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The stories here change from time to time. Please return to visit often!

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Gratitude Journal: Traditional Publishing

I was lucky. I was blessed. I got started in publishing before you could upload your manuscript to PubIt or create your own works on Kindle or fall victim to PublishAmerica. I fell into traditional publishing. I was blessed.

My story started when I was nine and my teacher asked me what I would be when I grew up. "A writer!" I declared emphatically. After all, I loved books and my teachers all thought I had talent. At age nine I published a poem in a national magazine for children and thought I had it made.

I was eleven when I narrowed my ambition to becoming a novelist, fifteen when I made it my summer job to write and submit to magazines. When I had accumulated more than 200 rejections, I finally started throwing them all away. I didn't sell a word, but I got a quick and useful education in publishing -- at least at the magazine level.

By the time I had a couple of English degrees and was earning my keep by teaching, I knew I needed much more education. Still, both foolish and undaunted, I wrote a book. Having no idea what to do with it, I put it in a drawer.

Enter Debbie Gordon. As Brooke Hastings, she had written a small stack of books for the Harlequin empire. I happened to bump into a friend of hers while traveling. I was reading a book on how to write and publish romance novels and the friend told me about her buddy, Debbie. I made notes.

Later, while making videotapes on writing and writers for my college English classes, I met Debbie. Near the end of our interview, I confessed I had a manuscript in the drawer and she told me that if I polished and mailed it by the end of the month, she'd notify her editor it was coming.

That was in October 22 years ago. My nine books have been written in spare moments around a 30-year teaching career and a large family. Along the way, I've acquired a marvelous, practical education in the publishing industry.

I've been blessed, and I'm grateful.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Try to put up with Him

Today's excerpt comes from my first-ever novel, BENEATH SIERRA SKIES, traditionally published by Silhouette in 1990 and recently re-released by Belgrave House. You can read a longer excerpt on the Belgrave House web site. I quote here from the novel's beginning:

A breeze as soft and warm as an embrace carried the blossoms that fell from the almond trees. A preview of spring had come to the Sacramento Valley, and Robin reveled in it, lifting her chin into the breeze and tossing her red-gold hair. She’d lived in Chico long enough to know winter would return before spring finally came, but these lovely days in February gave her patience.

She walked briskly, stretching her stride. At five foot eight she’d always been long, leggy and with an ample figure, and men had appreciated her looks. Then why...? She shrugged the thought away. Perhaps the warmer weather had made her wishful, or maybe it was her sister’s wedding, only three days away. It seemed as though the whole world was pairing off in couples!

Robin quickly covered the few blocks between the university and the hospital, entered at the old doors off the Esplanade and skipped up the stairs.

Nancy, her supervisor, stepped from her office as Robin put on her lab coat. “Ah. The guest lecturer returns. How did it go?”

“I’m a hit. The students all want to be just like me, if you can imagine that!”

“I certainly can. You’re the best cardiac caseworker I have.”

“I’m the only cardiac caseworker you have.”

“In that case, get to work.” Nancy winked as she picked up her clipboard. “Oh, Dr. Collins’s office called about the Chilton case. They’re assigning it to Dr. Demarse.”

“I was afraid of that,” Robin grumbled.


Robin shrugged. “We really haven’t worked together often.”

“He’s supposed to be a wonderful surgeon. It’s the only reason we keep him. That and his blond hair,” Nancy said with a grin.

“He sure isn’t famous for talking with his patients. The first time we worked together was with a postsurgical patient. Just before he was to be discharged, he asked Dr. Demarse when he could make love to his wife again. Demarse just shrugged him off, saying ‘Sex is no big deal. If you can run up a flight of stairs, you can have sex, and if you can’t, you can live without it.”

Nancy groaned. “He didn’t really say that, did he?”

“He sure did, and two days later, the patient was back in the emergency room with a broken nose. He’d fallen while trying to run up a flight of stairs.”

“Oh, no!” Nancy was laughing in spite of herself. “Well, many doctors have a hard time talking about sex. That’s why the job often falls to us.”

“I know, but some doctors have a worse manner than others.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve heard some interesting things about Demarse’s bedside manner...”

“Don’t tell me you listen to hospital gossip?”

“Come on, Robin. Are you going to pretend he’s not attractive?”

“Well, I’ll admit he’s nice-looking—”

“Great-looking,” Nancy corrected.

“Okay, great-looking, but that’s no excuse for the way he behaves.”

“Well, try to put up with him. He is a very fine surgeon."

Robin and Brandon were my first literary offspring. Although attitudes have changed since 1990 and I now find Brandon more obnoxious than I did then (actually, he's something of a jerk!), I still love them, and I love their grand adventure.

You can find this book, and most of my others, on Amazon Kindle. Although it is not yet available at the Barnes and Noble Nook site, seven of my other books are.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Warnings against Self-Publishing

Happy Columbus Day! This week's web entry comes from Stacy Deanne, a best-selling novelist published by Simon and Schuster. Ms. Deanne was featured in 2006's "Literary Divas: The Top 100+ Most Admired African-American Women in Writing." She knows her stuff. You can check out her web site at

Today I'd like to refer you to her blog called "Warnings From a Traditionally Published Author: Don’t be Bamboozled Into Self-publishing a Book." In this minor rant, Ms. Deanne speaks plainly "of the prejudices that self-published authors have against the mainstream [publishing] industry in general."

