Life as a Famous Writer

I have recently had some paintings published in a local literary and arts magazine. I haven’t seen the magazine yet since I didn’t go to the party for it which was some 30 miles away. Small community as big as Connecticut. Last year I had a story published in the magazine. The people who put it together are very nice, and I hope someday to meet them, but as I’m about as social as my dogs it may never happen.

Yesterday I got an email from a woman involved on the magazine, to whom I need to send a check. Anyhoo she wrote about The Price:

“Hi! Yesterday at the library I saw your latest book on the shelf and checked it out. I read it last night, and enjoyed immensely. It made me stop and think about what a different world we live in. Our daughter lives in Virginia, and we visit her a couple of times a year. When we say goodbye, it is for a little while, not forever. Thanks for writing that book.”

That email made me very happy because the real reason I write books is for people to read and enjoy. Of course, I didn’t know that when I set out on this journey some 20 years ago, but live and (inshallah) learn.

The Price is a good story with a very strong story line. I think it’s possibly the most relatable of any of my novels. I’m a little surprised more people haven’t wanted to read it, but that’s the life of a famous writer!

The Brothers Path — For Free!

Last year I busted my ass trying to promote my novel, The Brothers PathIt’s a fast-moving novel about the Protestant Reformation as it happened in Switzerland. OK, we think of Switzerland today as a little land-locked neutral country with a lot of money, cheese, and chocolate, but back in the day, cities in Switzerland were major world powers. Switzerland was also the first democratic Confederation in Europe (post-Greece, etc.) Yeah. It was also part of the Holy Roman Empire. The map of Europe was different. Sure, the outlines were the same, but otherwise? Europe was a bunch of Liechtensteins, Monacos, etc.

Some of the most influential people during this time were Swiss. We don’t hear much about them, but that doesn’t change the facts. Out of Switzerland came some of the major Christian religions.

My novel focuses on the experiences of six brothers in one family during this time of religious upheaval, war, and change.


I bought 10 copies of this novel to sell in the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. They sold none of them. I’m not surprised, but it was a shot I had to take and, because of my hip and other problems, I wasn’t able to back up the sales with a book-signing.

And, I’ll admit it, writing about obscure moments of history that occur in obscure places pretty much ensures that people are not going to read my books. I know that, I get it, but I write what I write. Why? No idea, but there it is. It really doesn’t matter that they’re written well.

SO…cleaning out my “studio” or whatever that room is I found 10 copies of this novel. I don’t want to store them. I went to Goodreads to see about setting up a giveaway but now that costs more than $100. Right? So I’m here, peddling my papers.

The Brothers Path has won the IndieBRAG Medallion and it has gotten some good reviews by people who understand the nature of the novel. You can read reviews here, here, and here. Also, considering the fact that many of our so-called German ancestors were actually Swiss and the events portrayed in the novel led directly to the immigration of our ancestors, it might be kind of interesting to anyone who is interested in the history of their “German” family.

I am offering the ten copies of The Brothers Path for free. You only need to pay shipping and you can do that through PayPal (ask me how). Media mail, depending how far the book is going, is usually under $3 in the US, around $12 to Canada, around $25 international shipping to Europe, and even more to Australia. (Frankly, if you’re not in the US or Canada, it’s closer to “Free” on Amazon. 🙂 )

Can You Enforce It? (and Rambling Nonsense)

A long time ago in a faraway land (California) I wrote a novel. A neophyte novelist, I was very worried (because it was the BEST idea anyone had had for a novel anywhere) that someone would steal it. I got the forms from the Library of Congress and filled them out, registering my idea with the gubmint. Back then the Internet was in the infancy of its common usage and stuff was mailed across the surface of the earth, sped along by trucks, trains, and planes. I had learned in some class or other that all you had to do to copyright your work was mail it to someone who didn’t open the envelope so it could be proven in a court of law that the work was yours.

That was actually true — and might still be true.

I have a visible copyright claim on the front “page” of my blog. I know it amounts to little more than the FBI warning at the beginning of a video. It looks scary but would I prosecute an offender? I can’t afford it. I have $75 ($200 earlier but my electric bill and another thing just came out of my account. Feel free to donate 😉 ) to last me till the end of the month.

I got into an argument with the polemical husband of a good friend about this. I mostly just wanted OUT of the room, but the argument went on and on and on and on and on over a subject I don’t care about anymore. I see no point in two ignorant people getting in a heated debate about stuff they don’t know for sure and could look up. If you want to know, here is the link to US Copyright Laws.

