6 Things You Should Know About Writing A Book

If you could pick a newly published author’s brain, what questions would you ask? These are some nuggets of knowledge I would like to have heard to prepare me for the unknown;. thoughts to give me the courage to pursue what some family and friends consider a “nice hobby”. If you don’t know what to expect and have these voices in your head, I hope our experience will help.

We hadn’t told many people about our book being published before I began to notice a common response.  A real estate agent confessed, somewhat hesitantly, that she writes stories, but “never submitted any of them to a publisher”.  A young oilfield worker talked about wanting to write a novel, or maybe some short stories, probably in the fantasy genre.  Even my wonderful mother, although pleased and supportive, pointed out that she and my father were both “talented writers”, so this news was not altogether unexpected, relying on ‘the apple not falling far from the tree’ brand of logic.

As a kid, I remember enjoying any assignment involving writing when I was in school.  Even though I knew the odds were in my favor with multiple choice, I relished the challenge offered by an essay question.  I was confident in my ability to talk my way, or in this case, write my way out of the proverbial paper bag.

Once, I came oh, so close to the top of the junior high writing heap when I entered an essay contest requiring my heart and soul aspirations for the future.  Alas, I made the mistake of telling the shallow truth and came in second.  The judges agreed that my writing was as skillful as the winner’s, but she dreamed of saving the world as some sort of conservation super-hero.  This was apparently nobler in their eyes than my redneck desire to be a trick rider, complete with tastefully gaudy, rhinestone-studded outfits.

It was an adolescent disappointment, for sure, but I didn’t dwell on it.  There would be far more angst in my future to dissect and survive.

And there really wasn’t any need for my writing skills as a busy, young mother of five. To my credit, I did help a friend’s husband make a compelling argument with the folks who denied him unemployment insurance resulting in a favorable review of his case.  That and sporadic journal entries, copious grocery lists and, with the advent of the computer age, electronic correspondence were pretty much “all she wrote”.

That is until Duane began sending me ‘assignments’ three years ago when I was in Alberta and he was still at home in Utah.  These assignments involved re-reading our original emails and editing them for ‘the book” he was convinced people would want to read.  I love my husband, and after long hours with my dad and in the spirit of cooperation, I would work on these assignments.  They proved to be a welcome distraction from the draining emotions related to the certain loss of my father on a soon but uncertain date.

Once complete (both Dad’s mortal mission and the book collaboration) our search for the perfect publisher began.  We started with a long list of possibilities and while Duane the Cable Guy was working, I researched and trimmed the list down to a handful.  After some discussion, we selected Cedar Fort, Inc. We felt their company’s philosophy would be most welcoming of the book we had to offer.  Having become well acquainted with their submission guidelines, we filled out the forms asking about our social media involvement or willingness to become so and other questions like who, if any, prominent contacts we might know.  As daunting as those questions seemed when paired with our pitiful answers, we took a deep breath, pressed SEND and waited.

We knew it would take up to six months to hear back so I placed October 2014 in the recesses of my mind and got back to the business of everyday life. We got the email in July.  Blinking neon words like “loved it”, “refreshingly honest and real” and  “witty, entertaining and inspiring” made me cry, re-read it and cry some more. Rinse and repeat.  They wanted to publish our book!

Looking back at the process, it definitely took time and work.  It took research.  I found out writing a synopsis and our author bios were more difficult than the book.  Choosing a new title (funny story for another time) was also unexpectedly challenging.  We needed to edit more, and fine-tune the manuscript as per our editor’s request.  Thanks to her experience and knowledge, the final product is far superior to the one she had to slog through initially.

What I would like every person who told me they want to write a book to know, is this:

1.  Writers write. Regardless of the busy-ness of your life, delaying the dream most often means compromising or giving up on it.  What have you got to lose by pursuing it?  What will you lose if you let time slip away from you?  The old adage “There’s no time like the present.” is an old adage for a reason. Honestly, if Duane hadn’t been the impetus, I highly doubt I would have justified the time and effort my part of the book took and I would not be having this awesome-scary new author experience now. .Start writing today!

3.   To edit is divine.  Write your hearts out, mercifully keeping the reader in mind to spare as much as possible, your new editor and yourself the absolute need to trim unnecessary words and phrases, paragraphs and pages. I knew all that going in, having read up on the whole ‘how to get published’ thing and still cringe when I think of the rough ride our editor had to take when she read our submitted manuscript.

