Tag Archives: publishing

After Signing the Contract

JourneySince I’ve signed with She Writes Press as part of winning the 2014 Memoir Discovery Contest, I’ve been busy with the next steps in anticipation of a fall 2015 publication date.

I’ve sent a cover memo to the publisher for the graphic artist to start working on the cover. Although I might not have a cover to release to the public until March 2015, I’m excited to be working with a top industry professional to craft a cover-grabbing image that will cause more readers to pick up the book!

I’ve sent out queries for endorsements. Although Amy Tan is busy with a tight writing schedule, other authors are considering a back cover copy blurb including Maxine Hong Kingston. Keep your fingers crossed!

I’ve sent out requests for permissions. Whenever you quote another copyrighted poem, lyric, or book, you need permission. In my memoir, my mothers, sisters, and I sing a portion of “American Pie” by Don McLean. I’m waiting to hear if Universal Songs will grant permissions. Keep your fingers crossed again!

Although I have in-house publicity, I’ve contacted publicists for additional support for my book. Although the interview process has been grueling, I’m learning what it feels like to be an employer searching for the perfect employee. I haven’t found the perfect fit yet, but I’m still looking. If you know someone who specializes in promoting non-fiction books in Northern California, please let me know. Referrals are always appreciated.

I’m working with Nat Mundel in getting my memoir turning into a
screenplay for Hollywood.

If that wasn’t enough, I’ve been busy sending out press releases to notify the media of my contest win.

Deep breath…release… Yes, yoga has been helping me keep my balance, as well as my immediate family.

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The Fun Begins. . .

The Contract

Immediately after winning the 2014 Memoir Discovery Contest sponsored by She Writes Press and Serendipity Literary Agency, I received a congratulatory email and a publishing contract. Shortly after signing and returning my contract, I received a welcome packet. Today I received a call from the publisher.

Brooke Warner was warm, wise, and wonderfully informative in the twenty minutes we spoke about what to expect. We discussed print runs, release dates, ARCs (advanced reader copies), bookstore placement, and publicity. Luckily, in the midst of all this information, Brooke took a breath and said, “You don’t have to decide everything right now.”

But like a newly engaged woman with an upcoming wedding less than one year away, every moment counts.

I’m excited and overwhelmed. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with you, my loyal readers.

Should You Rewrite for Representation?

open laptop and a personal organizer on an office table

I finally found an agent to represent my crime novel only if I can rewrite the book in the antagonist’s point-of-view.

Ironically, that is the only point-of-view missing from my original 120,000 word manuscript. First, I cut 20,000 words to get the novel within the 100,000 word guidelines most agents seek. Second, I cut the prologue and epilogue since most agents said they weren’t necessary. Third, I added a few flashbacks to fill in the missing pieces to the puzzle that had been deleted by the prologue. Finally, I rewrote the ending to add the symbolism needed to hint at the missing epilogue.

After sending the manuscript to 64 agents over many months and receiving mostly instantaneous rejections, I took a break and focused on other things. I learned about concept writing and rewrote the one line pitch and one page synopsis and gained the attention of my current agent-to-be whose only request was to rewrite the entire manuscript from multiple points-of-view to a single point-of-view.

It may sound like a simple request, but that’s not how I reacted.

After calming down, I sent an email to the agent-to-be requesting a telephone conversation. I woke up at 5:30 am and placed a call to New York at 6 a.m. For fifteen minutes I discussed my concerns, going over my woeful history of almost sales over 25 years writing fiction. “How was this experience going to be different?” I asked. “It’s just another request to rewrite without a contract.”

The agent-to-be listened patiently before she responded. “You don’t have to do anything,” she said. “You may shop the manuscript around and find someone interested in the story as it is or sell it on your own. But if you want my support and expertise, you need to rewrite the story from the antagonist’s point-of-view. She’s the most interesting character, the one I want to know the most about, and I feel cheated as a reader because so many questions could be answered by her thoughts and feelings but aren’t because I don’t have any access to them.”

Hmmm…my beta readers had actually said they liked not knowing what the villain thought and felt.

But here was someone who worked to sell manuscripts to major publishers who had time and money and expertise to expand an author’s readership.