The thing is, there is little that is truly original. As a species we take a lot of things in and then rework them as our own or push them further along. It’s human nature. A friend was telling me about Elon Musk’s new ideas and research, that rather than having to use this interface — fingers on keys (who could have imagined that back when people were horrified by the typewriter?) but total integration between the mind and the internet (that you pay for, of course) so that everything the Internet “knows” you know. I argued that in such a case, you wouldn’t really “know” anything. I argued that true knowledge is not just facts and answers, but experience acquired through time. I said that the person would only know the past and would not experience the present or move into the future (as we are supposed to do!) I didn’t make the case for uncertainty, doubt, fear, and failure. All these things really upset my friend. He really doesn’t see the bright side of fuck-ups and apprehension.

“Yeah, but what a great mind!”

“I’ve already read that in science fiction, and I saw it on Star Trek.”

“Yeah, but this isn’t science fiction.”

“It’s just not a new idea. That’s all I’m saying.” I was thinking of Philip K. Dick and the woman with whom Spock fell in love who’s “dress” was a net of material that was energy and held all knowledge and the box of energy that contained the collective mentalities and knowledge through time of a whole planet.

I was thinking, too, of the comparative primitiveness of the human body. It hasn’t caught up with the change in human life OR it’s trying to tell us something. I’m not sure which. I spent YEARS happily running from (non-existent) predators. Our bodies are still designed for that life. They WANT to run away. They LIKE it. “Waaa-HOOO! I can run away!” Whether one is able still to run away, walk away, ride a bike or a wheelchair, we glory in it. I think NOT being able to run away is very scary on a primal level. I think it’s the basis for a lot of my fear during the past decade and now, when I know I cannot run away and, instead, must carry a weapon.


I look around me and see so many people who couldn’t run away from anything and would make a long and tasty dinner for any non-human predator who came along. Deep inside I believe that this contemporary, sedentary life of comfort, safety and plenty we enjoy MIGHT be temporary, and it’s important to maintain whatever mental and physical fitness we can, so if we need to we can outrun or outsmart the sabre-toothed tiger or dire wolf.



Chilly mornings out here in the real west. This big cup of hot coffee is (sometimes) the best part of a whole day. It’s always a major enhancement. I’m sad when it’s gone, and I have to give the cup to Dusty T. Dog (who is salivating at my feet waiting for it). All he gets is whatever has stuck to the sides of the cup, but he likes it. I think it’s a bonding thing.

During my long blogging hiatus I finished my book and sent it to my editor, Beth Bruno. She’s a writer’s editor not an editor like Maxwell Perkins or something. She helps me find typos and inelegancies of writing and that sort of thing. She’s awesome. Very helpful, thorough, and kind. I like working with her very much.

Long long ago (like 20 years) when I first sent manuscripts of Martin of Gfenn to agents, I got a rejection that was a folded a 8 1/2 x 11 sheet off paper that said in big black letters written with a Magic Marker, “Get an editor!” Big black letters and all, I didn’t know what he meant. I mean, was I NOT an English teacher? A WRITING teacher? Seriously?

But he was right. I should have been alert to hubris, but like many heroes (ha ha) had not yet encountered my fatal flaw face-to-face.

Meanwhile I’ve done my tasks. I have compiled a little spreadsheet that is a list of possible agents for The Price. I’ve written a pretty good query letter. I have done my chapter summaries, my synopsis and an introduction to the book.

I know that self-publishing is an option, but (as with all my books except My Everest) I want to give it a chance out in the big world.


In case you want to know what my coffee is, it’s made in Colorado. You can order it online. I bought a 5 pound bag a couple of months ago. I’ve tried their “sampler” and ALL of it was delicious. You can actually tell the different roasts and origins apart. Because of the way it’s roasted, it’s relatively low acid, too. That’s all for my sales pitch. 😉



Ch ch ch changes (and a Small Rant)

Amazon’s self-publishing platform, Createspace (RIP), was somewhat unwieldy but once you figured it out, it was simple, and customer service was responsive (to me, other people have had other experiences)…but then there was Kindle.

Publishing on Kindle was another thing completely. Not very easy. If, like me, you don’t read books on Kindle and don’t want to, you wouldn’t know how they worked. Still if you’re serious about getting your self-published book read, you learn, and I learned. It’s not as easy as where Createspace used to say, “Do you want to publish your book on Kindle?” What emerged THEN was ugly and unreadable. There was a reason for this. If you frustrate the customer enough, they’ll hire you to do it for them.


