Sunday, December 9, 2007

When Mary Connealy invited me to write about my contest experience, my first thought was what experience? Then I thought about my writing journey, compared it to others in my writing group and realized I do have experience.
Like many of you, I’ve wanted to be a writer most of my life. I used to have a 1 hour commute, which gave me loads of time to spin yarns in my head. Finally a friend gave me a couple of Dee Henderson books and I was hooked on Inspirational Romance.
My first three works were historical – westerns. Naturally I thought they were the best books ever written. Not! I’ve learned a great deal about this craft since starting that first MS. The most important and hardest lesson is this: when they tell you edit, edit, edit they aren’t being mean! I finished my first novel, did a little copy editing and pronounced it complete. Wrong! But I had to enter a few contests to find out how wrong.
Early in my journey I discovered RWA – something else I thank Dee Henderson for (I’d been given Danger In The Shadows, a RITA winner). I joined and entered the Golden Heart contest. I entered other contests, too. I didn’t agree with the judges, until much later. I wrote three stories, getting better with each. In my first there’s multiple POV’s, which is okay except I head hop. By book three I’d kept to just 2 POV’s but was still head hopping. In my current MS there are only 2 POV’s and no head hopping. Finally! And it made it to the final round in a contest, too. There’s no stopping me now!
Another thing I learned was to only enter contests with Inspirational categories. I may be prejudiced, but it’s my feeling that people looking for hot steamy romance are just plain turned off by even the mention of God. Can’t wow a turned off judge, no matter how good the writing.
This year I joined FHL. I’ve definitely benefited immensely from that membership. Their Touched By Love contest is my favorite, for one reason – the judge critique sheets get returned to the author. I know, other contests do that too, but TBL was the first one I got constructive feedback from. Occasionally I disagree with a judge, but overall they’ve been extremely helpful.
Recently I’ve begun entering other contests, for short work. I stink at short, so it’s really good exercise. I wrote a 250 word bit for a blog contest with Steeple Hill – and won! Talk about inspiring. This week I’m entering a Writer’s Digest short story contest. My entry is completely different from my romance writing. It should be interesting to see how I do.
Lately I can’t read a book without critiquing it (sorry, Mary, I even did that with Petticoat Ranch!). Maybe I’m ready to become a contest judge 
Tammy Doherty
1st Place ‘Great Moody Pumpkin’ Contest
2006 1st Place, 2007 3rd Place Hardwick Community Fair
She’s Mine – 2007 TBL finalist

Self-publishing gives you instant gratification. But in some ways it's more difficult than going the "regular" route. You're the editor & there's nothing harder than cutting up your baby. If you're thinking about self-publishing, get some (brutally) honest critiques and make the tough decisions first. And don't trust spell check!

My first 3 novels have great potential and a fairly loyal, if small, fan base. They're early works and show it (my skill growth is evident in book 3). They're enjoyable to read, so don't be put off. However, if any of you reading this just happen to be an agent or editor please be assured I've learned to edit-edit-edit!

All three novels are published by Xulon Press, and are available at They are also available from and many other on-line booksellers.


  1. Tammy, you made some great points about self-publication. Not an easy road, for sure, and my theory is that when you're good enough (although the timeline is not always on our count, but God's) some publisher will grab us, hug us, love us, and publish our stuff because, yeah, it's that good.

    Finding the right mix of book/editor/publishing house is not an easy task, nor usually a quick one. Persistence is a necessary quality in this industry. And patience.

    Sounds like you've learned a lot.

    Thanks so much for stopping in and sharing with us.


  2. Hi Tammy, really enjoyed your post! And your Celtic novels definitely tug at me because I LOVE anything Irish (yes... even Ruthy! :)).

    I had to laugh at your comment that "Lately I can’t read a book without critiquing it." Oh, my, I so relate, and isn't this annoying??? But it goes along with being a writer, I suppose. But every now and then, you find that rare novel that sucks you in and makes you forget it's just a story. For me, it doesn't happen often ... except, of course, if I'm reading a Seeker book ... :)

  3. I do the self-editing thing, too. Especially if I reread Petticoat Ranch.
    I catch myself thinking...That's telling. So, so much.
    Tammy, how does it work with self-publishing and contests? Were these books a while ago? Or does your publisher not meet the criteria for publisher?
    Great picture btw. You could be your own cover model.

  4. Tammy, congrats on the TBL final and winning Steeple Hill's blog contest! You're so right about the importance of editing. If we're open to contest judges' comments, we just might find some nuggets that'll teach us a thing or two about editing.

