Born in northeast Ohio, I received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Kent State University and immediately escaped west to Colorado. Pursuing a love of nature instilled from childhood reading, I took up hiking and backpacking—and photographing the wonder discovered on these adventures.
A need to explore all aspects of the American west drove me to live in other western states, including New Mexico and California, finally settling in Tucson, Arizona, where I can enjoy the beauty of the Sonoran desert year round.
I have sold watercolors and mixed media paintings in Denver and Durango, Colorado, and in northern California.
I am a member of the Southern Arizona Arts Guild and Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild.
I listen to music while I paint, love to read and write, have written several short stories and am currently working on two novels.
Is this what retirement is all about?
This photo is of Billy. Back in 1950s Ohio he often wandered around our neighborhood dressed in his mother’s castoff dresses and high heels. You can imagine what the other boys did about that, but their jeers never stopped Billy.
The flag and hat were merely props like the fake pistols and stick horses we made out of sassafras and rode everywhere pretending they were real. Soft-spoken Billy loved animals and never hurt anyone or any thing as far as I knew.
Years later after finishing college I learned he lost and eye while fighting in Viet Nam. After service he ended up in prison and was murdered there. I have no idea of the circumstances, but can imagine.
I will dedicate my novel, Unspoken, to him. As a boy I knew him fairly well, and am pretty darn sure he didn’t deserve what happened to him.
Billy was one more case of the inequality that has occurred in our country over the years. One more George Floyd, though Billy was white. We must continue to join together to put an end to injustice. All of us of every shade and color.
This is a difficult post. I came to the conclusion that I was not willing to back my manuscript with $10,000 or more. I am of two minds. One is an adult woman willing and able to take risks. The other is a fearful little girl. They are the product of an incest survivor. It took a few days for me to realize that little girl had to have her say about this entire process.
My angry, depressed dad alienated our family from everyone but his relatives. Yet he presented the picture of a wonderful man to all except us.
I and my younger sister grew up in a home with a living room and exposed rafters. We wore the same three or four outfits to school all year long. I wore hand-me-downs from my older cousin. We each had one coat that lasted until we outgrew it. Dad purposely ran over my sister’s bike to teach her not to leave it in the driveway. Mom complained to me about her fears that he didn’t pay the bills on time. Yet he found time to help his brother with his house, bought golf clubs, bowling equipment, guns, a stereo, and records.
When we started school Mom found a job at the local drugstore. I thought to help pay bills, but years later she said it was to get out of the house and be around people who appreciated her.
He was emotionally abusive to the three of us. We lived a childhood of constant anxiety: Diann stuttered and developed asthma; I got migraines. Mom was a loving, dear, but weak, person, who my sister and I believed we had to protect. Dad took advantage of that when he took advantage of me. “Don’t tell your mom.” I knew what he meant.
Only after years of therapy did I realize she should have protected us.
I am grown now, but that little girl’s feelings and fears concerning money, security, and trust never go away. The adult in me jumped at the chance to follow my dream of publishing a book I believed in. A few days later that little girl freaked out. Another couple days and I realized what happened.
I don’t have to give in to fear once I realize the truth. That’s the first step — recognizing the fear and where it comes from. I sat down and checked my finances, found it will not destroy me to lose $15,000, only make my life more difficult. I can handle that. I can reassure my little girl. I have.
I know there are survivors, men and women, like me out there. I hope this and the books I write will help us all. By us I mean not only survivors but all minorities: LGBTQ, blacks, Muslims, Jews, Native Americans, Latinos, immigrants, elders, . . . Who did I leave out? Imagine how strong we would be if we all united!
I recently downloaded a book by Colleen M. Story entitled Writer get Noticed!, which is supposed to help me pursue my own path while developing an author platform. Sounds like a great idea, since I need help with my platform.
My cat, Dickens, is here next to my computer, as usual and willing, but I doubt he knows much about this sort of thing.
