Monday, August 29, 2011

Amazon, here I come!

It’s official.

Love in the Time of Foreclosure is going to be published as an eBook! 

What? When? Where? How? I'll get to that. I promise. But first please allow me a moment of reflection...

My first job out of college was as a subsidiary rights assistant for NTC/Contemporary Books, a non-fiction publisher in Lincolnwood, Illinois. A month after I was hired, I flew to Frankfurt for the world’s biggest book fair where I met with publishers from around the world to pitch the foreign rights to our books.

It was very exciting.

The entire publishing industry was there.

In between meetings, I would wander the aisles at the fair imagining my book on display. I imagined someone like me pitching my book to a publisher from Estonia or Norway. My writer soul was filled by the energy in that enormous hall in Frankfurt. One day, I determined, I’ll be back here as an author.

At that time, the word “blog” was non-existent. At that time, I couldn’t even conceive of imagining that I would keep an online journal sharing the personal details of my life during a financial crisis. Or that people would read it. People other than my mom. And that it would actually make a difference for these people.

And that someone would want to publish it.
But that is what’s happening.

Frankfurt, here I come! Well, not really. What’s the equivalent of Frankfurt in the digital publishing world?

Amazon, here I come!


Does this mean that you are self-publishing?
No. I was approached by a new and exciting digital publisher called Outpost19. They are publishing the book and making it available through digital online retailers. A little about Outpost19 from their site: Outpost19 is committed to delivering provocative reading. We're a dependable source for compelling ideas.

When will the book be available?
If all goes as planned, by the end of September.

What? That's soon!
I know!

Where will the book be available?
Through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google and Kobo.

Will the book be different than the blog?
Yes and no. The book will be comprised of the blog posts that best tell our foreclosure story as well as NEW posts that I never published. There were things I wrote about but was afraid to make public at the time, mostly because I didn’t want to scare off any potential buyers. Those posts will be in the book. The book fills in the gaps in our story.

Why would we buy the book if we can just read the blog?
Great question! This was my number one concern when Outpost19 approached me about turning the blog into a book. First of all, the book is a streamlined way of reading our story. It will be all in one place without having to scroll back through archives. Also, there will be material in the book that won’t ever be on the blog. The book could make a nice gift for someone going through a similar situation. You can easily take it with you on your eReader. You don’t need an internet connection to read it. And lastly, I hope if you’ve been a loyal reader and the blog has made a difference for you that you’ll buy the book as an acknowledgement of that. And I hope you will share it.

Who do you hope will buy the book?
You! Your mom. Your barista. Your lender. Your landlord. Rahm Emmanuel. My mom. Your realtor. Tom Hanks. Your hairdresser. Tom Hanks' hairdresser. The President of Bank of America. Oprah. Anyone who has ever thought about buying a house. Eric Schneiderman. My entire family. Michelle Obama. And even just one percent of the 2.87 million homeowners who received notices of default, auction or repossession in 2010.
How did this come about?
I was approached by the publisher. Jon Roemer e-mailed me to say that he had been a fan of LITTOF and would love to work with me on publishing it as an eBook. When I spoke to him on the phone we hit it off and I knew it was the right fit.

How can I help?
I’m so glad you asked! When the book is available, you can buy a copy. You can Tweet it, Facebook it, blog about it, e-mail your friends about it, tell someone face to face old-fashioned style about it, ask your mom to buy a copy, give a copy to your BFF, put a billboard up, create a sandwich named after the book, send Amy Adams a copy, write a review on Amazon, make a chocolate bar called “Love in the Time of Foreclosure” (I’d eat that, wouldn’t you?) and share, share, share. 

I've heard from so many of you that our story has made a difference for you. And I'm so glad. That's always been the point. Now I have the chance to reach even more people with the book. I thank you in advance!

Are you getting a huge advance for this that will pay off your remaining debt?
I wish! That was always the fantasy. But, no. Digital publishing is different than traditional publishing in many ways... one is that there are no advances. But I will make money if people actually buy the book. And that money will go towards paying off our debts. We still owe my mom and Tom, we owe the IRS, we owe the State of California and we owe on our student loans. I have no idea how many books I will sell. I want to sell a lot. I want to sell enough to pay off our debt. Is that realistic? My small-minded and cynical brain says, no. But I tell that brain to shut up and instead say, yes. Yes that's realistic. Why not? Anything is possible in the new world of digital publishing. Just ask Amanda Hocking.

