Sunday, November 23, 2008

Guest Blogger: Book Publishing Secrets of Southern Women's Fiction Author J.L. Miles


by Jackie Lee Miles

My agent is shopping my latest manuscript and let me tell you the waiting is killing me. As a matter of fact, just this morning I noticed my hair is definitely grayer than it was last week.

When she first sent it out, we got an immediate response from a major publisher and boy was I excited. They raved about the author voice and the premise. They asked if the author had another book that could be packaged with it. Then they took it to committee, whatever that means, and the next thing you know they were saying things like, “It’s not for our list after all.”

Bummer. I felt like dumping my head in the washing machine while it was on the spin cycle. That got me thinking about all the authors out there that now have N.Y. Times bestsellers. Did they ever want to stick their head in the washer? I’d call them up, but I don’t have there numbers. Plus they’d think I was crazy so I’d probably just tell them how much I enjoyed their book and not mention their washing machine.

Maybe placing a project is so frustrating because of the way I first got published. I went to this book conference. At the reception I literally bumped into Ron Pitkin, the president of Cumberland House Publishing. He was kind enough not to notice I spilled his drink and asked what I was working on. When I told him fiction, he promptly replied, “That’s a crap shoot.” Definitely not what I wanted to hear. I mean, I’d paid good money to come to this conference and he’s raining on my party, big time. “Well,” I said, “that’s too bad, because I have a dynamite opening line.” I was prepared to walk away, when he gently took hold of my elbow and said, “So what’s your opening line?”

“The morning I died, it rained.” Keep in mind this was long before The Lovely Bones.

“God! I want to see that book,” he said, doing an about face.

“Ah, I don’t have a book,” I said. “I have a great opening line and a hundred pages.”

He asked if I had it with me. “Of course. I’m getting it evaluated in the morning. It costs forty-five dollars.”

He told me to give it to him, he wouldn’t charge a thing. I immediately went to my room and brought back the pages. I had a prologue, and the last chapter and the epilogue along with the rest of it. It wasn’t finished, but I knew where it was going.

Mr. Pitkin thanked me and went on his way. Come Sunday morning with the conference over, everyone was checking out. I spotted Mr. Pitkin making his way toward me and thought, oh-oh, this is where he’s going to pull the rug out from under me and tell me to get a real job. To my surprise he handed me the manuscript and said, “I want this and I want it yesterday. Go home and finish it!”

I figured if I took forever to finish it he’d never even remember that he liked it. I stayed up and wrote around the clock for the next five days, took the weekend off, stayed up again and wrote around the clock for the next five days and sent it off to Mr. Pitkin. I marked my calendar for three months, thinking it might take that long for him to get back to me. I started in on my second book. Just like all the books on writing said to do. The following Friday evening my phone rang. I answered. A voice said, “This is Ron Pitkin at Cumberland House and we’re going to bring your book out in hardback.” I said, “Ya? And I’m the tooth fairy.” And I hung up on him. The reason I did this is that the only person other than my husband who knew I’d sent off the manuscript was a good friend of mine who can mimic any voice he’s ever heard. He’d been going to this conference where I’d met Mr. Pitkin for years and has heard him speak many times. It had to be this friend playing a joke on me. Not a very funny one either. I wasn’t amused.

I went upstairs to comb my hair and put some lipstick on. My husband was starving and wanted to go and get something to eat. Poor thing, he probably was starving. I stopped cooking when the kids left home and I took up writing. No sooner did I get to the bedroom when the phone rang. This one has caller ID, the others don’t. I leaned over and saw CUMBERLAND HOUSE flashing on the screen. I’d hung up on Mr. Pitkin for real!

I picked up the handset, leaned into it and barely whispered “Hello?”

“What’d you hang up on me for?” he said. “Ah, it’s a long story, a very boring story,” I said.

“Well, we’re bringing out your book in hard back and bumping back our memoir piece on Dale Earnhardt (he’d been tragically killed), to make Roseflower Creek the lead book. What do you think of that?”

I was hyperventilating and finding it impossible to speak. I did my best. “Didn’t you say fiction was a crap shoot?” I asked

“Yes—and it is,” he said.

“Then I think your crazy or my protagonist got herself a miracle. What do you think of that?”

Mr. Pitkin laughed and said he’d be seeing me. This is a true story and a pretty amazing way to get published. I should have known there’d be rocky roads ahead. It brings to mind the old adage if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Oh well, maybe after the storms pass, I’ll find a rainbow. One can always hope. In the interim I’ve got everything crossed, including the hair on my husband’s head—all three strands.

