Jenna has waged a three-year battle against breast cancer. But she is going to lose that battled. Although she never wanted anything more in life than to be a wife and mother, there is now only one thing that she wants: more time. And it is the one thing she simply does not have. Jenna worries about what will happen to her family after her death. Her husband, Gabe, will be a widower, parenting seven-year-old Mia alone. And Mia will live the rest of her hopefully long life without a mother. Jenna decides to create audio recordings, The Milestone Tapes, to serve as a legacy for her Mia.
Predictably, as Mia becomes a precocious sixteen-year-old, she needs her mother’s guidance. Because of Jenna’s foresight, her voice brings her back to her struggling daughter and teaches her the life lessons that Jenna can no longer impart in person. The Milestone Tapes is a journey of love shared by a mother and daughter, and exploration of the ties that bind them together even though death has separated them.
The Indie Revolution
My whole life has been the process of digital evolution. I can mark my years by the advancements I’ve seen.
I’m older than the internet. I can still remember when the go-to source for information was the Encyclopedia Britannica, not Wikipedia. I can recall the sound of a dial-up modem and when America OnLine (AOL) ruled the world. I’ve seen the creation and rise of the iPod at the expense of the CD, and the cassette tape before it. I witnessed the boom and fall of big box book stores while in tandem mourned the loss and cheered the revival of the independent book seller. I have owned a tape player, a CD player, a VCR, a DVD player, a BluRay player and now, a subscription to Netflix. I remember the fifteen pound camcorder my father used to hoist upon his shoulder and bore witness to my husband fastening his GoPro to the strap of his book bag. My life had been in an ever-moving state of furtherance, but I have consistently always been one thing . . . a reader. But that too is changing. The way books enter my life has seen a shift. I am no longer a card holder at Barnes and Noble, Borders has gone the way of the dinosaur . . . and me, I’m an Amazon Prime member with a Kindle Touch and Fire.
Growing up, my mother had a rule — while she may have said no to a toy or stuffed animal, she would never say no to a book. In the beginning, she forced books upon me . . . in the end, I sought them out. It started when I was hooked on the Golden Books series with brightly illustrated pages and gold foil spine; eventually that trickled down into my love of all things R.L. Stine and Fear Street, carrying right into Oprah’s Book Club and my discovery of Literary Fiction. I still remember the day I bought Catcher In The Rye at that second-hand bookstore below Starbucks.
The Milestone Tapes is more than a book . . . it’s a year of my life and a whole new chapter. I am beyond thrilled to be in the position to share my words. This really is a dream — a wild dream — come true.”~ First-time author Ashley Mackler-Paternostro
Reading was more than a hobby of mine, it was bonafide passion. My mother had cultured, with her rule, a garden. Reading became a place where I could feel comfortable and safe; books were a escape, a refuge, a home, an adventure. For me, a book store was a magical environment and the treasures kept inside were exceedingly exciting. The smell, the quiet, the feeling of crisp book pages under finger tips — those distinct sensory feelings are nostalgic for me. The way Carrie Bradshaw felt about shoes or the way some women feel about chocolate or the way men adore their muscle cars . . . that is the way I have always felt about books.
It wasn’t, however, until I became a writer that I truly understood the business of books. That this world I loved so much held an entire industry behind the printed page.
To a reader, the business begins and ends with the product: the novel. It’s all you really need to know of a world where deals are inked and dreams come true and stories are written and then printed in a series of runs. The thick book you lift up off the shelf at Barnes and Noble or an independent book seller or spy from the comfort of your chair on Amazon, that is your understanding of the world of the written word.
But to a writer, the business of books is beginning a cautious, systematic slip towards a dauntless new future.
As a writer, I can tell you, some things will never change for us — authors will still be wordy, emotional, creative beings. We will remain expressive and verbal, artistic folk. But our industry is changing and we will have to adapt to that. Gone is Borders, in tandum gone is the day of large advances. We are beginning to involve from the chrysalis of yesteryear in the dawn of the Independent Revolution. We’re now asked to be versatile — to grab hold of our stories and the way we get them to the reader.
I am an Independent Author. My decision to become so was not an easy one, by any means. I never planned this path for myself, it was more or less decided for me by the atmosphere of legacy publishing in 2011. But the new world of publishing is one that welcomes the brave willing to go it alone.