In the meantime I work on what I can control. Writing a book that's worthy of its readers' time.

And with that, I wrap up this post. Time to write. Time to edit. Time to create!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A little country in the city

Fisherman Bob and his Salmon sidekick
When we moved to the island, I had a hard time with the extreme rural and remote conditions. I missed take-out. Driving over 45 miles per hour. And ambient light.

I missed being warm. Other people. Noise. Stores that stay open past five. And the energy of the city.

At the same time, I loved living among farms and farm stores. Chickens and eagles. Cows and sheep. Our request to "live in nature" had been answered by the universe. We'd been longing for this. Green all around. Fresh air. Surrounded by water. Simplicity. Peace. Quiet.

The room to just.... aaaaaaahhhhhh....

My Farm Life Fantasy
I had grand visions of us eating fish that we caught ourselves, raising chickens and growing our own food.

We didn't have a boat or fishing poles. Or friends with boats or fishing gear. Or the money to buy/rent anything required to catch your own fish. So that didn't happen.

Though there was a small chicken coop on the property, raising chickens also required money. And time. And a lot of clean up. And there was the matter of the two eagles that made the two evergreens next to the house their hunting perch. And the fact that I was pregnant and couldn't conceive of carrying a baby and raising chickens at the same time. So that was out.

What about the vegetable garden? Well, I blame that one on laziness on my part. In my defense, I was pregnant. And I had a lot of yard work that challenged me without the task of maintaining a vegetable garden. It would have been all on me since Bob was commuting to San Francisco for work. So... no home grown veggies.

City Mouse/Country Mouse
When we moved back to Chicago... well, it didn't take long for me to start missing the country. Am I never happy? Always wanting what I don't have?! I actually missed the quiet, the darkness, the lack of conveniences. I missed the mountains, hiking trails, farms and country lifestyle. And the people. Of course. We had finally started making friends just before we left.

My complicated relationship with the island is well-documented on both my blogs. Here and here. Loving it and hating it. Craving nature, missing the city. I am at once both the city mouse and the country mouse.

But back to the chickens, fish and garden.

Wednesday night, all three of these things came to fruition in Chicago.

In the big city.

I grilled a big ol salmon that Bob caught fresh that very morning. I served the salmon with tomatoes from our community vegetable garden. And six baby chicks arrived in our backyard.

I'll explain.

The Landlord
First... we have an amazing landlord.

His name is Andrew Gardner and he is a high school friend of our dear friend Cece Tio. And he's an amazing guy. We adore him. He's been so helpful and understanding from the very beginning.

Just like any landlord, Andrew asked for a credit check when we applied for the apartment. Well, I knew we wouldn't pass. So I told him. I explained the situation. I directed him to the blog hoping he might read it and choose to take a chance on us. And he did. And we've been so grateful ever since.

The Garden
Malcolm enjoys a fresh tomato
Andrew is living up to his last name. This garden is unbelievable. I planted a variety of cherry tomatoes, arugula, butter lettuce and rosemary. The rest is Andrew. Here's what's growing in the garden:

Red Cabbage
Green Beans
Ghost Peppers

As if that weren't enough, every day I'm surprised to discover something else that Andrew planted that has just started to grow.

Malcolm loves eating tomatoes right out of the garden. As soon as I pick one, he opens his mouth wide and leans in for a bite. He eats them like apples.

The Chickens
Malcolm meets the baby chicks for the first time!
One day I was talking to Andrew and the subject of backyard chickens came up. I don't remember how. Andrew said something about how we should do that. We talked about how cool it would be to have fresh eggs and Andrew mentioned that the fertilizer would do wonders for the garden.

I thought it was a cool idea. But just that. An idea. Nothing more.

Then Andrew ordered a book. Backyard Chickens for Dummies... or something like that. And I thought, hmmm... maybe he's actually going to do this.

Then he started to construct the chicken coop and I thought, "Yeah. He really seems to be going through with this."

Emily, the barista and former owner of the coffee shop down the street asked me one morning, "How do you feel about Andrew having chickens in your back yard? Are you excited?"  And I said something like, "Yeah. But it doesn't seem real."

Then Andrew told us that Malcolm could name one of the chicks. Of course, that meant that Bob and I were naming the chick. We turned to Facebook for suggestions. Bob came up with Terri Hatcher. My grade school friend, Nate, came up with a popular one- Yolko Ono. But it was my Aunt Marlene who suggested the winner: Chick Norris. (We then considered the variation Cluck Norris.)

