Friday, July 17, 2015

Dear Kindle Singles

From my notebook.
Kindle Singles publishes short work—essays, short stories, novellas. Writers submit their work for consideration, and Kindle editors give it a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. Approval means your work will attract a much larger audience than it is likely to get as a lonely bit of straw in the giant Amazon haystack. I know a writer who published something about beer as a Kindle Single and sold thousands of downloads, which then boosted his sales on Amazon. I really want the story of my mother's battle with Big Pharma to get out there, so this morning, while drinking coffee at my kitchen table in Washington Heights, I sent the following query:

Dear Kindle Singles:
In January 2007, at the age of 85, my mother suddenly developed a mysterious illness that not even the best doctors at Dartmouth Medical Center were able to diagnose. Until then, she had been in good health, very active, and able to live alone. The cause of her illness remained unknown until December 2009, when an orthopedic specialist at the community hospital in her hometown diagnosed her with stress fractures in both femurs caused by Fosamax. The bone-building drug, which has been prescribed to millions of women since it came on the market in the 1990s, has been at the center of several lawsuits. My mother was 84 when she began taking Fosamax, and she did not live long enough to pursue legal recourse, nor was that her intention. She was angry and hurt when she learned that medical science had turned against her, but she did not want to pick fights. She wanted to enjoy, as much as possible, what little time remained. She died in 2012, at the age of 91. Meanwhile, my husband and I completely altered our lives, giving up two good jobs and moving 300 miles in order to help her. We did so before any of us knew the cause of her illness, which caused severe and crippling pain. I am the one who first correctly diagnosed her illness, almost three years after it began, when I heard a report about Fosamax while listening to NPR. Much later, after my mother died, I read through the comments left by other women on a web site that enables patients to rate prescription drugs. They were heartbreaking. Many of the comments were left by the daughters and nieces of women who had suffered from the debilitating side-effects of Fosamax. My mother's illness is the pivotal event in "An Irruption of Owls," a 75,000-word book. I would like to rework several chapters, notably chapter 11 (where the cause of her illness is revealed) for Kindle Singles. I would include some material from other chapters that puts her illness in context. She was a doctor's wife and knew about the hazards of prescription meds, and yet she did not read the Fosamax label carefully enough, and neither did her doctors. The fault lies to a great extent with our medical system and how it works (or doesn't work), which I discuss in the book. The emotional heart of the story is how my husband and I responded to the crisis.

I have recently completed the above-mentioned title and offered it on Kindle as a preorder (delivery: July 31, 2015). I would very much like this story to get out there, as I know for sure that many women and their families have had similar experiences, not only with Fosamax but with other prescription meds, whose side-effects are not fully known until they have been on the market long enough for experience to accumulate, often for years. Today, women are told to go off Fosamax after five years; my mother experienced stress fractures after less than two years on the drug.

Could this story be offered, condensed and reworked, as a Kindles Single? Estimated length: 20,000 words. 

I am a professional writer, a journalist who writes often about travel. My first book, Our House in Arusha, has sold well on Amazon. An Irruption of Owls is my second book.

Sara Tucker

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Now Available in Paperback!

I told M. Dickey Drysdale, editor of the Randolph Herald, that this book would be released on July 15, and here it is. As of this morning, you can order the print edition online (click here; $15 plus shipping). The Kindle edition will be available later this month (I will announce it here), followed by editions for other e-readers. This way of publishing is sometimes nuts (I haven't slept for a few days), but honestly, the indie thing suits me. I have full control over the artistic product, for better or worse. I get to make ALL the decisions, business or otherwise. I'm not really a control freak, I'm just . . . impatient. Traditional publishing takes forever. Authors do most of the work and get paid peanuts. By publishing my own work, I get to keep most of the profits (up to 70 percent of the royalties). That enables me to sell the Kindle edition and other ebooks for a fraction of what you would pay a traditional publisher. This book will be priced for Kindle at $2.99, like Our House in Arusha, its predecessor. It will also be available, for a similar price, for the Nook and other e-readers. But many book lovers want to hold a real book in their hands, so I feel it's important to have a paperback edition. Plus, it can be easily shared, or given as a gift. To order the print edition of An Irruption of Owls, or to find out more about the book, click here. (The link takes you to my CreateSpace e-store.) Within a few days, the book will appear on Amazon, too, where you can post a review. I hope you will enjoy the book, tell people about it, and share your paperback edition with friends—or donate it to the hospital thrift shop. It wants to be out in the world.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

When We Were Aliens

La Famille Texier: Patrick, Thomas, and Sara.
The Texier family's American experiment started on July 14, 2001, exactly fourteen years ago, when Patrick unofficially emigrated to the U.S. In celebration of that event (which eventually led to a U.S. passport). The photo was taken several years later in Vermont (it became our Christmas card that year). The following paragraphs are from chapter 8 in An Irruption of Owls, which is due for release tomorrow, July 15.

