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Is it any wonder so many authors are turning to self-publishing? Not to me and probably not to the authors–myself included–who are publishing their own books. If you aren’t a celebrity, an athlete, been a nanny for some has-been (and never- shoud-have-been–Kate Gosselin, I’m looking at you) celebrity, been tried for murder (whether guilty or not), been tried as an accomplice to murder, or any number of things that shoved you into the spotlight for your undeserved 15 minutes of fame, then you may as well give up on being published by any of the big publishers.

Oh, wait, I forgot, if you were raised by wolves in the woods (or only imagined you were), a part of a gang in L.A. (or only imagined you were), or a recovering drug addict (or only imagined you were), then you can probably get a publisher interested in your story (made-up or not).

And now comes news of Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, both receiving publishing contracts so they can tell us the story of their relationship, murder trial, and imprisonment in Italy. Do we really need to read about it from their point of view? I don’t think so but hey, I don’t have to buy their books when they come out (and believe me, I won’t) nor do I have to read them. I’m not interested in hearing their side of the story because I’ve already read/heard it.

And I have to wonder if there are really that many people out there who will buy these books with their stories that are as stale as day-old-bread? I guess there must be judging by the fact that the publishers are apparently signing them as fast as they can.

\Rant off

/BSP on

If you’d like to read a great self-published story, try Whistling Woman by CC Tillery (that’s me with my sister), only .99 on Kindle and coming soon to print!

It’s a wonderful story about our great-aunt Bessie, based on family
stories and chock-full of history about the mountains of western North
Carolina, Cherokee legends and medicine, and the Melungeon
people. Set in the town of Hot Springs around the turn of the 20th
century, it’s historical southern literature at its best!
(I can’t believe I just typed that but I happen to believe it and I really
need to get over my aversion to self-promotion!)

\BSP off

 

Today’s my birthday and I’ve spent the day doing only things I enjoy doing.  I started the day reading, and with the exception of a few phone calls from family and friends, managed to while away the entire morning lost in a book.  After a completely non-nutritious lunch, I decided the next thing I wanted to do was work on the most important thing in my life right now: Whistling Woman.

First a little backstory; Whistling Woman is a book my sister, Christy Tillery French, and I co-wrote about the life of our great aunt.  It’s part fact, part fiction, and includes a lot of the stories we grew up hearing from our dad and our great aunt Bessie when she was alive.  Christy calls it faction–love that word!–and it works but I’m not really sure what recognized genre it would fall under.  Historical fiction?  Southern literature?  Whatever, it takes place in Hot Springs, North Carolina, in the late 1800’s and there’s quite a bit of history and folklore pertaining to the mountains of western NC, as well as the family stories.

We finished the book a couple of weeks ago and since then have been trying to decide which way to go now that the manuscript is complete.  We first thought, try for an agent and hope they can sell it to one of the big publishers in NY.  But then we started thinking about the time factor.  While you could say the book was inspired by our great aunt’s life, the real inspiration is our dad.  He told us most of the stories that play such an important part of the book, and he continues to tell us the stories today–thank God!  But you see, Daddy will turn 83 years old next month, and while he’s healthy and he comes from a family that is long-lived, you just never know.  One of his oil paintings will grace the cover and it’s very important to us to be able to give him the book so…we started looking at smaller publishers and POD publishers.  Still a wait in most cases so then we started thinking of self-publishing, something both of us swore we’d never do.

Oh, how the not-so-mighty have fallen.  Yep, we’ve decided the thing to do is self-publish.  Not only does it give us more control over the book and how it’s presented, it’s a lot quicker.  As an added bonus, we wouldn’t be under contract with a publisher and any money the book makes comes back to us without anyone else taking a cut.

Can we all say Scrooge-alicious?  I can and I do because while I have been making money with my writing and I know Christy has too, this is a book from our hearts, a true labor of love, so why share the money from our hard work with someone else?