The book suggests I keep a journal of each of its steps, answering core questions, which I did:
I truly don’t care about making a lot of money. Thank goodness. Because the chances of that are slim. To me, higher royalties are not that important.
What my novel has to say is important. It is meaningful and fits my vision.
As much as I believe She Writes Press is a good fit for many writers, I don’t believe it is for me.
They read three hundred pages of my manuscript to invite me to publish with them. I should have known this was enough to recognize talent, but not enough to financially back my novel. This is my impression of the approach of a school who awards a publishing contract upon graduation. The She Writes Press team is excellent and I wish I could afford them, but I cannot.
I want a publisher who believes in my novel, Unspoken, as much as I do, or at least enough to financially support it.
I am grateful to She Writes Press and responders on Critique Circle for what I have learned these past few weeks. I began as such a naive newbie, and I now have direction. I highly recommend She Writes Press for many women writers who can afford to publish with their team. You will get plenty of support on your journey, merely not financial.
Where do I go from here?
I will be writing about my platform and why this novel is important. I hope you will come along for the ride.
I received an eight-page contract from She Writes Press, which includes an Exhibit A, stating those services to be performed by Publisher; Exhibit B, which is to eventually list any additional services, timeframe, fees, etc.; and Exhibit C, which contains a Fee Schedule.
The entire contract is in small print.
I hate contracts. I hate reading them.
I haven’t been able to find a publishing lawyer here in Arizona. So far. Maybe never.
Which means I’ve been trying to understand this thing myself. Bad idea.
I took paralegal classes years ago, one of which was contracts. Learned enough to get me in trouble. Similar to driving a four-wheel drive vehicle and heading for the mountains. I’ve done that, too. A person can get into big trouble with a four-wheel drive vehicle on those trails. I’ve been there and I know. Nearly got stuck overnight on this road once. My ex-husband was driving. Three of us had to get out of the vehicle and move rocks to back out. Big rocks.
Another time I was driving and my friend said, “keep going, keep going, keep going.” Nearly went right over a cliff.
Back to the contract.
I learned the following from reading that contract: She Writes Press is not risking a darned thing.
The author risks all. I pay for their expertise. Quite a lot, actually. I pay for printing, shipping, warehousing, returns, and numerous other fees. If anything goes wrong, I pay for that, too. Like, if my book doesn’t sell. Eeks, I can’t stand that “like” word, and I used it. Ah, well. Welcome to the millennial generation. I promise to not use it again, at least not in this post.
What do She Writes Press services include?
The following is Exhibit A:
interior design of the book up to 120,000 words
E-book file prep and upload to Amazon, B&N and iBookstore
Distribution to Trade Accounts through their current distribution partner
Management of the distribution relationship for the term of the Agreement
Proofreading of final manuscript
Copyright filing and obtaining Library of Congress control number
Warehousing of short-run printed books for first year
Fulfillment of orders on short-run printed books (I pay shipping)
Support and management of title metadata
Ongoing project management of title for term of Agreement
Support for getting books into bookstores, libraries and other trade outlets
All the above costs $7,500.
I found a blog by Lloyd J. Jassin, an experienced New York publishing attorney, that clearly explains what a publishing contract should contain, and She Writes Press matched his suggestions. If you are interested, his blog is here.
There are a number of terms in the contract that have not been defined to my satisfaction.
One of these terms is “derivatives.” Does this include sequels to the novel?
The contract says nothing about a particular date for She Writes Press to publish my novel, what the New York attorney calls a “Duty to Publish.” Brooke has told me when she expects my book to be published, but this is not in the contract.
Lastly, I want subsidiary rights. These include rights to foreign publishing, motion picture, TV, audio, merchandising, and TV rights. I don’t expect any of that to happen, but, who knows?
Obviously, they are in the publishing business to make money publishing, not to take risks. They are going to be sure to make their profit, no matter what happens to me and my book.
I must go into this with my eyes and my bank account open.
I welcome any and all pertinent suggestions and comments.
