Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wise Words to take comfort in

"If there's one thing I've learned about the publishing industry, it's that "no" doesn't necessarily mean "no." It means "not at this time" or "not this particular draft." So, don't lose faith in your project!! ~~
Author Marilyn Brant, 2007 Golden Heart Winner for Best Novel with Romantic Elements.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

First Sale!!!!!

I can't believe it's true! Steeple Hill Love Inspired has offered to buy my book! I have an editor!

For more details, you are invited to the party in Seekerville on Saturday, all day.

Come and enjoy the party atmosphere and great cyper food.

This all happened so fast, I don't have my wits together yet to properly tell my First Sale story.
By Saturday, I should be able to write coherently again : )


January 30, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

As the writing world spins

Hello Five Scribes Readers: I'm checking in to tell you I miss our author visits and interviews, and I promise to have some to you soon. Because, in truth, when they visit us, I learn so much about my own writing.

I know lame-brained excuses don't make up for my tardiness, so I thought I'd list what I've been up to -- so you'll see that my world does indeed revolve around writing. Currently I'm:

1) Coordinating the 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense

2) Sending off my latest manuscript,which (yeah!!) I got a request for a full.

3) Judging the Pikes Peak Writers Conference Contest (some first-round judges dropped the ball) -- Bad judges, bad!!

4) A--n--d, I'm undergoing a house remodel. Above and below are the before pictures -- Don't you love that 80s look paneling? ;) As you can guess, I'm pretty excited... This is our 30-year-old home, and although it's seen a lot of love, it's also suffered some wear and tear. It has great bones, but it needs a serious face lift. Now that our kids are through college (another high five for my husband and me) it's time to get started. If I survive the remodel, I'll post the after pictures too. So stay tuned.

While I'm excited about updating my home, I'm overwhelmed too. I'm boxing up, decluttering, and occasionally checking in. So, does this earn me any empathy and forgiveness gold stars?

I sure hope so, because I am thinking of you. When I'm overwhelmed I drink lots of chamomile and peppermint tea (great combination). Okay, I drink an occasional margarita too. What do you do when your world turns upside down? Am I just a slacker, or can you beat my list of four?

Happy Writing!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


An open letter came across my inbox the other day, authored by one of the wonderful mentors at Seton Hill University. Karen Williams has given permission for this letter to be posted beyond the students at SHU.
As many of you know my family and I have a long and close relationship with Haiti.  We have many friends and connections both in Haiti and here in the US who have been affected in the worst ways by the devastation of the recent earthquake.  I cannot describe the horror that was Haiti before this catastrophe and cannot imagine the situation now.  I also want to make it clear that the tremendous spirit of the people of Haiti deserves our deepest admiration.

We have had non-stop emails and phone calls with condolences, updates, some good news and some bad, leaving us feeling helpless and sad.  Many have asked how they can help.

At this point it would be useless to send material goods since there is no way to distribute them.  I am suggesting to anyone who would like to help to go to and make a donation, however small. You can read the blog there.  This hospital may be the only functional facility on the whole island at the moment and I know from first hand experience that the monies will be used in a way the donor would expect.

Thanks to all who have contacted us.

Best Wishes,


In addition, there is a free-fiction movement afoot within the writing community. Several authors have offered up a short piece of fiction on their websites in a sort of online fundraiser. The idea is that readers enjoy the free fiction and then donate to a suitable organization to benefit the Haitians. I encourage every writer to post a piece with a link to or to the Red Cross or other reputable charity organizations. I encourage every reader to take advantage of this wonderful trove of free reading and then give as generously as they can to help Haiti overcome this horrible tragedy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Typo

I'm in the process of a messy remodel and coordinating The Daphne. So my apologies for not posting as often as I should. I have some great interviews set up in the upcoming months that I can't wait to share. In the meantime, I thought I'd post an article I had fun writing. Note, my CP is happily agented now, but not to Star. You can't imagine how shocked we were to learn she was fictitious! ..... Happy Writing!

My phone rang early one Saturday morning, and checking the caller I.D., I saw it was my critique partner, Robin. I picked up immediately, knowing she’d been fretting about getting her manuscript to Star Abernathy, aka Star Literary Agency and also Robin’s dream agent.

“Did you send it?” I asked.

“Yes.” The sigh on the other end was audible. “It cost me $13.29 to mail, but it’s gone. Finis. Now if only she likes it.”

“She’ll love it,” I replied. Number one I’d critiqued it, number two my partner’s an awesome writer. So what are you going to do today?”

“Clean the house I let go while I edited and proofread this manuscript.”

“Good plan,” I said. “I’m going to hole up in my office and--”

The scream on the other end pierced my ear drum. “Oh my gosh,” I cried. “Robin, what’s wrong? Should I call 9-1-1?”

