1 Bankrupt Publisher, 2 Orphaned Books & Rising from the Ashes

Peacock

Pretend it’s a phoenix, risen from the ashes.

You could say I’ve been around the block a few times in the publishing business. Maybe I’ve even run a marathon by now. I’ve experienced a wide assortment of industry glitches–publishers who never get back to you on books they’ve contracted, editors who have the audacity to go out on maternity leave and pass you off to other editors who just don’t understand you, publishers who always seem to have a crisis when royalties are due.

But in my 17 years of being a published author, I’d never had a publisher go bankrupt (okay, insolvent) until 2014. Said Publisher had bought one completed mystery (CLEAN BURN) and contracted a second book in the series. CLEAN BURN was published without a hitch, coming out in trade paperback, ebook, and a lovely audio edition. The reviews were terrific, including great quotes from authors James Rollins (“Blisteringly paced, authentically told”), Brenda Novak (“Chilling, engrossing and addicting”), and Lynn Hightower (“an ex cop P.I. heroine with attitude and a haunted past”).

Karen_CleanBurn300dpi750x1200It was in the midst of writing the second book, HANGTOWN, when I got the sad news that the editor I’d started with at Said Publisher would be leaving the company and I’d be assigned another editor. I’d really liked editor #1, and while it’s always an unhappy day to lose an editor you like, it’s especially unsettling when it happens when you’re in the middle of the project. But I forged ahead with HANGTOWN, eventually passing the completed manuscript on to editor #2.

Editor #2 and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on a number of issues, but that sort of thing happens. I stood my ground where ground-standing was important, but any writer worth her salt knows that editors can save your butt by not letting something stupid slip into the final edition. So it’s always worth it to listen to them.

HangtownI told editor #2 I wanted to read over the Advance Reading Copy so I could vet it for any errors that might have squeaked through. I waited for the ARC. And waited. We were getting very close to publication date and still no ARC.

Then Bad News #1 dropped: HANGTOWN would not be coming out in print. It would be an ebook only.

As someone who has several e-only books published, this was not a massive tragedy. It disappointed a couple of friends who only read paper. But to me, an ebook is a book, and earns royalties just like a paper book does.

In and of itself, the fact that Said Publisher changed their game plan for HANGTOWN wasn’t an issue. It was the WHY that set off giant, screaming red flags in my mind. I didn’t learn nothin’ in all my years of being a published author. My writer’s instinct was tingling, telling me that somethin’ was up and there was more to the story.

Hangtown PurchaseSure enough, Bad News # 2 dropped not long before HANGTOWN’s publication date. Said Publisher was filing for insolvency. They would not be publishing HANGTOWN in any format, print or e (even so, the book was published on Kindle for a very short period).

I was irritated and exasperated but not totally surprised (writer’s instinct and all). My irritation grew quite a bit when a deep-pocketed white knight whisked Said Publisher from insolvency by purchasing them, and shortly thereafter SP offered a six figure advance to a well-known author.

The upside was that I got rights back to both books, and although it took me more than a year, I’ve got CLEAN BURN up for sale and HANGTOWN available for pre-order. You can find all the links to buy here. And don’t worry, I’ve cleaned up all those untidy ashes so they won’t clog up your e-reader.

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When Life Turns on a Dime

SticksSometimes life imitates fiction. For instance, you’re tooling along, everything as usual, expecting to grill a couple burgers for dinner, then kick back and watch the ball game And out of the blue, something happens that throws you a curve, all your mundane expectations scattered like pick-up sticks (click here if you’re too young to remember pick-up sticks)

IV RackI’ve had that life-off-the-tracks experience a number of times, most recently a week or so ago when a family member was unexpectedly hospitalized (he’s fine).

TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

The ill-fated horse I never bought.

There was another shake up a couple years ago. I broke my ankle moments before I’d planned to leave to check out a horse I was thinking of buying. That break not only stopped me from buying that horse, it kept me from riding for several weeks.