In case by some strange happenstance no one has noticed, I am not an expert in any of this publishing business, SEO, WordPress, Instagram, Pinterest, Scrivener, Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc., but I am learning, and planning to let my readers know what I am learning as we go along with these posts.
Having used WordPress for years, I recently learned something about the Dashboard that I never knew. There are basically two Dashboards, and they work with different results. I thought they were merely two different ways to accomplish the same thing, but they are not. The black Dashboard is for business users (administrators); the white Dashboard is for personal users. For example, use of the black Dashboard will not let you access the free Pixel images in your Media Library. How about that?
Likely some of you already knew, but unless a person reads every word of the Support guides, or happens to come across this information, how would one know? Anyway, I hope this helps someone. It is so basic.
Yesterday I read the eight-page (plus Exhibits) publishing contract. I believe contracts can be frightening when you read all the fees you must come up with, as well as where all duties lie, and there are a lot of them. All those items you discussed are now on paper in black and white—legal, or about to be.
Many folks who have been party to real estate contracts know what I mean. That feeling you get when you are sitting at the table with your agent and are signing all those documents, one after the other. It is as though you are signing your life away.
I have only one document, yet this effort to publish my novel is a risk, as it is taking a major chunk out of my savings. My only income is a small social security check each month. I had to think hard about these facts when I learned what publication is going to cost. Brooke Warner with She Writes Press mentioned $10,000, which included their fee, editing, processing, printing, shipment, and numerous other fees, not including publicity, which could be $5,000, or more. Yes, any writers out there, take a good, hard look. These costs are standard.
I decided to walk away from the entire experience for a few hours. Watched a Netflix program. Let it all ruminate in the back of my mind.
Later that evening it was as though one of those comic lightbulbs flashed on in my head. Truly.
All my life I have had jobs that I didn’t like, but probably like many of you out there, I did them to make a living. I worked my way through college to get a degree to teach art, but I moved out of state and schools dropped art from the curriculum at the time I graduated, so I couldn’t get a job teaching.
I ended up as a secretary for years, and hated it.
Took paralegal classes, but that wasn’t fulfilling either.
Worked at an art gallery and designed and facilitated their web site, but that was only fulfilling until it turned into the same process day after day.
This novel, though. Unspoken is my dream. Unspoken is about equality, which has meaningthat is worth the risk I am taking to get it published.
I have felt more alive since I learned I would be published than in the last few years. I have learned more in the last month than I have since college. I am not merely living from day to day. I am on an adventure, an adventure that will last the next couple years and beyond. That adventure is worth $10,000 and more.
Most important. To have something in my life worth living for, something meaningful. I have never had that. My jobs were meaningless, merely survival, a means of putting food on the table, paying for the car, and taking a vacation now and then.
Even if Unspoken fails, it will have been worth the journey and the risk.
Any thoughts on your journeys and risks you have taken? Do you have a dream? What would you risk all for?
A couple weeks ago I posted a comment (found here) to what I posted on Critique Circle about deciding to publish with She Writes Press. Wednesday I spoke with Brooke Warner from She Writes Press and received her response to that comment, as follows:
This is a fascinating analysis given that it presumes that Amazon is the only retailer we sell to. Of course, it is not. Amazon accounts for about 40% of our sales. The other 60% comes from bookstores, specialty sales, direct sales, libraries, foreign sales, and elsewhere.
The number of assumptions this person makes is beyond me, honestly. It shows such a lack of understanding of the book marketplace that it’s almost astounding. To use means and averages in this way, and to include books that are pre-publication, obviously makes no sense. He’s basically asserting the final sales outcome based on data for books that haven’t been published yet. I appreciate how much work was put into the analysis, and yet the foundation is so faulty that it’s hard for me to detail all the things that are wrong with it.
But to start:
• Rank has little to do with actual sales. It represents click rate and doesn’t indicate how many actual “sell-through” copies an author gets.
• Average monthly revenue. Well, yes, if you’re including books that aren’t published yet, this number is going to be so off-base as to be meaningless.
