William Michael Goins


FOR CHUCK WENDIG – 278 words.

I don’t normally post any of my work to this blog, but this has been published so it belongs to me  – no cheating (write your own stuff!).


William Michael Goins                       THE PHOTOGRAPH


Five dollars.

Not nearly enough for a place to sleep and barely enough something to eat, but it is what the White man offers for a photograph.

Five dollars. Just to stand still and let him take a picture. Grandfather’s spirit leans close, his dusty breath on my ear as he laughs.

His own father, Wind-in-the-Sky, long dead, frowns, afraid I will lose my spirit to the White man and his camera.

I look at the man and shake my head. No one will ever take my spirit.

The White man smiles and moves closer – one step, then two – the last of the sun spilling like blood across his shoulder as he moves the focus ring in and out and stares at me through the camera.

“He thinks you’re Navaho,” whispers Grandfather who is not there.

“Or Zuni, maker of the rings with the blue stones,” says Wind-the-Sky, his dust again in my ears.

The White man asks my name and I take a moment to read his eyes.

“James Benson,” I tell him, making up a name from the signs I see over his other shoulder.

He nods, but I know he cannot hear that which is rising in me.

“Okay, hold still. Look right here.”

I stare into the camera’s dark eye, only four generations away from the killer of many soldiers, stealer of many horses, the stories still told Apache children at night when no White man is around.

“The Zuni called us Apachu. The enemy,” whispers my long dead father, and the click of my knife opening is the only thing heard over the growing wind.

 March 10th, 2017  
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10 Questions to Ask Before You Accept a Traditional Publishing Deal

So-called Indie publishing is really, for the most part, what was called Vanity Publishing for many, many years. What that mens is someone will publish you book for money regardless of the quality and usually with little vetting, editing, or concern about quality. Yes, there are small legitimate publishers out there but there are a LOT of people willing to publish whatever for money and they could care less about quality or contribution to the body of legitimate writing in the world. This is a guest post that has some good, basic information.

10 Questions to Ask Before You Accept a Traditional Publishing Deal
By Guest Blogger
Susan Spann

The explosion of independent publishing houses in the U.S. and abroad makes it vital for authors to investigate publishers carefully before signing a contract. While even diligent research can’t ensure you’ll avoid every possible problem, here are some questions to ask before you accept a traditional publishing deal:

Does the Contract Require You (the Author) to Pay for Anything?
If the answer is “yes,” this is not a traditional publishing house, and probably not a deal you should sign. Traditional deals don’t require the author to pay for anything, either out of pocket or by allowing the publisher to recoup expenses before calculating the author’s royalty share.*

This applies not only to publishing costs but also to marketing – legitimate publishers don’t require authors to pay the publisher or an affiliated firm for marketing services.

Traditional publishers also don’t require the author to purchase any finished books. (Most allow you to do so, but a traditional deal never involves a mandatory purchase.)

*Note: some “hybrid” presses offer authors a cost-sharing arrangement under which the author has more control and receives a higher share of the profits; however, this is not a “traditional” deal—have an agent or lawyer review any hybrid contract before you sign.

Does the Publisher Make Any Claims About Success, Sales, or Reviews?
No legitimate publisher can or will promise any author success (financial or otherwise). Any publisher that promises you sales (or good reviews) is not a legitimate publishing house. Also, beware of publishers whose websites contain statements like: “Make extra income writing books!” or “Become a bestseller with us!”

Run, don’t walk, in the opposite direction.

How Long Has the Publisher Been in Business?
This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but it’s an important point to consider. The longer a publisher has been in business, and the more books it produces, the better you can evaluate the publisher’s history of contract compliance, distribution, sales, and successfully published works.

It’s OK to take a chance on a newer publisher if you choose…but only if all of the other factors align with industry standards. Also, be aware that working with newer publishers is a risk, because publishing houses have high failure rates (among other reasons). Make sure your contract contains appropriate protections and termination rights.

How Much Publishing Experience Do the Publisher’s Owner & Editors Have?
Many independent publishers open with great intentions, but little or no experience in traditional publishing, sales, and distribution. This creates enormous risk for the publisher and the author. Before signing with any publisher, ask about the owner and editors’ industry experience. Remember: inexperienced publishers often have more difficulty negotiating contracts and complying with legal obligations–not from malice, but because they don’t have experience running a traditional publishing house.

