As I said in May I will be self-publishing my Young Adult novel “Out in the Dark”. I’ve since learned more, watched the Amazon-Hachette situation unfold, and will opt for another vendor who can actually get my paperbacks into independent bookstores. Their distribution is actually wider than Amazon’s.
Now the challenge is making sure I attend to all the details, such as purchasing an ISBN number and attached barcode; the international identifier for books. Purchasing the right package for both a print-on-demand with color cover and e-book format (which comes in more than one format and each needs its own ISBN number). Then there’s marketing, which even with a small publisher an author still has to do a fair bit of herself. So far my budget is already close to $500. Not a small outlay and I’ll have to make sure I price my book competitively and so that it will sell and I’ll make at least that $500 back.
It’s a risk, but it does show me why publishers are reluctant to take on unknown authors because with many of them they don’t recoup their costs. With others of course they do, and in the aggregate it all works out for them because they have many titles out there on the shelves.
While I continue to work on preparing the manuscript (if you look at the first chapter again you'll note one of my pen-names), creating the cover art, and getting book jacket quotes from published authors who are currently reading the manuscript, I can give you chapter 2 to tide you over until I publish the whole book. Depending on how long the whole process takes, you might be treated to chapters 3, 4 & 5 as well!
Ballarat road was deserted and another rainstorm threatened to dump on the small town in the foothills of the Cascades. Jake was used to it, but only because he had to be, not because he liked it. He walked along the side of the road, a solitary figure treading the asphalt ribbon.
Every quarter mile there was a mailbox. Once outside the proper town people liked a lot of distance between themselves and their neighbors. They all claimed they wanted privacy, but Jake wondered what they were all up to that was so secret that nobody could see.
Domestic violence? Alcoholism? Drugs? Or just an inability to deal with people? He figured he’d seen it all in the neighbors around their property.
His mother had started drinking a little too and grew pot, supposedly for some legal medical pot dispensary in Seattle. He didn’t ask. His father hadn’t asked either; he would rather tinker with robots in the barn than deal with his wife. Something had gone wrong between his parents about eighteen months ago and Jake didn’t know what.
Jake couldn’t really blame his mother for wanting to be with another man. It could get very lonely out at their place, and it was about to get even lonelier for her.
A car approached from behind him and Jake stopped to try and thumb a ride before the rain. It was Mr. Swanson, their nearest neighbor. He wondered which Mr. Swanson he’d have to deal with; the law-and-order one, or the aging hippie. The old man seemed to have a split personality. Jake much preferred the aging hippie, that one wouldn’t turn him in to the principal, or his mother.
“Need a ride, boy?” Mr. Swanson rolled down the window of his old Ford pickup. It had more duct tape on it than actual paint, but the engine ran smoothly. Jake knew that for a fact as he was the one who had maintained it for the past few years. Jake was gifted with all things mechanical.
“Thanks!” Jake climbed in and slammed the door so it would stay shut while driving.
“Where to, son?” Mr. Swanson asked. Jake looked at the man and noted his breezy Aloha shirt and shorts, his feet in woolly socks and sandals. Yep, he was in hippie mode.
“Home, please,” Jake said, and hoped Mr. Swanson wouldn’t ask questions.
“No school today?”
“Got out early,” Jake said smoothly. Technically it wasn’t a lie, he did get himself out early, even if classes hadn’t been dismissed yet.
“Yep.” Jake settled into the comfortable seat and thought some more about his plan. It had to be today, his dad depended on him. That much he did understand, even if everything else was unclear.
The road remained empty. Jake looked out the window up at the foothills and saw the cloud line descending. There might even be some early snow in those clouds. He hoped the passes would still be clear.
“Here you are, son.” Mr. Swanson pulled into the gravel drive. “Looks like your mom’s got company. Shouldn’t the coach be at school?” Mr. Swanson gave an exaggerated wink and nudged Jake in the ribs. Distant neighbors but still no secrets. He wished his mother was more discreet, he also wished she wasn’t so lonely. Mr. Caruthers was a nice enough guy, but nothing like his dad.
Jake thanked his neighbor and slammed the door on the old truck. He waved politely as Mr. Swanson backed out of the drive and only just missed their mailbox. The man’s license should be taken away, but out here driving was a God-given right, so even if Mr. Swanson had smoked a few, he would still drive.
“Mom, I’m home, but I’m leaving again,” he called out after he let the screen door noisily slam shut.
He heard scuffling from the upstairs bedroom and then his mother’s voice calling out to him.
“Jake, honey,” her voice sounded too cheerful. “What are you doing home? I was just, um, folding laundry up here. I’ll be down in a minute.”
“No hurry, Mom.” Jake walked through the kitchen and surveyed the fridge. He’d have to take some food along, but there wasn’t much to choose from. A couple bologna sandwiches would have to do. He set up the coffee maker to brew a full pot. He would take a thermos with him.