Could I find the time between working six days a week, going to school, and parenting children to rewrite the manuscript from another point-of-view?

If I decide to embark on this task, I do so without guarantees. I don’t have a contract with the agent. I don’t have any promise of publication. I only have one person’s opinion and a dream to be read.

What would you do?

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Writing for Fun to Free the Soul

Child Praying

Writing a Letter






Writing is my spiritual practice. Some people pray. Others meditate. I write.

I’ve written enough over the years that I literally have filing cabinets lined up along one side of the garage full of the writing I’ve done for fun, not profit, for me, not others, for the joy of writing in and of itself.

This is writing no one else will ever see.

Some of the poems are prayers. Some are conversations with God. Some are letters to the person I was or wanted to be. All of it was written from the depths of my soul, from that deep yearning to connect with something larger than me. The best writing from those pieces aren’t polished and published; they’re full of insight and revelations and truths.

Some of my favorite authors are spiritual writers—not writers who write about the topic of spirituality, but writers who use their writing to explore their spirituality and as a result of that exploration create wonderful published works.

When I was in college, I had the pleasure of hearing Natalie Goldberg speak about the writing life. For her, writing was an extension of the Zen practice of meditation. She sat and moved her hand across the page, letting the words flow out of her. It was no different than sitting meditation in which she sat and let the thoughts dissolve around her or walking meditation in which each step she took brought her closer to God.

When I was at the Vermont Studio Center, I had the privilege of writing with and learning from Melanie Rae Thon. Melanie’s writing practice consisted of asking questions and answering them through writing. Whether it was questions you asked yourself or your characters, the answers revealed themselves through the words that poured forth. Those answers could become solutions to real life problems or the conflicts and resolutions to published stories or novels.

When I realized the best writing I admired came from the spiritual practice of writing, I changed the way I approached the page. There was the writing I did for work and the writing I did for fun. Over the years, however, I lost sight of how the two intertwined: that the best writing I’ve done is also the best writing I’ve published which is also the best writing that has come from delving deep into my soul through my spiritual practice.

When writing became a job—something to produce for a profit—and stopped becoming a journey to find a way back to God—my spiritual practice—I saw the profits drop and my soul start to die.

Sure, I had the spiritual writing I did for fun on the side, but it was no longer essential like eating and sleeping. It had become a hobby, not a lifestyle.

It was only when I received an e-mail from the new editor of a national publication who discovered my writing through one of my spiritual pieces published when I was much younger that I woke up and realized a fundamental truth: the writing that answers the questions of the soul is also the writing most people want to read. It’s looking the hard questions in the eye and answering truthfully, whether through an article, an essay, a novel, a poem, or a short story, that brings the reader and the writer together in a timeless journey of discovery of the purpose and meaning of life.

Modern life may be different than medieval life, but the life of the spirit remains unchanged. That’s why we still read the classics—the truth does not change.

Writing for fun, for discovery, for the soul is the deepest, truest writing that you’ll ever do.

It doesn’t matter if it ends up the cover story of a national magazine or in the filing cabinet in the garage. What matters is the writing is done with the same loving practice as the everyday self-care tasks of caring for the body. For writing is one way of caring for the soul.

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Chase the Concept: Writing Backwards


Yes, my blog has been bare. I took a two month hiatus to draft a contemporary Christian romance. That’s what the genre is…but that’s not how the story came about.

It started on one of my runs. A woman was complaining, saying it was all her mother’s fault she was a romance addict because her mother named her Juliet. She swore she was a star-crossed lover before she was born.

But just because I had a character didn’t mean I had a story. I had realized with my last two thrillers that concept is more important than story. High concept – a series of events that happens to a particular person with a particular result – must appeal to the masses, not a handful of people. That’s why I resisted writing anything about Juliet until much, much later.

I needed a series of events that happened to a particular person with a particular result that appealed to many people.

I needed a concept.

Backwards writing. That’s what I was learning how to do. I would sell a concept then write the story.

I sat down and wrote a one line pitch. Then a one page summary.

I sent out queries based on a book I had not yet written to see if it was worth writing.

Now I’m pedaling backward fast…churning out a novel and editing the first sample pages so literary agents can judge whether or not they think I should finish it.

It’s an experiment in backwards writing…but since forward writing hasn’t paid off, it’s worth the risk, isn’t it?

