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Monday, January 30, 2012

Guest Post by Anne R. Allen


By Anne R. Allen

When I started writing funny women’s fiction fifteen years ago, if anybody had given me a realistic idea of my chances for publication, I’d have chosen a less stressful hobby, like do-it-yourself brain surgery, professional frog herding, or maybe staging an all-Ayatollah drag revue in downtown Tehran.

As a California actress with years of experience of cattle-drive auditions, greenroom catfights and vitriolic reviewers, I thought I had built up enough soul-calluses to go the distance. But nothing had prepared me for the glacial waiting periods; the bogus, indifferent and/or suddenly-out-of-business agents; and the heartbreaking, close-but-no-cigar reads from big-time editors—all the rejection horrors that make the American publishing industry the impenetrable fortress it has become.

But some of us are too writing-crazed to stop ourselves. I was then, as now, sick in love with the English language.

I had three novels completed. A fourth had run as a serial in a California entertainment weekly. One of my stories had been short-listed for an international prize, and a play had been produced to good reviews. I was bringing in a few bucks—mostly with short pieces for local magazines and freelance editing.

But meantime, my savings had evaporated along with my abandoned acting career; my boyfriend had ridden his Harley into the Big Sur sunset; my agent was hammering me to write formula romance; and I was contemplating a move to one of the less fashionable neighborhoods of the rust belt.

Even acceptances turned into rejections: a UK zine that had accepted one of my stories folded. But when the editor sent the bad news, he mentioned he’d taken a job with a small UK book publisher—and did I have any novels?

I sent him one my agent had rejected as “too over the top.” Within weeks, I was offered a contract by my new editor—a former BBC comedy writer—for FOOD OF LOVE. Included was an invitation to come over the pond to do some promotion. 

So I rented out my beach house, packed my bags and bought a ticket to Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, where my new publishers had recently moved into a 19th century former textile mill on the banks of the river Trent—the river George Eliot fictionalized as “the Floss.”
George Eliot. I was going to be working and living only a few hundred yards from the ruins of the house where she wrote her classic novel about the 19th century folk who lived and died by the power ofLincolnshire’s great tidal river. Maybe some of that greatness would rub off on me. 
At the age of… well, I’m not telling…I was about to have the adventure of my life.

I knew the company published mostly erotica, but was branching into mainstream and literary fiction. They had already published the first novel of a distinguished poet, and a famous Chicago newspaper columnist was in residence, awaiting the launch of his new book.

But when I arrived, I found the great Chicagoan had left in a mysterious fit of pique, the “erotica” was seriously hard core kink, and the old building on the Trent was more of the William Blake Dark Satanic variety than George Elliot’s bucolic “Mill on the Floss.”

Some of my fears subsided when I was greeted by a friendly group of unwashed, fiercely intellectual young men who presented me with generous quantities of warm beer, cold meat pies and galleys to proof. After a beer or two, I found myself almost comprehending their northern accents.
I held it together until I saw my new digs: a grimy futon and an old metal desk, hidden behind stacks of book pallets in the corner of an unheated warehouse, about a half a block from the nearest loo. My only modern convenience was an ancient radio abandoned by a long-ago factory girl.
I have to admit to admit to some tears of despair.

Until, from the radio, Big Ben chimed six o’clock.
That’s six pm, GMT.
Greenwich Mean Time. The words hit me with all the sonorous power of Big Ben itself. I had arrived at the mean, the middle, the center that still holds—no matter what rough beasts might slouch through the cultural deserts of the former empire. This was where my language, my instrument, was born.
I clutched my galley-proof to my heart. I might still be a rejected nobody in the land of my birth—but I’d landed on the home planet: England. And there, I was a published novelist. Just like George Eliot.

Three years later, I returned to California, older, fatter (the English may not have the best food, but their BEER is another story) and a lot wiser. That Chicagoan’s fit of pique turned out to be more than justified. The company was swamped in debt. They never managed to get me US distribution. Shortly before my second book THE BEST REVENGE was to launch, the managing partner withdrew his capital, sailed away and mysteriously disappeared off his yacht—his body never found. The company sputtered and died.