So, that’s how we came to the decision to self-publish.  And today, on my birthday, I decided to get down to business.  I sent an email off to a local printer, BP Solutions in Asheville, to a woman who comes highly recommended by a member of one of the writing groups I belong to–thanks Celia!–and less than 5 minutes after I pressed “send” I get a phone call from her.  Hmm…as Aunt Bessie would probably say, it’s a sign.  I have to say I agree with her.

I also have to say, if being a self-published author is half as fun as being a traditionally published author, it’s going to be a heck of a fun ride!  Oh, I know, it’s a big change and one that will involve a lot of hard work, but it’s a change that has me excited and looking forward to what comes next.  Not a bad 56th birthday present, if I do say so myself!

Hilarious and depressing, not to mention incomprehensible–at least to me–article at Huffington Post.  Be sure and click on the “most obnoxious publishing stories of 2010” link in the last paragraph–if you dare.  Seriously, what can the publishers be thinking?

Oh wait, I know the answer to that…money, money, money.  Who cares if the writing sucks, as long as it sells.  Right?  Right!

On a happier note, topped 29K words on Sun Shadows today.  Woo-hoo!  I’m slowly getting back into the groove.  Biggest problem I’m having right now is ideas for the last book in the series keep popping into my head and I have to stop to jot them down.  Oh well, at least I’m writing and the MS flare-up is getting better with every day.

Also, only two weeks till opening day.  Yay, go Red Sox!  And good choice, Tito, for choosing Jon Lester to lead us off!

Yesterday, when I posted my thoughts and feelings about the Cassie Edwards plagiarism thing, I stayed away from Ms. Edwards’ publishers.  Like most everyone, I was outraged when the letter from Penguin/Signet came out saying she’d done nothing wrong, but they’ve since retracted that statement and said they will investigate.  No word from her other publishers yet–or if there has been, I missed it.  I have no doubt it’s going to be a while before we hear anything else from Penguin/Signet, so I’ll wait until I hear their verdict before I address the publisher issue further.  

As for Ms. Edwards, like I said in my previous post, I feel a small amount of pity for her, and I imagine she just wants this whole thing to go away so she can get on with her life and her career.  Sad to say, that’s probably what will happen.  If she can endure the storm currently raging against her and a slap or two on the wrist, all will be well in her world again at some point in the future.

We have only to look to Janet Dailey for proof of that.  Ms. Dailey is a proven plagiarist, was even gutsy–or stupid–enough to steal from Nora Roberts, the best and the most widely-read romance writer in the business.  She was caught, taken to court, claimed it was a case of psychogical stress or some such nonsense, and a few years later landed another contract with another publisher.  She’s back to writing, her books are being published and all is right in her world.  

I think the same thing will likely happen to Ms. Edwards.  She has a product to sell, she’s made a lot of money for her publishers in the past, and like Janet Dailey, someone, somewhere, at some point in time, is going to offer her another contract.  I don’t agree with it, but the fact is Cassie Edwards sells, and that’s what a publisher is going to look at; how much money her books made in the past and how much money they might possibly make in the future.  Some publisher, willing to take a chance, will sign her and if her first post-plagiarism book makes them money, she’ll be offered another contract after that one–probably for more money–and so on and so on and so on.

The thing is…for me, this raises the question of how do Ms. Dailey, or Ms. Edwards–if my prediction comes true–deal with being a known cheat in their chosen profession?  How do they have the guts to go out there and do book signings after what’s been said and proven about them?  How do they withstand the constant snickers and finger-pointing aimed in their direction when they do?

After giving it a good deal of thought, I think I know the answer; confidence in one’s self and belief in one’s writing.  

I don’t have that, but I’m hoping it’s a learned trait and will come with time.  Janet Dailey has it and I suspect, so does Cassie Edwards.  It’s an admirable quality, one I’d like to have, but if I do ever get to that point, I hope I don’t have to go through the kind of public ridicule these women have gone through to get it.  Not that I feel sorry for them, they’re both cheats in my eyes, and they brought it on themselves.  But after all was said and done, at least in Ms. Dailey’s case, she came out…well, I won’t say the better for it, but she survived and is once again doing what she loves.  The jury’s still out on Ms. Edwards.