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Clarify the Concept

This is a follow-up to my October 2013 post Resilience.

“We like your writing, but we don’t like your concept. . .”

After receiving a dozen rejection letters from literary agents all stating the same thing, I started to wonder: what do they mean by “concept” and why don’t they like mine?

Concept is NOT what a story is about. It is a specific thing that happens to a specific person that must be specifically solved.

My query letters all stated situations, ideas, and plot points. As a result, my query ended up reading like an episodic adventure, which is why I kept getting those rejection letters.

I needed to rewrite my query to focus on the concept, to tell the dramatic core of the story and leave everything else out.

The problem was I didn’t know how to describe a novel in which multiple storylines overlapped. I only knew that if I left the query as it was, I would continue to get rejection letters.

I put the query aside and started focusing on other things: art, exercise, prayer, and family. I played a lot of hockey on the XBox and watched more movies of the books I wanted to read. I followed the advice of successful authors who suggested I read developmental studies on how to build a story from a concept and how to transform a weak query into a stronger one.

But, most importantly, I let go of all expectations.

Months later, I woke up hearing a voice. The person was reading from a piece of paper. It was my concept turned into a story. I leapt out of bed and sat down and transcribed the words until tears brimmed in my eyes.

I had my pitch!

Sometimes when we give up, we are really giving in to the universe and allowing our dreams to manifest. By turning away from my problems and enjoying the abundance of life and giving thanks for the wonderful opportunities I have been given to grow, I allowed my prayers to be answered.

Now the true test: will a literary agent like my revised concept enough to request the full manuscript?

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Girl Jumping on Bed

“A hard fall means a high bounce…if you’re made of the right material.” –Unknown

Every single phenomenal story seems to take the same route: guy has a dream, guy fights and sacrifices and loses everything for his dream, but at the last possible moment, his dream comes true and everything is restored.

This week I endured another round of rejection. Everyone who read my query, synopsis, and sample chapters said the same thing: we love your writing, but we hate your concept.

Concept is the core story. Changing it is the equivalent of starting over and writing a completely different book.

Or is it?

When I asked the last literary agent what she meant by her comment, she suggested I just keep dating to see if I can find the right match without changing my hair color, losing 20 pounds, and getting Lasik surgery. In other words, she didn’t want me to gut my story and start over.

“If 65 agents say the same thing, then you should probably rethink your concept,” she said. “Anything less, I would keep looking.”

I’m only down to a dozen rejections. That leaves 53 more to go before I have to sharpen my pencil.

In the meantime, I have to stop fretting and doubting and worrying.

The only way to do that is to continue working.

After all, as the stakes keep getting higher and the sacrifices keep getting bigger, the payoff gets better.

Don’t let the rejections keep you down. Bounce back, higher and higher. Continue to strive toward your goals.

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Move Beyond Despair

Rain in Australian Rainforest Cairns, Australia

“Action is the antidote to despair.”
–Joan Baez

Rejection is an inevitable part of the publishing business. Not every literary agent, editor, or publishing house is going to share your vision for your story. Even those who want to shepherd you may find they cannot connect with your story in a way that will bring it to its fullest potential. They may lack the same passion as you do for your project and decide to pass.

After facing several rounds of rejection, you may start to doubt your story and yourself as a writer. When the clouds of “no’s” start piling up in your sky, it’s only natural to expect a little despondent rain. Just remember: do not get soaked.

My favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh. I’ve traveled to see his original paintings, read all his letters to his brother, Theo, and studied about his art and life. My fascination is measured equally with repulsion: no matter how much I admire his artwork and his passion for God and the common people, it does not overshadow the fact that Van Gogh was basically a failure, living off his brother’s charity, selling only one painting during his lifetime, and ending his own life with his last words being, “This sadness will last forever.”

When I first became acquainted with Van Gogh, I thought I could outsmart the darkness by denying I was an artist and embracing a practical, mathematical, and scientific way of life. That failure led me back to where I began: as a child fascinated equally by both the light and the darkness, success and failure, hope and despair.

Over the years, I’ve learned the duality exists as two sides of the coin. You cannot have acceptance without rejection. You cannot have success without failure. You cannot have joy without despair. The key, however, is to find a balance.

