Sunday, May 4, 2008


By Darlene Franklin
Until lately, I could fit what I knew about publication into the rolling ball at the end of the pen that I used to write when riding the bus.

Write novellas for Barbour to break in? I didn’t even know about the anthologies until after they published my book Romanian Rhapsody in 2005. After three contracts with Barbour, I wrote my first novella in Snowbound Colorado Christmas, September 2008.

Eventually I found my way to contests. Maybe some editor would read my prize-winning prose and award me a contract!

No such luck. I won or finaled in about half the contests I entered. None of the wins led to a contract.

To make matters more confusing, all of my wins have been for nonfiction; all my published books (so far) are fiction. I do have a decent track record selling personal experience stories, devotions, and teaching articles.

Nonetheless, I’m glad I entered the contests. I first won with an article entitled “Beautiful Feet.” I entered it in the “published author, prose category” at the 2001 Colorado Christian Writers Conference.

That win gave an incredible boost of confidence. For the first time, I believed in myself and the possibility that I would become a professional author.

My most recent contest entry—back cover blurb for a novel—didn’t win. However, I won where it counts. Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! has released the book in question, Gunfight at Grace Gulch. And the tease supplied by the losing back cover blurb intrigues everyone who picks up the book.

Read it below and tell me what you think.

A century-old feud refuses to die.
The feud between the Graces and the Gaynors is still going strong more than a century after its inception in the 1891 Oklahoma land run.
Newspaper editor Penn Hardy is murdered during the reenactment of the most famous gunfight in the history of Grace Gulch, Oklahoma. Cici Wilde, owner of a vintage clothing store, feels compelled to investigate when police suspect people close to her. She soon discovers her talent for sleuthing equals her flare for wearing period clothing.
Theater director Audie Howe never expected the reenactment to end in a real murder. He cares too much for the future of the Magda Grace Mallory Theater—and the charming Cici Wilde—to let her face danger alone.
Cici and Audie take a dangerous gamble to nail the killer—and lay their lives on the line.

Stop by Darlene’s website at


  1. darlene,I have signed up for the heartsong mysteries and look forward to reading gunfight at grace gulch. (waiting for it to arrive here in australia)
    I enjoyed reading your blog today

    Hey Gina my wv looks like swell lisa

  2. Win, place or show in contests does not, indeed, equal a ticket off Unpub Island. I have had the same experience.
    However, I am learning that God's time is the right time. In his time, I am growing and learning. In his time, the words he gives me to put on paper will be needed in someone's heart, and then I will know real fulfillment.
    Thank you for sharing your experience, and for sharing your blurb. It looks like a winner to me!

  3. Your story sounds like a lot of fun, Darlene. Congratulations on your timing as well.

  4. Darlene, Welcome to Seekerville. Publication is often maddeningly slow and all the more confusing when our work finals or wins contests. Thanks for the reminder to trust God's timing and keep on keeping on. Your blurb and book are intriguing. Congratulations!


  5. Unpub Island. I love it! I am thankful for recent movements in my writing career--I pray for the right time for the right story will come for each of you as well.

  6. Darlene, thanks for sharing your publishing success story. :-)

    I'm waiting for the day I do a blog post and someone says, "thanks for sharing."

    Notice I just said, "thanks for sharing."


    Maybe when I blog, I ought to post hunks-of-the-day pics. Come see Orlando and read Gina's brilliant ramblings.

    Or just see Orlando.

    Can I have a mocha latte hold the latte?

  7. Where is Orlando anyway? I missed him last week.

    Darlene, I've got Gunfight at Grace Gulch. I can't wait to read it. It sounds great.

    Thanks for coming by Seekerville.

    The twists and turns of publishing are crazy aren't they? You don't sell what you work so hard to get ready for, then you do sell some thing you didn't expect too. All those bits of encouragement keep us plugging along.

  8. Hey Darlene, It's a pleasure to have you in Seekerville! And, boy, you've hooked me with the blurb on Gunfight at Grace Gulch. Great job!

    You said that the contest win for "Beautiful Feet" gave you an incredible boost of confidence, and I'm glad. You are obviously a talented writer, and contests can certainly help to affirm that or motivate one to improve his/her craft, which is why we are so big on contests in Seekerville.

    I wish you well in your writing endeavors, Darlene, and look forward to your books.


  9. I was hooked on teh blurb as soon as a family feud was mentioned :-)

    IMHO we don't see or realize God's timing is perfect until we look back. DH and I struggled to have kiddo's as did his sister. It ended up that our kids are 11, 10 and 7 while her only son is 10, too. If we had the kids when we wanted to, they wouldn't have anyone to play with!

    At some future point, the timing thing will all make sense. Hope so, anyway!