 4.  Pick a publisher.  Select a publisher you’ve researched and whose mission and philosophy are congruent with your own. Your publisher should be one with whom you feel comfortable working and are proud to call “my publisher”.  And if a publisher is wildly prestigious and highly visible on an international scale, regardless of their popularity and authors’ success, resist the temptation to send your zombie apocalypse horror novel to one whose niche is romance.  I know you’re thinking that’s a no-brainer, but it is human nature ‘throw it out there and see what sticks’.  Be deliberate in this decision.

5.  Give your creation wings. Unless you’re writing for your own therapy, the goal has always been to share your gift with others. Letting go of a piece of you can be a frightening prospect, but now is not the time to lose your focus and purpose. To quote Susan Jeffers via my mom, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!” You believed in your project, now believe in yourself. You’ve invested your time and energy. You’ve  done the writing and research. You have your artistic DNA woven throughout your work. It’s time. For heaven sake, hit SEND.

6.  Relax. For a minute.

When your publisher contacts you about signing that contract, your ride on the crazy train has only just begun. Writing the book was the easy part!

You’ll be busy with new edits as per their suggestions, writing bios and a synopsis, getting to know your marketing guy or girl and contacting book bloggers who might be interested in reading and reviewing your book. You’ll need to set up author pages on Amazon.com and Goodreads. Have you secured your domain name(s) and set up a website?

You might want to get visible on social media, tweeting, Facebooking, and Instagramming, to name a few. There will be growing pains as you find out that Facebook page for your book was unnecessary and you need an author page instead. It’s all part of the learning process and you will find many along the way willing to help.A fantastic resource I’ve come across is Bad Redhead Media. Rachel Thompson has developed a FREE 30 day Book Marketing Challenge and a Book Marketing Chat where you can ask questions and connect with other authors every week.

Learning from others who have walked the path you aspire to will help you on your way to success as a published author. Now, you and I need to get back to work. Write. Now.

Selena Pannell, co-author of 3,000 Miles to Eternity: A True Internet Love Story

Back Story – How Not To Attract A Typical Wife

With online dating becoming more mainstream, a great deal of attention is given to creating a great profile that will not only garner interest from quality, potential soulmate candidates , but give an accurate portrayal of the spouse-seeking individual.

Duane included this picture in his online profile album.  It took a special kind of, uh, special to overlook the obvious and find the amazing man on the other end of that mouse. .

*We pulled it out of the archives because we’ve had requests for pictures to go along with some of the stories in the book.  Happy Throwback Thursday!

~Selena Pannell, co-author of 3,000 Miles To Eternity: A True Internet Love Story

Find Someone I Can Love, Too

I’m excited about the release of our book and I tell almost everyone I meet.  It’s a fun thing and most people are awesome in how they can be so happy for the good fortune of a complete stranger.  I believe that some folks wouldn’t care if the title of the book was How to Sort Tupperware, although less likely to buy the book, they’d still be happy for us.  After telling so many people over the past months, I have developed a synopsis that gives a good overview of the story.  It begins something like this:  “My wife and I met on the internet about 15 years ago, when that sort of thing was not nearly as popular as it is today.  I was looking for a bride and she was committed to never marry again.  I had stars in my eyes and she hated men…”

You would be surprised at how many women’s eyes light up when they hear that my dear love once hated men.  It was at this point in my little sales pitch that a woman said to me this week, “Oh, can I ever identify with that!”  She had her hands on her hips and a very self-satisfied smile on her face, but followed with, “Sorry, no offense.”

She told me a harrowing tale of her divorce and meeting a guy online after her divorce and having to get a restraining order…and for a few moments I hated men too.  Fortunately, the conversation went back to the book and she began asking questions.  A couple of anecdotes later and she was telling me that she might give the online singles thing another chance.  I hope that the next guy she meets is a real prince; for his sake and mine.

This is my hope for 3,000 Miles to Eternity, that the things that Selena and I learned along the way could help other people in their relationships.  Our special circumstances, being so very far away from one another, made us talk about things that were important to us.  I think it’s a shame when someone has had their heart broken so badly that they would forsake the idea of falling in love again to avoid another heartbreak.  Hopefully for some, our story would be inspiration to try again.

Many years ago, when my children were still preteens, I came to the realization that their mother and I were headed toward divorce.  While the marriage was always on the rocks, fueled by addiction and immaturity, there was a period of about 6 years where I really struggled to salvage it and make it work.  It was during this time that I began to preach a little phrase to my kids.  I had looked back at my life and identified a key moment where I had gone wrong and hoped that this short message would help them avoid the same mistake.  I told them that when the time came to find someone to marry that they needed to “Bring home someone that I can love, too.”

