Saturday, March 5, 2011

My, now things have changed!

I remember it well. I'd had a satisfying career in music performance and a frustrating one in teaching. I'd spent a few years in the world of business (lucrative but dull). Now I would set the world of literature on fire by becoming the latest "famous" fiction author. Yeah, right. Uh-huh.
Writing was no problem for me. I'd held my college profs spellbound with my imaginitave short stories. This would be a piece of cake. All I had to do was sit down and whip off a novel or two and send them off to various publishers, breathless to grab my manuscript and turn it into gold.
Oh yes, how I remember that. If you can stop giggling, I'll go on with this. I'm not about to turn this into a gripe column so you needn't worry about that. I'm thankful the world of publishing has made such sweeping changes while I've continued to hone my craft. But, back to my story...
I wrote a 130,000 word masterpiece in a short three months and it was good. Very good. Only thing was, I could not get my muse to shut up so I could whisk the gem off to an editor. Little did I understand that a book is only done when it says its done; after countless hours of editing and rewriting, cutting and pasting, sleep time when my brain could reload and come back with fresh eyes.
After turning to a professional writing course with a real live mentor, I realized that the idea of "whipping" anything off and getting it published was a myth. At my mentor's suggestion, I wrote a new book while she looked over my shoulder and gave me countless tips on how to do the many things a real author does. It was better in many respects, but my original effort contained so many things I wanted to say, I could not scrap it. So I wrote another, and another.
Fifteen years ago, I had several choices when I felt my MS was finally ready to consider becoming a published novel. I could solicit an agent, who would take my precious baby and sell it to the best publisher. Or, I could try to get it in the hands of a competent editor myself. In the late nineties, I had a choice of at least half a dozen major publishers and a spectrum of minor ones. All print media; paperback, hardback, but all inscribed on the side of a lot of trees.
I'd just finished my fifth novel when my late brother tried to talk me into e-publishing. It was a brand new way to get published and virtually all of my professional writing group contacts poo-pooed the idea, saying it was only another way to self publish and would get no respect even if it found an audience. I made a furtive effort and got a response from one of the first e-publishers. The editor loved it and after I met her at a writing conference I was assured it would be one of her high priority projects. Two months later, she got a better offer elsewhere and the new editor hated my book. End of story. Well, not quite. But that's how it went.
Meanwhile, I kept writing. And submitting. And piling up rejection letters, enough to build a huge stack in the corner of my office. And then something else happened. Something I'm still not quite able to unravel. The publishing world went through a series of seismic events and when the earth finally stilled, there were far fewer print publishers, large or small. And the ones who'd survived had developed an even nastier attitude against novice authors. "Be famous and write a tell-all and we'll shower millions on you," seemed to be the watchword of the day.
All the while, I was filling my quiver with sharper and truer arrows. And the e-publishers had largely avoided the pitfalls of print media. The advent of efficient and relatively inexpensive reading devices have put the final block into place and now we have a new problem as authors. Which e-publisher do we offer our books to? Many of us have made wrong choices and felt the sting of having one or more of our novels caught in limbo when a publisher went belly up. Including me. Well, friend, its no different than any other life event. Pick yourself up, dust your book off, find a better publisher and do it all over again.
One thing I can assure you of; each time you have to go over your manuscript to resubmit it, you'll be able to improve it. And that's why I'm thankful things have made such a change over the last decade and a half, and especially why I'm happy to have been caught up in it. The future never looked brighter in my estimation. And, among other things, why I'm looking forward to the release of my new "last chance romance", SLEEPING WITH HER ENEMY next month by MuseItUp Publishing.
Now, as I promised last week, here is one of six excerpts from the book. Remember, the six will not be released in their chronological order from the book. After you've been able to read all six, you'll have a chance to enter my CONTEST by picking the correct order of the excerpts as they appear in the book. The first entry with the correct order will win a copy of SWHE, or if youve already bought it, any of my other published books. All entries will receive a free read from me; namely a chapter of a new romantic comedy I'm finishing as we speak. THE LAST COWBOY IN TEXAS is one of the funniest books I've written to date. The entire book will be released in chapter by chapter free reads as future contests evolve. Now, without further ado, here's that excerpt:

