Friday, October 19, 2012



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Guest Posting by Dulcy and Me

In late September, Karen Jones Gowen asked me to guest post on her blog "Coming down the Mountain: A Writer's Blog." Given that her blog is about writing and being published, I wrote about how A Cat's Life: Dulcy's Story came to be.
        So in the guest posting you'll read about traditional publishing of twenty years ago and how a aspiring writer needed to proceed then to get published.
        You might enjoy reading thator you might feel you know enough about Dulcy! But if you're game for more then please click here to read Dulcy's guest post.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Promotion and Self-Publishing

Today’s posting updates last Sunday’s account of how the manuscript The Reluctant Spy went through nineteen drafts. I told you then that a friend—Judy—had offered to read it.  However, the demands of the publishing world have intervened on her plans. 
            For the past two years she’s researched, written, polished, and found a publisher—the University of Minnesota Press—for her biography of an important lumberman of the nineteenth century. Unexpectedly, the deadline for responding to the editor’s work has became October 15. Two days later, Judy leaves for France to continue researching the third novel of her historical trilogy, published by HarperCollins. On her return, she will read The Reluctant Spy. I eagerly await her response.

Photo from Wikipedia: Limestone cliffs of Normandy, France.

            To conclude today’s posting, I want to share a comment and response with you. Rita, whose blog Soul Comfort's Corner has taught me about living with fibromyalgia and remaining creative, commented last week:

IF you cannot get it published the traditional way (that’s gotten a lot harder, but not impossible if you do your homework and find a good fit), please don't forget about self-publishing. You’ve put so much time, effort, and heart into this so don't give up. I heard that the guy who wrote Chicken Soup for The Soul was turned down over 140 times! And these days I have heard that you can self-publish on Amazon for free—no money up front. ?? Where there's a will there's a way, right? Best of luck to you. :)

Today I’ll expand on my original response to her comment.

Dear Rita,
The advantage of being published the traditional way, which as you've said is really hard today, is that big publishers have sale reps who visit bookstores and get the books into those stores. These stores will then welcome a writer for a reading/signing event.

Moreover, I think—but I'm not absolutely sure—that newspaper reviewers are more willing to review a book published by a traditional publisher. I talked to the local librarians, but they do not shelve self-published books so that doesn’t work for reaching potential readers.

Self-published writers have to publicize their own books. They must spread the word that their book actually exists. And I wonder how many people will Goggle or go to Amazon to hunt for a novel about first-century Palestine.

Getting out the word requires a mastery of social media that eludes me. The number of followers for my two blogs is relatively small. Nor do I have a Facebook account, much less any working knowledge of Twitter.

The big question for me is “How do readers learn about a book on first-century Palestine?” 

Twenty years ago Crown published A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story. I was fifty-six and had the energy to do a great deal of promoting. You can read about that in these two postings on my other blog: Promoting Dulcy’s Hardcover and Entering the World of Promotion.

Somehow today I lack that same resilience.

You’re right that Amazon has a subsidiary called "CreateSpace." It allows a writer to publish with little money up front. But a writer needs to be able to design a cover and format the book for both paper publishing and e-books. If one can't do that, the writer must hire someone(s) to do these tasks. So self-publishing can end up costing a modest amount.

But if somehow the news gets out there about the book and there's some "buzz" about it, the writer makes more royalty than with traditional publishing. So pros and cons! 

I want to thank Rita and all of you for encouraging me to keep trying to get A Reluctant Spypublished. You’ve offered to cross your fingers for me with regard to Judy’s reading of the manuscript. Thank you both for your enthusiasm and your support. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Permutations of a Novel Manuscript

More than two hundred years ago, Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley.” That’s happened today. I meant to write about diagramming. But instead, I feel compelled to share the permutations of a manuscript on which I’ve worked thirteen years.
            Back in 1999, while on a walk, I heard myself murmuring these words:

You want to know what? Speak up! My ears refuse the sound. Old age you know. You want to know who Yeshua is? Undoubtedly he is answer to prayer.
I’m old now. Lame. My joints stiff. My eyes rheumy. And memories fade in my setting. But in one memory I am ever young. The remembrance of that day when God’s promise took root in Elizabeth and me. It is not in me to forget. Who can forget benediction? Not I, nor one of mine.

This speaker had to be Zacharias—the father of John the Baptist. The next day, I walked again on the path carpeted by red and yellow autumn leaves and spoke these words:

Trying to trick me are you? You ask a deceptively easy question. Whom do you represent? Antipas? For months, I’ve preached repentance, holding fast to God’s covenant with my people. Question and answer. Yeshua is both. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Obviously, you do not. And so I speak in words of one syllable: He is the one.

Clearly, someone must have asked Zacharias and John, “Who is Jesus for you?”

I began to write. With the working title Who Is He for You? the manuscript became a series of monologues spoken by those who peopled the Gospel of Luke. Friends described these as “spiritual reflections.” No novel here.
            In 2001-2002, those reflections became “almost a novel,” when I introduced a character named Ephraim. The twenty-seven monologues became the ribs; Ephraim’s crisis of faith, the musculature, held those ribs together. I called this The Jesus Interviews.
            A wondrously kind editor praised the writing, but turned down the manuscript. It was too predictable, she said. Most people know what happened to Jesus and the manuscript closely followed his life as an itinerant preacher.

            In 2003, a friend who’d written two historical novels published by HarperCollins pointed out that the manuscript lacked dramatic tension. It was about a man finding his way—with the focus on the way. To create a novel, I needed to focus on the man.
            That same year, I asked a biblical professor to advise me as to the novel’s authenticity. With his help, I realized how little I knew about the Jewishness of Jesus. The professor provided me with an extensive reading list so that I might steep myself in first-century Judaism. I spent the next two years reading and absorbing the works of a number of biblical scholarsboth Christian and Jewish.
            In late 2005, my study impelled me to write a third incarnation of the manuscript: The Yeshua Spy. (I had decided to call Jesus by his Hebrew name: Yeshua.) My new plot put Ephraim into a dramatic situation that would reveal his character. Yeshua, however, tried to usurp the manuscript. I had to wrestle it away from him so as to keep Ephraim and his crisis of faith front and center.

            Fast forward to 2012. I have written and polished nineteen drafts of a manuscript I now call The Reluctant Spy. Throughout this long writing saga, I repeatedly tried to find an agent to represent the work. No luck.
            So today I find myself once again awaiting news from my historical novelist friend who is reading that nineteenth draft. Will she think the plot plausible? Is there enough tension in the story to engage the reader? Is there an audience for this iconoclastic novel? What do I do next?
            Rabbie Burns also penned these words: “Hope springs exulting on triumphant wing.” Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Photographs from Wikipedia.