Saturday, January 9, 2010

Book Review of Story of a Disastrous Internet Romance by Svetlana Repina

I just read a GREAT book and thought I'd post my review here:

Story of a Disastrous Internet Romance unfolds as a powerful and mesmerizing tale. The heroine, Natalia, a young Russian woman who dares to dream of a better life, is one that will stay in the reader's memory for a long, long time. The American she weds, Carlos, is quite unforgettable also, but for polar opposite reasons. Ms. Repina's work should be required reading for anyone considering internet – and especially international – romance. The reader watches in horror as the predator within Carlos becomes visible.

I've read this book twice now, and each time, could not put it down, reading it straight through in one sitting, even after I knew what happened. The insights Ms. Repina shares into her own homeland are immensely thought-provoking, and seeing America through her eyes – from before and after Natalia arrives, provokes even more thought!

"My overblown concept of Americans was of a joking, resilient people who lived their lives to the full whether or not in happy circumstances. I saw my fellow Russian people so sorrowful, grumpy, and discontented both in real life and in movies. It is true that people in Russia truly do not use their smile a lot."

The author goes on though, to share some of what has created that Russian 'dourness,' with the decline of the male population starting in World War 2, continuing through the war with Afghanistan, "taking our men away along with it..." or if they returned, they often were missing arms, legs, eyes... and "many of the leftover men were drinkers." When thinking about the 'Russian mail-order bride' phenomena, it never dawned on me that there simply aren't many good men available for the young women.

Another insight stunned me: "As a child, I remembered being afraid of one thing in my grandmother's house... an icon of Mother Mary... After the Communist revolution in 1918, it was prohibited for people to believe in God." Ms. Repina talks about Perestroika and the deep poverty that Russia endured – and endures... the sacred New Year's Eve celebration, the one night of hope for a better tomorrow.

Readers come away with a whole new understanding of these 'mail-order brides', and a deeper compassion for women brave enough to leave their country and families for the chance of a better life.

Equally fascinating is Natalia's first impressions of America. Driving through New York City: "I saw massive gray buildings and frenetic traffic and I shivered. America was different, with darker buildings and freestyle architecture. I looked at the endless glass in a daze and a touch of disappointment. This was the fruit of a sophisticated and immensely prosperous society?" (Ms. Repina has a point there! Quite a few, actually.)

All in all, Story of a Disastrous Internet Romance has much to offer the reader. Ms. Repina made me laugh, cry, gasp, and deeply think about romance, scheming / using monsters, Russia and my own nation. I can't wait to read Volume 2!

Leahsandra Powell

Author of Woman... Speak!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Spirit Stories Fan Mail

Oh how nice! I was having a grumpy, discombobulated morning and I popped into my inbox and found fan mail! One little email can really save a day! Thank you Joey, though I'm sorry I made you cry...

"Yesterday, I read your chapter on the hike with Bracken (oh what a cutesy little dog), Stan, Katmandu, the black athlete injury and the cat.....I tell ya girl, I feel like I am with you as you travel barefoot through the mountains and it leaves me breathless......I am still walking in stunned-ness (think I made up a word) over Katmandu and his xtra ordinary talent and intuitiveness...lordy what a cat, I miss him, I even cry for him.

"When you guys experienced the Bear, I kept screaming in my head "where is the cat? where is the cat?"

Joey Lynne

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Powerful Video

This is a powerful video done by a domestic violence survivor. This woman is speaking! Bravo.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Woman Speak update on Jillian

Warning: sensitive material below, which might be triggering

This post is not about self-publishing or writing. This is for past or future readers of my book Woman Speak. (I'm getting tired of putting in all the ...'s and !'s)

Towards the end of the book, I introduced Jillian, a net friend who survived experiences eerily similar to my own. With her permission, I included a couple of emails between us, where she talked about when, in the worst part of her life, she turned to cutting as a way of relieving the pain.

I quoted her powerful words: "When the blood flowed, the pain came right on out with it. For that one moment, I did not hurt. I was not afraid. It was almost as if I would go into a trance and could feel nothing but the burn of the cut... I called it absolution."