Thank God for reviewers on Goodreads and IndieBRAG who alerted me to format problems in my eBooks. Besides that, more people bought my books as eBooks than as paperbacks. Customer service, right?

Life was good.

Then Amazon said, “Why do I have two self-publishing platforms?” and began offering Kindle publishers the option to publish their Kindle books as paperbacks. I had a feeling… Just last week, they told us we needed to “migrate” our Createspace books to Kindle Paperback (which is an oxymoron).

OK. They did most of the work but…

It didn’t work for Martin of Gfenn, and I ended up reformatting the whole thing. Yep. Hours and hours of work (somehow when it migrated the font size went up two points; it looked like a kid’s book and was VERY thick). To fix that, I pretty much had to edit the whole book (again) which was OK. I found some funny formatting inside that was probably my fault.

Their interface is far from obvious. I get that, too. They want to sell their services.

Pretty much everybody wants to sell their services. I’m even paying for radio in my car which I think is nuts. My tires were low yesterday, and I spent $2 for 6 minutes of fucking air. Yeah. Sorry. But air???

“It’s a racket,” as an old friend’s 95 year old mother used to say from her elegant, turn-of-the-century wood and wicker wheelchair. She said a couple of other things, too. If something was great, she said, “Great!” if it wasn’t, she said, “Baloney.”

Not a bad summary for a human. My roommates, however, have it figured out. They don’t like something, they bark.



The Price

Yesterday I finished the first full draft (and it isn’t exactly a rough draft) of The Schneebelis Come to America — real title The Price. I like it and what I like best is that the ending is actually true.

Now I’m in the next phase of this whole writer’s adventure. I’ve been here before, lots of times with some close calls that you might call marginal success. I’m beginning the process of putting together a submittal package in hopes of finding a literary agent who will want to represent my book.


Every writer wants to publish a book that people buy. All my books so far have been self-published which has some distinct advantages to me, but — except for the hiking book — self-publishing was the end result of rejection and other things like a publisher going out of business and another publisher changing their mind and an agent not performing. In every case (except with the hiking book) I just reached a point where I didn’t want to try for conventional publication any more. Besides that, I like designing my books.

Rejection also has at least as much to do with the market and perceived saleability of a story as it does with the author’s actual writing. Probably more. All of my books have won prizes — a couple of them have been hard-won and prestigious awards. I’ve learned that lots of things can happen that don’t have anything to do with how well a book is written. But, as this story is about Amurica, I think it might have a better shot than my other books which are about obscure places in a tiny country many people confuse with Sweden.

The big challenge of a submittal package is being able to see your work from OUTSIDE yourself (and it) and writing about it as if you were a reader, not the writer. It’s amazing how difficult it is to do this, just to say, in a few sentences, what the book is about. I don’t think I’m the only writer who, faced with that question, says, “I don’t know.” You get so entangled in the lives of the characters that their lives are almost YOUR life. What would I say if someone said, “Hey, Martha, what’s the central theme of your life?”

“Uh, it changes.”

“Yeah, but there must be a POINT. What does your life SAY?”


Seriously, it’s like that. It would be interesting if we went to someone’s funeral and the officiating person said, “And so, the moral of Lamont’s life is XYZ.”

In any case, having been through this (grueling and strange) process so many times now, and having experienced several different levels of disappointment over the years (most important, disappointment with myself for submitting a manuscript before it was as good as it could be and killing its chances, sort of like cutting off your legs and going out for track) I’m older and wiser. I will go through this, hope for the best and realize there’s no losing, anyway.

Crowing a Bit

I’ve now heard officially that Martin of Gfenn is a finalist for the Chaucer Award from Chanticleer Book Reviews. The Chaucer Award is for works of historical fiction set before 1750. It’s a highly competitive contest and a big deal for my novel and for me. The prize is some money but, more important, reviews that are normally very expensive and difficult to arrange. It could be very good for my book. Book(s)?

The winners are announced at the Chanticleer Reviews Annual Conference in Bellingham, Washington the third week in April. They offer a discount on registration for  those of us who might possibly win. I’d like to go, but I worked out the budget. It’s expensive and I can only stay two nights. 😦 That’s unfortunate because there’s a lot to see, stuff I like, like snow covered volcanic peaks, Puget Sound and Vancouver, BC where I’ve always wanted to go.

If I can file my taxes and get my refund ahead of time, then, maybe.

But there’s this thing with my hip.

