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A Writer’s Thanks Giving

Bitter Berries

Bitter Berries

It is the beginning of the Happy Holidays. When we eat bad food that tastes good; get together with distant family; go to parties and catch up with friends. Happy. But when bad things happen, these holidays make the pain worse.

I am always so grateful for my writing. I know I share this gratitude with other writers. The work of writing a novel is not about becoming famous, but for the ability to string together an entertaining book. The added gift of telling stories is the control you have over the lives of your characters. I am able to turn a bad diagnosis to a healing; send an abuser to prison for life; allow a poverty-stricken life to change with a lottery win. I’ve even been known to remove a bad person permanently from a good person’s life.

For those who have sorrow or worry on their plate, take heart in this quote from Kahlil Gibran:

“Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”

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And the Literary Agent Said

New friends; My red wine!

New friends; My red wine!


Agent Katie Shea Boutillier, literary agent at Donald Maass Literary Agency. Keynote Speaker

Agent Katie Shea Boutillier, literary agent at Donald Maass Literary Agency. Keynote Speaker


Last week I attended a terrific writer’s conference put on by the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. If you write women’s fiction, you need to be a member of this great organization. The classes were fun and informative. The networking with new friends was enjoyable and educational. I took the opportunity to pitch an agent.
No matter how often I pitch an agent, I get sweaty palms. I told myself I am self-published with great reviews. I am about to publish the second book in my Knoll Cottage series. So, I had no reason—being the mature, accomplished woman that I am—to be nervous. And why pitch an agent at this point?
I wanted to chat about the new world of publishing. I came armed with a paperback copy of Missing Emily, book one in the series; comments from my editor; a synopsis of Silent Grace.
The young agent from Trident Media Group, L.L.C. was very professional and took notes. I told her I am self-published and I have done all the hard things right, based on the reviews and comments from readers. She asked me about sales. I said they aren’t good, which is why I am nervously sitting in from of her. I need guidance! All of the information I’ve read about marketing, driving sales, email lists haven’t helped me. And I wondered if, in this new world of publishing, I could still have an agent represent me.
And the literary agent said: Yes! She said having a published book would not stop an agent from representing the author.
I told her the stories of both Missing Emily and Silent Grace. She asked me questions, and I answered. I accomplished none of this with grace because my throat was a little tight. In the end, she asked me to query her on both novels. I offered her the paperback of Missing Emily and the literary agent said: Yes.
In truth, I’ve never pitched an agent at a conference who didn’t ask for more material. Even on my very first book. But the space between the query sending and rejection sending is a warm and hopeful place. I will let you know what happens!

That Darn Back Blurb

Aarrrgh!

Aarrrgh!

So you’ve written nearly 100,000 words. You’ve revised the manuscript 100 times. You’ve had 20 people read for you, then you revised it 50 more times. It’s perfect! It’s ready!
All you have to do is write down the 100,000 words to about 250 or less and slap it on the back of your book.
I struggled for hours yesterday and came up with a bunch of words that convinced me no one would ever read Silent Grace. Yuck!
Thank God for the internet! Today, I visited two websites: http://www.blurb.com, (who knew blurb would have its own website!) and http://www.digitalbookworld.com. Thank you to all the folks who bring writers such terrific information on the web. I highly recommend both of these sites if you’re struggling with your own blurb. No charge, just have at it and go back to work. I did. I rewrote the blurb based on the data I mined from the two sites. I am so much happier and confident it will intrigue readers.
Next, I send it off to my trusted and capable critique partner. If she likes it, it’s a go. And Silent Grace is one step closer to publication.

Self-published? Not Me!

Is self-publishing a lonely road?

Is self-publishing a lonely road?

Is the road to self-publishing lonely to you? I’d love to hear from other writers who published their books by themselves. I actually know of one person who did all the work herself, so I realize there are others out there. I am not one of them. For me, self-publishing is a misnomer. Since I am not traditionally published, I must come up with a different word.

My critique partner and friend, Sandy, IS self-published. She fearlessly plows ahead through any dilemma that raises a roadblock, and finds the solution. She is an amazing person in so many respects. I was alone when I pressed the button on Create Space to submit my novel for review. (I am moving ever so closer to a published book!). However, the day before Sandy spent hours with me showing me the ropes.

But it started much earlier with another friend who is a beautiful artist, but an even more beautiful person. Donna Green, who spends her days working with children ill with cancer to realize their dreams, to work her Magical Moon Farm, to stay in her farmhouse of sacred wonders, offered to help me publish. Donna has millions of books in print, and I own a copy of many of them. Not only did Donna put me in touch with her own publishers and designers, she took precious time to do the illustration for my cover. You should buy my book just to have that cover! And because a portion of the proceeds of Missing Emily will go to Donna’s foundation.

My book designer, David, has been such a delight to work with that I don’t want to finish. He is the kind of person you meet and know in the same moment. First he read my women’s fiction novel, then he put together a lovely font and layout. He had made my book so beautiful you will want to read it just to see how pretty it is.

The Missing Emily file is off to another designer who will set it up for an eBook. Not there yet, but that’s next.

Besides those people to whom I am so indebted, I have had help from the folks at Create Space, GoDaddy (setting up my website), other writers, marketers, who spend time teaching us newbies how to get our books out there.
What shall I call my method of publishing? I’m going to work on that, but I’m happy for any suggestions!