So, to all my fellow struggling authors, I hope you take note of the lessons buried beneath the feelings of outrage, disgust, and betrayal in this whole Cassie Edwards thing; believe in yourself and your writing.

Because when you get right down to it, that’s all that matters. 

Do you ever have one of those days when your mind can’t seem to settle on any one thing but is constantly jumping around like a jackrabbit on drugs?  Well, I’ve been going through a string of days like that.  Haven’t gotten any writing done to speak of and for the first time in years, I didn’t put up my Christmas tree on the day after Thanksgiving.  Just wasn’t in the mood.  What’s up with that?  Usually Christmas is my favorite time of year.  I count down the days for months, waiting for Thanksgiving when I can put up my tree and then dive headlong into the season.

Not happening this year and I’m not sure why, but I think perhaps it’s because I submitted my paranormal romance, Unwiling Angel, to another publisher even though I have no idea how things with the first publisher, Twilight Fantasies, are going to turn out.  I just don’t know if it was the right thing to do, but I was sick of biding my time while the owners of TFP decide what they’re going to do, so I submitted.  I didn’t try to hide anything from the new publisher and I have to tell you, I was blown away when they wrote back saying they’d like to offer me a contract.

That’s when the doubts started to set in.  I hesitated, worried that I was going to drag them into this mess with TFP and okay, I’ll admit it, also worried that my writing career would be hurt in some way if I signed the contract.  I talked to my lawyer and he advised me not to sign, but to wait a few more months until we know a little bit more about what Twilight’s going to do.  So, I wrote the new publisher and explained why I wouldn’t be signing the contract and…

the owner called me at home!  That one really knocked me for a loop.  I mean, it’s extremely flattering that they were willing to take a chance on the manuscript in the first place, but to call me at home and give me the reasons she thought it was okay for me to sign with her company?  That was, to say the least, over the top pleasing and gratifying!  It also warmed my heart because of all the books and stories I’ve written, this one is my favorite.  I really want to see it published.   Perhaps I was blinded by that, but this morning I followed my heart, signed the contract and sent it back to them.

The thing is…my mind is still worried.  Why?  Well, I’ve narrowed it down to three things:

1)  I had been thinking of putting in some extra work on the manuscript; adding about thirty-five thousand words, taking it from novella to novel length; fleshing out the love story between the heroine and the hero; and while I was at it, spicing it up a little bit.

2)  This is another new e-publisher and I’ve been burned twice–well, actually I was only singed on the first one, but the second one was a full-out, writhing-in-agony, burning-at-the-stake conflagration–and I swore I’d never take that chance again.

3)  I know several authors who will, like my lawyer, think I’ve done the wrong thing.  I’m not looking forward to sharing this news with them.

Okay, I think I hit the nail on the head with that last one–selling a book should be a happy occasion.  Right?  Oh hell, it should be a screaming-from-the-rooftop, champagne-corks-popping, day-long-happy-dance!  That’s how I felt with every book and short story I’ve sold, and the fact that this publisher is interested enough to take a chance on my novella, knowing that if TFP files for bankruptcy, the rights could be held up for unknown amounts of time in a court case, should at least edge that celebration up to a week-long event…but I’m just not feeling it right now.

Hopefully, once I announce it, my friends and fellow authors will surprise me.  I’m pretty sure my lawyer won’t, but hey, he’s a lawyer.  What can you expect?  This was a decision made from the heart and everybody knows lawyers don’t have hearts–oops!  Sorry Paul, couldn’t resist that one! 

All kidding aside, I’m hoping some day I might be able to look back on this and know following my heart was the right thing to do.

Last week was an exciting week for me as a writer.  I received my signed contract back from my new publisher, L&L Dreamspell, along with a welcome from the owners, and an invitation to join their author group.  My days were spent up-dating my web site–which still needs a lot of work!–polishing the blurb for my upcoming book, Snow Shadows–I think I finally got it right!–and writing–or trying to write–a bio for my author page on LLD’s web site.  Ugh!  I really, really, really hate doing those things!  What I didn’t spend much time doing was writing.  I only managed to churn out a few thousand words and with Thanksgiving coming up this Thursday, I’m pretty sure I won’t get much written this week either. 