And I was back in the slush pile again.

But I had a great plot for my next novel.

Unfortunately, nobody wanted it. I was now tainted with the “published-to-low-sales-numbers label and my chances were even worse than before.

So I wrote two more novels. Nobody wanted them either.

Then I started a blog. I figured I could at least let other writers benefit from my mistakes. My blog followers grew. And grew. The blog won some awards. My Alexa and Klout ratings got better and better. Finally, publishers started approaching ME. (There’s a moral for writers here—social networking works.)

And finally, six years later, another publisher, Popcorn Press, fell in love with FOOD OF LOVE and sent me a contract. Soon after, they contracted to publish THE BEST REVENGE, too.

And this September, a brand new indie ebook publisher called Mark Williams International Digital Publishing asked if I had anything else ready to publish.

Just happen to have a few unpubbed titles handy, said I.

He liked them.

So in October and November of 2011, those three new comic mysteries will appear as ebooks: THE GATSBY GAME, GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY, and SHERWOOD, LTD (that’s the novel inspired by my English adventures.) Popcorn Press will publish paper versions in 2012. THE BEST REVENGE debuted as an ebook in December, with the paper book to follow in February.

A fifteen-year journey finally seems to be paying off.

Did I make some mistakes? Oh yeah—a full set of them. But would I wish away my English adventures?

Not a chance.


Twitter @annerallen

Authorpages:  At , at , on Facebook 

(Romantic comedy/mystery: MWiDP) A penniless socialite becomes a 21st century Maid Marian, but is “Robin” planning to kill her?  Buy at ,, or Barnes and Noble

(Romantic comedy/mystery: Popcorn PressA suddenly-broke 1980s celebutante runs off to California with nothing but her Delorean and her designer furs, looking for her long-lost gay best friend—and finds herself accused of murder. Buy at or and in paper at Popcorn Press or in paper at .

Monday, January 23, 2012

Guest Post by Sarah Woodbury

Turning Medieval by Sarah Woodbury

Sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint those moments in your life where everything is suddenly changed.  When you look across the room and say to yourself, I’m going to marry him.  Or stare down at those two pink lines on the pregnancy test, when you’re only twenty-two and been married for a month and a half and are living on only $800 a month because you’re both still in school and my God how is this going to work?

And sometimes it’s a bit harder to remember. 
Until I was eleven, my parents tell me they thought I was going to be a ‘hippy’.  I wandered through the trees, swamp, and fields of our 2 ½ acre lot, making up poetry and songs and singing them to myself.  I’m not sure what happened by the time I’d turned twelve, whether family pressures or the realities of school changed me, but it was like I put all that creativity and whimsicalness into a box on a high shelf in my mind.  By the time I was in my late-teens, I routinely told people: ‘I haven’t a creative bone in my body.’ It makes me sad to think of all those years where I thought the creative side of me didn’t exist. 
When I was in my twenties and a full-time mother of two, my husband and I took our family to a picnic with his graduate school department.  was pleased at how friendly and accepting everyone seemed.
And then one of the other graduate students turned to me out of the blue and said, ‘do you really think you can jump back into a job after staying home with your kids for five or ten years?’
I remember staring at him, not knowing what to say.  It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought about it, but that it didn’t matter—it couldn’t matter—because I had this job to do and the consequences of staying home with my kids were something I’d just have to face when the time came.
Fast forward ten years and it was clear that this friend had been right in his incredulity.  I was earning$15/hr. as a contract anthropologist, trying to supplement our income while at the same time holding down the fort at home.  I remember the day it became clear that this wasn’t working.  I was simultaneously folding laundry, cooking dinner, and slogging through a report I didn’t want to write, trying to get it all in before the baby (number four, by now) woke up. I put my head down, right there on the dryer, and cried.
It was time to seek another path.  Time to follow my heart and do what I’d wanted to do for a long time, but hadn’t had the courage, or the belief in myself to make it happen.
At the age of thirty-seven, I started my first novel, just to see if I could.  I wrote it in six weeks and it was bad in a way that all first books are bad.  It was about elves and magic stones and will never see the light of day.  But it taught me, I can do this!
My husband told me, ‘give it five years,’ and in the five years that followed, I experienced rejection along my newfound path.  A lot of it.  Over seventy agents, and then dozens and dozens of editors (once I found an agent), read my books and passed them over.  Again and again.
Meanwhile, I just wrote.  A whole series.  Then more books, for a total of eight, seven of which I published in 2011.
And I’m happy to report that, even though I still think of myself as staid, my extended family apparently has already decided that those years where I showed little creativity were just a phase.  The other day, my husband told me of several conversations he had, either with them or overheard, in which it became clear they thought I was so alternative and creative—so far off the map—that I didn’t even remember there wasa map. 
I’m almost more pleased about that than anything else.  Almost.  Through writing, I’ve found a community of other writers, support and friendship from people I hadn’t known existed a few years ago, and best of all, thousands of readers have found my books in the last year.  Here’s to thousands more in the years to come . . .


