Overqualified Dummy. An Author’s Rant.

I post daily confessions on my FB page. This one turned into a rant and required more space.

Confession: I have a Bachelors of Science in Sociology, a Masters in Public Administration, and a Juris Doctor degree. I took the Texas 3-day bar exam in 2005 and passed. Throughout this educational attainment, I worked more jobs than I could possibly list (3-4 at a time) in order to pay for all that education and maintain a living. I still had to earn grants–no, I did not qualify for income-based assistance because of my parents’ income, and that STILL pisses me off to this day, since I did not receive consistent help from them until my last year of law school. Why did their income need to be a factor!–and I had to accept student loans. While I’m on it–another thing that pisses me off is that I never qualified for in-state tuition from my law school even though I worked in the state of Texas and met all the other criteria for being an in-state student post my 1L year. In case you didn’t know, college is expensive. Being an out-of-state student is even more expensive. [insert angry face]

Okay. Whatever. Back to…oh, yes. I also volunteered more time than I can even conceive, when I look back on it, and actively participated in many organizations. I mean, I held offices in some of these organizations, and still managed to party whenever I could. Hell, partying was a must to unwind from the stress of my busy life.

So, my resume is full of credentials and awards and impressive busy work, along with some awesome references from bosses and associates who can attest to my hard work ethic and reliable character. Unfortunately, there are many who can also attest to my low tolerance for alcohol. Gotta take the bad with the good, I suppose, and I have nothing to hide.

That wasn’t the confession. Those were just facts.

The dirty little secret I want to share with you all today is that after ALL that, the devil must have jumped in me, and made me decide to spend more time writing and being a published author than continuing to pursue the professional career I prepared for. Disgusting, isn’t it? Truth of the matter is that I always wanted to pursue liberal arts. I wanted to be in the entertainment industry, something to do with my passion for movies, TV and books. Really. I wouldn’t lie to you.

But I didn’t want to be a broke artist. In addition to all the jokes about unethical lawyers (stop all that, will ya???), we’ve all heard the ones about artists being impoverished. It goes with the territory…unless you’re part of the small percentage that gets a big break.

So guess what this genius did? Well, I already told you. I spent way too much time and way too much money and way too much effort going the educational route. To do what? Be a broke artist. And a supportive wife. And an exhausted mother. I certainly didn’t need to go through all that just to end up being THIS. Ah-mazing.

I may not be as smart as I thought.

You know what’s more amazing? I thought, well, maybe I would have a little respect in the industry. I earned it, didn’t I? WRONG. Maybe if I wrote nonfiction. But now that I know what I do about the perception of folks with lots of qualifications (and potential, I’ve been told) deciding to do something as “meaningless” as write books instead of becoming a notable attorney at a notable law firm–I’m doubting that too. The only way you can be a respected writer is if you become Stephen King, J.K. Rowlings, Nicholas Sparks, or the like. Maybe not quite that large, but I’m exaggerating it a bit by listing names I know you know to make the point that only a handful care…until you’ve already made a name for yourself. Not many will help you get there in the meantime. They’ll just sit back and wonder what’s wrong with you for choosing this path when you could be doing something else.

My own mother, bless her soul, was so proud of me when I got sworn in as an attorney. I’m the only one in the family. Well, I was, until I married my husband, who became an intellectual property attorney. Then there was my sister-in-law, who became one as well. Should we count them? Okay. Fine. Let’s do…but they weren’t attorneys then, dammit. It was just moi.

My dad was proud too, I suppose, though you never can tell with that one. He didn’t even come to my graduation. I mean, how often does one graduate from LAW SCHOOL? Whatever. Let’s stick with my mom, because I’m positive she has always been supportive of my endeavors…until it comes to throwing away a legal career on writing filthy books she can’t even make it through. Ah, the shame. My point is–my mom doesn’t understand that I die a little inside every time she asks me about my legal case load, but not about my recent author event.