When the rainfall of rejection starts pounding on the rooftop of my thoughts, I take action. I resist the impulse to let the sadness tug me deep into the undertow of negative thoughts that can easily spiral out of control and sink me deep into desolation. I engage in activities that bring hope, light, and joy into my life, whether that be creating something new, spending time with loved ones, or reading a good book.

Not every creative act finds a home. Not every invention is patented and sold. Not every cure for every disease is discovered. That doesn’t mean we stop trying to create, invent or cure. We do not let despair paralyze us with inaction. We take a break to gather strength, recalibrate our instruments, and step forward toward hope.

The rainfall of rejection eventually dissipates like any other storm. The secret is to engage in pleasurable activities and indulge in positive thoughts to prevent from drowning in misery, for no sadness will last forever.

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The Quest for an Agent

Man holding a note that reads 'call me'
Searching for an agent is like dating.

I start by letting friends and family members know I am ready. My book is finished. It needs to be sold, and who better to sell it than an agent with a great reputation, preferably one who works with a writing friend. It’s a lot like scoring a date with your best friend’s brother. You know the family, get along with them well, and your future sister-in-law already feels like family. It would just be making it all official.

Of course, the chances of it working out beyond the first date are infinitesimally small.

The number of writing friends who have an agent who represents adult fiction dwindles considerably once I factor in the genre: suspense, thriller, crime, and mainstream. Those are the genres in which I feel the book fits. Trying to convince my friend’s agent who represents romance that my manuscript would be perfect for her would be a lot like trying to convince my friend’s brother who is gay that dating me would be a match made in heaven.

Once I exhaust the friends and family route, I determine to strike out on my own to meet The One. That’s a lot like being in the right place at the right time and saying the right thing to get the right response. I hang out where agents hang out: writer’s conferences, book expos, national and local writer’s groups, and publishing conferences. To mitigate the cost, I apply for grants and scholarships and chances to win an all expense paid for trip and an exclusive one-on-one meeting with the agent of my choice by writing a contest-winning essay or story. Hundreds of thousands of other writers also apply for the same chance to win. After paying the entry fee and waiting several months, I discover the winner is another lucky writer, not me. Since I have too many home and auto repairs to cover the entrance fee into the conference, not to mention travel, lodging, and meals, I proceed to Step 3 of my quest: Internet dating.

After all, I’ve heard so many stories of others finding true love through Match.com. Why can’t I find a literary agent through one of the online match making companies that bring writers and agents together? I fill out the online questionnaire, opt for the four week no cost special, and upload the first 100 pages of my manuscript into the database. Several times a day I check my mail, hoping someone read my partial manuscript and wants to see the rest of the novel. Whenever a new agent joins, I make sure I “wink” at them if they represent the genre in which I write. Sometimes they wink back and a dialogue begins about my book. Most of the time, however, they don’t. A few request the full manuscript, promising to get back to me within six to eight weeks with a response. Many, however, decide to pass.

Although I’ve abandoned my search for an agent many times over the years, I am hopeful this time I will find The One. It took three years before my husband finally asked me out on a date. Hopefully, it will take less time to find the perfect agent.

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Q & A: Behind the Scenes

I’ve decided to take this opportunity to respond to the many questions I’ve been asked since my last post.

Why did you write a crime novel?

It wasn’t my intention. I wrote another novel with the same characters in 2005, but I wasn’t happy with it. When a reader suggested I start a new story where this one left off, I began the second book. It opens with a Native American medicine man chasing his ex-lover across the country to recover money embezzled from the tribe. That one crime led to many others, and the book was born.

Is this the first book in a series?

Again, this wasn’t my intention. If readers respond favorably to it and the characters have more to say, then who knows? Right now, it’s a standalone book.

What writers inspire you?

John Burdett is my favorite crime writer. I love the way he incorporates spirituality into his novels through the character of Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, and how he delves into another culture seamlessly. I strive to do that with this novel.

What’s the book about?

When the spiritual energy surrounding Chief Hank Hidden Hawk’s sudden death suggests foul play, Medicine Man Wayne Walking Stick must unearth a 20 year old grievance before the next victim is murdered.

When can we read it?

As soon as it is published.

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