But it wasn't until the baby chicks actually arrived (in a container slightly larger than a Happy Meal box) that it became real. Andrew really is raising chickens in our backyard! And they are here!

And yes. It is legal to raise chickens in your backyard in Chicago. Here's a Sun Times article on that subject: Raising chickens legal in Chicago, and people are crowing about it.

The Fish
On Wednesday Bob woke up at 2 AM, drove up to Kenosha, Wisconsin with some friends, got in a boat and caught us some dinner. A big Lake Michigan salmon. The trip was arranged by his pal John and they couldn't have ordered up a more perfect day to spend on Lake Michigan fishing. Apparently Bob had the first catch of the day and it took him twenty minutes to reel it in.

I was relieved that the fish arrived home already gutted, scaled and filleted. All I had to do was figure out how to use the charcoal grill. Yes. Figure it out. I'm not kidding. I've never done it before.

I'd seen our neighbors using the chimney to light it. So I just went online and found myself some easy to follow instructions about the chimney and how to use indirect heat on a charcoal grill. It was so easy. I don't know why I make these things out to be such a hassle.

My mom and Tom gave us some cedar planks and our landlord, Andrew gave us his dad's marinade recipe. The recipe involved brown sugar, honey, butter, soy sauce, olive oil and ginger. I normally just prepare salmon with lemon in the oven. Really simple. But I thought we'd try something new. And it was delicious.

There's truly something about catching your own dinner. Or having a husband who catches it for you. It tasted so good.

As we sat in the back yard enjoying the fish that was caught that day by Bob, tomatoes grown in our garden and listening to the baby chicks chirping away, I thought about how fortunate we are. And how funny life is. I guess this is my way of having a little country in the city. The best of both worlds.

It's so easy (if you have a landlord like Andrew.)

P.S. He prefers to be called "slumlord".

Friday, August 5, 2011

Where have all the homeowners gone?

According to this CNN MONEY article, Home ownership hits lowest level since 1965, we are becoming a nation of renters. This shouldn't be too surprising today. But, think about that a few years ago. 2006, for example. We never would have seen this coming.

Actually, Bob and I had a friend who did sell his condo in 2006 at the height of the market. We thought he was insane. Why? Why would you get out of the home owning game and go back to being a renter? Why?! Well, the answer was exactly what you would expect.

The answer was...


Of course. Bird flu.

The most commonly sited reason for selling your property at the height of the housing bubble.

Our friend's mom was the co-owner of the condo and she was convinced that bird flu was going to be so devastating that it would crash the housing economy. I don't quite remember the logic. But, I'm telling you. She was convinced. Thoroughly.

So they sold. And made money. And people thought they were crazy.

In 2006.

Now. In 2011?

They kind of look like geniuses, right?

Well, I think they're geniuses. Or incredibly lucky. Or she has some kind of tricked out ESP. She clearly felt the impending crash.

Take bird flu out of the equation for a second. She knew the bubble would burst and that it would be terrible. So it wasn't because of bird flu. But who cares. She was right.

We've since lost touch, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were back in the home owning game and bought something at a bird flu bargain price. We'll just have to guess.

So, home ownership is the lowest it has been since 1965.

A show of hands, please. How many of you were home owners and are now renting?

Uh huh. Same here.

Now... how many of you are home owners (currently) with rental income?

Have you noticed a significant difference in the market? Has it been easier to get quality renters?

I imagine that the renters that are former home owners make for really good renters. Am I right? We're used to keeping a place up. Pride of ownership and all of that. If you're a landlord, I'd love to here what changes you've seen since the crash.

And if you're a born-again renter, how is it for you?

This article brings up so many points. It's too much to write about in just one post. But, in light of my last post about the American Dream today, I have to point to this excerpt from the piece:

In a February housing finance report, the Obama administration stated that its goal was to "ensure that Americans have access to an adequate range of affordable housing options. This does not mean our goal is for all Americans to be homeowners."

Did you see that? "This does not mean our goal is for all Americans to be homeowners."

Interesting, right? There's a deeper level of responsibility in that rhetoric that I appreciate. It reminds me of the quote from President Ford:

“My goal is homeownership for every American family that wants to own a home and is willing to work for and save for it.”President Gerald Ford, 1976
For every family that wants to own a home and is willing to work for and save for it.