That sucks, but I’m not complaining.  I consider myself very blessed to have a book–or three–coming out in print next year, to be able to spend time working on projects of this nature–okay, let’s be honest here, to waste a lot of time doing what others could do in a mere fraction of the time I spend doing them–and to…well, I won’t say enjoy, but at the very least, to be challenged by what I’m doing.

I was never much for challenges before, but these days I consider myself something of an expert.  What happened to change me?  Multiple Sclerosis.  I was diagnosed five years ago and since then, challenges have become a daily part of my life because the most predictable thing about MS is…it’s never predictable.  I have days when I struggle just to get out of bed and get dressed and I have days when I start out fine then the fatigue suddenly descends and knocks me flat.  I have days when my balance is so bad I have trouble walking and I have days when my thought processes don’t click the way they should.  And then there are the days when the monster goes into hiding and I’m not even aware it’s there.  For me, as I imagine it is for everybody with this or any other incurable disease, each day is a crap shoot, you just never know what you’re going to get. 

The thing is…whatever challenge MS throws my way, each day is also a blessing because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from having MS, it’s to value each day and do whatever you can to make it count.  It’s a good policy to have, don’t you think? 

So this year on Thanksgiving if I’m asked what I’m thankful for, MS is going to be on my list–not for having it, but for the things it’s taught me.  Maybe I’m looking for the silver lining to this cloud that at times obliterates the sun from my life and at other times only hovers on the horizon, but it’s my cloud and it’s not going to go away.  I can either embrace it or let it smother me.  

I choose to throw a congenial arm around its shoulders and make it…well, if not exactly a friend, at least a bearable companion.

Okay, I wasn’t going to write about this, but the fact is, I’m still mad about it and I can’t think of any other way to get it off my mind.  So, I’m going to get it all down, and I apologize if it’s all a little garbled and incoherent, but hopefully once I get through with this blog entry, that’ll be the end of it.

A little background first, I’ve been locked in a battle with an epublisher for the rights to my book, Unwilling Angel, which won first place in their Zuzu’s Petals writing contest and was published by them.  After various breaches of contract, I wrote them and told them I wanted my rights back.  They, in turn, wrote me back and tried to blame me–and a few other authors who were asking for their rights back–for the whole mess. 

Now, while I have written a little about this fight, I’ve managed to avoid coming right out and saying the publisher’s name.  Not that it would’ve taken a genius to figure it out, but I at least tried to keep my mouth shut and not spread vicious rumors.  As of this past weekend, that’s over with.  Last Monday, Twilight Fantasies Publications shut down their web site and on Saturday, they shut down the author’s loop, the reader’s group, and their blog site–all without having the courage to come out and warn the authors who had remained loyal to them.  No word, no explanation, not even a “go jump in the lake,” even though the authors who were still with them were practically begging them to post something on the author’s loop and explain what was going on.  They didn’t see fit to do that and the lack of explanation has taken me to a whole new level of fury.  Not for myself–well, okay, a little for myself–but more for all the authors they left hanging.

Okay, so Twilight Fantasies Publications is owned by a husband and wife team.  I know the wife is a teacher and it’s my understanding the husband is too.  The wife is also an author who writes erotic romance under a pseudonym, and the husband seems to be very protective of her.  To a point.  When all of this started happening, he was quick to cite her illness as the reason behind the lack of communication and their failure to honor their contracts.  But he, as co-owner, never stepped up to the plate to do anything to help her run the business, just made excuses and quite arrogantly suggested that it was the fault of the authors because they weren’t doing what needed to be done to keep the business afloat.  WTF?  It’s his business, and while most authors are happy to do whatever is needed to sell their books, most aren’t willing–or able–to step in and run a publishing company.

So, in my eyes, he’s no more than a spoiled brat who knows he’s in trouble and is doing everything he can to point the finger of blame at someone else.  Sure, he took up for her, but if he really was fully behind her, he would have stopped issuing excuses and done whatever he could to save the business.