“Just shoot me now,” she said. “I can’t believe it.”

“What? What?” If I had to drive up to Briargate from the south end of Colorado Springs to foil a murder, I needed to leave now. “Talk to me, Robin? What’s happening?”

“I found a typo.”

“A what?”

“You heard me. A typo. My sentence reads, ‘You almost cut off my ear off.’”

“Oh.” I knew a despondent moment. I’d been there. How many contests had I entered where I thought the darn thing was perfect? On one manuscript I’d sent my heroine said, “Peas… peas,” rather than, “Please...please.” Remembering the incident, my face grew hot. “She probably won’t notice,” I said.

“Are you out of your mind? Of course she’ll notice,” Robin shouted. “She’s Star Abernathy. Her web page says don’t bother submitting if you can’t pay attention to detail. Do you think ‘Cut off my ear off?’ is paying attention to detail? I’m doomed.” She moaned. “Doomed.”

For anyone else I might have said get over it, but Robin and I are both known to border on melodramatic so I said, “Maybe she won’t notice.”

“Or maybe she’ll reject me so fast my head still will be spinning at the next chapter meeting.”

“There are other agents,” I reasoned.

“Not for me,” Robin said, determination steeling her voice. “Pack a bag. We’re flying to New York.”

Three hours later we were en route to the Big Apple. I’m still not sure how she talked me into it. Something about how she’d do it for me, and how if I didn’t, she’d kill me. I didn’t want to die unpublished, so I relented.

We landed at La Guardia and I finally had the nerve to ask, “What happens now? Should we book a hotel?”

Robin looked at me like I was nuts. She flagged a taxi cab driver and directed him to drive us to Wal-Mart.

“Why Wal-Mart?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes. “Because we need something black and I’m on a budget.”

Three hours later, the sun going down, we were dressed in black and standing on Fifth Avenue. But this was New York and as people passed by, no one seemed to notice. I glanced at Robin. “It’s Saturday. I’ll bet Star Abernathy’s not even in her office.”

“Duh,” she said. “Come on. That’s the plan.”

We entered the lobby to find a security guard sitting behind a marbled counter complete with security cameras. No wonder Robin wanted Star to represent her. The lady had done well. “Okay, you distract him,” she said quietly.

“Excuse me?” I mumbled through the side of my mouth.

“Ask for directions, make chit chat,” she said, reaching into her purse.

Chit chat? Me? I approached the guard. “Pardon me, sir. Can you direct me to the Eiffel Tower?”

The man who bore the demeanor of an off-duty cop frowned. “The Eiffel Tower’s in Paris, ma’am.”

I turned to Robin. “Boy, did you make a wrong turn.”

She shoved me aside. “My friend doesn’t get out much. She means the Statue of Liberty. Say, you wouldn’t happen to know if Star Abernathy’s in today; would you?”

A knowing look came over the guard’s face. “You’re writers here to pester Ms. Abernathy.”

Robin grinned at him sheepishly.

“Hold on,” the man said. “I don’t think she’s in, but I’ll check.”

When he turned away, Robin dumped a couple of pills into his coffee.

Unable to believe my eyes, I pulled her away from the counter. “What did you just do?”

“I gave him sleeping pills.”

“You take sleeping pills?”

She shook her head, clearly annoyed with me. “Of course not. You know better than that. But for purposes of this article we need to knock him out.”

“Oh,” I said, her explanation all at once making sense.

“Sorry, ladies, she’s not in,” the guard said, conveniently taking a gulp of coffee and not objecting at all to author intrusion. “Come back on Monday.”

“We’ll do that,” Robin said.

Outside we waited…and waited until finally the guard lay his head down and fell fast asleep.

“Let’s go.” She tugged on my arm and my dream of being a successful author vanished. Instead of black I’d be wearing stripes, and at what the awful look would do to my figure, I sighed.

As luck would have it, we found the keys to Star’s office in a metal drawer below the security desk and minutes later rode the elevator up to the agent’s plush office. In the reception area, wall-to-wall manuscripts lined the file cabinets, and dread crept into my being. No way did we have enough time to rummage through the numerous piles.

We entered Star’s inner sanctum, and again fate smiled, and for purposes of this article, we found Robin’s manuscript alone on Star’s desk.

Unfortunately our luck had run out, and we suffered a black moment like no other. In a matter of two days, the U.S. Postal Service, and with the volume of manuscripts awaiting her perusal in the outer office, Star had chosen Robin’s historical.

Worse, the manuscript was turned to page forty-three and the words ‘cut off my ear off’ were circled in red. Robin’s shoulders slumped. It was too late. A rejection was only a heartbeat away.

