Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Five Ways to Succeed in Self-Publishing

At least what worked for me
by Judith Grout

In a nutshell:
  •    Work from your strengths
  •     Find all the free, talented help you can muster
  •     Get pushy and bossy
  •     Keep (or develop) your sense of humor
  •     Learn fast or die young

When I was a beginning writer way back in 2007 and thinking I was an accomplished author and genius, I surmised the world would beat its way to the bookstore doors to scoop up multiple volumes of my debut novel. Maybe they would even leave one of those little crosses with the plastic flowers propped up against the brick entrance with a banner proclaiming “This is the place to buy Judith Grout’s triumphant first novel.” But I think you have to be dead (or Stephen King) to merit that type of homage so, glad to still be above ground, I moved on.

When I approached the glorious final step of my “finished” novel, I polished my query letter and started checking the 90 something agencies listed on my “hopeful” spreadsheet. I waited for the battle to begin over who would represent me. This endeavor took all my time (for 6 months) totally focused on proposals, both electronic and SASE species. One has to work hard when one is unknown and doesn’t have an influential relative in the White House, on the New York Times staff, or at least employed by NPR. Nothing much significant happened. I did have a few nibbles but, as they all sputtered out, I resolved to head down that dusty road called DIY.

I started furiously reading self-help how-to-self-publish-your-story tomes (which, if they’re more than five days old, are obsolete.) I took notes and made plans. I whipped my website into shape and began posting regular blogs. I opened a Facebook and Twitter account and puzzled over just what all fuss was on TV about what LeBron just tweeted. I joined a number of writer’s organizations, entered contests, started giveaways. I rejuvenated my “contact” list and just about every other list I could come up with. I enlisted the help of my able-minded, resident computer expert who also just happened to be a retired editor (sort of.)

So here is what I’ve learned:

  • The strength of my story (besides being good) resided in the fact it is about a journey of two naive young women hitchhiking from Minnesota to Washington State. I figured there are a whole lot of folks in those places along the road who would want to read a story placed in their part of that road.

  • My computer expert (indicated above) is one of those crazy people who thrive on trying new electronic stuff by following vague instructions on how to get my MS successfully published and designing and producing my book trailer and dipping our collective toes in the advertising arena.

  •  The pushy and bossy part grows on one. I find myself stepping forward, volunteering for speaking engagements, book signings, even elbow-rubbing with other writers.

  • ·Humor has been something that doesn’t come easily to the practical mind.  Awakening the Broca segment of my brain was an uncomfortable exercise pour moi. I’m learning to see humor all around me. If I run too fast and trip and, oops, go splat, I need to laugh. If I overdo on the exercise treadmill, I’m sore for a day or two; no biggie. As I approach another year older and step into the next decade, I shrug and cope with sagging, drooping, and not remembering what happened five minutes ago. C’est la vie.
Supposedly the “life” of a (traditional) published novel is three months. I don’t plan to let go quite that soon but I will put the current campaign on the back burner to simmer while I start blockbuster number two.

Got any better ideas?

(I hope you noticed the cosmopolitan sophistication I demonstrated by the use of la Français above.)

Author bio: My high school year book predicted I would be successful and wealthy. Now they find out I’m a writer. But, wait – there’s more! During my formative career years, my left brain launched me into the fun and fact-filled science of healthcare. I wallowed in assorted body fluids using analytical methods such as chemistry, hematology, microbiology (my fave), among others. The paychecks were regular (although at times Spartan.) But I stuck to the professional grind for 40+ years, accumulated my nest egg, and retired. Now I live with a liberated right brain, writing, running the gamut from freelancing to fiction. My debut novel, Chasing the Strawberry Moon, Hitchhiking (for girls) will scratch that itch you’ve had yearning to know more about 1939, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and a looming World War II. See you in the pages.

Learn more about Chasing the Strawberry Moon: YouTube  book trailer and read excerpts from Judith's writing on her website.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June Member News

Our members continue to publish wonderful works and win awards!
Janet Fisher A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin (TwoDot/Globe Pequot Press)  Martha defies her parents to marry the dashing Garrett Maupin and in 1850 follows him west across the Oregon Trail, but their struggles in a raw new land soon shatter her dreams of an idyllic life with him. When he dies, leaving her alone on the frontier with their many children, she makes a daring decision to buy a farm in that wilderness. The author, her great-great-granddaughter, now owns and operates that farm. Also on Amazon and other online sites.


