Hyper Holidays and “Glass Children”

The onslaught of the holiday season is, unfortunately for those living in an ASD family, the perfect storm for constant sensory overload. Glitter abounds and meltdowns lurk everywhere. For each member of an ASD family (including parents and siblings), every day from the beginning of Thanksgiving week to the end of New Year’s week can be a daily balancing act.

I’m an ASD sibling and my constant need to discover who/why I am in relation to my brother is never-ending. I’ve been trying and trying to find an engaging way to raise awareness about the needs of ASD siblings. As I was scouring the Internet, I came across a TED talk that highlights the notion of ASD siblings as “glass children.” The speaker in the TED Talk, Alicia Arenas, explains that the term “glass children” is used not to characterize ASD siblings as “fragile,” but as members of the family, who, unfortunately, become “see-through.”

Have a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSwqo-g2Tbk

It’s an enlightening video. Agree?

How to Think Like a Swiss Army Knife

Indie authors need to wear so many hats today. As more and more “writers” enter the rush to find gold, the intensity to publish their own work and be successful salespeople increases daily. Everytime, I learn a new skill to promote my books (a good thing!), I can’t help but feel like a swiss army knife.

First there’s the writing and editing. No small task, and the reason we’re all doing this is in the first place! If we weren’t driven by an urge to write and share…the rest wouldn’t follow.

Then there are the IT skills needed to navigate Amazon, KDP, CreateSpace, and Smashwords (distribution to all major online retailers EXCEPT Amazon). It’s not easy. And if you’re unfamiliar with the IT world, and too broke to hire someone who has the skills (as most of us are), it can be daunting! I use Google to try and find answers to my
problems on forums from users who have had the same problem. Whenever I get to a point where I’m stumped and frustrated, I stop where I am and start again the next
day.

Then the marketing…don’t even get me started. Marketing can eat up hours every day, but the good news is that it CAN be done. Here are the resources I used and links
to “how to” articles that include instructions (step-by-step).

Book Trailer

I’m finding more and more that potential readers respond much more readily to pictures instead of words. So I tried my hand at creating a book trailer. I used Windows
Movie Maker (WMM). It’s free and I’m a PC user so the choice was a no-brainer for me. I found it easy to use. It did have some limitations, but for a free program, I can’t complain.

Here’s a link to a free WMM tutorial that I found helpful: http://www.atomiclearning.com/moviemaker2

I opted to buy a song on iTunes for $1.29 to accompany my video images. I loaded my finished video onto YouTube. All looked good from my laptop, but when I tried to
view it from my smart phone, YouTube wouldn’t let me play it. I figured out that it was because I used a copyrighted sound track. So I uploaded and tested the same
video onto Vimeo and I could indeed play it on my smart phone. So there it sits. I had a blast making it (yes I’m a dork.)

Here’s my book trailer video: https://vimeo.com/82410975

Local Media

I started out thinking that I would only gain a following for my writing by getting visibility in major publications like The New York Times or the Los Angeles Times. Then I came back down to earth and realized that local small-town newspapers are a whole lot easier to ask for and get a book review. So I sent an email request to the town newspaper where I raised my son (and my Labrador) in the San Francisco Bay Area. They said yes right away. I was thrilled.

Here’s the article: http://tinyurl.com/k4lhmxw

I’m still collecting data on how much visibility I gained from the article. Regardless, it made me feel much less tiny.

Online Book Promotion

I’ve gotten the best results (the most book purchases) by using online promotions to readers who are looking for cheap reads. This is the only part of my marketing plan that costs money, but so far, it has produced the best results. Here’s a list of the major players as of today:

I continue to post on Facebook (both personal and business pages) and Twitter and hope for the best, but I haven’t really seen any solid evidence that my posts translate to book sales. I purchased a Facebook “promotion” which did absolutely nothing.

There’s more…editing, cover design, how to target appropriate content markets and days of the week to maximize income…but that’s enough for today.

disclaimer: the information I’m offering here is based on my personal experience. I’m not claiming that it’s applicable to everyone.

The Good, the Bad, and the Lucky Dog!

This post is in two parts.