Which brings me to what it’s like to be cool in your own little town with your cane, your stooped (as opposed to stupid which is not as visible) walk and so on and so forth vs. going out in public and maybe walking across a stage like a character from Hansel and Gretel and NOT one of the kids. I suppose I could leave a trail of breadcrumbs and throw them off, but… One is self-conscious. I am self-conscious. Yes, yes, I know it’s superficial and stupid. For that matter, the hero of Martin of Gfenn is a leper. I did think of dressing as a leper and kind of going with the whole crippled bit. That would solve a couple of problems. First, what to wear. Second, the whole stooped, limping walk…

And then there’s the fact that my upcoming hip surgery will entail a deductible. I haven’t yet learned the details of that, but my next phone call (this coming Monday) will be to the surgeon who, I imagine, will do the work, followed soon after by a long drive over a mountain pass for an appointment.

AND I’d rather go back to Switzerland than anywhere else and that’s not free. I also know that any journey I make to Switzerland in the next year or so is likely to be the last one of my life for both financial and physical reasons. I want it to be as good, long, and physically able as I can make it.

Life is so short. A lot like money. 🙂

So, for now, the journey to Bellingham, WA for the awards banquet (a place I would really like to visit) has been tabled. It might happen, but I don’t know yet. Still, I’m very, very happy my novel has been recognized in this way.

MOG New cover Chanticleer badge cover only for thumbnails

#CAC18, #SeriousAuthors, #ChaucerShortlister, @ChantiReviews.

Oh Well…

The hiking book has been a strange kind of challenge and “learning experience.” Couldn’t find a good cover. Ended up with a photo I hadn’t taken and on which I’d have to pay royalties if I sold the book. OK. I didn’t need to — or plan to — sell the book. That cover came out “OK” — exponentially better than any of the other covers Createspace had sent me, all of which had been affected by the Doppler Effect and shifted to red…

Then there were (are?) the innumerable internal flaws haunting me (and maybe you, if you read it). Finally, I came to grips with the reality that everything about the book, life, the places in which its set, the stories contained within it — all flawed. This book isn’t fiction; it’s real life. Flawed.

So I printed 15 and gave them away as presents.

And then…

A couple of days ago, in a journal from antediluvian times, I found the perfect photo. This afternoon I found Createspace had a template that was exactly what I wanted. I found a couple of errors that mattered.


OH well. Bottom line, it will be for sale on Amazon at a very low price in case you want to read it. Advance reports are that its good, tiny errors and all. 🙂

Joy vs. Success

Yesterday I got an email from the woman who edited Savior and Martin of Gfenn. She’s a lovely person, and I like her very much. I even hope we meet someday. Her email suggested a small press I should contact, one that has published the work of another of my editor’s clients.

I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. OK, I know I’ve just barely gotten over the flu and I’m not yet 100%, even though I did take Dusty and Bear out to the fields yesterday, but it was still a strange reaction. I immediately went to their website and assessed it. By now I have an experienced — if somewhat jaundiced — eye. They have published a few novels. They are an offshoot of a literary journal. Their website is amateurish. There is nothing there to tell wouldbe writers how to submit work. None of these are red flags, necessarily, but it reminded me of the now bygone Bygone Era Books, RIP.

Rather than the feeling of hope I would have felt a year ago discovering a new possibility, I felt mildly nauseated by the thought of starting all that up again.

My editor asked if I were working on anything now and I am and am not. One project is busy work, in a way, though it might become something. The other is tabled until I have some idea who the protagonist is and why the story needs to be written at all. The thought of publishing has, meanwhile, pretty much stolen the joy from the whole thing and, as I learned from a tea bag a couple of days ago, “Joy is success.”

Cryptic little tea bag. It could mean that success brings joy; it could mean (as I read it) joy itself is success. Writing was never meant — for me — to be an obligation and what I’ve learned in the past year has taught me that fame might be a subjective term.

I’m famous now in a way I never imagined. I got a Christmas card and note from one of the two remaining aunts in my family — there were 7 girls, one of them was my mom. They were all very bright, beautiful and complex women, significantly different from each other — not too surprising as one was born around the turn of the century and the last was born in the mid 1920s. The note came from the youngest, Aunt Dickie. I’ve sent her my novels and she has loved them. In the note she told me that she and a group of “girls,” her reading group, are going to read The Brothers Path this winter and discuss it and she told me she is proud of me. “It’ll be a little money for you, anyway. Love you, Aunt Dickie.”

No publisher in the world can give me that.

I think the next thing I will write, and what I will do with it, remain to be discovered. Meanwhile, this morning the freezing fog (which I love) is tangled in the tops of the trees, encasing each tiny twig in white, and the tree tops disappear mysteriously into the clouds.