The Texier family crossed the Atlantic like the three Billy Goats Gruff. I went first: My task was to nail down a steady job, then send for the others. At Kilimanjaro Airport, I kissed Patrick and Thomas good-bye and folded myself into coach class; twenty-three hours later I unfolded at Newark Airport. Standing in the line for U.S. citizens I felt strangely clandestine: Nowhere in my travel documents did it say that I was the vanguard of a little family of aliens. “Welcome home,” said the man who stamped my passport. Within a few days, I was working for MBA Jungle, a fledgling magazine for business students, its offices in a SoHo loft.
    Patrick came next. I met him at Newark Airport on the morning of July 14, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. Patrick infiltrated Les Etats-Unis on tiptoe, passing muster with his French passport and the straight-faced assertion that he was a tourist. This statement went unchallenged by the immigration folks, even though Patrick was pushing a baggage cart that groaned under the weight of literally everything we owned, including two bicycles, a suitcase full of women’s clothing, and another filled with Thomas’s books and toys.
    Thomas arrived in mid-August, having spent the summer eating chips and watching TV at his grandmother’s chic apartment near the Château de Fontainebleau. By then we had a two-bedroom rental on a busy street forty minutes by train from Manhattan. It took Patrick and me one hectic morning to find the apartment, riding around the suburbs in an SUV, a doughy and perspiring real estate agent named Alan at the wheel. It took another hectic morning at IKEA to furnish it.
    Patrick hadn’t made a major shopping foray in the home furniture line for many years, his most recent acquisition having been a couple of straw floor mats, handed over in exchange for a few shillings placed in the palm of the weaver, a woman whose place of business was a few square meters of roadside dirt on the edge of downtown Arusha. I did my best to prepare one so innocent for the IKEA experience, explaining that what made the furniture a bargain was that it came in small boxes, which lowered transportation and storage costs, savings passed on to the consumer, but that you had to assemble it yourself, and so on. I warned Patrick that on a Saturday morning the place would be swarming with shoppers and their carts, that the store was gargantuan and the choices endless, that finding what you wanted meant reading tags and jotting down numbers and then searching through a gigantic storeroom, and that the whole ordeal required nerves of steel.
    We got off to an early start, driving along swirling ribbons of highway through concrete wastelands until we found the store, where, starting on the top floor and working our way down, we picked out living room furniture, bedroom furniture, a dining table and chairs, lamps, and bathroom accessories. Neither of us was an enthusiastic shopper, but we persevered. By noon, we were in kitchenware, nearly done.
    “Which do you prefer?” Patrick asked, a stainless-steel pot in his right hand, a Teflon-coated aluminum one in his left. I looked from one pot to the other, and froze.
All morning I had been trying not to collapse under the weight of what we were doing—had done, I should say, because it was too late to turn back. Tanzania was impossibly far away, and our life there, which had begun so sweetly and ended so abruptly, was over. Our garden with the canna lilies and the banana trees, the gardener blasting rasta hits from his little radio, over. Our morning wakeup calls—first from the neighborhood rooster, then from the canned call to prayer—our lazy afternoons at the Mambo Café, our peaceful evenings reading by candlelight, all of it, over. We were here now, at IKEA, buying sensible Scandinavian-style furniture and kitchen supplies.
    Blindly, I stared at the pots, unable to choose, unable even to make an arbitrary decision. Then I took a step forward, put my head on Patrick’s shoulder, and started weeping as shopping carts detoured around us.
    Still holding the pots, he put his arms around me. We stood like that for a few seconds, until I pulled myself together. “You decide,” I said, finally, raising my head and wiping my eyes with the back of my hand. “I can’t make any more decisions today.” Patrick quietly put the stainless steel pot in the cart, and we headed toward checkout.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Am I Not Wonderful? Or the Agony of Blurbing Your Own Book

So, after three years of slavish labor, we have arrived at the moment where the book is at the printer, and the printer is sending me messages that say, in essence, approve the goddamn proof already, and I am stuck on the back cover, where the book description and the bio are supposed to go. It is surprisingly difficult to sing your praises on the cover of your own book, even one that you have worked on as hard as I've worked on this one. In fact, it was my designer who insisted that we make the byline on the front cover so huge that you can probably see it from outer space. I'm still freaked out about that. My attempts at a bio have been going up on Facebook for review, and my friends have offered some helpful feedback. Here's the back cover copy as it now stands, starting with the book description (the bio follows):

A mysterious illness is the catalyst for this story about a daughter’s homecoming, the second installment of a family saga that takes place on three continents. The year is 2007, and the Texiers—Patrick, Sara, and nineteen-year-old Thomas—have left their home in Tanzania. They are biding their time in a New Jersey suburb, pondering their next move, when a family crisis spurs them to action. Idora Tucker, Sara’s mother, is suddenly unable to live alone. Something is very wrong, and nobody on her rapidly expanding medical team can figure it out. Within weeks, Sara has moved back into her childhood bedroom, Thomas has enrolled at a school in Prague, and Patrick has become the only French safari guide in recent memory to take up residence in Randolph, Vermont. In picking up where Our House in Arusha left off, An Irruption of Owls views from the perspective of small-town New England the forces that shape our lives.

Sara Tucker has written headlines for the Louisville Courier Journal, reviewed local theater for the Albuquerque Journal, and edited articles about dusting for Martha Stewart Living. Everything she knows about winching she learned from the editor of Four-Wheeler magazine. At Condé Nast Traveler, she once played a singing reindeer in an office skit. At Cosmopolitan, she ran the copy department under Helen Gurley Brown. She pays taxes in Vermont, rides the New York City subway to work 150 times a year, and plays mahjong once a month in Fontainebleau, France. An Irruption of Owls is her second book.