In the early fall of 2011, I began the tedious task of querying agents. I made my lists and wrote my letters and attached the required excepts from my novel The Milestone Tapes. I waited with baited breath for someone to find my novel charming and me exciting.
That validation never came.
Of course, I did have few full reads and a handful of partials, the experience wasn’t awful and I learned a lot by doing it. But the replies were always nearly the same . . . Literary Fiction, in the market, is a hard sell. My book was decidedly not about vampires or shape shifting werewolves, or love triangles and I certainly didn’t have a show on Bravo or MTV to help me along. I was a new author with no backstory, and the chance was just one no one was willing to take.
I then had to make a choice . . . to decide whether I’d let my book die on my laptop, waiting for however long it took to spark the interest that would push it into a first run . . . or I could face the unknown with hope and try it for myself. When you pour everything into a book . . . when every single word of the 100,000 belongs to you, letting it die is simply not a option. So I went Indie.
You may have heard the term “Indie” bounced about or spied the unknown names on Amazon with their ninety-nine cent novels. And you may, on your own, have drawn conclusions about them:
“They’re not good enough to be really published.”
“It’s a hobby . . . they aren’t real writers.”
“Their books can’t be any good if a publishing house didn’t pick them up.”
Well, I don’t blame you for thinking or feeling that way, if, in fact, you do. The truth is, even with my love of books — all books — I once felt that way as well. And why? I had picked up a discount novel on my Kindle and three pages in had to abandon ship. I made the mistake of judging the sum by one of it’s parts. To be fair, not all independent novels are good . . . but, neither are all legacy published novels either. I’ve abandoned my fair share of legacy print novels as well. In general terms, as carte blanche and universal truths, those statements are erroneous. Some Indie novels are sheer brilliance, some unknown talents will blow you away. The new face of publishing is the Independent writer who has the shrewdness to chase a dream despite or because of what others believe to be true.
An Independent writer is a tireless worker. We take hold of our novels from conception to the finish line. We have our hands in and on every step of the process. We work two or sometimes three jobs to make our books rise up to meet your expectations. We work long, long hours worrying about everything from the prose to the cover art and indentation. We stress over pricing structure and algorithms. We often are working on two or maybe more projects at a time. We hire editors and artists and formatters and publicists. Our days begin early and end late, we become reclusive in our home offices and work on our vacations. We understand how badly we want it, and run after it at full steam. We take ourselves very seriously, and we wear two hats while working in one business.
Because of you. You’re the reason we write and you are the reason we don’t accept no for an answer when agents and publishers didn’t believe. All along, all we want is to reach a reader with our words and. in that way, considering our traditional counterparts, we’re not so different.
This is an exciting time to be a reader. That’s the truth. We are all part of the digital revolution of the novel. This otherwise unchanged industry is getting a face lift. We are in an era, a place in time, when you can have books delivered in sixty seconds to a micro-thin eReader on the tarmac of an airport from the comfort of your seat, no matter where in the world you may find yourself. You can hold an entire library in 7.5 ounces. And you finally have the chance to meet the worlds of unknown talent, and decide for yourself what it means to read a good book.
I’m going to leave you now with a question . . . what are your feelings about the changes in publishing? Do you take a chance on Indies?
Ashley Mackler-Paternostro was born in Naperville, Illinois. She still resides there with her husband, Mark, whom she describes as “the biggest supporter of my writing,” and their three dogs. She is a hairstylist and claims that some of the best stories she has ever heard were told to her by clients. “Life is so strange . . . people can do some really crazy things when left to their own devices,” she observes. “As a stylist, I was privy to that, people just want to still down and talk — and they all have something to say. Sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s just hysterical.”
Ashley is also a devoted reader with an insatiable appetite for good books, with a tendency to “lose” herself in books. Writing was in her blood from the time she was a young child, but it was a trip to the Olympic Peninsula in 2011 that provided the vision she needed to realize her dream of writing. As a writer, she looks for “that beautiful place” where normality merges with the fantastical. But her writing is thoroughly character-driven. She feels that her writing style reflects the sort of books she enjoys reading, with her work often focusing on defining moments in her characters’ lives that occur amid great conflict.
Ashley also fancies herself a flea market aficionado with a penchant for Japanese glass floats and repurposing vintage goods who “can’t see pretty glassware and not want to own it.”
The Milestone Tapes is her first novel, and she is already penning a follow up.