books, hippies, Writing

Over and Over and Over Again

I felt a great sense of accomplishment Thursday morning when I emailed my manuscript of Peace, Love, and You Know What to the designer. I believe the book is the best it can be, and that makes me feel good. Ah, but the process was a long one.

As I’ve mentioned before, I wrote this book after we moved to Taos in 2006. We were renting a condo in town and figuring out how we belonged. I freelanced for the newspaper then and worked in a gallery. This book came to me.

Actually, three short stories pre-date the novel: Ripple in the Jungle; Fat Mark Writes It Down; and Professor Groovy. They contain the same characters found in Peace, Love, and You Know What although they have different names. Two of the stories were published.

I tried pitching the novel to agents — I had just left my first one — and publishers. I entered it in contests, and when all of that failed, I moved onto other writing projects.

But I like the book, love it really, and when I recently considered publishing via Kindle etc. I thought this book would be a worthy experiment. It’s a comedy set in the early ’70s, an exciting time. It has engaging characters. Many are hippies. And I wrote it with authenticity. After all, I lived a version of it.

And in one of those ah-ha moments, I came up with a new title, Peace, Love, and You Know What. (Its original was Last Weekend in Westbridge.)

For the past several months, I have read and reread Peace, Love, and You Know What. How many times? I lost count. I also had my smart daughter, Sarah give it a couple of reads.

I read all 81,000 words on the computer screen. I read them out loud. I printed the ms. and marked up the hard copy.

One time I got the brilliant idea to just read the book’s dialogue — twice — and found changes I wanted to make. I ran the novel through an online word frequency checker and found how many times I used words like “right” and “stuff.” Earlier this week, I printed the ms again, but this time I found very little to change — a comma here and there, a better choice for a word elsewhere.

I was done.

So what’s next? Michelle will work her designer’s magic on the cover. (Thank you Mary and Hector for loaning us your VW van for a photo shoot by Katharine.) In the meantime, I am learning more about the business end of publishing.

Naturally, I am excited and a bit nervous. I want people who buy my book to love it as much as I do. I want them to feel they know the characters. But I really want them to laugh out loud. Even after reading Peace, Love, and You Know What so many times, I still do.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Yes, that’s yet another photo from the past. I immortalize that shirt, given to me by my sister Christine, in the book. Lenora, one of the main characters, wears one like it. Yeah, those are feathers in my hair. Pigeons? Chickens? I honestly don’t remember.