I’ve been reducing the number of legal cases I work ever since I released my first book in 2011. Guess what–I have SEVEN books now, four of which are full-length novels. That’s something I tolled over for months or years. Something where I created an imaginary world with characters I made come alive. Something that a handful of people actually enjoy. Isn’t that impressive? Guess not. My mother never asks me about my next book release or current book sales. Instead, she tells me, “Oh, you can still become a judge one day.” A JUDGE??? Darling, I was just letting you know that my friends are running for judicial seats, or So-and-So just won an election. I’m proud of them. I didn’t bring that up to say my ambition is to BE them. My mother’s comments let me know she’s hoping writing is a hobby. She was okay when it was a book or two. Hey, good job…but it’s time to get back to serious work, isn’t it? I’ve told her it isn’t a hobby. It’s my passion. She said I should keep my bar card active. Oh, I am, Mom. I am. I still pay my bar dues, occupational tax, and licensing fees, and I keep current with my CLEs, if I do nothing else. I wouldn’t want this author thing to collapse and I have nothing to fall back on, right? Heaven forbid.

She’s not the only one. Happens all the time. I can see the judgment on other professionals’ faces when I mention being an author before I say anything about being an attorney. “What kind of law do you practice?” But, but…I want to talk about my books. Ha! They don’t care about that. An older female attorney that I respect a great deal, told me she needed to get me back in the practice. She said I needed to stop that fiction nonsense and make a difference in the world. She meant no harm. Honestly. Her heart was in the right place. She’s used to mentoring young black female attorneys. There aren’t that many of us as it is. And she may be right. Believe me, I have my moments of self-doubt. Every other hour, in fact. How would I feel if my children went the exact route I did? Wouldn’t I think–what a waste. Maybe. So, I’m doing my best to listen to them now and foster their natural talents and abilities. Hopefully, they’ll get it right the first time, without mortgage-size student loan debt by the time they settle into their dreams.

Which brings me to those moments when I need to prove to myself and everyone else that I can do this. I’m good at this. Writing books, I mean. Being a parent? Not so much, but I get by. Being a wife is sketchy every now and then too, but I work at it. I also want to continue working at being a better writer. Everyone who became a successful author had to start somewhere. And I’m getting better at this.

Am I a dummy for going all around my thumb to get to my pinky? Yes. But I can’t undo the past. What’s done is done. I can only hope I’ve accumulated some good material and transferable skills along the way that will help me develop interesting stories. If I’m lucky–I can also shape my future by doing what I love now. It’s best for me to follow my passion, right? Better late than never, right? I should keep at it until Dicey Grenor is a household name, right?

Ha! Yeah, we’ll see.

By the way, those times when friends and family ask me about my books or what it’s like being an author–GOLDEN.

Devaluing Books to Gain Exposure~An Author’s Musing.

A friend just told me she loved my books and thought I had some serious talent, but I needed to stop giving them away. She said my books were too good for that. That I should stop devaluing them. I told her that it’s the best way to get exposure for indie authors. No one knows or cares who I am unless I give them a sample of my work. She said that was bullshit. That I should keep writing them and let them speak for themselves. If I’m patient, a handful of readers will turn into many, many more. It would take time, but my hard work would be more appreciated in the long run, which is what I deserve.

Well, patience is not my strongest quality, neither is counting on others to help spread the word. I tend to be more…aggressive. BUT I agree that in theory, I would publish my books, let people know they are published, then sit back and let them decide whether to buy them. Then wait for them to read them. Then see if they liked them. And pray that they told somebody else about them. In theory, that’s how it would work. It just doesn’t.

This is how it really works:

Dicey: “Hey, friend. I just published such-n-such book.”

Friend: “That’s awesome. Congratulations.”

The end.

Repeat to Friend B. And C. And so forth.

Sometimes it works likes this:

Dicey: “Hey, friend. I just published such-n-such book.”

Friend: “That’s awesome. Congratulations. Because I think you are the greatest thing since sliced bread, I have to buy that.”

Dicey: “Aw, shucks. Thanks! Let me know what you think.”

Friend buys it. Six months later…

Dicey: “Hey, friend. What did you think?”

Friend: “Of what?”

Dicey: “My book.”

Friend: “Oh, sorry. I haven’t read it yet.”

Dicey: 😦 Nobody loves me.

I ask again in another six months. Same answer.

The end.

Sometimes it goes like this:

Dicey: “Hey, friend. I just published a book.”

Friend: “That’s awesome. Congratulations. What is it about?”

Dicey: “It’s about Ca-RAZY stuff. There’s some explicit sex, some violence, some really racy themes. It’s not for the squeamish or easily offended.”

