will appear for you to express your thoughts. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

2014, a Retrospective

As the end of the year winds down with the upcoming holidays, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the goals I had set for 2014.

Continue to write for national and international magazines
. Although I queried and submitted numerous articles and essays this year, none of them resulted in a sale.

Find an agent. My quest for an agent led to a request for a point-of-view rewrite of my crime novel. I am still struggling on how to restructure a 100,000 word story originally told from six rotating points of view into a coherent narrative told from the point-of-view of the antagonist. I have currently set the project aside after a couple of false starts to determine the direction I want to take to satisfy both the agent and the creative process.

Paint. I’ve successfully managed to complete a handful of new paintings this year. I entered the National Arts Program, but missed the deadline to submit entries to the Harvest Fair. Next year, I plan to continue painting and possibly pursue any additional opportunities related to the visual arts.

Dance. I did not manage to find a dance studio that met the times I was available to dance. I have, however, successfully completed my rehabilitation program with Dr. Caleb Ridgway and am scheduled to run several races in 2015.

Work less, play more. Unfortunately, I encountered several plot twists in my life that required I work much more and play much less. Since every time I plan a goal of finding a way to work only one job to support my family, it always seems to lead to working several jobs to keep up with just the regular bills, I’ve decided to dream big and wish for a windfall that will eliminate all financials worries. In the meantime, I’ll continue working as many jobs as I can to earn as much as my family needs.

Greatest surprise of 2014? Winning the Memoir Discovery Contest sponsored by She Writes Press and Serendipity Literary Agency.

Did you meet your goals for 2014? Do you have any goals set for 2015?

How Many Manuscripts?

Stack of Library Books

I’ve been asked by several readers to list my manuscripts and what the status is regarding each of them.

NATIVE AMERICAN CRIME NOVEL SERIES:

Red Man’s Fall – A Wapi medicine man falls in love with a white woman from Las Vegas who has been hired to increase Vine Valley Casino’s profits. Out to agents.

Red Man’s Mercy – The future of the Wapi tribe is at stake after Chief Hank Hidden Hawk mysteriously dies, leaving the tribe $8 billion in debt to a foreign investor. Withdrawn from market.

The Little Indian Girl – An outcast of the Wapi tribe returns to fulfill a prophesy, but will her help be mistaken for vengeance? To be rewritten for agent representation.

SWEET ROMANCES (Something appropriate for grandmothers, mothers, and teen daughters to read):

The Backup Boyfriend – When a celebrity girlfriend starts to fall for an ordinary man, she must decide what’s more important—having a famous boyfriend or a real relationship. To be rewritten.

Just Juliet (formerly Happily Ever After) – A recovering romance addict discovers true love with the help of a wise nun and a savvy teenager. In negotiations for a publishing contract.

MEMOIR:

Red Eggs and Good Luck – A preteen Chinese-American Catholic girl discovers the limits of luck and the power of prayer in the Bay Area of the late seventies and early eighties. To be published October 2015 by She Writes Press.

Beyond Words

The art of creating a book cover goes beyond selecting an image and a font. It must create an instant impression with a reader while conveying important themes of the book.

When the graphic artist started working on my book cover, I was asked to supply some ideas. I immediately gravitated toward the themes symbolized by the title: red eggs for birth and orange blossoms for good luck. Red egg parties celebrate birth. In the Chinese culture, you are born twice, once into life and once into wisdom when you are sixty. Oranges are symbols of good luck. I didn’t want actual oranges to compete with the red eggs on the cover. That’s why I suggested orange blossoms.

What I didn’t consider was color.

When the six cover images were sent over for my review, I was immediately impressed. Scrolling through the images, my gaze caught on the symmetry and simplicity of a white orange blossom fading into the middle of a white background with a single red egg to the side with the word, memoir, written across it. I thought of how it captured the essence of the book quite simply. I was about to contact my publisher with my choice when a cold wind brushed against my arm as I reached for the phone. I glanced at the image again. Suddenly, I remembered the Chinese believed white was the color of death and misfortune and ghosts.

Yes, ghosts.

As a Catholic Chinese American, I believed there was life after death. The soul was eternal. Spirits could travel between worlds and contact the living. Did I really want to be visited by an ancestral ghost?

I showed the book covers to those around me. Almost everyone chose the white background cover, which confirmed my initial impression that it was the best cover for the book.

But I didn’t sleep well that night. I dreamed of the white book cover haunting me. The white book cover was the fourth one in the selection. The Chinese believed four was an unlucky number. Why was I suddenly so superstitious? After all, I’m not 100% Chinese. I have an American mother. I wore white to my wedding, not red, the color of happiness. There was no red egg and ginger party for my children who were baptized in the Catholic Church. I prayed the rosary instead of lighting candles and incense on an ancestral altar. Yet I could not shake the feeling of dread that encompassed me.

In the coming months, I will reveal the cover image I chose, but for now, rest assured it will not arouse the wrath of any ghosts.

After Signing the Contract

JourneySince I’ve signed with She Writes Press as part of winning the 2014 Memoir Discovery Contest, I’ve been busy with the next steps in anticipation of a fall 2015 publication date.

I’ve sent a cover memo to the publisher for the graphic artist to start working on the cover. Although I might not have a cover to release to the public until March 2015, I’m excited to be working with a top industry professional to craft a cover-grabbing image that will cause more readers to pick up the book!

I’ve sent out queries for endorsements. Although Amy Tan is busy with a tight writing schedule, other authors are considering a back cover copy blurb including Maxine Hong Kingston. Keep your fingers crossed!

I’ve sent out requests for permissions. Whenever you quote another copyrighted poem, lyric, or book, you need permission. In my memoir, my mothers, sisters, and I sing a portion of “American Pie” by Don McLean. I’m waiting to hear if Universal Songs will grant permissions. Keep your fingers crossed again!

Although I have in-house publicity, I’ve contacted publicists for additional support for my book. Although the interview process has been grueling, I’m learning what it feels like to be an employer searching for the perfect employee. I haven’t found the perfect fit yet, but I’m still looking. If you know someone who specializes in promoting non-fiction books in Northern California, please let me know. Referrals are always appreciated.

I’m working with Nat Mundel in getting my memoir turning into a
screenplay for Hollywood.

If that wasn’t enough, I’ve been busy sending out press releases to notify the media of my contest win.

Deep breath…release… Yes, yoga has been helping me keep my balance, as well as my immediate family.


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The Fun Begins. . .

The Contract

Immediately after winning the 2014 Memoir Discovery Contest sponsored by She Writes Press and Serendipity Literary Agency, I received a congratulatory email and a publishing contract. Shortly after signing and returning my contract, I received a welcome packet. Today I received a call from the publisher.

Brooke Warner was warm, wise, and wonderfully informative in the twenty minutes we spoke about what to expect. We discussed print runs, release dates, ARCs (advanced reader copies), bookstore placement, and publicity. Luckily, in the midst of all this information, Brooke took a breath and said, “You don’t have to decide everything right now.”

But like a newly engaged woman with an upcoming wedding less than one year away, every moment counts.

I’m excited and overwhelmed. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with you, my loyal readers.