 

Wrecked Car1Thirty-five years ago while driving to work, someone turned left directly in front of me. The collision totaled my car and when I slammed on the brake pedal, I fractured my foot (same one I later broke the ankle of). That particular accident led indirectly to me meeting my husband of three-plus decades, so it wasn’t all bad. ;-) But I ended up in the hospital rather than work that day.

When you’re writing a story, you’ll want send your characters into a similar life-off-the-tracks situations right from the beginning. They can start out in an everyday, humdrum experience, but within pages, everything has to change for them. Whether they’re fired from their job or barely escape being flattened by a piano, an inciting incident had better yank them free of their moorings. And their travails have to continue, building in magnitude to keep your reader reading.

I wouldn’t wish a car accident or a broken ankle on anyone. But when it comes to my fictional characters, sometimes a trip to the hospital is just what the doctor ordered. :-)

 

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Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! Family Vacation Photos Ahead!

If pretty pictures of scenery bore you to tears, just click on that X in the corner of your screen. If you’re willing to look at gorgeous vistas and me looking particularly awkward on a horse (even though I really ought to know how to ride), scroll on.

3 Sisters

The Three Sisters, seen from our condo’s balcony.

It was our son’s and daughter-in-law’s  idea to do a combined family trip (the grandkids, their parents and both sets of grandparents). Since we all live in hot summer locales, a trip to somewhere cooler seemed like a good idea. So Alberta, Canada rather than, say, Arizona was the destination of choice. The Northern California contingent left behind triple digit heat in exchange for temperatures that never topped the mid-8os. That’s a vacation destination.

IMG_2082

Yes, I own a horse and ride often. Maybe I just look so confused because it’s a Canadian horse.

 

My son’s goal was for us to “see pretty things” in particular in as many modes as possible. We therefore hiked, biked, drove, rode horses, gondolas, and ski lifts, were transported by buses with gargantuan wheels (those that visited the nearby glacier), took a tour boat, canoed, and hiked some more. We ate–a lot–and didn’t skimp on desserts. For instance, the best ice cream in the world can be found at Cows in Banff.

We also had a great opportunity to see various critters. There was the grizzly bear we saw below us while we were on the Banff Gondola. There were also elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, various birds, and a particularly vicious chipmunk.

Grizzly

Happy to be viewing this big fellow from the gondola rather than up close and personal.

Chipmunk

This chunky, over-friendly fellow (he climbed on my lap) is an example of what happens when you feed the wildlife. Big fines for that sort of thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Clark's Nutcracker

I’ve been told this is a Clark’s Nutcracker. Or it’s possibly a Black Beaked Fiffer Fluffer.

Gondola View

The view from the top of the Banff gondola where the chipmunk lives. Pretty jaw-dropping.

 

 

 

 

Also, we ignorant Americans learned a little something about Canadian history–namely that July 1st is Canada Day. We watched a great local parade in Canmore, and then oohed and aahed at fireworks afterward.

FireworksFireworks with the Canadian Rockies as a backdrop. Well done, Canada. Well done.

 

 

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When Your Characters Come Out to You

3 CoversI recently guest blogged at GayYA.org and wanted to share. In the post, “Are They LGBTQIA? Let Your Characters Tell You,” I talk about how I discovered the sexual orientation of characters in my Tankborn Trilogy as I wrote the books and got to know the characters better.

You can check out the Tankborn Trilogy at Lee and Low’s website. You can also find TANKBORN, AWAKENING, and REBELLION on Amazon.

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Diversify your Shelves with We Need Diverse Books

Killer of Enemies sI had a lot of fun with this guest post for YA Books Central. We were asked to recommend three diverse books and discuss what we liked about them. This is a monthly column that I’m sharing with authors Maurene Goo (Since You Asked…) and Brandy Colbert (Pointe).

You can find my blog post here.

If you’d like to read Maurene’s recommendations, they’re here.

Happy reading!

