Adventures in Self-Publishing: How “Forget Me Not” Almost Wasn’t

A few days ago I was ready to launch my laptop into the river behind our house. Though, given my track record as a soccer player, and track runner, this would have been a dangerous outburst. Ask Kim. She’s witnessed my walnut-chucking skills. I think I used to be able to throw a baseball—but, somehow over the years I’ve forgotten about that all-too-important release time. I am now famous for my inadvertent backwards throws (No! Not the 150-year-old windows!) or, completely sideways tosses (cover your teeth!). Besides, there’s a six foot flood wall back there and I imagined the laptop simply bouncing off the wall and knocking me or my teeth out.

A few weeks ago there was a general rumbling underfoot. I felt the need to be proactive about a story I wrote back in 2009. I had just let it sit. It’s sat at four different addresses now, in the same box. Once upon a time it was even easily found on the desktop of my computer. However, that desktop is still in Abbotsford, BC and I was ready to throw that desktop into the ravine behind the house there, way back when.

An unspecified ex-girlfriend of mine, not yet exed, had randomly decided to download/upload/shitload our desktop with a new program called Open Office because she loathed Microsoft Word.  An IT-savvy co-worker came home with her after work one unsuspecting day and installed Open Office. It corrupted every single Word file I had saved to the desktop. Which, included the manuscript for “Forget Me Not.”

What’s the big deal, right? I had everything backed up on a jump or disc, right? Of course I did. But, the Open Office didn’t recognize Word anymore. The memory stick that I had trusted my manuscript to suddenly had a malware worm, or something to that effect.

Of course I had the story printed a la hard copy, and, in the end, I re-typed all of it, just like the olden days to the .odt files which are a nightmare to format.

Oh, yeah, and all the formatting was corrupted.

So, flash forward to present day. In fact, Monday of this very week. I sat down to the blurb.com self-publishing software as I have been on my recent days off. I was hopped up on Nicaraguan coffee from Monigram’s and my attention span was unswervable. Except for the odd distraction of cueing up an Alison Moyet or Pet Shop Boys song.

The laptop, circa 2008, froze. The blurb program and my story appeared a hundred times on the screen, like a terrible kaleidoscope of what was to come. I couldn’t close or open anything, not even with the Ctrl+Alt+Delete trick that I have grown to love.

I swore a few times at Rogers cable—surely they are to blame. We pay an extra $8 for a wi-fi modem that is no-fi most of the time. Rogers blamed the stone walls of our house. Surely, in a world of infrastructure, bricks and mortar, steel and skylines, a stone wall can’t be to blame.

Before this total freeze event I had been dealing with intermittent wi-fi. I was having African flashbacks. The connection was better in Uganda for crying out loud.

In the Congo, blogging with a sleeping chimp on my lap. How often does one get to say that?

In the Congo, blogging with a sleeping chimp on my lap. How often does one get to say that?

I had three more severe screen freezes while working on the blurb site, painstakingly transferring chapters the ol’ cut n’ paste way. Without disc, memory stick or the actual hard drive with the (*%%#$ Open Office files on it, I had to rely on Facebook.

Back in 2009, I took a schmaltzy workshop for $40 I think—it was a one-day “How to Write a Book in 40 Days” scheme. It sounded like a neat and tidy approach to novel-writing and the price was right. I had met an engaging woman (it was platonic, people) at a recent workshop led by the University of Fraser Valley writer-in-residence, Richard Van Camp. I think that one was about writing for children. Whether I was writing for 40 days or about 40 children, I needed some writerly inspiration and like-minded souls to commiserate with.

Johanne was the perfect candidate, and though the details are now sketchy, somehow we signed up for the 40 Day Novel Writing dealio.

The instructor had a sleazy car salesman vibe about him—how could he not? The likes of this workshop would make Margaret Atwood’s curls fall limp. I took the goods at face value and recognized that really, the workshop was just about commitment and setting a goal. Duh.