Jackie Lee Miles is the author of Roseflower Creek, Cold Rock River and the newly released Divorcing Dwayne. Dear Dwayne debuts April 1st, 2009. Visit the website at Write to Jackie at

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Guest Blogger: Book Publishing Secrets of Mystery Novelist Robert Greer

As far as I am concerned, there is only one publishing secret and that is to treat writing as a job, which means for most people that they must firmly plant themselves in a chair and work at the task of writing as one would approach any other job. Write everyday and try not to treat your job like a hobby or a lark. I typically write three hours every day when I’m working on a novel, generally ten months out of any year.

A second secret that I might share relates to the fact that if you’re going to get into the writing game, it’s best to come with a portfolio. A portfolio that shows that you are capable of doing what you claim you can do. That portfolio can include examples of ones technical writing, if you’ve been a technical writer, short stories if you are a short story writer, or writing for a local newspaper, or your fraternity or sorority newsletter, for example.

Aside from those two tips, I’m not certain that I have any other secrets of value.
Robert Greer is the author of the mystery novel, BLACKBIRD FAREWELL. You can visit his website at

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Guest Blogger: Book Publishing Secrets of Joanna Bloss, Co-Author of GRIT FOR THE OYSTER

My secret to getting published has to do with networking. I collaborated with three other authors for our book Grit for the Oyster. My introduction to this project ultimately came through an email I received almost ten years ago. That email came from an editor (who now is a friend and co-author) asking my permission to reprint one of my magazine articles. Faith (the editor) and I began corresponding and have maintained contact for many years. A couple years ago Faith attended a writer's conference and met Suzanne, (who roomed with the other author, Deb) who shared with her the vision for Grit. Faith thought I'd make a great addition to the team and Suzanne was game. It was Suzanne who introduced me to my next publisher, who invited me to submit a writing sample. That publisher hired me to contribute to several of their anthologies, and eventually asked me to write a book.

For me, it's all about networking--connecting with fellow writers and taking advantage of the little opportunities that have come my way. I've learned not to sneeze at little opportunities. It's amazing how the so-called coincidental contacts I've made over the years have opened doors to opportunities I never would have found on my own.

My best advice is to stay connected, meet people, exchange business cards and ideas, and take advantage of writing opportunities--even if they look small at the beginning. You never know what doors might open.

Joanna Bloss is co-author of GRIT FOR THE OYSTER: 250 PEARLS OF WISDOM FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS. You can visit her website at

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Guest Blogger: Book Publishing Secrets of Romantic Thriller Author Dave Donelson

Unless you publish your book yourself, there is no easy way to see your book in print. It took more than five years for my romantic thriller, Heart of Diamonds, to go from concept to published novel, but it was an interesting journey.

The book started with what I thought would be a sure-fire hook. I ran across a Time Magazine article about the famous televangelist Pat Robertson and the avaricious relationship he had with Mobutu Sese-Seko, the dictator who raped the Congo for over thirty years. When I found out that Robertson, the founder of the 700 Club and one-time Presidential candidate, owned a diamond mine in the Congo—probably operated by near-slave labor—I felt I had to write Heart of Diamonds.

A couple of years later, I had a finished manuscript and it was time to take it to market. I wrote a query letter, drew up a list of agents who handled this kind of high-concept commercial fiction, and started making submissions.I had been through this process before, so my expectations were very realistic. I knew it would take an almost endless stream of submissions until I happened to hit the right agent at the right time in just the right way.

I stopped counting submissions after the first 200. It was obvious from the replies that 90% of the agents didn’t bother to read my letter, much less consider the book. I had used several different versions of the query, followed every set of rules for submission, and still couldn’t raise any interest.

Still, a handful of agents requested sample chapters and a couple even asked for manuscripts, so I experienced occasional glimmers of hope. The most important thing, I knew, was to never give up.

While I was looking for prospective agents online, I ran across a new publisher, Kunati Books, who said they accepted non-agented work and were looking for edgy, provocative fiction. That description fit Heart of Diamonds perfectly, so I followed their online submission instructions to the letter and crossed my fingers.

In the meantime, though, I didn’t sit back and wait for an answer. I kept up my search for an agent with more queries. Before I became a writer, I had a long career in sales management, so I knew perseverance was one of the most important elements of success. I devoted an hour a day to researching, preparing, and sending out queries.