Friend: “Oh, wow! That sounds like something I would love to read. Where can I find it?”

Dicey: “Here’s a paperback copy. They’re also on Amazon Kindle.”

Friend: “I’m going to buy it ASAP.”

Friend buys the book.

Dicey: “Wonderful! THANKS! Let me know what you think, tell your friends, and post an honest review on Amazon when you’re done.”

Friend: “Okay.”

A few days later…

Friend: “Oh, my God! Dicey, you are the bomb. I always knew you were, but WOW! You are really the bomb. That book was awesome. It was very vivid. It had hot sex scenes. It had a great, surprising plot. You’re my favorite author in the whole wide world.” (Okay, so I’m embellishing here, but it’s my blog.)

Dicey: “Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Did you write a review?”

Friend: “No.”

Dicey: “Did you tell anybody?”

Friend: “No.”

Dicey: “Okay.”

Six months later…

Dicey: “Hey, Friend. Did you post an honest review or tell anybody about my book yet?”

Friend: “No.”

Dicey: “Okay.”

The end.

So, you see? I’ll be 101 years old before reaping the benefits of reaching out to my friends or letting word of mouth gain exposure for my books. That doesn’t mean I’m not eternally grateful for those who DO buy and/or read my books. Do not be mistaken! That’s better than nothing, trust me! I’m happy when that happens. I’m just making a point about exposure.

When I have a free promotion period on Amazon, I increase my chances of spreading the word about my books. My husband likes to call it “Playing The Numbers Game”. The more people who have access to it, the more to actually read it. The more to actually read it, the more reviews and chitchat about it. The more reviews and chitchat, the more sales. The more sales, the more readers, the more awesome I feel as an author, the more books I write…and the cycle continues.

When I do a free promotion, it goes like this:

Dicey: “Hey, Everybody. My book is free. Leave a review when you’re done.”

Everybody: “Oh, shiznit! Thanks.”

Two thousand downloads from every country and state later…

More sales, more reviews, more fans on FB, more followers on Twitter, more hits to my website, and more friendships formed with people who share common interests. Mostly, copies are just stored on Kindles and other reading devices along with the millions of other free ebooks BUT I just made a few more fans than I had before the free promotion downloads.

When I give a free copy of my book to Friend, it’s a wild card that could go either way. They may not ever read it or write a review or tell another soul about it OR they may do all of the above. It’s a gamble I take. I’m out of long, sleepless nights writing something entertaining and the cost to publish my book then give it away for free if they do neither. BUT if they happen to spread the love, it was an investment with a favorable return. That’s golden. I have to take that chance sometimes, and sometimes I have to give it to thousands to increase my chances.

That being said, I make Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul, book 1 of The Narcoleptic Vampire Series free every now and then, but I do not EVER, nor do I intend to make any other book in the series free. My rationale is that once you read book 1, you know whether you like my writing style, whether you can handle the risque’ content, and whether you want to continue. At that point, you can buy the other books in the series. You can treat book 1 as a sample. If you don’t like it, you’ve only wasted a little time. If I make all the other books in the series free, I’ve wasted ALL my time.

I’ve made Shameful (Taboo Fiction) free in the past too. There were fifteen hundred downloads, with no reviews and a handful of sales later. Within recent weeks, I’ve had an increase in sales for it, but I attributed it to some of the other promotional things I’ve done recently. I’m still hopeful that those who downloaded the book when it was free will read it one day and let me know what they think. I will not make that one free again.

I’ve recently released a dark comedy novelette, How To Have A Perfect Marriage, that I will make free one day soon, so keep an eye out for that. It’s only $.99 now, which isn’t much, but for some reason FREE screams a totally different tune. Yes, it screams Cheap-Because-This-May-Be-Another-Crappy-Book, but at least it screams it to potential readers I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to promote to. Once it’s free, there will be thousands of downloads, I’m sure. Hopefully, there will be thousands of readers too, who will also want to buy some of my other books. I will probably write more short works like this and make them free periodically as samples of my writing.–>Playing The Numbers game.