A Writer’s Ode to the Bathrobe

Chilly Cape Cod morning

Chilly Cape Cod morning

Disclaimer: I love my “dorm” pants!
If you watch the old TV series and black and white movies, you will see people in bathrobes. Ozzie and Harriet had twin beds, as did Desi and Lucy. They all came to bed and took off their robes, laying them in a place where they could quickly be re-donned. If someone pounded on the door in the middle of the night, any character from those days would first slip into that bathrobe, add slippers, then go answer the door. Now, we would probably call 9-1-1 or check our security cameras.
Nick and Nora. Love those detective stories still. You know them, rich couple with a dog named Asta? They serve manhattans in tiny little glasses, even though they drink a ton of them. But you would never catch Nick or Nora without a bathrobe if they were wearing sleepwear.
Did Jane Erye rush out of bed and down the hall to find the screaming lady? Not before she put on her dressing gown.
Try to find a bathrobe in the price range for ordinary people now. Oh, you might see a “duster” like my grandmother used to wear. Of course the whole idea of a woman’s robe being called a duster is no longer politically correct. You’ll probably see some winter robes made of pounds of fleece, or some cute little wraps matching cute little nightgowns. But it’s hard to find a bathrobe which covers your pjs with pretty propriety anymore. I did find one this year, though I would only use it for special occasions. What if I never find another?
I admitted that I love dorm pants. Sometimes I use them over my pjs on a chilly morning, other times I wear them when I’m hunched over my keyboard. Nice and soft, not too tight, warm and cozy, and best of all, elastic waist.
This blog is not all about the rare bathrobe, it’s about change. We have correctly corrected some of our hurtful words and statements. Maybe we’ve gone overboard, but the pendulum always swings too far in the beginning of change. That will work itself out. This is about the more genteel times when people wore bathrobes. Some days, I miss them.

Writers’ Create Mode

My Dead Hydrangeas

My Dead Hydrangeas

This morning I realized these hydrangeas, which had dried to lovely hues of green, blue, and purple, were completely brown. When did that happen?
I am in creative mode. After months and months of rewrites and edits, I am writing a new book—the third and last in my Knoll Cottage series. This is the mode writers live for. As Stephen King calls it, the closed door writing.
Creative mode=absent-minded-professor. I walk into the kitchen and stand before the open door of the pantry, baffled at what I’m doing there. I drive to the supermarket, realizing when I step out of my car, I am wearing my bedroom slippers. (Writers, keep a pair of flip-flops in your car!)
I can listen to the TV news, play Spyder Solitaire on my tablet, and suddenly figure out a plot problem. “Aha!” I say to my husband, “Julia needs a PI.” If you are a writer, you know the “look” he gives me.
This wasn’t my planned blog for today. When writers are in creative mode, we aren’t the best planners. But as I write this blog, I just realized Julia’s PI must be a woman!

Next Steps to Publish

Scared! Photo courtesy of Lynn Kelley Author, Wanna Commons

Scared! Photo courtesy of Lynn Kelley Author, Wanna Commons

I sent off the digital file of my novel. Here’s how that feels:
Imagine a small child, raised in a loving and supportive family, where everything she does is brilliant. One morning, the child is awakened, dressed, rushed through breakfast, taken to school, and left there by her parent. She stands in the classroom. A teacher is explaining the rules, and twenty-odd little faces are staring at her, sizing her up, judging her, deciding whether they will like her. Or not!
I am the parent, anxious, fearful, handing over my perfect baby to strangers. The baby I named, Missing Emily. I am also the wide-eyed child in the classroom of publishing, learning the next steps.
They come quickly: Have an author photo taken; write a great bio for the jacket cover; choose eBook, paperback, hardcover; work with an artist on cover design. All the while, wondering, worrying: Will readers like Missing Emily?
Today I will work on my acknowledgements page. So many wonderful people have helped me on this journey, it will take hours!
And I am so lucky to have a new angel guiding me, as I stumble down the path to Publish.

A Writer’s Riff

Pasta Stickers

Pasta Stickers

Two characters are roaming around my brain: Julia is a widowed mom approaching forty and soon heading back into the work force. I think she would be pretty, but the last few years have taken a toll on her looks. Alice is a precocious six-year-old about to enter first grade. She’s small for her age, has brown hair, and wears glasses. She was born with serious heart defects and has undergone multiple surgeries, the last one two years ago.

I had a plot for them, but it kept putting Julia to sleep, so I pulled the rug from under them. Because they won’t leave me alone, I’m working on a new plot.

Did Julia, hungry for some romance, fall for a man who turned out to be an abusive control freak and now she needs to get away? No. She’s too smart for that. Did her best friend fix her up with her brother who secretly picks his nose? Yuck. Or after mourning her late husband and dealing with Alice’s surgeries alone, Julia needs a vacation extraordinaire. Should they have an adventure on some exotic island? Should I put them in an RV and send them to a National Park where Julia falls in love with a handsome ranger who adores Alice? What if I make her an investigative journalist whose subject puts her and Alice in danger and they have to go into hiding? Should I send them to Cape Cod where Julia falls for an oyster shucker in Wellfleet who turns out to be an undercover FBI agent? But I don’t write mysteries. I write women’s fiction.

Riffing is like throwing pasta against the wall and seeing if it sticks. A stream of thoughts quickly scratched out from the right side of the brain. I don’t think any of the noodles here will stick, but feel free to tell me if you like one of them! (I’m grinning.)