Several weeks later, Kunati requested a complete manuscript. Again, I responded quickly, being careful to send them exactly what they requested in the form they wanted. The deal wasn’t closed, though, so I continued to send out queries.

Finally, about six months after my initial submission to Kunati, I got a phone call from Derek Armstrong. We talked about the strengths and weaknesses of Heart of Diamonds, how it could be marketed, and how much time and effort I could devote to promoting it myself in complement to Kunati’s efforts. An offer was made and accepted contingent on acceptable contract terms.

During the next couple of weeks we went back and forth over some contract details and I had an attorney who specializes in intellectual property law look it over for me. I signed the contract, the advance was paid, and the first part of the journey was over. Heart of Diamonds was on its way to bookstores.

Dave Donelson is the author of the romantic thriller, HEART OF DIAMONDS. You can visit him on the web at or

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Guest Blogger: Book Publishing Secrets of Southern Women's Fiction Author Karen White

Hmmm, publishing secrets. Makes me think that after I tell you, I'm supposed to kill you.

OK. The story of how I was published.

About twelve years ago, when I was a stay at home mom with two small children, I sat down and started writing my first book. I wrote a sentence at a time until those sentences became paragraphs and those paragraphs became chapters. I didn't stop to think about the market or anything else except writing a book that I would want to read. I guess in the back of my mind I figured I'd want to sell it at some point, but it never occured to me to think about the logistics.

It seems simple and naive, and it probably was. But I'll tell you that those years (yes, I said years--it took me about 3 years to write and edit that first book) were some of the most fun writing days of my career. There's something to be said about being contracted for your writing, but writing without a contract (and its inherent deadline) can be a freeing and wonderful experience.

I joined a national writers organization, Romance Writers of America and their local chapter, Georgia Romance Writers, knowing that my book wasn't really a romance but not really knowing what to call it. It didn't matter, because RWA was, and still is, a welcoming environment for all writers, as well as a wonderful source of knowledge and comaraderie. RWA puts out a terrific monthly magazine for all members filled with valuable articles and information---as well as writing contests sponsored by RWA chapters all over the country. I started entering a lot of these contests--always looking for those that had published authors as judges since, I figured, they'd be the ones most qualified to tell me whether I should give up my day job or not.

I entered one where not only were the finalist judges published authors, but the finalists for each category were going to be sent to a top literary agent in New York. I didn't have any such lofty hopes as finaling--I just wanted the written critique by two published authors. In the end, I wound up not only finaling in my category, but winning it, too. That top New York literary agent liked the manuscript so much that she offered to represent me. She sold that book and every book since then and is still my agent.

So that's my story. I will, however, add the caveat that despite a quick start and being in a place now that I love, my career path hasn't been so fast and easy. I've hit road blocks (including being dumped by my 2nd publisher) but in the end I find that I've learned something at each bend in the road--and that to be a career writer you have to KEEP WRITING, regardless of how steep that mountain in front of you looks!

Karen White marries her passion for Charleston, the architecture of the area, and its history and legends in her new novel THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET, the story of a real estate agent who, though she specializes in homes in the city’s historic area, detests them. To do so, Karen had to conjure up and face a universal horror—renovation. Unlike her recent book, The Memory Of Water, for which she physically confronted her lifelong fear of deep water for the sake of research, this time out she enjoyed a metaphorical wallow in the joys associated with restoring a one hundred and fifty year old house and garden and let her characters deal with the pain.

White’s protagonists face everything from a leaky roof, old fountains, and cracked cornices to overgrown flowerbeds, paint chipped ceilings, disintegrating plaster and warped floorboards. For herself she saved the best. Her research included luxurious strolls on the streets of Charleston, sampling and choosing restaurants such as Magnolias, Gaulart & Malicelet, Cru CafĂ©, Blossom and Anson for her characters to enjoy. Rumor has it she also did a bit of shopping at RTW on King Street and spent an afternoon on the Battery visiting White Point Gardens. Relishing the architecture and choosing among Victorians, Federals, Colonial Revivals, Queen Anne, Dutch Colonials and others, along with the amazing range of colors and appointments, Karen eventually placed the house at the center of her story at “55 Tradd Street” in the downtown historic district and, inspired by an actual house on that street, imagined it as a Federal style single family home.

Italian and French by ancestry, a southerner and a story teller by birth, White has moved around quite a bit in her life. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she has also lived in Texas, New Jersey, Louisiana, Georgia, Venezuela and England, where she attended the American School in London. She returned to the states for college and graduated from New Orleans’ Tulane University. Hailing from a family with roots firmly set in Mississippi (the Delta and Biloxi), White notes that “searching for home brings me to the south again and again.” She and her family now live near Atlanta.