1. Amazon reviews – new voice for angry people?

I had the unfortunate experience of being on the receiving end of some nasty Amazon book reviews recently. I hadn’t gotten any reviews yet that were anywhere near as negative as the handful of 1-star reviews I got in response to a KDP giveaway of my book “Fisheye.” I felt blindsided.

In my mind, some of the hateful reviews were uncalled for. But I’m the kind of person that if I don’t like something, I keep it to myself and walk away. Apparently, I’m among the minority. I learned a painful lesson.

Art is so personal. The emergence of the Internet and the ability to comment online on anything and everything, in my opinion, has made private art a public discussion. I never expected my writing to incite such vile reactions from readers. It was a harsh learning experience.

2. On a lighter note…

My “Lucky” Dog book is complete and is now available online in both ebook and print book format. I’m hoping that the book’s subject will appeal to a much less caustic audience. Here’s the link: http://amzn.com/0985328886

Enjoy!

New Hope!

I’m just about to publish my next book (“Lucky” Dog) about the berserk but soooo sweet Labrador Retriever that I raised along with my young son.

After reading the list of books I’ve published in the past year (OMG memoir, Asperger’s sibling support, breast cancer odyssey), I realized it’s time to write funny! Thankfully, or not, I have a weird ability to remember every last detail about my life events. So writing about Lucky’s daily comical mishaps, even though they happened about ten years ago, came really easily to me. It felt so good writing about it!

The subjects I’ve written about so far, while genuine, aren’t exactly uplifting. But I REFUSE to write about zombies, vampires, paranormal romance, or anything else
that I know absolutely nothing about. And so, unfortunately, I remain a “starving artist.”

My goal when I started writing and publishing a couple of years ago was to earn a living doing something I love – writing. And since the self-publishing revolution was
taking off at around the same time, it didn’t seem like that much of a stretch to attain my goal. But sadly, that hasn’t been the case so far.

I have NEW HOPE though. I’m hoping that my “Lucky Dog” book will reach a wider audience. Fingers crossed! Will post here as soon my book is on Amazon…

A writer who won’t give up! (final)

continued from August 4, 2013

The fun stuff (cover design, interior images, page layout, etc.) is now complete.

Pink Tea Leaves

Editing is also now complete. Our book has been through three rounds of editing (me), one peer review (Hillary’s friends), and one round from a professional editor.

We also agreed on a final title. We chose the title “Pink Tea Leaves” for a specific reason. When she was a little girl, Hillary read tea leaves with her great aunt and remembers being fascinated by the random stories that could be told from studying sediments at the bottom of a tea cup. As her cancer odyssey progressed, we settled on tea leaf reading as an appropriate metaphor for the unpredictability of the path that she was traveling.

I submitted the cover and interior files to a publisher for placement on Amazon.

“Pink Tea Leaves” now happily sits here: http://amzn.com/0985328843

I’m happy. Hillary’s happy. Reviewers seem happy. All good.

I’m really glad I went through the book writing/editing/publishing process with Hillary. We both learned A LOT.

Next book I think I’ll write about a happier subject. Maybe the “ADHD” Labrador Retriever I raised while parenting my son on my own. He did get himself into some unforgettable predicaments. (the labrador, not my son. Although…)

More soon!

A writer who won’t give up! (part 4)

continued from July 21…

After Hillary and I decided on our book’s subject (the breast cancer journey) and the tone (not heavy!), we went back and forth about how best to get her thoughts from inside her head into my notebook.

At first, we thought it might be a good idea for her to use iPhone’s built-in voice recorder to log her thoughts. I scripted an outline for her to use so that she had some kind of structure to follow. I didn’t want her to feel like she was just rambling aimlessly into a microphone. Plus I knew that if she had an outline to work from, it would be easier for me to translate her thoughts into notes that I could eventually edit into a book.

Hillary is not shy by any stretch. So I wasn’t too worried about her recordings sounding awkward or about her feeling uncomfortable recording private thoughts into an
iPhone. But after 3-4 weeks of NO CONTENT, she admitted to me that it felt too weird talking into a recorder about her breast cancer odyssey. I’m glad she shared that
with me, but looking back, I think that was my first clue that this project was going to be a challenge. I learned that I was going to have to continually tiptoe around her, understandably, wildly fluctuating feelings. I felt up to the task.