What is the Publisher’s Reputation in the Industry?
Never, ever sign with a publishing house unless you’ve researched both the house and the publisher/editor with industry watchdogs like Publisher’s Marketplace, Writer Beware, and Preditors and Editors. Pay attention to what you see, and don’t sign with any publisher unless you can confirm its legitimacy with industry watchdog sites.

Also, talk with 2-3 of the publisher’s other authors before you sign. If the authors won’t speak with you honestly (or tell you the contract won’t let them talk), move on.

You and your work deserve a press that gets glowing reviews from authors and the industry. Don’t settle for less.

Have You Seen the Publisher’s Other Books?
Go to a bookstore (or Amazon) and find the books the publisher produces. Hold them—or look at them on an e-reader if the publisher is a digital-only press. Consider the font, the production value, the covers, and ask yourself: will I be proud if my book comes out like this? If not … you have your answer.

How Are the Publisher’s Books Distributed? Where Are They Sold?
Many small presses don’t have elaborate distribution arrangements. They may or may not have books on bookstore shelves. Find out where the publisher’s books are sold, and use that information to evaluate whether the press can support your work the way you want it to. There is no “right” answer, incidentally. Distribution is a business decision every author has the right—and the obligation—to make individually.

How Many Books Does the Publisher Release Each Year?
Generally speaking, the more books a publisher releases annually, the fewer resources the publisher has to dedicate to each individual book. Moreover, many publishers give the lion’s share of their time and resources to A-list titles by authors who already have a substantial following. That said, the answer to this question is not a deal breaker. It’s simply another business point for authors to evaluate.

Does Anything Else Seem…Odd?
Trust your instincts. They’re better than you think. If anything seems “off” about the publisher, remember: you’re better off with no publishing deal than signing a deal you later regret.

Has an Agent or Attorney Reviewed Your Contract?
Navy regulations don’t allow a compromised captain on the bridge…and every author is compromised when it comes to evaluating his or her own publishing deal. Consult a lawyer or an agent before you sign, especially if you’re not fluent in legalese.

 March 10th, 2017  
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July , 2016.

Well, where do I start?

I’m still teaching and plan to al least through Christmas, but through a really odd chain of events, I am also now a sales rep for a line of exceptional tiny homes.

Teaching is a time honored profession, blah, blah – you’ve heard all that before many times –  but it’s also notorious regarding pay. Karen and I both have taught for years, me longer than her, but neither of use was ever paid a lot for all what we need to know so we have a small bed and breakfast here too, you know, as supplemental income. Neither is unfortunately making us rich, but we don’t face “the wolf at the door” either, so that’s a good thing and we’ve had people from all over the world stay with us – from Europe to South America to the Pacific Rim, as well as all over the US and it’s really fun to get to know others. Recently had someone who is writer stay for a week while she worked on her newest book away from the day-to-day distractions of her home, and it’s alway fun to talk writing with another writer.

However, we recently decided that we wanted to look into purchasing a tiny house to use with the b&B so I’ve done a ton of research on builders all over. Incredible range of quality to say the least. We flew to the west coast to talk to one, have emailed back and forth with many others, and have been around the state (Texas – so that’s a big deal) talking to others. Odly enough, a builder whose work I’ve admire for a long time responded to our inquiry about a regional sales rep position (they didn’t have one open – we talked them into it). Now we have eight states that we’re the regional reps for and it’s going to be a fun situation since we are both very green and we live in a relatively small house ourselves (1000 square feet).

So, if you have a need for an incredibly well built tiny home that’s also RV certified, please go to www.escapetraveler.net and look around. Cool stuff and it helps keep this writer, writing.

Regarding the writing going on here  – Now working on book three of the trilogy and while I thought I’d be glad to be rid of the characters, I’m really not. They are now so real to me that they are almost like friends. Books one and two are finished and with my agent, and book three is about half complete at this time and going well. Pantsed book one, and it took a long time because I wasn’t sure where I was going with it. Outlined book two and it went much smoother and doing that with three and glad I am. Can still add chapters and segues, but I like having some idea where I’m trying to go with plot even though my people sometimes want to color outside the lines and I have to revise the outline some. Part of the creative process here I guess.