I rounded the desk and scanned the note that said, “Star, this one has a typo.” Signed Nelda Reader.

Tears streamed down my friend’s face. I, however, saw an all-is-not-lost scenario. “Robin, I don’t think Star has read it.”

Robin stifled a sob. “She hasn’t?”

“No. Look.”

Even with the blinds drawn and nighttime descending, sunshine illuminated the room. I logged onto Star’s computer, using Star Abernathy as the password… the woman was so predictable…and retyped the errant page.

Both of us proofed and proofed until at last we were satisfied. Then removing Nelda Reader’s damning note, we wrote, “Star, this one’s perfect,” then caught the next plane leaving New York.

The Typo ran in several RWA® newsletters as well as blogs.

Copyright© 2007 Donnell Ann Bell

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Coveted First Sale. Too soon?

When you've been around the writing community going on a dozen years as I have, you learn a thing or two. Constantly. I'm constantly making new friends and learning--not just about the craft and business and PATIENCE, but tidbits of wisdom.

My latest tidbit was brought home to me by friend, Kaki Warner. I first noticed Kaki from the contest circuit. She's a writing veteran, like myself. Just about every contest she entered she placed if not won, yet year after year she wasn't snatched up. I couldn't help wondering why not.

Well, I'm thrilled to say her time finally came and she was recognized in spades by Berkley with a three book contract! Now I wonder if she's a little bitter about not having sold earlier. She calls herself a 25yr overnight success. But is that really a bad thing????

25 years is a little excessive for a person of my limited patience (just ask any Scribe about Theresa-time), but . . . as I read her first book, Pieces of Sky, out this January. Maybe it was worth the wait. 'cause it's good. It's VERY good. And not just the cover, though that is beautiful as well.

Her first chapter opens with enough building conflict to make even Don Maass giddy. She is a master at using details to really pull me into scenes, without going overboard and slowing plot. Her prose is well-written and expressions so unique that I had to find out where she got all those crazy cowboy saings. Her sensual tension is sprinkled throughout with finesse and her love scenes quite tasteful. If you ever wonder how to write making your setting standout as a character, study Kaki's book. She does it beautifully. And, she writes each character with a different voice and personality--even the big silent type like Hank.

As a seasoned writer, I've become cynical and extremely picky about what I read, and Kaki's first book is extremely well done. I can't wait to read the next one, Open Country, out in June--I believe. So my point is not to push a friend's book, but it's to point out that she's given me real hope, because when Kaki finally sold, her book is really something she should be proud of.

There are a LOT of first time authors who are published and --in this readers opinion--couldn't say the same. It happened too earlier for them. Their first, and even second or third books, are not all that well written. Perhaps they would have been a little better off struggling and learning more about their craft before they snatched that brass ring. Not that any one of us would pass up that opportunity to publish if it fell into our laps. Let's be honest! Can you see it? No thank you Grand Central Editor, I really don't think my story is good enough to publish just yet, maybe next year.

So there's hope for this old writing veteran that when my time comes, I'm hoping I've learned and continue to learn so much about this craft that when that first book (and the others after it) are published, I'll hold my head up high and know that I've put out there a quality product. I'm hoping God's path similarly rewards my reluctant patience.

Tina Radcliff is another veteran (inspirational romance author) who has just sold her first book-- can't wait to see if she supports my theory. I bet she does!

What do you think? Does a little more author time spent in the trenches tend to produce better quality stories?

Monday, January 11, 2010

What comes after the First Sale??

A good friend of mine, Tina Radcliffe, just sold her first book to Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Oh the partying and celebration that went on in her honor! After years of perseverance, the dream is now firmly in her grasp. All her family and friends are so happy and proud of her.

So the party decorations are all cleaned up, the last guest bid adieu, and the door closes on the thrill that is the First Sale.

Now what?

Writers that strive for years for their first sale sometimes aren’t prepared for the change in chores that now lie ahead. Speaking as one who has seen a number of friends sell their first books over the past two years, I can give a little insight.

1. Be prepared to jump into action quickly. Not saying I know how all publishing houses operate, but when you sell a book to Steeple Hill, they have a pub date ready for you in the same breath in which they utter the longed for words – We’d like to buy your book and work with you.

2. Don’t be a diva. Now that your dream has come true, don’t buck the system. Very few books are sold and published without revisions of some sort. Trust your editor. Of course you can discuss changes that rub you the wrong way. Just don’t earn the label of being difficult right off the bat. Your long awaited career might come to a grinding halt.