Just so you know, I didn’t tell my children that there was anything wrong with their mother, or even try to explain how I came to be the bearer of such wisdom.  I married their mom in defiance of my parents and family who thought that our age difference, among other things, was going to be more than we could overcome.  It was the fear that many parents have for their children; that we would marry and begin to have children AND THEN discover our incompatibility.  Neither of us was more flawed than the other, but we were not a good match and determined not to care what our families thought of it.  As it was, she wasn’t bringing home someone that her parents could love either.

“Bring home someone that I can love too” is a simple little phrase; easy to say and easy to remember.  Easy to do?  Not so much.  Both of my daughters had long-term relationships with boys that I knew were wrong for them.  I spent many long nights worrying about their futures.  My girls might believe otherwise, but I was under a constant state of self-restraint during those years.  It helped that I had Selena in my life at that time.  She would remind me not to get angry or do things that would drive my girls away.  Of course, she couldn’t always stop me before the words would spill out.  Once when we were all visiting, I looked one of these young men right in the eye and said, “I don’t like you.  You’re not good for Mallory, and I don’t see me changing my mind about that.”

The room fell silent, but I didn’t really say anything that we all didn’t already know.  Truth be known, he wasn’t a horrible kid.  In fact, if he would’ve been just a friend of my son’s, I would’ve liked him just fine.  But for my daughter, I couldn’t see it working out and I didn’t ‘love’ him.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.  – Proverbs 22:6

It was a long hard ride, but I have been blessed.  Both of my girls eventually came to their senses and married excellent men.  I couldn’t have picked better husbands for them.  My son married a girl that we also love very much.  Was it my preaching?  I don’t know.  They may have done the right thing without my corny little phrase.

What I do know is that a good marriage doesn’t just happen.  It’s hard to make good decisions when your eyes are all glazed over with love and we all need to think about these things before the moment comes.  Some things can be overcome if you prepare yourself.  Marrying someone of a different race, culture, political philosophy, or age can be stressful on a marriage, but not necessarily spell doom if you talk about it and decide how you will cope with the problems that could arise.

A common ambush to marriage is religion.  Especially in your early 20’s, religion can be a real non-issue.  It’s a time of life when some people stray away from the religion that they were raised with, and it doesn’t even seem like an important consideration when two young people start to look toward matrimony.  In a couple of years a baby comes along and all at once the two people who seemingly had no religious inclinations whatsoever, are thinking about christenings, baptisms, and Vacation Bible School.  They want something for their child that is fundamentally important to them in direct opposition to their spouse.  It’s more than just a little sticky situation and worth talking about way before the baby arrives.

I am a very happily married man.  I have wife that my family can love too!  Selena and I have wonderful adventures together and she is perfect for me.

It was not because I was so wise in my search for the perfect bride that I found her.  I really do have to give credit to prayer on this one.  I asked for the ideal wife, and I got her, but under the terms and conditions that would make it all come out right.  We were 3,000 miles apart and, in the beginning, did not believe we would ever meet face to face.  We couldn’t hold hands or kiss; we were forced to talk and get to know each other.  We were vulnerable with one another and honest.  On the day that she said that she loved me, I knew that she loved the real me and vice-versa.

I’ll bet that I have told several hundred people about our book this year.  And like I said earlier, there are many women who can identify with Selena’s man-hating phase.  There are also some crusty old dudes who don’t look like they’ve thought about any kind of romance in a long, long time, but when I tell them a little of the story, regardless of where they are in life, I see the interest.  It is said that the ‘natural man’ is an enemy to God; I believe that the natural man is also an enemy to true love—but the spirit?  The very essence of who we are, our spirit loves romance and true love!

~Duane Pannell, co-author of 3,000 Miles To Eternity: A True Internet Love Story

In Two Months Time

Now it’s getting real.  In two months our book will be released.  In two months, our lives will change in ways we never expected.  Fifteen years ago, Duane and I had known of the other’s existance for two short months.  How could we have possibly known that we were two months into a wild and wonderful collaboration, merging our lives and hearts and writing a story for the whole world to see?  Literally.

Pannell Bytes 2 months to Moongoddess by Duane Pannell

~Selena Pannell

Dewey’s Read-a-thon – No Sleep. No Sweat!

Since writing 3,000 Miles To Eternity with Duane, I have learned so much about reading today, in the year 2015.  Honestly, I thought gadgets, devices and virtual gathering places like Facebook and Twitter had replaced books and reading had been reduced to texts, tweets and status updates.  I was wrong!  Reading is alive and well and thriving.