Still looking for some San Antonio area writers interested in forming a serious writing group. The only requirement is the serious part.

 July 7th, 2016  
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Well, damn. Not doing much writing at the moment as I have an as yet unexplained bacterial infection in my leg which is debilitating to say the least. Radically painful and started up in ernest a couple of days after we came back from the Grand Canyon. I’ve had something going on with it for a while and it just flared, so working on getting it better right now and hurts too much to sit at my desk just yet. Missing writing – a lot.

That said, the last book in the trilogy is coming along quite well. Up to 134 pages that are solid and lots of storyline left to wrap up the first two books and still be a standalone novel. Counting heavily on my agent to find a home for book one so the other two can continue what is really a good story about some good characters. That said, there are two publishers who have had copies a long time and I’m getting antsy about their responses, as well as the others who have been queries. This is a good trilogy and it deserves a home.

About to put together a new writing group here and possibly some classes. Considering a memoir class and also specialties ones like how to write dialogue, how to start the novel, continue one, finish up.

New meds so hopefully will be writing again soon.





 April 16th, 2016  
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Multiple books

Ah, the trilogy. Most often seen in science fiction and it seems in zombie sequence books, but there are others of us who also write trilogies  – at least one of them. Mine is historical fiction and it actually evolved from a single book and a too-big-to-tell-with-one-book issue. I had an idea that took me nearly 1200 pages to get through (and it still wasn’t finished) so the story ended up in three separate, definitive books. In reality, while it originally frustrated the heck out of me, it has worked out exceptionally well, allowing me three beginnings/middles/ends and an opportunity to visualize both the big story and the smaller ones in an entirely different way. I have worked diligently to not only keep the continuity throughout, but to make all three where a reader can read any one of them and then read the rest and not feel like they started with the wrong book. Among a rather larger numbers of writers, I’ve always been a fan of Larry McMurtry’s work – well, most of it – and I like how the Lonesome Dove books work together moving the characters forward and backward in time. My characters aren’t as age developmental as his because the time frame is shorter between the first two books is relatively short and much longer in the third, but I really like being able to show the characters from their own and then others points of view.

I also had wondered when I started this project if I would be burned out on it when through, you know, totally tired of knowing these people and their lives. Such is not the case. I love them all, even the bad guys and those seriously flawed, and hope they are able to tell the story and educate readers a little at the same time. That said, I have another book that is entirely different with my agent and plans for a good many more that are all different from each other.  If the trilogy is successful, I could always write an additional book or two about the characters showing background and life outside the trilogy’s setting, especially as there is 150+ years between one of the books and the other two.  Time and readership will tell.

Meanwhile, I diligently work on book three (books one and two are complete), enjoying connecting it to the to others while still standing alone. All three can be read as stand alones and I mean that in the fullest sense of the word. They are not like so many books where one gets left wondering what happened at the end of book one so that the writer might sell book two and later book three. These stand completely alone, but the reader should, hopefully, want to know more about the people involved and then read the other two books. Looks like a great selling ploy, but in reality, like I said at the start of this post, it’s not. It’s simply a lot of story told in three books about some interesting people where the reader hopefully enjoys the stories and leaves satisfied with the characters and maybe a bit of knowledge they didn’t have when they started any one of them – and then wants to read more.

Back to it. Still a long way from the end of book three but getting there a little more each day.

 April 7th, 2016  
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Rejected Books – Don’t be discouraged!

Okay, this is a long list, but little moves slower than the publishing business. Really. Trust me – I have editors looking at my trilogy. So here are stories, good stories, about those who hung in there and succeeded. If you trust your work, know there is a publisher out there somewhere and not all make good decisions!

After 5 years of continual rejection, the writer finally lands a publishing deal: Agatha Christie. Her book sales are now in excess of $2 billion. Only William Shakespeare has sold more.

The Christopher Little Literary Agency receives 12 publishing rejections in a row for their new client, until the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demands to read the rest of the book. The editor agrees to publish but advises the writer to get a day job since she has little chance of making money in children’s books. Yet Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling spawns a series where the last four novels consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history, on both sides of the Atlantic, with combined sales of 450 million.

Louis L’Amour received 200 rejections before Bantam took a chance on him. He is now their best ever selling author with 330 million sales.

“Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” A rejection letter sent to Dr Seuss. 300 million sales and the 9th best-selling fiction author of all time.

“You have no business being a writer and should give up.” Zane Grey ignores the advice. There are believed to be over 250 million copies of his books in print.

140 rejections stating “Anthologies don’t sell” until the Chicken Soup for the Soul series by Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen sells 125 million copies.

The years of rejection do not break his spirit. He only becomes more determined to succeed. When he eventually lands a publishing deal, such is the demand for his fiction that it is translated into over 47 languages, as The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis goes on to sell over 100 million copies.

“It is so badly written.” The author tries Doubleday instead and his little book makes an impression. The Da Vinci Code sells 80 million.

After two years of rejections stating that her fiction would have no readership, Reilly and Lee agree to publish The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, launching the career of the best-selling author Judy Blume. Combined sales: 80 million.

Having sold only 800 copies on its limited first release, the author finds a new publisher and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho sells 75 million.

“We feel that we don’t know the central character well enough.” The author does a rewrite and his protagonist becomes an icon for a generation as The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger sells 65 million.

5 publishers reject L.M. Montgomery‘s debut novel. Two years after this rejection, she removes it from a hat box and resubmits. L.C. Page & Company agree to publish Anne of Green Gables and it goes on to sell 50 million copies.

“I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.” Shunned by all the major publishers, the author goes to France and lands a deal with Olympia Press. The first 5000 copies quickly sell out. But the author Vladimir Nabokov now sees his novel, Lolita, published by all those that initially turned it down, with combined sales of 50 million.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish 250 copies. It has now sold 45 million.

“Nobody will want to read a book about a seagull.” Richard Bach‘s Jonathan Livingston Seagull goes on to sell 44 million copies.

“Undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer.” But Jacqueline Susann refuses to give up and her book the Valley of the Dolls sells 30 million.

Margaret Mitchell gets 38 rejections from publishers before finding one to publish her novel Gone With The Wind. It sells 30 million copies.

“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” Perhaps the most misguided literary critique in history. With a further 15 rejections, there remained little hope her personal thoughts would see the light of day. Eventually, Doubleday, bring the translation to the world, and The Diary of Anne Frank sells 25 million.

“A long, dull novel about an artist.” Publisher rejects Lust For Life by Irving Stone. 25 million sales.

“An irresponsible holiday story that will never sell.” Rejection of The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame. The novel did sell: 25 million copies worldwide.

His publishers Doubleday reject the first 100 pages. So the author Peter Benchley starts from scratch and Jaws sells 20 million.

Thor Heyerdahl believes his book Kon-Tiki: Across The Pacific is unique. 20 publishers disagree. The 21st takes it on and sells 20 million: one for each rejection.

Despite 14 consecutive agency rejections Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight goes on to sell 17 million copies and spends 91 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

“An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” Rejection letter sent to William Golding for The Lord Of The Flies. 15 million sales.

After 20 rejection letters, WM Paul Young self-publishes his novel The Shack. 15 million sales and a cultural phenomenon.

Three years of rejection letters are kept in a bag under her bed. The bag becomes so heavy that she is unable to lift it. But Meg Cabot does not dwell on the failure. Instead she keeps sending her manuscript out. It gets taken on and The Princess Diaries sells 15 million copies.

“Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.” L. Frank Baum persists and The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz sells 15 million.

Little, Brown & Company passes on a two book deal for Alice Walker. When complete her novel The Color Purple sells 10 million and wins The Pulitzer Prize.

26 publishers reject A Wrinkle in Time. It wins the 1963 Newbery Medal and becomes an international best-seller. 8 million sales and counting.

“Unsaleable and unpublishable.” Publisher on Ayn Rand‘s The Fountainhead. Random House takes a chance on it. It sells 7 million copies in the US alone.

After 25 literary agents reject her debut manuscript, she mails it unsolicited to a small publisher in San Francisco, MacAdam/Cage. They believe it is a classic. Upon publication, the world agrees. Translated into over 33 languages and adapted into a movie, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger sells 7 million copies.

To deal with publisher rejections, Hugh Prather decides to write a book about them in his early struggles and Notes To Myself sells 5 million.