It was love at first sight when White first visited Charleston and South Carolina’s lowcountry in 1995. She says it was “inevitable” that she would set several novels in the area, as she did with 2005’s The Color of Light, which Booklist praises as “an accomplished novel about loss and renewal.” Three years later, she returned to the there with The Memory Of Water and, now, to Charleston with THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET. Her love of the southern coast shows no sign of abating. Her next novel, The Lost Hours (May 09) is set in and around Savannah.

Karen White’s work has appeared on the South East Independent Booksellers best sellers list. Her recent novel The Memory of Water, was the Borders Books and Atlanta & Company’s Book Club Selection for May, topped off at the end of the month with their live, television interview with Karen. The Memory of Water, which is well reviewed in Atlanta Magazine and an array of other print and online book media, and was adopted by numerous independent booksellers as a book club recommendation and as a featured title in their store. It’s been back to press five times since its March 2008 publication, the first time within its first four weeks on sale. It is one of NAL/Accent’s fastest selling titles.

Adding to the excitement of The Memory of Water’s March 2008 debut, was the resounding, continued recognition achieved by White’s 2007 novel Learning to Breathe. This spring Learning to Breathe was honored with a National Readers’ Choice Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Virginia Romance Writers HOLT Medallion. It was also named a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s Award for Best Novel, the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence and the Georgia Author of the Year Award.

White credits years spent listening to adults visiting in her grandmother’s Mississippi kitchen, sharing stories and gossiping while she played under the table, with starting her on the road to telling her own tales. The deal was sealed in the seventh grade when she skipped school and read Gone With The Wind. She knew—just knew—she was destined to grow up to be either Scarlet O’Hara or a writer.

In addition to THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET, White’s previous novels include Learning to Breathe, Pieces of the Heart, and The Color of Light.

You can visit her website at

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Book Publishing Secrets of Suspense Mystery Author Richard Roach

A warm Texas howdy to one and all. I’m Richard E. Roach and the title of my book is Scattered Leaves. You may order it, if you care to, at It’s a knock ‘em down and drag ‘em out crime story. Ben McCord, more or less self-trained geologist and mud-logger, comes home after experiencing a blow-out to find his wife raped and murdered. After that things go down hill.

As to how to get published is concerned…the easiest way is to pay the publisher. Some folks like this method and even make a little money. In my case I felt if my work was good enough, I’d eventually find an agent and they would find me a company that would want to print my book. Finding an agent has changed considerably in the last thirty-four years—it’s much harder now—and even when you find one, they may not sell your manuscript. I’ve had two agents and they sold exactly nothing for me. However, I haven’t given up on them. I'm trying to get one right now.

To get published your must have infinite patience and be willing to face the hundreds, maybe thousands of rejections that you will surely get. Keep plugging away at it and someday, if you live long enough, someone will like what you’ve written.

If you can find a qualified person to edit your material and I don’t mean a hired-gun; I have reference to an acquaintance or friend, a person who truly likes your writing and admires your work, he/she can furnish the fuel to fire up your engine and keep you going in weak moments when you feel low enough to slide under a snake’s belly. This kind of human being is difficult to round-up, but you will meet them…IF you keep writing.

If you’re writing to get rich, I would encourage you to give it up and get a real job. Most of the people I see writing now-a-days are doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs. People like this certainly don’t need any help from a grammar school graduate like me. My words are written to lighten the load of the poor soul who’s writing because he has something to say. Always remember Hank Williams said he got his inspiration for his songs from comic books because they represented life as he saw it.

Good luck and God bless you. May you road be smooth, and your path downhill with the wind at your back. Oh, yes…you’ll need a warm coat. Winter is on the way!

Suspense/Mystery author Richard Roach was born in 1931 in Galveston, Texas. Short stories of his have been published in Man’s Story 2, Happy 2007, Vol. 20 and Bibliophilos 2006, Vol. 42. His first novel, Scattered Leaves, hit the book stores on September 1, ’08, and his second novel, Scattered Money, will be published in 2009. You can visit his website at

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Book Publishing Secrets of Romantic Suspense Author Mary Burton

So what is the secret to a great story that editors want to publish? Characters that are impossible to forget. Readers want your characters to draw them into a story and lead them through an adventure. They want to fall in love with your hero and heroine. That want to fear your villain. They want to cry and laugh. They want to care.