He didn’t, he was way too busy trying to find someone to share the guilt and in so doing, he shoved the guilt firmly back in her corner.  She will be the one to suffer for all of this–if, that is, she has even a smidge of conscious–and the suffering isn’t likely to end with the demise of her business.

As a teacher, in a state which I’m told frowns on anything that even approaches pornography, I have to wonder what will happen to their careers if all this gets out.  She writes erotic romance–something a lot of people say is nothing more than dressed-up porn–and beyond that, she and her husband were running a business that dealt in erotic books.  Doesn’t matter that they also published books which were “sweet romance,” most of the books they were selling were erotic.  And I think that’s the only thing the condemners will see.  As a teacher, I don’t think I’d want to be in her shoes–or his either, for that matter–if that ever comes out.

Now, as to her being an author, what I want to know is how could she do what she did?  She’s an author, for Pete’s sake, how could she treat other authors that way and live with herself?  Didn’t she think about how she would feel if she were the one on the receiving end of that type of misbehavior by a publisher, or is she, like her husband, so childishly arrogant that she thought she could get away with it by pointing her finger at everybody else?

The thing is…what effect this whole ugly mess will have on either or both of her careers is yet to be seen.  I have a feeling it isn’t going to be pretty when it all comes out.  I mean, I’ve lived in the south for most of my life and I can’t see the residents of the Bible Belt letting her–or him–off easy.

So, one career down, one to go.  I can’t imagine some other publisher, especially one who knows what she did, accepting anything she writes for publication.  One thing I’ve learned, cyber-space is a small world.  Now maybe there are some out there who might take a chance and publish something by her, and I have to say it’s my wish that she finds them.  But, I also have to be honest and tell you, if she does find someone who will publish something she writes, I hope they’re as unscrupulous and uncaring of their authors’ feelings as she and her husband were.

Because, well, payback’s a bitch.

Okay, in between talking baseball with my fellow Red Sox fans–of which there aren’t many down here in NC–and watching the World Series games–Go Sox!  Three down, only one more to go!–I’ve been spending my time immersed in Cherokee legends and myths while I research the second book in my Eternal Shadows series–the first book, Snow Shadows, is now under contract with L&L Dreamspell and is scheduled to come out in print and ebook next year!  Woo-hoo!

Sorry, it’s difficult to curb my enthusiasm over that one!

So anyway, amid all the sites on the Internet which deal with the history of the Cherokee, I’ve found one that originates from Indiana.  Indiana?  Yep, there’s a branch of Cherokee Indians in Indiana called the Lone Wolf Band, and they have an interesting history of their own.  Here’s the link if you want to check it out: 

http://www.skyenet.net/~myersdk/toc.html

I clicked on the site originally because it came up when I searched for “Cherokee Religious Beliefs.”  That page on their site was interesting so I clicked over to their main page.  And well, wow!  There are a number of pages, dealing with everything from history to spiritual beliefs, and I took the time to read them all.  As a result, I’m even more enthralled with my ancestors than I was before. 

As I was reading my way through the many different pages, the one titled “Are you Cherokee?” kept catching my eye, but I resisted clicking on it.  Why?  Well, my great aunt always said, “one drop of Cherokee blood is enough to make you Cherokee,” but there are many who don’t feel that way.  A lot of tribe members today consider only those who can prove their heritage with documentation true members of the Cherokee tribe.  My family can’t do that, we have no legal documentation that my great-great-great grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee.  So I avoid pages like that.  I know I’m Cherokee and I don’t want–or need–anybody telling me I’m not.

But the rest of the site was so engrossing that I overcame my deep-seated resistance, braced myself and clicked on that dreaded page anyway.  And I hate to repeat myself, but well, wow!  The page begins with a prophecy from our ancestors that the new century  (my first thought was the 20th, but on another page this site says it’s the 21st) “would bring forth many people of Cherokee blood that want to rejoin the heritage that had been hidden from them.”  The prophecy is told in detail on the “Return of the Buffalo” page and it’s fascinating reading.  A little like the predicitons of Nostradamus, far-seeing and eerily accurate.