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#WeNeedDiverseBooks: A World of Change in Just One Year

WNDB_Button TMJust wanted to share this history of We Need Diverse Books that I wrote for the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database. It was fun to look back and see how far we’ve come. From a hashtag to a movement to a non-profit working hard for inclusiveness in children’s literature.

http://www.clcd.com/blog/?p=432#more-432

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Near Death, Divine Providence, and Mining the Past

Ford Fairlane 1964

photo credit: DSC03226 via photopin (license)

When I was 12 years old, I nearly died.

At the time, my two older sisters and I lived with our mom in the San Bernardino Mountains, about 2 hours east of Los Angeles. It was Easter Sunday, and we’d gone to visit my grandmother in L.A. for Spring Break. Grandma and Papa had dropped us off at the bus station in downtown L.A., and Mom came to pick us up at the bus depot in San Bernardino.

Mom 1970sMy mom, God love her, was a terrible driver. She was a lead-foot, not only on the gas, but on the brake as well. She drove “down the hill” (from nearly mile-high Blue Jay to San Berdoo’s thousand foot elevation) screaming around those mountain curves, most likely with her foot on the brake most of the way.

She picked us up at the bus depot, me and my sisters still wearing our Easter dresses. We tucked our luggage and our basket of Easter eggs in the trunk, then Mom headed back up the hill. My older sister Debbie sat in the middle of the car’s bench front seat next to Mom, and I sat next to Debbie by the door. Our oldest sister, Linda, sat behind me in the back seat.

Mom might have used less brake going up, but the brake drum nevertheless got hotter and hotter until about halfway up the hill, the heat actually blew a tire. We pulled into a nice, level turnout and a kind passerby changed the tire for us. The gentleman told my mom she better let the brakes cool before continuing on home. We sat around for what Mom thought was long enough, then pulled out again.

Stier Sisters Late 50s

Me, Debbie, & Linda celebrating Linda’s birthday with a Barbie doll cake.

I don’t remember if there was a smell, or Mom could feel the heat through the brake pedal. In any case, she decided to pull over into another turnout and let the brakes cool again.

Except this turnout was sloped. The car started rolling backwards. The brakes were well and truly fried and no amount of stomping on Mom’s part would get that car to stop. The car just kept rolling toward the edge where the mountainside plunged down a couple hundred feet of steep embankment.

For some reason, Mom didn’t think to try the emergency brake. I suppose it might not have worked anyway. She was struggling to put the car into park. When that didn’t work, she jumped out and tried to stop the car with her body. The car knocked her down and partially rolled over her. Not with its full weight because at that point, the rear of the car was already over the edge, so the front end was partially off the ground.

While Mom was fighting to stop the car, Debbie had gotten the passenger side door open and was yelling at me to get out. I remember sitting sideways, my feet hanging out of the car, watching the pavement roll by under my feet. But I was frozen. Debbie couldn’t get me to budge. All the while, Linda kept yelling from the back seat, “I can’t open the door! I can’t open the door!”

We were all about to die. And then a miracle happened.

The car stopped. Linda got her door open, I finally scrambled out of the car with Debbie close on my heels. When we turned back to the car, we realized it had stopped with one front tire hooked to the berm that edged the turnout. That berm wasn’t even a foot high.

Mom was banged up but nothing was broken or needed stitches. We three girls were perfectly fine. The car was towed out of its predicament, and it went on to suffer through more of my mom’s abuse. The Easter eggs ended up rotting in the trunk because we all forgot they were in there, a fact that we girls chortled over for years to come.

Yeah. A miracle. That my mom wasn’t hurt more badly. That we girls didn’t flip right over the edge, none of us seat-belted into that pre-airbag car. That Debbie and I didn’t bail, and the car didn’t flip with Linda trapped inside. All those possibilities make me shudder now.

Oddly enough, as dramatic as this experience was, I’ve never used it in a book. I’ve probably used the fear, the panic, the horror of it without consciously realizing where I might be pulling it from. It became a story that we all found hysterically funny because it did have a happy ending.

In this case, reality was much better than the what-ifs. Thanks to God and miracles.

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