Jillian wrote that passage in 2003, and she was referring to a time earlier in her life. It wasn't until summer of 2009 that she actually read the finally-published Woman Speak, and when she saw her own words in print, it was a huge shock to her... so many years had passed since she'd given me permission to print them.

She wrote me this, which if I ever do a revised edition of the book, I'll include. Until then, I'd like to at least have her words "out there" in the Universe.

"I want the world to be very aware that even though cutting is an addiction comparable to that of heroin, I haven't cut one time since 1999." (That was the year she booted out her own sick ex.) "I have been pushed and pushed stress-wise. I have stood in a bathroom with a razor in my hand and put it down and overcome."

She also felt that the book made it look like her ex "created the cutter in me. No, he did not. And I so don't want him handed that power. He provoked an already present but dormant addiction in me. My first cutting episode began at 13 years old.

"Cutting is like any addiction, really. When under extreme duress, the mind searches around for release. And I'll never believe the first recovering addict that tells me that when under stress, somewhere in their thinking they aren't wanting the release of the drug of choice. I'll never believe it.

"My ex just pushed so many buttons he provoked it. But he didn't create it. That guilt belongs to... " (her foster parents). "That guilt belongs to a very broken 13 year old that had been jerked out of the only loving home she ever knew and dropped into the weirdo land of adoptive parents with a huge case of paranoia and in need of a guinea pig. That guilt also belongs to the great machinery known as the Ohio state's child-care system. Unfortunately, that machinery is still on a roll.

"Do you see why I feel a bit freaked over this?

"The book is out. It is an important book for any woman to read. The cutting thing is there. It is what it is. I just wanted to be clear with you about the true creators of the cutter in me. I am asking that should someone ever ask about the cutting, that you share this with them."

I would like to applaud Jillian, for her strength, courage, and determination in finding a way to heal. I think she's used her powerful, passionate writing as one source. Cathartic writing allows the poisons to flow out of us, rather than our own precious life-blood.

And to any person who cuts, who might read this post, please know that like Jillian, you too can find healing. I believe in infinite possibility in this ever-changing world. I believe we can heal from our childhood woundings, which so often lead us into adult woundings, until we can reach back into our pasts and heal.

Please, if you're a cutter, seek help. Try writing it out, instead of bleeding it out. Look into therapy, but know too, that it might take a few tries to find a good match. If you feel a therapist isn't helping, don't give up - find another. I have found, personally, that EMDR worked wonders in recovering from PTSD, (post traumatic stress). That's a fairly new therapy where you don't even have to talk.

If you can't afford therapy, go to a woman's shelter, talk to their counselors there. Talk to a priest or a pastor, a nun or a pastor's wife. Talk to someone. Woman... speak!

Below are a few links to resources about self-injury
S.A.F.E Alternatives - Self abuse finally ends
The organization also has a blog:
A site specifically for kids and teens: TeensHealth

Monday, October 5, 2009

Subtitle Strategies

This is another of those: 'Don't do what I did' posts. Woman... Speak! was the second book I published. At CreateSpace, when you start an account for a new book, they immediately secure you an ISBN number. (And what a thrill that is too! Like... way cool.)

They have a box for title, and one for sub-title. They do post a little message there, saying this cannot be changed later on. I didn't really 'get' that they meant both title and sub-title.

I hadn't even considered a sub-title yet... But I recognized the power and value one could have. I've a bare-bones training in SEO, (search engine optimization), so I sat and thought a few minutes. I felt if I could come up with a powerful and keyword-rich phrase, it could greatly boost the book rankings and help my target readers find it.

Woman Speak is the memoir of an abusive relationship, so I'm looking to reach people trapped in domestic violence situations, hoping to give them the warning that they must get out, (don't do what I did!), and perhaps the inspiration to do just that.

With all this in mind, my muse mused and out spun a line: From ashrams to arsenic - one woman's twisted tale of abuse and stalking.

I wanted to possibly attract people who had lived in ashrams, as I have... People who've been poisoned by arsenic, like me. The whole abused crowd - which grows daily by leaps and bounds. As well as people who endure the grueling pressure of stalking. I can so relate.

I really liked the alliteration of 'ashrams to arsenic', thought that was catchy! Nick and I have a wonderful little international group who have been together for many years. We bounce ideas around there a lot. I emailed it over and got some good insights.