Mary Beth Baptiste Altitude Adjustment: A Quest for Love, Home, and Meaning in the Tetons (TwoDot/Globe Pequot Press) This thoughtful, humorous memoir follows a wildlife biologist’s quest for purpose, redemption, and love through wilderness adventure, solitude, and offbeat human connections in Jackson Hole’s Grand Teton National Park. Also available at Barnes and Noble.

Gin Getz, TheColor of the Wild (NorLights Press) is an original, inspiring work of literary non-fiction; an unconventional memoir of woman and land. Lyrical and lilting, powerful and passionate, this is the beautifully told story of one woman’s life, love, determination and connection with the natural world. 

Gin GetzThe Last of the Living Blue (NorLights Press) is an intimate, intense personal account of the effects of our changing climate in my big back yard, Colorado’s majestic mountains and the Weminuche Wilderness.  It’s not a preachy lecture on climate issues, nor a “everything’s peachy” scenario. It’s real and raw. It reads close and comfortable, though the times it takes you through are often anything but.  It’s told in a quiet yet powerful voice taking the reader with me through one year of drought, fires, floods and the healing of mountain and mind. 

 Judith Grout, Chasing the Strawberry Moon Hitchhiking (for Girls) is an account of the adventures of a young woman as she makes her way west, running from conniving parents, the mob, and corrupt local law enforcement. Patsy Schwartz knows she has bigger problems to deal with than the Great Depression, the raging Dust Bowl, or another looming world war. Forced to disappear from Baywater, Minnesota to avoid an arranged marriage to the local sheriff’s son, Patsy hits the open road with her best friend, Virginia Burg.

Cynthia Leal Massey Death of a Texas Ranger, A True Story of Murder and Vengeance on the Texas Frontier (TwoDot, an imprint of Globe-Pequot Press) This is story of the murder of Texas Ranger John Green in 1873. Immediately word spread that the killing may have been the botched outcome of a contract taken out on Menchaca’s life by the notorious Gabriel Marnoch, a local naturalist who had run up against the law himself. But was it?

An Alafair Tucker Mystery. In the summer of 1916, a big twister brings destruction to the land around Boynton OK. Alafair Tucker’s family and neighbors are not spared the ruin and grief spread by the storm. But no one is going to mourn for Jubal Beldon, who made it his business to know the ugly secrets of everyone in town. It doesn’t matter if Jubal’s insinuations are true or not. In a small town like Boynton, rumor is as damaging as fact. 

Susan Wittig Albert has signed with Penguin/Berkley Prime Crime for three more China Bayles mysteries, to be published in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Bittersweet, Book #23 in this long-running series, will be published in April, 2015.

Nancy Oswald, Edward Wynkoop: Soldier and Indian Agent (Filter Press). Drawn to the West, Edward Wynkoop left Philadelphia at a young age.  He helped to found Denver and began his military career during the Civil War, distinguishing himself at the Battle of Glorieta Pass. His life took a severe turn, when he befriended Black Kettle and vouched for the friendly Cheyenne in the wake of the Sand Creek Massacre.  This biography for young readers tells the story of this handsome and outspoken Indian advocate.

Shanna Hatfield, Farm Girl 
What happens when a farmer who’s been wishing for a boy ends up with a girlie-girl? Come along on the humorous and sometimes agonizing adventures from a childhood spent on a farm in the Eastern Oregon desert where one family raised hay, wheat, cattle, and a farm girl.

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists!
Roni McFaddenJosephine~ATale of Hope and Happy Endings is a Finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards for 2014 in the Children's Inspirational book category. Josephine is the true story of a great granddaughter of the legendary Seabiscuit who searches for a new mother after losing her own at the age of 4 days. All proceeds from the sale of Josephine go to the T.R.A.I.L. program (Teaching Riding as an Access to Independence and Learning) at the Ridgewood Ranch in Willits, CA, home of Seabiscuit.