Links to my books:  Amazon and Amazon UK
Smashwords  BarnesandNoble  Apple

Monday, December 5, 2011

Guest Post by Linda Welch

This is one story from Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories available on Amazon andBarnes & Noble. To read all of the stories, buy your copy today.
Also included are sneak peeks into 25 novels!
My novel, Along Came a Demon, book one of the Whisperings paranormal mystery series, is one of the novels featured.
All proceeds go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

When I published the first two Whisperings paranormal mystery novels, I created an icon to use on Facebook and Twitter. The picture is of Whisperings lead character, Tiff Banks. It seemed a good way to advertise my product at the time. But no matter how often I say she is not me, I am not a tall, slim, blond young woman, many obviously don’t believe me. Response to the avatar has amused me over the years. You wouldn’t believe the comments, compliments, and odd comments I think were meant as compliments. Many of them were a hoot. I knew I’d eventually have to come out of the identity closet and say, hey, look here, this is me, not the long-haired cutie.
Then Cheryl Shireman asked me to contribute to the Indie Chicks anthology and also asked for a photo. This is the perfect opportunity to set the record straight. If you want to know who Linda Welch really is, read on. . . .


I’m going to tell you something I don’t think you know.
I haven’t been a “chick” for many a year. I’m a couple of months shy of 61. I have been married to the same man for 39 years. We have two sons and four grandchildren. And you thought I was tall, slim young thing, didn’t you. I am what is called a late bloomer and I’m writing this for other old biddies who had a dream and let it pass them by, or think they are too busy, or it’s too late to fulfill their dream. I don’t mean just writing, but any dreamed-of achievement you hide in your heart.
I was born in a country cottage in England. My father was a restless man, so we often moved andnever had much money. I remember days when only Dad had meat on his plate at dinner, but we never went hungry. We had vegetables and fruit from the garden, eggs from the chickens. Times were hard, but we children never knew that. We were loved. When Mum and Dad met during World War II, Mum was a privately educated “well-bred” lady. I doubt I will ever meet anyone as smart as my mother. At 88 years, she is still as sharp as a tack. Dad was a countryman to the bone. He had many artistic talents he didn’t pursue until later in life. When he did, he excelled at them. I like to think some of their intelligence and talent rubbed off on me.
So much has changed, in my life, in the world. I hold memories of my childhood closeI won’t let them fade. One day, I will write about them.
I had a good basic education, first at a village school, then an all-girls school, but I left at 15 (at that time the legal age in England) and worked first as a telephone operator before I went into office occupationsI did not see authorship in my future.
But I have always daydreamed. Often, I recreated the same daydream multiple timesconstantly elaborating.  I did not realize wrote books in my head.
I began writing words on paper in my mid-forties, but it was a hobby. Somewhere along the way, I thought, Could I publish this? and then I’d like to publish. But I talked myself out of it. Authors were young men and women who decided they wanted to write at a young age and worked to improve their skill their entire life. They went to college and university, they had degrees in writing, creative writing or journalism. I was inexperienced; I didn’t have their dedication or education. Anyway, I had a husband to support, children to raise and part-time jobs to supplement the family income. I didn’t have time to write and send queries, synopsis or sample chapters to agents.