• Average price: I don’t even understand this one. Our books sell for $16.95 (on average) and Amazon usually discounts by about 30%.
• Bookstore: I’m sorry, but what is this? Some sort of offshoot of Amazon?
So anyway, this sums up my feelings on an Amazon-only analysis of our program that has a huge reach beyond Amazon. Really interesting to me how myopic folks can be. In terms of “vanity,” it’s an outdated term. Vanity = service provider. We are not that. we are proudly hybrid: https://www.ibpa-online.org/page/hybridpublisher
I hope this helps.
When I spoke with Brooke, she was very up front with me that I could not expect to be a best-selling author. In fact, most of her authors might make back the likely $10,000 they would have to pay for publishing, marketing, printing, etc. Selling a book is an extremely competitive business. Plus, no one knows what is going to happen with the publishing industry, considering the presence of Covid-19.
Her honesty made me more comfortable than ever that I wanted to publish with She Writes Press.
More about the how and why of my decision in the next post.
I’m supposed to create an author platform with this blog. I looked up “author platform,” and got this: “everything you’re doing online and offline, to create awareness about who you are and what you do, so you can boost your brand visibility and make it easier and faster for your target audience and even the general public, to discover and connect with your brand and books.” That’s a mouthful. Let’s try words appropriate to what Unspoken is about: history, antebellum, slavery, plantations, abolitionism, bisexuality, women’s rights, secession, Texas. Love, of course, lots, requited and not. I hope y’all get into that. “Y’all” is one of those Texas words—yeah? And East Texas is the background for my story. I make a point of east, because East Texas is more like Louisiana than like Southwest Texas desert or Texas panhandle of Larry McMurtry Texas Ranger fame. I will be blogging of this fascinating historical background research as well as discuss Unspoken’s journey to publication.
I knew so little about Texas when I started over eight years ago. That long? You betcha. This is historical fiction, after all. I knew my readers would jump on every mistake I made. Plus, I have always loved history and wanted to get it right. I love a story that makes me feel I am present in that place and time. That’s one of the reason I read. When I read, I’m gone. Don’t try to talk to me. Knock me on the head if you want my attention.
Let’s back those horses a little. I have been a Civil War buff since Junior High or, Middle School, as some call it. What a mess. Families split, brother against brother. Romantic South versus Industrial North. The slave question and so much more. Ripe for all kinds of drama and character development. So much has been written about the eastern states, much less about the western theater, and practically nothing about Texas’s involvement. Then, researching on the web I discovered the diaries and journals of Terry’s Texas Rangers. After reading those journals, I had my main character and only needed to flesh him out.
In researching Texas, I discovered Stephen Austin’s Three Hundred, those southern families who, with the permission of Mexico, began settling along the Brazos River in 1822. I now own Austin’s Old Three Hundred, The First Anglo Colony in Texas, as written by their descendants, edited by Wolfram M. Von-Maszewski. I’ll put some of the more fascinating gems from this in my blog as we go along, citing the book, of course, and letting you know where you can purchase it. This is the sort of thing there is no room for in the novel, but can be interesting to other history buffs like me. My two plantation families, one growing cotton, the other tobacco, are members of this group.
Eight years of research, writing, and editing later, I have Unspoken, and a draft of the following novel, Here We Stand.
Oh. And authors must have a log line.
That is how you tell readers in one sentence what your novel is about. Yeah. A whole novel in one sentence. That takes some doing. So far, I’ve got two loglines:
Unspoken is a story of the slaves, dark secrets and passions of two of Austin’s Old Three Hundred plantation families in East Texas prior to the Civil War.
With the help of his sister and keen-witted loyalty of a slave, a sensitive boy attempts to gain his father’s respect amid the dark secrets and unruly passions of two Brazos River plantation families in pre-Civil War Texas.
The second one is a little more on point. Anyone have a favorite?
I may put these up again later for voting if I get enough readers. At present I am still learning about blogging and will let you know as I go along, if I learn how to do that voting thing.