She lists a number of "myths" about self-publishing that one self-published writer might use to push a person who has completed a manuscript into avoiding the traditional publishers and going the self-published route. The myths are some I've heard frequently. They include:

You can't get there without an agent.

Traditional publishers don't look at new authors.

You'll make more money if you publish your own book.

I'm here to promise, just as Ms. Deanne does, that these myths (and others in her piece) are false. I've had nine novels accepted and have worked with three different publishers, yet I've never had an agent and I started as an unknown. I've also seen friends self-publish and sell fifty copies to close friends and family, while my first book was translated into five languages and sold more than 112,000.

If you're thinking of publishing your journals for your grandchildren, or producing a manual for members of your hobby club who want to learn a skill, self-publish. It's the best method for you. If you're sitting on a novel you'd like to share with the world, take the time to learn about traditional publishing. Go with the largest, best-known publishing house that will take you. Heed the advice of those of us who've been there and done that. Succeed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Traditionally" Published

On Tuesdays I usually share personal thoughts about life, jam, weather, roses, grandbabies, or whatever comes to mind. Today I'd like to continue yesterday's look at what it means to be "published" and why books that are "traditionally published" are different -- at least in some ways.

This has become a major issue in writers' organizations since print-on-demand (POD) publishing and self-publishing have become so readily available to anyone who has something to say and all these people are "published," yet writers' groups often exclude them.

As I mentioned yesterday, some of these works are excellently written and very worthwhile. Some gain huge cult followings (look at the work of Amanda Hocking. Way to go, Amanda!) and some do so well, they gain world-wide acceptance.

So what's the difference?

Sometimes the differences are few. Some self-published work is very well written, cleanly edited, and presented with fine art work and high production values. But much of it is dreck, a word for garbage borrowed from German Yiddish. Why?

Traditionally published books go through an extensive process. Take for example my newest book with Covenant, A SECRET FAMILY RECIPE. I submitted the manuscript together with multiple forms about marketing ideas, potential art work, key concepts and scenes, and more. Then the process began.

First the manuscript was reviewed by my editor, who loved it. Then it was sent to three outside reviewers, two of whom gave it glowing reviews; the third approved. When a package had been completed with my manuscript, copies of the outside reviews, and all the forms I had sent in, the whole thing went to committee.

At Covenant, the publishing committee includes the managing editor, my editor, plus representatives from marketing, art, publicity, and every arm of the company. They spend hours wrangling over which books are worth their time and the company's money. In the case of RECIPE, they liked it, but wanted major changes. Two months later, I resubmitted. The new package sat on the shelf for weeks, waiting its turn, until it went to committee again and was accepted.

So far the publication process has taken about ten months since my first submission and the book isn't scheduled for release until 2013. This is fairly typical of my experience with nine novels and three publishers.

What this means to writers, readers, and writers' organizations is that every traditionally published book has been extensively vetted, considered in detail, and given the best chance possible of being the best book possible.

Quality is not assured. I've read a few traditionally published books I wanted to throw through a wall, and even a couple I have trashed (while my mind screamed "desecration!") simply because I didn't want anyone else to read them.

Still this process is a better predictor of quality than anything promised to readers of self-published work or works produced by vanity presses (those that require the author to bear all expenses of publishing and distribution). It is one way authors' organizations can recognize work that has passed through the fires of traditional publishing and come out more refined on the other side.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Being "Published"

I come from an interesting family where we have great dinner table discussions. Because the dh and I are both published authors and the son who lives here is an aspiring novelist with major talent, we often talk about publishing.

Recently we chatted over pasta and salad about the recent increase in print-on-demand publishing, self-publishing via online sources and other ways of getting "published." The fact that technology has opened these avenues of recognition and distribution means that "published" doesn't carry quite the same meaning it once did.

There are plentiful and excellent examples of people whose books didn't fit a publishing niche and hence, weren't accepted by traditional publishers, so the authors followed non-traditional routes to eventually find great acceptance.

One outstanding example is of author James Redfield who self-published THE CELESTINE PROPHECY in 1993. He sold copies from the trunk of his car, hawked them at flea markets, and gained a following. A traditional publisher saw the potential and picked up his book. By May 2005 he had sold more than 20 million copies world-wide and the book is now a movie.

Unfortunately Redfield is the exception and much of what is now available to the reading public isn't worth the trouble. As my husband mockingly joked, "These days you can write with crayon on butcher paper, hang it in your window for the neighbors to see and call yourself published."

That isn't quite the case, but it describes the current phenomenon well. So why all the flap about being "traditionally" published? Is it really just a way for some people to lord their success over others? Do you have to "know people" to make it in the publishing industry?

Stay tuned. I will share some answers tomorrow.