Ana was standing over Sherry, checking her temperature, when a harried-looking man came in. “Hello.” Pointing to the girl, he asked, “How is she?”
“Asleep.” She shushed him with a finger to her lips and motioned him into the hall. “You must be Sherry’s father. I’m Ana Henry and I’ll be her nurse tonight.”
“My name is Dan. Dan Morrison.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Morrison. Her temperature has dropped a bit but it’s still high. She’s a sick little girl.”
“I know.” He clearly didn’t want to emote, but couldn’t hide the gleam of tears she saw in his eyes. “I shouldn’t be so emotional about this. Sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry for. You love your daughter.”
That was the moment she let her guard down. She rarely looked into anyone’s eyes anymore but this time she did. Sea mist green and so full of pain.
“You’re very kind, Miss...I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten your name already.”
“Actually it’s Mrs. Henry. I’m a widow.” Why did I tell him that?
He stared into her eyes. “I’m sorry. You’re so young and—”
“My husband,” she cut in, “was a pilot in the Air Force. He died while fighting in Afghanistan.”
“Oh. I’m so sorry.”
She winced at the man’s reaction. Every time people learned what happened, they began walking on egg shells. She’d been down this road so many times she wanted to scream. “It’s okay. It’s been a few years and I’m over it now.” That’s a lie. I’m not close to over it.
“I didn’t mean to pry, Mrs. Henry. Actually, it’s curious that we share such an experience. My wife died of cancer two years ago, right here in this hospital. I think I’ve finally got it behind me, and then something like this happens and I realize I haven’t. Sherry’s all I have of Peggy now and I can’t stand the thought of losing my child.”
Tell me about it. She forced herself to focus on him. “I was about to take a break when they called me to get Sherry settled in, Mr. Morrison. Care to join me? We can go to the cafeteria for coffee if you want.”
“I’d like that, if you don’t mind spending time with a blubbering fool. Talking to you is helping me get my nerves back under control. This has been a jolt.”
“I don’t mind at all. In fact, I’d enjoy your company.”
In the nearly deserted cafeteria, they got coffee and rolls and headed for a clean table. She noticed his clothing for the first time, faded jeans and a dark blue short sleeve jersey with a Denver Broncos logo emblazoned on it. “I see you’re a Broncos fan.”
“Yes. I have season tickets.”
“Wow. You must be one of the lucky ones. I’ve heard their waiting list is long.”
“It is. We waited seven years for ours. And then after we got them, we’d only been to five games wh...” He disintegrated into a shaking husk of a man.
She reached out to touch his arm. “I’m sorry, Mr. Morrison. I didn’t mean to bring back old memories.”
“I wish I could stop it, but with Peggy gone and now Sherry sick...”
“It’s okay. You won’t lose Sherry. She’ll be fine in a few days.”
“I hope you’re right. If anything happened to her, I don’t think I could make it.”
Don’t I know about that? Joey was my security blanket and when his life was snuffed out, I lost it big-time. “Dan—do you mind if I call you by your first name?”
“Not at all.”
“Do you have any close friends you can talk to?”
“I have friends, yes. Peg and I had a group of friends from church. Why?”
“I won’t pretend to be a professional counselor, but a few years ago I faced a similar situation. One thing I learned was to talk to friends about my late husband. Sounds maudlin, but it helped. After a while, I could talk about JP without losing it. Once I passed that threshold, my life got better. Still not great, but better.”
“I haven’t been able to talk to anyone. At first I would have, but our friends were so afraid of saying anything wrong they avoided me. I’m sorry to say I took comfort in my isolation. But I did talk to Sherry. A lot.”
“I can well imagine. Your daughter became your confidant. That’s good in a way, but it can lead to other problems. I had the same experience with Joey, but I found I needed more. There are some things you just can’t tell your kids.”
“Yeah.” From his expression, he was waiting for her to explain who Joey was. Keep your mouth shut, Ana. You’ve already said too much.

Be sure to check my blog out next week for the next excerpt. And, please, leave a comment on here or at my email address to let me know what you think. Happy writing and reading, everybody!
Pat Dale


  1. Interesting excerpt. They are both very chatting, and very revealing for strangers.

    Good luck with your books.

    Love and blessings

  2. Hey Pat! Interesting retrospect on publishing. I recently cleaned out a drawer full of rejection letters, and tossing them into the trash felt great. I enjoyed your excerpt. Good set up for romance to come, I guessing. Looking forward to reading more.

  3. that all sounds very familiar, only I never entered the field thinking publishers were just waiting for my magnificent manuscript. I figured I'd have to fight tooth and nail. Okay, at least be determined. I've had one bad experience with a publisher, but two great one, so i'm way ahead. I didn't even know what an ebook was when I started submitting, and that was only 5 years ago. Talk about something growing fast and now improving the field is catching up.

  4. Thanks, Rita, Pat, and Larraine for your comments. I, too, have had both negative and positive experiences with publishers. On balance I count myself as lucky, compared to a few others who've had wretched experiences. I think the thing that sticks in my mind more than anything else is the utter ignorance with which I started my writing career.
    I mean, I am an alpha male with all the scars to prove it, but I had no idea how much I had to learn before I was ready for prime-time. LOL
    Perhaps it was because I'd been a music composer (classical) for most of my life, and that entails a degree of attention to detail that most folk are not aware of. After my work in that field, I assumed that just putting words into a somewhat intelligent pattern was a piece of cake. Little did I know!
    But it's all to the good. I'm finally a fairly competent author and this seems to be my coming out year (at least six books to be released in the next ten months).
    Again, I thank you for your responses and I wish you all fantastic success with your own writing goals.
    Pat Dale

  5. Hi Pat,
    Great blog, I can relate to the disappointments too, but you have to persevere which you obviously did. Me too, I am multi-published with two publishers.
    Lovely excerpt, I found it very touching.