So, I did. And, I decided over a panzerotti (fettucini for Johanne) at some quasi-Italian joint in Abbotsford that I would do it. Johanne was keen on it to, when time permitted, and, certainly it wasn’t going to transpire the next day.

For me, I had to get going the next day. I figured 2,000 words a day would be a solid approach. I would post each daily installment to Facebook to keep my public commitment. I had no plot burbling in my head. I had no characters that had previously conversed in my mind. I had nothing but red-hot ambition.

Jann's book Falling Backwards is essential reading, in case you missed the memo.

Jann’s book Falling Backwards is essential reading, in case you missed the memo.

 

Somehow Jann Arden became involved. She wanted me to include God and a flask in the story. She figured that would be enough for a plot. In the end, it was. As I sat down to the computer the screechy kids next door started in on their incessant dolphin-like shrieks. They were new neighbours—and my god, the woman was operating a daycare. My total nightmare—and, the fuel for Forget Me Not.

I couldn’t believe my magnetic pull into the story and continuing with the 40 day stint. I didn’t waver—in fact, I could hardly stand being at my true work—then, at the Wild Orange Spa, massaging people all day. I must admit, there were several occasions where my right hand would leave a client’s body to jot down a plot idea before I lost it. Sometimes I wrote with my left hand, if need be.

I became quite obsessed with the story, totally unaware of where it was heading each day. I surprised myself and became so involved that I kept calling Mila, our white lab, “Millie,” who was one of my characters.

home-toronto-amster-nairobi 740

I cranked the story out in less than 40 days. I did it in 29 because I was flying to Banff to visit my sister and my bro, Dax, was hooking up with us from Toronto. Writing 2,000 words in their company and downing martinis at the Saltlik after a day of snowshoeing Boom Lake wasn’t realistic.

And then the story sat. And sat. I’m not sure what I was waiting for—probably a knock on my door from an agent or a publisher, wondering if I had a manuscript to share.

The knock didn’t come so I had to make my own opportunity knocking moment. I warmed to the idea of self-publishing for the instant gratification it could bring. Two years ago I had pursued a similar venture—but only to create a gift for my parents. They had printed every single one of my blogs and had a stack of blog posts that threatened to fall through the wooden floors from the second level. I thought a book, with all those posts would be so much more manageable. The neat thing about the blurb Booksmart software is that you can upload your entire blog even without any techy smarts. But, all the pictures come with it. Which meant the book had to be printed in colour, ideally. Which meant that the book was glossy and a glossy price. $97 for the image wrap hardcover. $91.71 for the hardcover with the dustjacket. $83.71 for the softcover. These were just the base prices—no mark-up! I earned $0 profit, but it wasn’t about profit anyway.

Like I said, it was a one-off gift for my parents. Though I know my dear pal Heidi purchased one too. And, I have a copy for posterity as well.

So, esteemed blog readers, I persevered to make Forget Me Not more than a neglected story in a box. Even when, on this very Monday, my laptop froze again and, when I powered it down (my only choice), the computer actually let out a little scream. Really. And I held my breath for two minutes until the sucker re-started.

And then I swore a whole lot more because apparently, somewhere along the way, I downloaded a Disappearing Ink app. I lost over 12 chapters of the book to the internet ether.  Back to the cut and paste drawing board and re-loading all that was lost.

The font kept flipping from Georgia 9 (which I never used) to JohnHandy LET 22. Oh to have my favourite librarians, Dee and Linda, flanking me, as I did when I took that technical writing course at Douglas College in New Westminster back in 2007. Oh, to have any memory at all of style guides and how to set them.

Some of the text was clipped with the shuffle and blurb likes to format in grids, which means some dialogue gets pushed against the last. Many of the periods and other punctuation disappeared. And, editor’s apologies here—despite what I hope to be a thorough edit, I may have missed a few periods between glasses of wine–and hopefully you can overlook these minor blunders in my bolder attempt—to publish this book despite all technological odds.

The book has been uploaded and is now available on blurb for a paltry $20US. I think you’ll fall in love with Millie and Sheldon. I did.

Forget Me Not by Jules Torti

forget me not

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