To prove how hard it is for new writers to break in, Jerzy Kosinski uses a pen name to submit his bestseller Steps to 13 literary agents and 14 publishers. All of them reject it, including Random House, who had published it.

“It was rejected 60 times. But letter number 61 was the one that accepted me. Three weeks later we sold the book to Amy Einhorn Books.” Kathryn Stockett on the worldwide best-seller: The Help.

Rejected by publishers, Ruth Saberton leaves her 400 page manuscript Katy Carter Wants a Hero on the holiday home doormat of Richard and Judy in Cornwall. They love the book so much that their recommendation secures a publishing deal with Orion.

“Frenetic and scrambled prose.” Viking Press disagree, and publish one of the most influential novels of all time. Since 1957 it has regularly sold at least 60,000 copies every year. Which has seen On The Road by Jack Kerouac, become a multi-million best-seller.

5 London publishers turn it down. The little book finally finds a home: Life of Pi by Yann Martel, winning The Man Booker Prize in 2002.

100 literary agents and publishers reject it. Andersen Press does not and Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace wins the Costa Children’s Book Award.

Rejected by 20 literary agents and publishers, one editor believes in the book and Catherine O’Flynn‘s What Was Lost wins the 2008 Costa Book Award.

Rejected by his agent because it is narrated by a dog, Garth Stein switches to Folio Literary Management and The Art Of Racing In The Rain sells for 7 figures.

“An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.” Publisher rejects The War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells. It is soon published in 1898, and has been in print ever since.

“Our united opinion is entirely against the book. It is very long, and rather old-fashioned.” Publisher rejects Moby Dick by Herman Melville. It is later published by Harper & Brothers, who release a first print run of 3000 copies. Only 50 of these sell during the author’s lifetime.

After 22 rejections, Dubliners is finally published. But it only sells 379 copies in the first year. James Joyce bought 120 of them.

T.S. Eliot as head of Faber & Faber rejects it because of “Trotskyite politics.” Secker & Warburg spot potential, and George Orwell’s Animal Farm becomes a best-seller.

“An absurd story as romance, melodrama or record of New York high life.” Yet publication sees The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald become a best-selling classic.

“Stick to teaching.” Louisa May Alcott refuses to give up on her dream. Little Women sells millions, and is still in print 140 years later. Unlike the name of the publisher who told her to give up.

Rejected by leading publishers, the 21-year-old finally persuades a small publishing company Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, to take a chance on her debut. They agree, but do not put her name on the cover, and only print 500 copies in 1818. Booksellers only bought 25 of them. Despite a named credit in 1822, sales did not improve, until a 3rd edition was published by Henry Colburn & Richard Bentley in 1831. Word of mouth combined with some of the finest prose ever written in the genre, quickly sees Frankenstein by Mary Shelley become a best-seller.

“I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say. Apparently the author intends it to be funny.” Publisher rejects Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, a novel believed to have been given its name because it was the 22nd publisher, Simon and Schuster, who agreed to take it on. To date: 10 million sales.

“Older children will not like it because its language is too difficult.” On Watership Down by Richard Adams, one of the fastest-selling books in history.

After Random House reject his debut novel The Long Walk the author puts it away and ponders his next move. He decides to write a new novel: Stephen King.

“We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Stephen King’s Carrie sells 1 million in the first year alone.

“The American public is not interested in China.” Pearl S Buck‘s The Good Earth becomes the best-selling US novel two years running in 1931/32, and wins The Pulitzer Prize in the process.

With 23 rejections, Frank Herbert finally lands a publisher, and Dune becomes the best-selling science-fiction novel of all time.

24 literary agencies turned down The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. The 25th did not and sold it to Time Warner one week later for $1 million dollars.

31 publishers in a row turn down The Thomas Berryman Number. It wins the Edgar for Best Novel becoming a best-seller for James Patterson. An author with 19 consecutive number #1′s on the New York Times best-seller list and sales of 220 million.

16 literary agencies and 12 publishers reject A Time To Kill. Its modest print run of 5000 quickly sells out, as it goes on to become a best-seller for its author: John Grisham. Combined sales of 250 million.

Despite 17 rejections Patrick Dennis in 1956 becomes the first author in history to have 3 books ranked on the New York Times best-seller list at the same time. He had worked through publishers in alphabetical order. The one that finally agreed to take him on: Vanguard Press.