Armande Borghardt, bead-dealer and jewelry maker extraordinaire, replied, "I thought twisted was too much. It makes it sound as if you are twisted too, hints at it."

Oh MY! Enough people are going to think I'm twisted as it is, without advertising it on the front cover!

Sigh... twisted had to go.

The subtitle eventually evolved into: One woman's tale of surviving domestic abuse and it's aftermath: stalking. I even tossed ashrams to arsenic as sounding too squirrelly.

Eeek, OMG and gack. Typing that in above, with the book on my lap... I just caught that the it's should be its. (No apostrophe.)

Oh I am sooo embarrassed! Headshake. I am mortified!

And now... starting to chuckle. One can only laugh, right? I've got copies of this book all over the globe... with a typo on the cover. Sheesh.

Well... I guess it just makes the "Don't do what I did' theme that much stronger, eh? Also, it solidifies the whole warning about taking your time, before applying for that ISBN#, because it can't be changed once it's done... (now that's the right it's, right?) (I'm mildly dyslexic and them lil boogers get me every time.)

The next morning, I woke up, as I often do, with writing in my head. "Woman... Speak! A Saga of Survival." Well, duh. That's so much better. Short, succint and to the point. Powerful.

Unfortunately... I'd already created the account with CreateSpace and it was a done deal.

Today, the longer subtitle (with it's oops - grr), lives on the cover, but I did put saga of survival on the title page. I had that much leeway. It would be much better reversed, though. Perhaps if a traditional publisher picks it up, all of that can be reworked.

Deep heavy wolf sigh. I'm going to the porch to pout and play with the wolfdogs.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

First Proof-babies Arrive

The book-birthin' midwife snuck my picture on the back cover - what a shock! Hawooo!

Oh the joy of holding that first proof. Oh the wince at all the typos it contains!

A Proof in Hand is Worth Five on the Puter

Proofing, proofing and more proofing. We print out the 'last draft' (until we decide to do just one more... and then have to print that one out again). And still you find typos. Grrr.

I have become totally convinced that the human eye cannot catch everything while staring at the computer screen. And after rereading material so many times, the brain gets imprinted, and can't spot the errors.

When using the CreateSpace system, after all your files are set, you order a proof copy sent. This is where if you're anxious, it can start to get costly, depending on the speed of shipping you choose.

You're only paying print costs, which depend on the number of pages and size of your book, and then you have a choice of three shipping speeds. Nick and I, like most expectant parents, couldn't wait and paid top dollar. They give you estimated arrival dates, but our experience is that the books come a lot faster than they list, so paying the extra for top speed wasn't really necessary.

With printed book finally in hand and you snuggle up on the porch to read, be prepared to be aghast. Typo typo typo. Have red editing pen by your side.

We've tried on each book to have at least 5 sets of eyes go through them, before we even printed out the last draft, enlisting the aid of a professional editor friend, and then other writers, as well as simply avid readers.

Each person will have different suggestions, often vital. We've sent the material over the computer, but for future books, I think I'd probably order 5 proofs and have them shipped directly, and have everyone read them from paper copy, and just jot down page number and paragraphs.

Then the revised files go back to CreateSpace, and you order one more proof, wait for that to come in... and finally approve it for publication.

You can jump the gun on that one, if you're positive it's clean copy, and just approve it before you get the book. We did... and um... that was inexperience showing.

The first readers, (friends and family), started mentioning wee little things, (I think I made typos while making the edits! Oh NO!) and we ended up halting production a couple different times. Revising, getting yet another proof... At least with CreateSpace, we have that control.

CreateSpace is tied with Amazon, though you don't have to list it there. If you have Amazon reviews of your book already up, and you halt production, you'll lose those reviews and have to go around and ask people to do it again. (A very uncomfortable thing to do. Even asking the first time, is hard for us.)

One thing to remember about self-publishing vs traditional, is you lack an editing department and a proofreading department for pre-production. (Not to mention lacking a marketing department for post-production!) If you can't afford hiring one of the 'book doctors' you see advertised all over, be prepared for a lot of effort.

So one of the biggest things we've learned around this whole process is "Take your time and don't trust computer proofing!"