This has been the introduction to Unspoken, in case you didn’t notice. There will be more about what it took to research the novel, as well as links to what I have already posted, and photos, lots of photos on Pinterest and here. I know folks like photos. I surely do. I have traveled to Texas and Louisiana where Unspoken takes place—beautiful country. Hope you join me and take a look. Until next time . . .
I cannot take a step further on this journey without backing up a little and speaking of the wonderful people who helped so much with editing the numerous chapters of my novel almost from its inception. Many thanks to my critique friends at Critique Circle, without whom my manuscript would never have gotten where it is today. Special thanks to my critique buddies who slogged through hours of editing with me.
I began a blog on Critique Circle as well as here, and received some interesting comments about She Writes Press, one of which I am including in this post.
I am poor with anything regarding numbers, always have been. My sister received all mathematical skills from my dad. This may be partly psychological on my part, and appears to have become worse as I have aged. Simple math is no problem, but when it comes to thought problems, it is like attempting to connect the dots—half do not connect.
This particular response concerns Amazon U.S., and is from Trevose. It goes on a bit, but I don’t want to leave anything important out:
“I searched on “she writes press” on Amazon US, in both the Kindle store and in the Book store. It returned a number of titles sorted by “featured” (whatever that means). I spot-checked about 10 of them and they were all published by “she writes press”, so it seems to have been pulling just books published by them.
“Here is the data that came back…
“Results: 103 ebooks (this is not the total, just the top titles I could survey)
“Avg Sales Rank: 388,797
“Avg Monthly Rev: $8
“Avg Price: $1.75
“Avg Number of Reviews: 72 (this seemed like a lot, but I’ve seen where these types of operations expect their authors to review n number of books they’ve previously published — so it is a ‘ladder’ not reciprocal, which keeps it from hitting Amazon’s ‘reciprocal reviews’ tripwire)
“Total Monthly Rev (for all titles combined): $863 (The 4 best selling titles accounted for about half)
“Results: 108 books (this is not the total, just the top titles I could survey)
Avg Sales Rank: 1,094,969
“Avg Monthly Rev: $139
“Avg Price: $15.02
“Avg Number of Reviews: 37
“Total Monthly Rev (for all titles combined): $13,975 (The 5 best selling titles accounted for about half)
“Keep in mind this data is just the Amazon US store. And this data makes assumptions about monthly revenue based on a snapshot of the current sales rank and price. It’s a swag. And keep in mind that this is revenue – not what the author gets. For the sake of discussion, assume the authors get half of these totals. SWP says they get 40% of author earnings for books and 20% for ebooks.
“Additionally, book sales generally have about a year life. That is, after about a year sales trail off to a fraction of their highest point (even if the highest point was really low), so even the better selling books in these lists can’t sustain for long.
“A weird aspect I saw was that almost half of the titles that came back when I pulled the data have not been published yet (some won’t publish until late this year), so a lot of the data is based on pre-publication sales. I’m not sure what to think of this.
“What we can conclude from all this? Yes, they are a vanity press that makes most of their money off of what authors pay them to publish their books (this is not a pejorative statement). These titles are clearly not generating enough cashflow to pay even one full-time staff member. They make a modest amount of money from book sales, but it is pretty small.
“We can also conclude that whatever services SWP provides and some writers have worked together to achieve some market success. On the other hand, based on this data, we can estimate that 99% of authors will never recover the $7,900 SWP charges, and probably half won’t recover even $200 of it.”
I am not familiar with Amazon publishing or anything he is commenting about. Maybe someone out there is? I will be speaking with Brooke Warner of She Writes Press this coming Wednesday and might be able to get her to respond about this then.
I should add that She Writes Press and any affiliate is in no way paying me for writing this. These are reasons why I chose them to publish my very first novel, and am thrilled that they accepted my manuscript.
I received an email from Brooke which stated that, because of Covid-19, it may be spring of 2022 before publication could take place. That gives me about two years to get an author platform and everything else in place. Two years of an amazing journey. Will some of you come along with me?