To this day when I start writing a new book, I focus on my characters first. All (even the secondary characters) have full back-stories, quirks, talents, strengths and weakness. Though you may not ever see it in the book, I know where they went to school, favorite foods, Myers-Briggs personality test scores, and even their zodiac signs. Only when I’ve gotten to know my characters do I start thinking about the plot, which I design to play to the characters’ strengths and weakness.

My latest book DEAD RINGER was one of those rare books that just kinda came together. This wasn’t just blind luck (well, there might be a touch of that) rather it was because I knew my hero and heroine so well. By the time I sat down to plot the book, I could tell you so much about Jacob and Kendall. The plot played on and used their fierce independence and different backgrounds to create constant tension and conflict.

Want to hear a confession? When a story isn’t going well and feels flat, it’s because I haven’t done my homework on my characters. Even after fifteen novels and four novellas, I still read books on characterization and attend workshops about character development.

So when you sit down to work on your latest book, ask yourself if you really know your characters. I can guarantee when you get acquainted with your hero you’ll find that your story really starts to pop.

Mary Burton confesses to a baking addiction and a fascination with the people who hunt serial killers. The former is genetic. The latter began during the twenty years that the Southside Strangler, D.C. Sniper and the Hampton Roads killers stalked her home state of Virginia. These killers terrorized residents and claimed twenty-six victims before their capture

Why did they kill? What demons drove them? How did they choose their victims? Burton’s questions led to inspiration and the USA Today best selling author began developing the characters whose horrific assaults would drive the plots of her romantic suspense novels I’M WATCHING YOU and DEAD RINGER.

Her commitment to realism in her writing has led to eye-opening interviews with local law enforcement, forensic seminars and the firing range. She is a graduate from the Henrico County Citizens Police Academy and attended Sisters in Crime’s three day Forensic University program.

A Virginia native whose family’s Richmond roots run as deep as the nation’s, Burton graduated from Virginia’s Hollins University and began a career in marketing. After a decade she decided to do something about the myriad stories buzzing around her brain, which seemed to dare her to try to write them down. She took up the gauntlet, left her job and began her first novel. That very first manuscript, a historical romance, was published in 2000.

The world of serial killers seems like a far cry from that book, a western set in the Colorado of 1876, and it is. Yet Mary notes that “the dark side of life is always just beneath the surface for all of us,” including in fiction and, in that first book, the protagonist flees a rapist and escapes to a new life. “For that story the crime was merely a plot device.” Now, crime and the destruction it creates are integral to her stories. “I’m exploring the power of premeditated violence and how it changes my characters’ lives.”

Placing a romantic relationship side by side with the story of a serial murderer may seem daunting, but as Mary says “life goes on despite us and—especially in the face of horror and loss of control—it’s important to me to show the resilience of human beings, who somehow, someway eventually find hope even under drastic circumstances, who continue to believe that good can conquer evil, and who still can’t help falling in love.”

As a reader and writer of suspense novels, Burton sees a link between intense, unforgettable real-life emotions and the allure of fiction dealing with crime and relationships.

“I think it’s beyond the appeal of police procedures and forensics and the untangling of a mystery. People have long used fiction in all forms to safely face real life horrors. With fiction, they are in control. They can stop the story at any time. They can appreciate and try to understand the characters’ motives and emotions, experience the commitment of those trying to stop the killing, touch as much or as little of the fear as they want, and be comfortable knowing the atrocities aren’t real. They can even afford to have some empathy for the killer. Through it all, they’re confident that justice—so often elusive—will be served.”

After selling her first novel, Burton wrote eleven more books for Harlequin and four contemporary romantic suspense novels for Silhouette before entering the dark world of multiple murderers and their motives. Once there, she wrote her romantic suspense novels I’M WATCHING YOU and this November’s DEAD RINGER, both published by Zebra Books. Her novella Christmas Past appears in the 2008 holiday anthology SILVER BELLS along with stories by New York Times best selling authors Fern Michaels and Joann Ross, and award-winning novelist Judy Duarte. Previously her story Snow Maiden was featured in the USA Today best selling anthology A Hero’s Kiss.

Born and raised in Richmond, Mary Burton is an avid cook as well as baker, and even volunteered as a kitchen assistant at a local culinary school to hone her skills. When not writing and researching she can be found hiking, doing yoga and playing with her miniature dachshund puppies, Buddy and Bella. Currently, she is working on her next novel.

You can visit her website at