To the friend who said I was devaluing my books by giving them away–Yes, you are right. One day, I hope to be in a position where I can actually let the quality of my books speak for themselves. I hope friends like you will continue to spread the word about them. I hope they will find other readers who love them as much as you do. And I hope that they will eventually be appreciated. We’ll be able to look back on these days and say, “Wow. Can you believe I gave them away for free?” And you’ll smile at me and say, “No, I can’t. But at least you don’t have to do that anymore.” Friend, thanks for the verbal bitch-slapping. I love that you love me and my books enough to tell me to stop doing that. One day, I’ll be in a position to follow your advice.

*hugs and kisses*

Big, emotional THANK YOU! to those of you who buy, read, and/or share information about my books. ❤

Steve Jobs’s Words Of Advice.

I always admire people who have awesome ideas that they work hard to see to fruition. People who love what they do and it shows. People who pour their hearts and souls in to living up to their full potential. Who go against odds and do what others think is impossible. Who create inventions so powerful, they change the world we live in. For the better.

Let’s see…

There was Edison, who gave us the incandescent light bulb. Hadaway, who gave the electric stove. Spencer, the microwave. Gorrie, the refrigerator.  Zworykin and Farnsworth, television. The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) at the Dept. of Defense, the internet.

These are all things I cannot imagine living without. But the list goes on…

If you’ve been to Houston, TX during July, you know why I have to add Carrier’s air conditioner invention to my list of must-haves.

Also–whoever came up with Medela’s double electric breast pump, making it possible for me to feed my babies mommy’s milk for eight months each, is pretty friggin’ cool. And I’m super thrilled with whoever made my Hewlett Packard 3-in-1 printer too.

Of course, Gates founded Microsoft.

Aaaaaaaaaand Steve Jobs revolutionized the computer hardware and software industry with Apple.

I like reading about the lives and values of such icons to learn how they achieved their dreams. I study them to learn secrets to their successes.

So what makes someone like Steve become the legend he is? Well, he loved his work. And he had the courage to follow his heart and his intuition.

These are memorable quotes from Steve Jobs’s 2005 Stanford commencement address where he doles advice to new graduates:

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

That’s exactly why I started writing novels. I absolutely LOVE writing.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

That’s exactly why I write what I write. Regardless of who is uncomfortable with the  controversial subject matter of my stories–I have stories to tell. And since I’m the one doing the writing, I get to decide what is appropriate and what isn’t. There’s freedom in discovering that.

Besides, there are plenty of others writing Christian fiction and self-help books.

Are you doing what you love? Or are you still listening to what others have to say about who you should be?

To read Jobs’s full commencement address or to watch the video, go here.

To find out about other inventions that make life a little easier, go here.

RIP Steve Jobs.

Remembering the Fallen…

I don’t fear dying nearly as much as I fear what it would be like to continue living after someone really close to me has died. Hell, it saddens me a great deal to learn that someone I’ve never met, or barely knew, has gone on. And though I feel terrible he or she has lost his or her life, it pains me more to imagine the agony whoever’s left behind must feel. The grief. The hollowness. The void from the missing soul.

I personally don’t know one person who perished in the 9/11 attacks, but I see their faces and the faces of their loved ones across the screen every year. My heart goes out to the family and friends left behind. The ones who had to pick up the pieces and move on.

Yes, I have lost friends and grandparents and other relatives, and that hurt. Badly. I can’t imagine anyone closer than that because even the thought hurts too much. So every year when the news reports the death toll and how people have learned to cope with the devastating aftermath of 9/11, I am saddened again.

And then I am inspired to live every day to the fullest.

Tomorrow is not promised. Not for me or for anyone close to me. I must live every day like it is my last or like it is their last. I must tell people I love them. I must be kind and compassionate. I must put away my phone or my laptop and actually spend quality time with those I love. Because if something were to happen to them, I would regret not having spent one more second with them.

I write death scenes in my books just like I do sex and romance and happiness and joy. They are all a part of life. And just like the cheerful aspects of my plots are intended to invoke deep emotions, so are the gloomier ones. But it’s not to get readers down. It’s not to make them sad or angry. It’s to remind them that life is fragile and we have to make the most of it. With the ones we love. While we can.

Death is certain. Death is final. And for those who remain, it can be sad….despairingly so. Those who believe in an afterlife usually find some comfort in believing they will see their loved ones again. But regardless of where one receives comfort, finding the strength to carry on is even more important.

Dedicated to the brave…the courageous…the strong survivors of the fallen on  9/11.