I found out there are people who blog about books and review them.  There are gathering places like goodreads.com for authors, readers and reviewers alike.  And there’s even a Read-A-Thon happening this weekend that I’d like to invite fellow book devotees to participate in along with me.  It’s a 24 hour marathon, but no pressure to lose sleep unless you want to be hardcore about it.  And there are prizes! For reading!

Back in the olden days, a huge part of growing up where I did, on a ranch in east central Alberta revolved around reading.  Out in the boonies, our tv had rabbit ears and programs came in classic b&w on our 20 inch TV.  We had three channels to choose from, two were the same and one was French.  Welcome to the world of my childhood.

 So when I wasn’t outside riding with my sister or chasing down a rooster to makefriends with, and if all my chores or ‘privileges’, as Mom called them, were done, I had my nose in a book.  When Mom finished training horses or baking twelve loaves of freshly milled whole wheat bread, she was reading.  My Dad was from the old school, I think I can say literally here, because he was born in 1917.  He raised horses, hunted and trapped and took care of our family from the proceeds.  When he wasn’t toiling on our behalf, he was reading.  I think you get the idea; I come from a family of readers.

I was raised on Reader’s Digest and we often shared books we enjoyed with each other.  We played Scrabble to while away long winter evenings. Going to school and finding new books, displayed with the cover slightly open and pages fanned out was a temptation I could never resist and I do believe I read every single book my classroom had to offer. Spelling bees were fun and library time was an adventure.

Words were important.  Literacy was an unspoken priority.  I give my parents a lot of credit because neither of them finished high school but it was their example that instilled within me a love of reading and now, writing.

These past few years however, have turned my focus toward all things educational, for me and for our boy.  I get to teach him school at home and the books I read are usually connected in some way with his education.  I still love reading for pleasure, but rarely make the time for it.

When I discovered the Read-A-Thon and its history, I started getting excited.  I will still have the boy to ‘read around’, but figure at 9 years old, he can do some reading, too.  I may just get a few incentive prizes for here at home to keep him excited and engaged.

I wanted to let you all know about Dewey’s Read-A-Thon coming up THIS Saturday, April 25.  Clicking on the cool button to your right will take you directly to the website where you can see what it’s all about and get involved. Let me know if you’re going to do it and we can cheer each other on. Oh, and I’d love to hear what you plan on reading!

            via Flickr

~Selena Pannell

3 Month Countdown

Three months. It seems crazy that we only knew each other three months and we had a pretty strong inkling that ours was no ordinary whirlwind relationship. Duane, as always, showed his hand and heart in a creative way.

Pannell Bytes 3 Months Duane & Selena heart in a whirlwind

We are now three months away from publishing the very correspondences that brought us together through the miracle of modern technology. I’d be lying if I said the prospect of sharing them with the world didn’t make me sweat. Fools rush in…

~Selena Pannell

Four Months Closer to Forever

There is this sense of deja vu  when I look back and see that 4 months into our adventure, I had met a man who was not only artistic, romantic and persistent, but that he would eventually coerce me into writing a book with him about this fragile new relationship.  We had just met in person for the first time and as the picture he drew indicates, he was entirely smitten and optimistic about our future together.

Pannell Bytes 4 months Duane loves Selena

Looking through the ambagious prism of our book, we recall that uncertain period beginning our long distance relationship.  Today marks a different and equally significant four months, this time from publicly telling the story begun fourteen years ago.  Scared and excited, we feel like we did back then, only this time the uncertaintly lies outside us.

~Selena Pannell

Decisions Do Determine Destiny

So how long have you been living in Vernal?” the man asked. He had followed me around during the whole job asking questions and making small talk.  He’s a retired man, and for some reason, these older guys seem to like me.  I like them too.  I would say this is one of the reasons I enjoy my job.  I set up satellite television.  I meet lots of nice people and it’s very satisfying to provide them with good service and a product that I know they’ll enjoy.

“I’ve been in Utah for about 3 years now” I said, “I came down from Idaho.”

“But you’re not from Idaho though, are you?”

“On no”, I said, “Five years before that I moved down from Alberta, Canada.”  I let that hang in the air for a minute.  I’ve been away from the south for almost ten years now, but I still have a noticeable southern accent.

He looked at me like he wanted to say something, but he didn’t.

“I was born in Virginia and did most of my growing up in Savannah, Georgia”, I said.