“It’s Poland and the rich Jews again.” Editor at Alfred A. Knopf publishing house rejects Isaac Singer. His book Satan in Goray becomes a best-seller, and the author himself later wins the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978.

30 publishers tell Laurence Peter that his book The Peter Principle will never sell. In 1969, a mere 18 months later it is a number #1 best-seller.

“This will set publishing back 25 years.” Rejecting The Deer Park. Its author Norman Mailer goes on to win The Pulitzer Prize, twice.

Alex Haley writes for eight years and receives 200 consecutive rejections. His novel Roots becomes a publishing sensation, selling 1.5 million copies in its first seven months of release, and going on to sell 8 million. Such is the success that The Pulitzer Prize award the novel a Special Citation in 1977.

Taking on the advice of his 76 rejections Jasper Fforde writes a new book The Eyre Affair and it becomes an instant New York Times best-seller.

“Every last publisher in England rejected my first two books.” So Simon Kernick writes a third and The Business Of Dying lands him a publishing deal with Bantam.

“Utterly untranslatable.” Jorge Luis Borges tries a different publisher. He wins 50 Literary Prizes and dies with his books in many languages.

“We suggest you get rid of all that Indian stuff.” Publisher to Tony Hillerman, on his best-selling Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels.

Rejected by all publishers in the UK and US, the author self-publishes his novel in Florence, Italy, using his own press in 1928. After being banned for nearly 30 years, Grove Press publish the controversial work in 1959. A year later Penguin finally launch the UK edition. The book quickly sells millions, as Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence becomes a worldwide best-seller.

Rejected by several publishers Jonathan Littell‘s Les Bienveillantes becomes the number #1 best-seller in France and wins The Goncourt Literary Prize.

Her literary agent believes in her. The publishers of New York do not. So Emily Giffin flies to London to write Something Borrowed and it becomes a New York Times best-seller.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as an editor at Doubleday sees potential in Dorothy West‘s unfinished novel The Wedding and it later becomes a best-seller.

“Rejection slips could wallpaper my room.” Dennis Kimbro on Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice used in seminars throughout the US.

Despite initial rejections, E.C.Osondu persists with his book Waiting and it wins the 2009 African Booker.

Rejected by everyone except Heinemann. Chinua Achebe‘s Things Fall Apart becomes the most widely-read book in modern African literature.

“I rack my brains why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.” French editor rejects Remembrance of Things Pasts by Marcel Proust. Now regarded as a literary classic, its word count would be a challenge for any editor: 1.5 million – making it the longest novel in the history of literature.

“We found the heroine boring.” Mary Higgins Clark switches genre to suspense and her second book gets a $1.5 million advance. She is now on a $60 million book deal.

“This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do not publish.” Publisher rejects Crash by J.G. Ballard. The author immediately declares this as sign of “complete artistic success.” The novel goes on to inspire countless songs, and the film adaptation wins the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996.

The Alfred A. Knopf publishing house turned down: Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, Sylvia Plath, and Mario Puzo‘s The Godfather.

The E.E. Cummings best-seller The Enormous Room has a dedication page ‘With No Thanks To’ all 15 publishers who turned it down.

“He hasn’t got any future.” Yet, publication of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold leads to its author, John le Carré, having one of the most distinguished careers in literary history.

Robert M. Pirsig‘s Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is in the Guinness Book Of Records for 121 rejections, more than any other best-seller.

“Hopelessly bogged down and unreadable.” The 1968 letter from an editor did not deter the author, Ursula K. Le Guin, as her book The Left Hand of Darkness goes on to become just the first of her many best-sellers, and is now regularly voted as the second best fantasy novel of all time, next to The Lord of the Rings.

After 21 rejections, Richard Hornberger switches to the pseudonym, Richard Hooker, and his debut novel becomes a phenomenal publishing success, spawning an Oscar-Winning Film Adaptation, and one of the most watched Television shows in history: M*A*S*H.

“Good God, I can’t publish this.” So it finds itself at the offices of publishers Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith instead, who immediately spot the talent of its author, and in 1931 propel him and his controversial, Sanctuary, into the literary limelight. The author, William Faulkner, goes on to become one of the most critically praised novelists of all time.