Next we played with the idea of her writing longhand into a journal and then scanning the journal pages so that she could email her journal entries to me. I didn’t know this before we started, but I quickly found out that Hillary is, er, how can I say this nicely, uh, well she’s “technically challenged.” And that’s a gross understatement.

So the scanning idea was a “no-go.” Now what?

Since I was living in an apartment only 10 minutes away, instead of trying to transfer her thoughts digitally, I was able to drive to her house with my laptop, take her journal into a quiet room, type her current entries (verbatim) into a text file, and then return to my apartment. Before going home, Hillary and I met briefly to discuss any outstanding issues that needed resolving.

My goal when editing her journal entries, was to render her thoughts as lucid and cohesive as possible without skewing her intent. I kept that goal in mind as we muddled through our process for the next 5 months. Finally, I had a structure in place that was starting to take on the shape of a book.

At several points during our journal/meeting process, Hillary’s health unfortunately interrupted our flow. Writing into her journal just got to be too intense for someone struggling with the realities of breast cancer. I knew I needed to be as patient and compassionate as possible. We were writing about an extremely delicate subject and, remember, she was kind enough in the first place to take me in when my confidence was at an all-time low.

I remained confident though in what we were trying to accomplish, simultaneously knowing that the longer our process took, the more we were prolonging any potential marketing opportunities. (October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month remains our publishing target.) Daily, I felt like I was walking a tightrope between being compassionate and practical.

Thankfully, Hillary’s health is improving and we’ve been able to not only finalize most of the mundane chores of writing a book, but also successfully collaborate on the creative parts. The fun stuff!

To be continued…

Candid Interview

I was honored to be interviewed by Special Needs Book Review about what it felt like growing up as the sibling of an ASD older brother, why I chose the name “Fisheye Books,” and how I try to stay current with the ever-evolving self-publishing world.

Here are the first 3 questions and answers from the interview.

Interviewer: “Fisheye” is her nickname. Why? We might find out in this interview with Trish Thorpe, author of two books: Fisheye: A Memoir and Asperger’s Sibling Support: 15 Practical Tips for Parents/Caregivers.

Welcome to our interview series! In your guest post I read you grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and had an older brother (by two years) who had undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. Please tell us about your childhood and what being the sibling of an undiagnosed brother with Asperger’s was like.

Trish: In a word, lonely. I was constantly trying to figure out how to get my parents’ attention without upstaging my special-needs brother. I was also constantly trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. I remember always feeling alone. It was not a good upbringing.

Interviewer: “Fisheye” a word you use often. Your website is www.fisheyebooks.com and your books are Fisheye Books. Please elaborate.

Trish: Because I lived inside my head so much while “growing up” and rarely relied on my parents for support or advice, I learned at a young age to look at “the big picture.”  My dad was a television director and therefore familiar with camera lens terminology. He’s the one who dubbed me “Fisheye.” A fisheye lens projects a wide-angle view. A good example is the peephole in your front door.

Interviewer: Tell us about Fisheye: A Memoir. When was it published, how many pages and what years and aspects of your life does it cover?

Trish: My memoir was published in October 2012 and is 210 pages. It was a grueling writing process, but I’m really glad I did it. I learned so much about myself and about what has happened in my life so far and why.

My life has spanned a wide range of subjects. Everything from growing up in Hollywood, to having an alcoholic mother and a narcissist father, to drug addiction and recovery, to raising an LGBT family in the suburbs in the 1990s, to helping a parent die who was never there for you, to being an ASD sibling. That’s just a start.

As I was writing Fisheye, I rediscovered my passion for writing, which inspired me to write more about being the sibling of an ASD brother and what would have helped me feel loved and supported at the time.

You can read the full interview here: http://www.specialneedsbookreview.com/2013/07/27/interview-trish-thorpe-author-aspergers-sibling-support-15-practical-tips-for-parentscaregivers/