Then he went to his room and pulled his dad’s old Air Force duffel bag out from under his bed. It was only a little moldy, like most things in the old wood-shingled house. Mold was a fact of life in this part of the world.
Jake threw some clothes, his pajamas and an extra pair of shoes into the bag. He looked around for a book to take and his road maps of America. He double-checked the battery on his iPhone and his laptop. He would take them both.
“What’s up, kiddo?” His mom stood in the doorway to his room, her cheeks flushed and her hair mussed. She looked happy and Jake wasn’t sure if he felt anger or sadness that his mother had found some joy in the arms of another man. What would he tell his dad?
“I gotta go, Mom,” Jake said and continued packing. “Dad needs me. He’s been showing me.”
“Oh, now, honey, you can’t be serious.” His mom came over with her arms out wanting to envelop him in a hug, as if he were a small child in need of comforting. “Your dad can’t communicate with you from wherever he is, that’s about as possible as seeing fairies. He should never have filled your head with that nonsense.”
“Yeah, well, at least he did something,” Jake snapped, immediately regretting his words. He knew his mother had been there for him lots of times, just not lately. “Sorry, I mean he believes in it and it’s real. So real the government took him for experiments. He’s in trouble, mom, I have to go help him.”
“What do you think you can do?” His mother leaned against the ratty old closet, her arms crossed and the glow slowly fading from her face. She looked tired now, her hair dull and streaked with grey. She wore her old baggy sweats and his dad’s Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, a souvenir from a trip to Disneyland ten years ago. He wished she would leave with him. Go somewhere better, have a decent life.
“Come with me?” he said, pleading like a little kid.
“It’s too late for me, honey. I can’t go out there again,” she said sadly. “We had to move here to hide from demons that haunted your dad. I’m from here, I grew up with Caruthers. I should have married him and not been taken in by your dad. He looked so good in his uniform when I met him that I would have followed him anywhere. He was smart and sophisticated and everything I never saw in my hometown. I fell in love.” She sighed, a far-away look in her eyes. Jake wondered if she regretted her time with his dad.
“I couldn’t keep up with him, Jake. He flew planes, he read and he had this gift for knowing things before they happened. It became too much for me, so I wanted to come home.”
“But, you just said you guys came here because of Dad’s demons?” Jake snapped. “Which was it? And don’t tell me you did it all for me, because what’s here for me?” He spread his arms wide to indicate the town. He felt angry as he thought about the stories his mother was telling him. Which one was the truth, or did she even know?
“Both, neither, I just wanted to be safe and be with people I knew. Your dad went along just to please me, but when he got the call for a special project he took off. The checks stopped a month after that and even the air force doesn’t know where he is. I called them and wrote to them and badgered them.” She stopped and Jake saw tears glistening in her eyes.
“That can’t be true. He has to be with them,” Jake said, trying to control his anger.
“Face it, Jakey, he did a runner on us. He’s gone,” she said with a wan smile.
“No, not Dad, he wouldn’t do that,” Jake said, his voice cracking as it rose. “I know he wouldn’t. He’s in trouble, I know he is. He’s shown me. Mom, you know the telepathic link is real. He taught you too... why do you deny it? Why?” He was now practically screaming at her and fighting back his own tears.
“Jake Hanson, Jakey, just leave it be. It’s safer that way.” She tried again to put her arms around him and this time he let her. Together, tearfully, they sat huddled on his bed.
“I can see him sometimes, but I can’t let that lead my life. I can’t let him destroy you with it. People in town already think you’re different.”
“Then let me leave. I’ll go live with Grandpa in Portland. I’ll finish school and go to college. Mom, I hate it here.” Jake dried his eyes, slightly embarrassed that he’d been crying, and hugged his mother again. He could hear Mr. Caruthers upstairs and was grateful the coach had the good taste to stay there.
His mother took a deep, ragged breath and wiped the tears from her cheeks. She nodded at Jake. “Okay, you can go live in Portland with your grandfather. I’m sure it’s for the best,” she said. “Even I can see you don’t fit here. I’m sorry. What about Jessica, though?”
“She’ll be fine. There are enough guys interested in her who share her ambitions, or lack of them,” Jake said. He knew he was being cruel and dismissive of Jessica but right now she was the least of his concerns. She seemed superficial and empty-headed, but she was sweet. Sometimes Jake wished she would act on her deeper ambitions and not settle, like his mother was doing now.
“I’ll call grandpa and let him know you’re coming. How soon do you want to go?” Mom asked. “I’m guessing this weekend, right?” She had given up. Jake could see it in her eyes, she was completely giving up on everything. Especially herself. It made him angry again.
“Sure, you can call grandpa,” he said, and turned away so he wouldn’t start yelling at her again. He wanted to shake her and make her come along. He wanted her to be the mother he remembered from his childhood. A vibrant woman full of life and a sense of adventure. Not this scared, mousy woman.