The estate of best-seller Jack London in San Francisco, the House Of Happy Walls has a collection of some of the 600 rejections he received before selling a single story.

 March 27th, 2016  
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Between semesters, I was able to get a lot of writing done so book two is first draft finished and now it’s time to do all the work that it takes to really make it a submittable manuscript. Most people think when it’s complete, meaning you reach “the end,” that a book is finished and that’s really just the half of it. Before this goes to my agent I will read through it slowly again for continuity of scenes then I will read it several times looking for grammatical errors and do a general line edit for faults of any kind – grammar, format, spacing, left out words, double letters, missing punctuation – all of that and more.

Once It is where I think it’s close to complete and formatted properly, then it’s time for others to rad it for effect. This is where writers sometimes fault as many give it to mom or a friend and they love it (because how many writers do they know?) and the feedback is disproportionately good. That’s not what a writer is after at this point. Tell me you got lost here, or that a character wasn’t drawn clearly, or that the sequencing doesn’t make sense, or that when I did a time transition you had no idea what was then going on. I see it as I want it seen, not as a reader might see it since I KNOW what it’s supposed to say. I NEED feedback.

Deadly honest, punch-me-in-the-stomach feedback. The book only gets stronger when those who red it are honest and “I really like it” doesn’t tell me anything. What did you like? Why?  Could I have told it better? That sort of feedback is what any real writer wants and needs. It’s about the manuscript getting better and the writer figuring out where he/she needs to improve their craft and trust me – all of us can improve somewhere, even those we consider the greats of literature, past and present. Faulkner flourishes, Hemingway can be too obtuse, King drags sometimes. It’s okay, writing the novel isn’t a perfect venture. W. Somerset Maugham never made a more correct statement than when he said: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

 January 26th, 2016  
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8/2015 Creative Process

This is how the creative process often works – at least for me.


 December 1st, 2015  
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8/2015 Libraries

this is a libraryLibraries. I have, since a child, had a love affair with libraries. When I was barely twelve, I rode my bike across town to the public library, walked in, and boldly asked to see the head librarian. A moment later she came out, looked me over head to foot, and asked what I wanted.

“I want to be a Renaissance Man,” I said, my voice low but firm.

She tilted her head slightly and I could tell she wasn’t sure if I was messing with her or not. “And you know what that is?”

“Yes, Ma’am. And I want to be one.”

“And you read, right?” she asked still not sure if I was messing with her or not as she invited me into her office and started to ask questions.

“Yes, Ma’am. I started reading when I was five.”

“No, I’m asking what have you read and I don’t mean comic books or things of that nature. Have you ever read anything of substance?”

It took me a while to convince her, but when I explained I’d read Guy de Maupassant, Victor Hugo, some Shakespeare, etc., she tilted her head again and frowned. A moment later, she shook her head, took a book off a shelf in her office, and handed it to me.

“This is my personal book. Read it and if you come back next Saturday we’ll talk then.”

I left, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in my bike’s basket, and when they opened the following Saturday, I was there, waiting for the doors to open. We did this for over a year, with me coming in on Saturdays and then discussing what I’d read with her before she gave me another book to read. Sometimes it would be fiction – Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, or maybe London. Other times it would be non-fiction – maybe one about the Roman Empire, some part of World War II, or a biography of someone important (I real a lot of biographies). I almost always had them read before the following Saturday, though sometimes other things got in the way, especially in the summers.

That was many years ago and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t thank my mother for teaching me to read and for sharing her love of books with me. Thanks, Mom, I really, really mean it. Unfortunately, I have no idea what happened to the head librarian at the local library. One day she was simply gone.

As I got older, I carried piles of book out of the library – usually 6-7 or more – at least until I could afford to buy books for my own library. That experience is a part of why it pains me so to discover my students, college freshmen for the most part, have never read a novel. Not one. Ever. And it’s also why, when I do have a student who discovers that marvelous world, I try to stay in touch with them. Several still email me for reading suggestions. One discovered Hemingway, then Steinbeck, Faulkner, and London from me and I can’t help but hope it in some way it pays the librarian back for not laughing at a skinny twelve year-old with lofty ambitions who still reads 2-3 books a week around classes and my own writing of fiction.

 December 1st, 2015  
 Comments Off on 8/2015 Libraries