Bonnie Hobbs’ Beyond The Night is a finalist in the Unpublished Manuscript contest at PNWA in the Romance category. This western historical love story takes place following the Civil War.

Dawn Wink, Meadowlark is a finalist in the HighPlains Book Awards.
Based on a true story, the author provides a captivating and crystal clear window into the lives of some of the early settlers on the plains of South Dakota.


Tammy Hinton, Retribution, finalist for “Best Independently Published Western Novel” by WesternFictioneers.The war changed everything Emilee loved. The young woman couldn’t foresee the terror that peace would bring. Moving to Texas seemed the answer, but Death rode the same trail west.

Pamela Nowak's Changes received the 2014 Colorado Book Award for genre fiction as well as a 2014 HOLT Award of Merit for historical novel.  In 1879, Omaha librarian Lise Dupree struggles to keep her part-Sioux heritage hidden as she reluctantly agrees to help research legal questions for a band of Ponca Indians led by Standing Bear. What begins as a quest for justice becomes a search for identity

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

More Amazing Than Fiction

by Donis Casey

Since I write a historical mystery series set on an Oklahoma farm in the mid-1910s, I’m always doing research about daily life in that time and place. I know how to do laundry in an iron kettle, how to make household cleaning products, how to grow and put up vegetables, how to harvest and make herbal remedies, and how to slaughter a hog and preserve every last bit of the carcass. Not that I need to, thank goodness, but I know how it’s done.
I often discover the most amazing and unexpected things. Things that if I had made them up, no one would believe it. When I find a historical gem I certainly use it if I can, but sometimes the best tidbits don’t fit in with the story. That doesn’t mean I don’t keep a record of them. If not for future use, then for my own delight and pleasure.

One of my novels takes place in Arizona in 1916, and I used a few historical personages as characters. But one real person’s story, Dr. Benjamen B. Moeur, was just getting started when the book ends. Moeur became the governor of Arizona in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression. His most notorious act during his governorship was to call out the Arizona National Guard in 1934 to stop construction of Parker Dam on the Colorado River. Moeur decided that California was stealing Arizona’s water, so he sent two converted riverboats, forty riflemen, and twenty machine gunners to stop construction. Unfortunately, the boats ran afoul of some cable and had to be towed free by the Californians. The sortie of the Arizona Navy was the last time one state took up arms against another. 

The seventh installment in the Alafair Tucker series, HellWith the Lid Blown Off, is set in Oklahoma and deals with the aftermath of a killer storm. In a bit of strange timing, I had just finished writing the twister scene when the 2013 storm hit Moore, Oklahoma. Or maybe that wasn't such an odd thing after all, because living in Oklahoma means living with the possibility of bad storms. You can't write a long series set there without eventually writing about what it is like to live in tornado alley.

For generations, folks who live in bull’s eye country have dealt with the reality of the situation with a certain black humor. 

“Why, once, I left a pot of coffee on the stove during a twister, and when I emerged from the cellar the stove and coffee pot had blown away and left the coffee floating in mid-air.”

“Lightning struck the house and it went up in flames, but the twister sucked all the water out of the cow pond and dumped it right on the fire and put it out before it burned to the ground.” 

But reality is just as bizarre as fiction when it comes to tornados. When I wrote about a killer storm, I didn’t need to exaggerate. In a twisted way, it was useful for the story that I have a lot of first hand knowledge of the hideous things that can occur when a tornado strikes. I’ve seen or read or heard about:
·         A house sheared in two and half left standing untouched.
·         A body found completely wrapped in barbed wire. 
·         The fact that the wind in a tornado is so strong that you can’t breathe or even close your eyes. 
·         A board that nailed itself to a man’s back.
·         A child who was blown three miles and found alive in the mud. 

 Oh, and by the way, a twister really can suck all the water out of a small pond.

Donis Casey is the author of seven Alafair Tucker Mysteries. The latest installment, Hell With the Lid Blown Off, is available from Poisoned Pen Press in June 2014. The award-winning series, featuring the sleuthing mother of ten children, is set in Oklahoma and Arizona during the booming 1910s. Donis lives in Tempe, AZ, with her husband. Readers can enjoy the first chapter of each book on her web site at