  5. Gorgeous covers,Tammy.

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us. The beauty of this writing life is that we have our personal road to follow, but we are all willing to share what we have learned in order to help that fellow writer coming up behind us.

  6. Thanks Ruthy, Julie, Mary, Janet and Tina! I finally found me here!!

    Julie - the Celtic novels are set in CO in the late 1800's and the characters are of Irish decent.

    Mary - Xulon Press doesn't meet the publisher criteria for RWA, so I can enter most contests as unpublished. I did enter all 3 in the Writers' Digest self-publishing contest, too. Got good comments, but didn't place.

    BTW - that picture was taken about 15 years ago! I need loads of makeup to look like a cover model LOL


  7. Well, good for you and make-up, Tammy. There's not enough make-up in the world to make me look like that. :)
    Are you using your contest awards to submit manuscripts?

  8. Thanks for visiting today, Tammy, and for sharing your contest experience.


  9. Mary - awards? You mean they give awards for these contests?!! LOL

    Actually, I did use the TBL award to help defray the GH entry fee. The Steeple Hill blog contest award was a B&N gift card - which I'll probably share with my daughter. The Hardwick Fair, well that's a local community fair, no award just a gorgeous blue ribbon to hang on my wall!

    And, Mary, don't sell yourself short on your author photo. You could be a cover model for one of your books, too. My photo was taken at one of those studios that lets you borrow fancy clothing and jewelry.


  10. Well, I swore off more photos because now matter what they did, the pictures just came out looking like me.
    And I mean use the awards (as in the piece of paper, I suppose) in your pitch. I am the winner of the Whatever contest.

  11. Ah, now I get it (I'm blonde, the brunette in the picture came from a bottle!)

    I started using the TBL finalist in my signature just this summer. I've only actually pitched once, last spring (the same weekend I entered the TBL). So didn't use the wins then. I don't get out to conferences and such, a real drawback in the search for a publisher.

    Have any of you ever attended the Greater Phila. Christian Writers Conference? I'm really feeling the pull to attend, but August is a hard time to get away. I'd love to meet some of the Christian writers I've chatted with this past year. The GPCWC is the closest conference I know of, other than the NECRWA conference. I plan to attend that one again in 2008 & hope to pitch, and I'll definitely mention those awards :-)
    It'd be sooooooooo great to be able to add GH finalist to that pitch - LOL


  12. Congrats on your TBL final, Tammy!

    Interesting thoughts on self-pubbing.

    Thanks for contributing to our blog!

    Cheryl Wyatt

  13. Much has been said/written about self-publishing - pro and con. For me, I know it was God's will because if I hadn't done it my stories would be sitting unread. I'd let 2 friends read the first MS (3 if you count my friend's mom!) They, of course, loved it. My husband encouraged me to self-publish. I'm very shy, face to face (writing is liberating in that regard), so sharing my book with people was scary.

    All the positive feedback I got from friends AND complete strangers is what encouraged me to keep writing. And to continue entering contests. The contests are probably most responsible for my growth as a writer.

    So you see, self-publishing was the key to my journey. That doesn't mean it's the way for everyone. And I didn't do it out of vanity. My dream then and now is the same: to find the right royalty publisher, one who'll get my books into bookstores, then I can get my friends and family to spread the word and bring in the sales :-)


  14. Dear Tammy,
    Being your mother gives me a different perspective on your work. I THINK IT'S BRILLIANT!!! I always thought you would write childrens stories, boy, was I wrong!
    You amaze me with all you do--family,home, 2 jobs, and you writing. And you make it sound so easy. I know it's not.
    Everyone here in NY is anxiously awaiting a new book. You have more than a few fans.

  15. Thanks Mom! And I don't even have to pay for that glowing review :-)

  16. Tammy, enjoyed reading about your journey toward publication. I love the covers on your books.

  17. Janet, welcome to Seekerville. So tell us ALL about Tammy? lol

    Seriously, I'll bet she had a ball playing make believe as a child, didn't she?

  18. Hey, no fair asking my mother about my childhood!!! LOL

    Yeah, I've always had a highly active imagination. The song 'Puff the Magic Dragon' makes me cry, because I wonder if I've left behind a few Puffs from my childhood. Probably not, though, I just rename them an put them into a novel - hee hee!

  19. Tammy was a horse person, so she spent lots of time in our barn. I'm sure she made up many a tale. They didn't make it to paper,but I'll bet they were doozies!!! One thing I am proud to have given my daughter[and granddaughter] is the love of books.

  20. Tammy
    Do you know what the song "Puff the Magic Dragon" Is about?

    Serious though, your blog is enligtning, good luck with all you do.