The thing is, it goes on to offer an explanation as to why my family doesn’t have the “legal documentation” so many say we need if we want to claim to be a part of the Cherokee tribe.  The page says:    

“During and after the removal of the people, times became very hard. So the government devised yet another way to assist in the extermination of the Indians. The government offered those Indian people their own plots of land and also gave them up to $5000.00 in cash so that they could live and farm their own lands. They even offered them slaves. But this was not without a catch. To do this the government required these families to denounce their Indian heritage and to never speak of it again. The government wanted these Indians to live as whites and because times were so hard for these people, many accepted.”

That little historical tidbit is something my great aunt never told me and I never found in all my research, and I’ll be honest, it feels incredible to know that Aunt Bessie was right; even with that one drop of Cherokee blood that flows through my veins, I am Cherokee.

That speaks to my soul and warms my heart.  Enough so that when I read the part about the so-called Cherokee “experts” who refer to people like me as a “Wannabe,” or even more derogatory,  a “Twinkie,” I laughed. 

Me, a Twinkie.  Who’d’ve thought?  I just might have a t-shirt printed up!

So thanks to the Lone Wolf Band of Cherokee Indians in Indiana.  You’ve confirmed–in my mind and heart!–my heritage, given me a few ideas to be included in my next book, and lifted my spirits all at the same time!

Wa-do!  (Thank you in Cherokee)

…He opens a window.  Sure, we’ve all heard that old saying or a variation of it at some point in our life, and most of us probably smile knowingly or roll our eyes at the banality of it.  I used to be an eye-roller, but as of today, I’ve joined the ranks of those who wear an enlightened smile.

What changed my attitude?  Well, first, I’ll offer up my horoscope for the day:

The good news is that your career is about to take a very exciting turn — the bad news is that it might also take up a lot more of your personal time, at least for a while. Your past problems at work are all water under the bridge, and you have learned some very valuable lessons. 

I usually don’t pay much attention to my horoscope, just read it and move on, but today it couldn’t be more right.  Take the first sentence, “The good news is your career is about to take a very exciting turn…”  Okay, yesterday I was offered a contract from a print publisher on my sensual paranormal romance, Snow Shadows.  I signed the contract this morning and put it in the mail.  “Exciting turn” is an understatement, and the next part about it taking up a lot more of my personal time is yet to be proven, but it’s probably spot-on…and I don’t mind a bit!  

Now, the second sentence.  It starts with, “Your past problems at work are all water under the bridge…”  Well, my ongoing battle with my other publisher is just that, ongoing, but it does seem to be coming to an end.   Then it goes on to say, “and you have learned some very valuable lessons.”  I certainly have.  And for that I’d like to take a moment here to offer my thanks to the other authors and editors who are going through this battle with me.  They’ve been incredibly supportive, unbelievably generous with their knowledge, and an unflagging source of comfort when I needed it most.

The thing is…with all that’s been happening in my life lately, my faith in God has been on a bit of a down-swing.  I hated that, but I couldn’t seem to stop it from happening.  Then yesterday, when I received the contract offer, I’ll be honest and tell you God was the furthest thing from my mind.  Perhaps I was too excited or maybe I was so high up in the clouds that the thin air was clouding my thinking.  Who knows?  But when I read my horoscope this morning and that old saying popped into my brain, I couldn’t roll my eyes…because I suddently realized I was now living proof of its validity.

“When God closes a door, He opens a window.”  Oh, indeed.  The closed door for me was having to fight to get the rights to my book back from a publisher who wasn’t honoring the terms of their contract.  The open window–and in my case I got not just one, but two–is the group of friends who have been so wonderful in a time of need, and the new contract with a print publisher.

God may have closed the door, but he most certainly opened a window…or two.

Whistling Woman by CC Tillery

Winds of Fate

Storm Shadows

Snow Shadows

PMS Anthology

Romance of My Dreams