In 2008 I discovered the Lulu publishing platform and took the plunge. I published the space opera Mindbender and science fiction Galen’s Gate. I subsequently unpublished them, with every intention of revising and republishing. Some copies are still floating around out there somewhere. However, Tiff Banks, who had been swimming around in this murky thing I call a brain for several yearschose to come out and play. She took over my life. She became my second skin.
When I think back to why I did not publish until in my fifties, I realize it had nothing to do with inexperience or lack of education. I was not readyI had to marry a dashing young American airman, leave my homeland, raise two sons, spoil four grandchildren, live and work with Americans and become entrenched in the way of life. I was not ready to write Along Came a Demon until came to the mountains of Utah, stood looking over my mountain valley, and knew, “this is it. This is where Tiff lives. She knows the bitter cold and snow of winter, the harsh heat of summer. She knows her city and the people inside-out. This is Tiff’s world, and now, I know who she is.”
Then the hard work began. My education was strictly “King’s English.” I wrote formal letters, contracts and legal documents at work. I had to take the starch out of my writing. Research didn’t help. It seemed that each time I read an article or blog about word usage, in particular overuse and what to avoid, the next book I read was a best-selling novel by a best-selling author who broke those rules. And having decided to barge into my life, Tiff was very positive about how she talks. She’s a born and bred American, a slightly snarky, slang-wielding gal who speaks to the reader on a personal level, individual to individual. I had to use a style that practically screamed “you can’t do that!” in my ear every other sentence.
I published the first Whisperings novel for another reason: Nobody seemed to believe in my writing. Not friends, relatives, friendly acquaintances. I think they supposed a 58-year-old with no education in the literary field, who suddenly came out of the woodwork and decided to publish, must be a “vanity publisher” who wanted to force poorly-written books on readers. When I said I wrote fiction, I got blank looks, followed by, “that’s nice. Now, as I was saying. . .” Nobody wanted to read my work, not even my sweet husband. But he enjoyed urban fantasy and I thought he’d like Tiff Banks. So in a way, I also published for him.
I published Along Came a Demon in November 2008. It was supposed to be a stand-alone novella, but readers wanted more and Tiff obliged. Along Came a Demon became book one of the Whisperings series of paranormal mysteries. I published the sequel, The Demon Hunters, inNovember 2009. In 2010 I added material to Along Came a Demon to make it a full-length bookand at the same time made small changes to The Demon Hunters to reflect those in Along Came a Demon. I published book three, Dead Demon Walking, in March 2011. Being a wordsmith, I should be able to express my joy each time a reader tells me they love my books, but it truly is beyond my powers of descriptionNow, when someone asks me what I do for a living, instead oftelling them I am a part-time administrative assistant and adding (hesitantly) “I also write fiction,” I say I am an author. When I fill out a form that asks for my occupation, I proudly write “author” in the little box.
Mary Wesley published Jumping the Queue at age 70 and went on to write ten best sellers until she died twenty years later.
Harriett Doerr was 74 when she published The Stones of Ibarra.
Laura Ingalls Wilder published her Little House on the Prairie series when she was in her 50s.
Mary Lawson was 55 when Crow Lake was published.
Flora Thompson is famous for her semi-autobiography Lark Rise to Candleford, published when she was 63.
Age is irrelevant. You are never too old. For anything.

Whispering books are also available in e-book formats from Apple, Diesel, Kobo and Sony.