3. Schedules are crucial. Looking at my own writing habits, I’m a pretty firm seat-of-my-pants writer which means I write what and when the mood strikes me. Since watching my friends sell their books, I’ve been working on structure. I set small goals for myself and make certain I achieve them. There are masses of details that need to be attended to once you are contracted, and they all need to meet your publishers’ deadlines. Be prepared!

4. Have a loose idea of title and cover art. I say loose because, really, the editors have been at this a long time. They know what works and what doesn’t for their lines. If you insist on a title or whine when they change it, number one, your editor will probably say sorry if they’re so inclined toward graciousness; number two, you’re headed toward that difficult label again. Remember, discussion is fine, just handle it courteously and professionally.

5. Finally, KEEP WRITING!! Keep churning out those stories! Publishers invest a lot of time, effort and money in a new author to create a name and a brand of their own. Don’t be a one hit wonder! Be enthusiastic about your next project, or better yet, have completed manuscripts to offer. Put a smile on that editor’s face and develop a relationship that keeps your name in the forefront of all of the others knowing they can come to you with projects above and beyond what you submit. They can rely on YOU.

There are so many details and responsibilities that come along with selling your first novel. Hopefully, I’ll be able to fill you in as a published author soon : ) In the mean time, I’m working on more books, keeping my eye out for cover art, schedules are always at hand….

Have a great writing day!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Update on Winners...

Audra very generously donated her prize back into the prize bin. I don't have time to manage a new drawing right now because I'm off to residency (yup, it's squee-time again!). The next time I blog, I'll draw a name from commenters once again.

Have a fab week, all. I'll try to remember y'all while I'm getting my semi-annual How To Write download. ;)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Slippery, thorny or steep, it's all about the writing

I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately. Preparing for 2010, thinking about what I write, why I write and the competitive, tough, fast-changing market out there. It can be downright discouraging, enough to make a body quit. And I would, if I wasn't so darn stubborn and first and foremost a writer.

How do I know this? Because even when I experience huge doubt, my mind still churns out new plots. I can't write to the market. It was different in nonfiction when I wrote 1,000 to 5,000 word articles, but when authoring an 80,000 to 95,000 word book? To stay focused that long on a project, I have to love what I'm writing. Further, there's nothing like the satisfaction that comes with completing an entire novel.

What's more, every single thing I do revolves around writing. I love to write. And during the holidays when my family members were dreading going back to their day jobs and "real life," I couldn't wait to get back to my writing.

My husband bought me a digital camera last year and I've been learning how to use it. Funny, when I downloaded the pictures, I didn't see merely the images, I saw my writing career, the good times, the bad...all that I've accomplished and all that I've yet to.

My husband and I went to Tuscon where he ran his 11th marathon. Running is his passion, while writing is mine. We stopped to take pictures of the amazing acre upon acre of cactus growing in the state. Know what I thought about when I gazed up that prickly hill? I thought of the publishing world and how important it is to develop a tough hide. A cactus quill doesn't have anything on the editors or agents who pen those rejection letters. To reach a publisher's desk you have to tiptoe around an awful lot of thorns to get there.

In Manitou Springs pictured to the left, we have a rugged mile-high trail that travels skyward. Most people bring their ski poles with them to help them maintain their balance, it's that steep. Know what I thought of when I studied that picture? I saw my completed manuscripts and the one I've just started. I can't tell you how many times I had a full-blown panic attack and thought I'd never finish. The point is, I did. To a writer, completing a novel that holds up from start to finish is equally as rewarding as climbing a mountain.

Finally, here's a picture of the geese that love to inhabit the round-about across from my house. If you walk through the circle it's a shortcut and you can shave five minutes off your time. However, when the geese are there, that shortcut isn't necessarily appealing. Particularly when it's full of slimy goose @#$%, and if you do walk through there, you're likely to land on your keester. My feathered friends' yearly presence are reminders for me not to take shortcuts. That writing is a process, and sometimes the muse needs time to gel, or maybe I haven't researched a topic as thoroughly as I should or perhaps my chapters need further editing.

Yep, whether it's slippery, thorny or steep it's all about the writing for me. Maybe that's why I identify so much with Isaac Asimov's famous quote, "If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster."

So how about you? If you're a writer, does everything you do revolve around your love of writing?

Happy New Year all, and here's to our writing!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Winners from the Dawn McClure Guest Blog!

All hail for its random number generation. After a few misfires (deleted comment and one of Dawn's comments), it picked two winners.

Congratulations to Donna for winning the paperback copy of Asmodeus. Please contact me at klgrady at gmail, Donna, with your mailing address.

Also, our own Audra nailed the mondo collection of books from my bookshelf. Audra, I'll contact you. ;)

Thanks everyone for the wonderful comments and for participating. May your 2010 be absolutely grand!