Fair enough, Mr. President. Fair enough.

-Home Ownership Hits Lowest Level Since 1965: CNN MONEY

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The American Dream today

In 2006, almost 69% of Americans owned their own homes. This percentage is the highest in American history and among the highest worldwide.
“To possess one’s own home, however small, is the hope of every family in our country. That is the American ideal, born of an exquisite sentiment, nurtured by a long national tradition, and proved right by its innumerable practical advantages.” – President Herbert Hoover, 1932

“My goal is homeownership for every American family that wants to own a home and is willing to work for and save for it.”President Gerald Ford, 1976

“Homeownership is not just a symbol, it represents the American way of life.”
President Ronald Reagan, 1982

…for what is the American dream if it isn't wanting to be part of something larger than ourselves? … For most people, these aspirations means enjoying the blessings of good health or having a home to call one's own…”
President George H.W. Bush, 1991

“Owning a home is central to the American dream.”
 President William J. Clinton, 1996

“I believe when somebody owns their own home, they’re realizing the American Dream. They can say it’s my home, it’s nobody else’s home.”
 President George W. Bush, 2002

“One in ten families who owns a home is now in some form of distress, the most ever recorded. This is deeply troubling. It not only shakes the foundation of our economy, but the foundation of the American Dream. There is nothing more fundamental than having a home to call your own.” President Barack Obama, 2009
Every president since Herbert Hoover has made home ownership a cornerstone of the ideal that is the American Dream. The American Dream has become inextricably linked to homeownership and that idea is driven the hardest by our government. In order to realize the American Dream, you must own a home. 

The question that most people curiously do not ask is: Why?
Why do we need to be homeowners? 
Why is our experience of the American Dream incomplete without a mortgage? 
Why do we accept this as our guiding principal without question? 

I don’t know. But I did. 

This is not an argument against homeownership. It’s more a referendum on an inherited ideal that doesn’t seem to hold the water it used to.
Our government has economic motivations to encourage homeownership. Now, I am not an economist. Not in the least. (Our debt and recent financial history should speak volumes to that.) I can’t speak with any authority on the far-reaching economical implications of homeownership. I can speak, however, to my changing feelings on the subject.
I agree with President George H. W. Bush in that the American Dream is the idea of “wanting to be part of something larger than ourselves.” And my whole life I accepted without much thought, that this would include owning my own home. 

I never considered that once I owned a home I would ever go back to renting. So, in that sense, in losing our house we did lose our foothold in the American Dream. This is true.  But this, we discovered, wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
President George W. Bush said that when you realize the American Dream you can say “it’s my home, it’s nobody else’s home.” That sentiment is a fallacy in actuality. What is clearer to me than anything is that the real owner of our home was Countrywide- our lender. The banks own the mortgages. You don’t own your home until you’ve paid off your mortgage. And how many Americans are actually able to do that? Not many. I think it’s around 1 in 10. 

What was once widely seen as a pathway to independence has become a form of imprisonment. We Americans don’t own our own homes; they own us. And yet, according to a recent Trulia survey, 70% of Americans still consider homeownership a part of the American Dream.
Again, I ask: Why? 

And is that true for me? 

I do still want to own a house again in the future. Once we’re back on our feet. But we’ll be smarter. We’ll have a lot more savings. We won’t invest so much in a remodel. We won’t bank on an upward trend.

It’s still in me- this inherent desire to own property. 
Why am I still attached to the idea? 
Why can’t I just let it go?

I do enjoy being a renter and the freedom that it gives us. I especially enjoy it when something goes wrong with the plumbing, for example, and I realize that I don’t have to foot the bill as the homeowner. But I notice that as much as I love our apartment, I haven’t truly made it our own. I fear putting too much into decorating because it’s not actually ours. We hung our art and planted tomatoes in the garden, but I still haven’t painted the bathroom or found a table and chairs for the kitchen.

Perhaps that’s just the result of new priorities, no budget for decorating and no time for it anyway. Or is it because deep down I’m waiting for a space that’s all my own again?

As President Obama said, “There is nothing more fundamental than having a home to call your own.” But perhaps “having a home” doesn’t have to mean, “owning a home.”

What is your idea of the American Dream? 
Does it include home ownership? 
If so, what sort of home is your dream? (Please share in the comments below)

On a related note, I really enjoyed this post from Apartment Therapy about the American Dream... especially the Frank Lloyd Wright house built in 1937 for only $5,000!  

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