“Well, I didn’t think you were Canadian!”, he said with a chuckle.  “I know people from Canada and they don’t talk like you!”

I went about finishing my job.  The new dish was on the house and all the cables run.  I had the new receivers plugged in and downloading their software.  It would take about 45 minutes or so for everything to be done.  The man helped me gather up all my tools and the packaging that I needed to take out to my truck.

“So how in the world did you end up here?” he asked.

“Would you believe that I came out west because of a girl?” I smiled.

He gave me a little elbow in the ribs and said, “Oh I believe it” he said, “I’ve been known to do crazy things because of a certain girl.”

I knew what the nudge and the wink of his eye meant.  His wife had met me at the door when I arrived and she was a dear.  She was just cute and her voice so soft, right up until she hollered across the house, “William!  The Dish guy is here!”  I could hear him making his way up the stairs and across the house. She returned to her soft lady voice, “He’ll show you want we want to do” she said.

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It could be intuition, but more likely it comes from visiting the homes of lots of retirees; I knew right away that she was putting ‘William’ on a project with me and taking a couple of uninterrupted hours for herself.  At any rate, I knew right away that this old guy and I were going to become good friends before the job was done.

“My wife and I just got home from serving a mission in British Columbia about 8 months ago.  It was one of the best experiences of my life, but the truth is, I would’ve never gone on my own—I did it for the ‘girl’.  Do you know that we have been married for 51 years?”

I started calculating his age in my head and began to think how he must be a little older than I would’ve guessed.  “That’s awesome” I said.

“It’s been like that all of our lives together” he said, “If there’s something she wants, I do my level best to make it happen.  So if a man tells me that he took up roots and moved across the country for a woman, I don’t find it hard to believe.”

I told my new friend a little of the story of how I met my wife and how we came to be in Vernal, Utah.  He listened to my story and, as if to draw a parallel to his life and mine, he said, “It’s funny how we go along making choices in our lives, isn’t it?  I mean, about 51 years ago I met a pretty girl at a drive-in restaurant.  I could have remained shy, but I worked up the courage to ask her on a date.  That decision, all by itself did not seem like so much, but 3 months later I was a married man.  I’ll bet I didn’t ponder that decision a full minute and it set the course for my entire adult life!”

We talked on about life and choices until my job was done and I had to leave.  I wished them well as I started down the sidewalk to my truck.  As I looked back I noticed that they were holding hands as they walked back into the house.

It was dark when I finally got home.  My wife and little boy have been away for several weeks in Alberta.  Her father is about to pass and she has been away tending to him.  Our son is going to be 8 years old this year and when he’s gone our home has all the personality of a tomb.

I work out of our home as a remote satellite TV and Internet technician.  My evening routine consists of doing a quick inventory count, restocking my truck, and then sending a report to the warehouse.  Most nights I can’t get it done fast enough, knowing that my family is waiting inside for me, but these days I have all the time in the world.  Going in the house only reminds me that I’m out here all alone.

I say ‘alone’ but that’s not quite true.  We have a couple of demanding horses that insist on being fed before my truck comes to a complete stop in the drive every evening.  And a very nice dog, a female German Shepherd named Scout, who is always happy to see me.  Everybody gets a couple of extra pats tonight as a reward for being good company.

When I finished up in the shop tonight, I was just about to turn out the lights and go into the house, when I began to think about the old fella and his philosophy on life-changing decisions.  We have a ton of boxes in part of our garage that haven’t been opened since we left Canada in 2005.  Among our treasures there, is a black locker with some journals and correspondence that I have carried around for a long time.  I opened it up and grabbed a binder and an old journal and took them into the house with me.

I warmed up some soup and made myself a sandwich, but I wasn’t really hungry.  I kept thinking about the earlier discussion that I had with my new old friend, and I was eager to look at some of the history of my life in the context of simple decisions.

One of the first pages in the binder was Selena’s original profile from the singles website.  It was simple and she wasn’t ‘selling’.  I was both intrigued and amused.  I remember my disappointment when I saw that she was all the way up in Alberta, Canada and I made a quick decision not to contact her, but changed my mind as I was about to log off for the night.  I sent her a short message, and that seemingly insignificant choice set the course for a most wonderful adventure.

My friend, William said that he could not have imagined his life turning out any other way, and it all hinged on a split-second decision one night at a drive-in.  I know exactly what he means.  My life before meeting Selena is a million years in the past.  When I think how perfect the adventure has been, even the not-so-happy times, I have no doubt it was designed just for me.

~Duane Pannell