  10. I can see all kinds of possiblilities for your cozy just from the blurb alone, Darlene!

    Great job, and congrats on the book coming out soon.

  11. Darlene, Can you tell us more about your journey to publication with Barbour?

    I visited your website and noticed that Romanian Rhapsody is a contemp and Gunfight is a cozy.

    Are you still going to write contemps for Barbour, or just going to concentrate on cozy's?

  12. Let me dovetail with Pam and ask for more info about what Barbour is looking for . . . and any advice you'd give Seekerville bloggers and visitors about targeting that house.

    Loved the blurb for Gunfight!

    I lived in the middle of the Mojave Desert in CA and Calico Station--an old Western ghost town--was about 40 miles away. We'd always take visitors to Calico where they could see a gunfight at high noon or pan for gold. Your blurb brought back memories of the good ole days!

  13. Hi, Darlene. Thanks for joining us in Seekerville today!

    I'm with Ann. I was hooked when I read "family feud". :)


  14. Darlene, I loved the blurb and your diversity speaks to your talent. Hooray for you on both a contemp and a mystery.

    And Gina, thanks for sharing, Cupcake!!!

    Orlando couldn't be with us today. I know you understand the time crunch he faces on a daily basis.
    I'm given to understand that he's utilized two of his appropriated phone numbers (no one's 'fessing up, though) and we may see him again.

    I know for a fact that we've caught the eye of none other than Dr. McDreamy...

    Yes, Patrick Dempsey will be joining us soon, so stay tuned. I can assure you that he plays the part of a womanizing doctor well only because of his extremely talented acting ability, and in no way a reflection of his stellar personal life.

    Okay, I really know nothing of the sort but he paid me to say that.

    Darlene, thanks for a great post on Seekerville. 'preciate it, Ma'am.


  15. Passing through!

    Hi Ruth, Darlene.

    Think I'd work as the lead in Darlene's mystery?

  16. Hi, Darlene! Your book sounds great.

  17. If any of you hang around the Barbour editor's blog JoAnne Simmons just posted a blog about looking for silver-haired love.

    She said they haven't done a romance for senior citizens in a while and she'd like to see one subbed.

  18. Oops. 'Scuse me.
    White-haired love. :)

  19. Wow, I love the questions! I can't comment from work, can't even SEE the comments, so I'm catching up.

    About what next?

    In the past year, I have sold Barbour: 65 devotions; a 365-day perpetual calendar; a historical novella--Dressed in Scarlet is in Snowbound Colorado Christmas; my 2 second mystery in the Dressed for Death Series, A String of Murders; and on the q.t., a probable sale of a historical romance.

    So as to the questions of what I will write next: whatever sells! I have ideas (and proposals) for more cozies and contemporary and historical romance, as well as nonfiction. One of these days I may get to "brand" myself--if God ever makes the brand clear!

    I'll go to another comment to avoid getting too long.

  20. Speaking of the family feud ... I'm toying with the idea of making the hero of my next series (assuming Barbour BUYS another series from me) from the family on the losing side of the feud.

  21. My journey to publication with Barbour:

    First sale:

    I met Tracie & Jim Peterson numerous times at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. I paid for a critique of Romanian Rhapsody from Tracie. She gave me detailed specific things that needed changing or else the story would be rejected. I made the changes and submitted the story.

    It took many years, during the shifts between editors, but eventually Tracie emailed me on Thanksgiving Eve 2003 and told me she wanted to buy the book!

    I think my persistence in attending CCWC spoke well for me. The Petersons knew I worked on my craft and I was persistent (I eventually won the Perseverance Award at CCWC although that's not a contest.)

    That validating second sale:

    Like most of us published in 2004-2005, I was told I could not receive a second contract until they saw how my first book was received.

    By the time my book was published, Barbour had moved to the state series; and my home state of Colorado was probably the first to go. Then the Petersons left and I felt like I was back at square one. Only one book with a so-so record and an editor who did not know me.

    However, becoming part of the Heartsong Authors Loop became a huge learning tool for me. Proposals, critiquing, writing partners, marketing, promotion--I've learned so much in all those areas, and more.

    Being a HS author, even just one book, gave me a "tiny" edge (a friend laughed when he saw that description) for the new mystery book club. I LOVE reading mysteries, but I had to work on writing one. I submitted three proposals before I sold Gunfight at Grace Gulch.

    I'll start another comment for "what do I think Barbour is looking for."

  22. What is Barbour looking for? I'm sure you're aware of the edit cafe blog. I occasionally read it and think, "so that's why my Nevada story didn't sell." JoAnne has said she likes unusual occupations. (but of course that's not enough!)

    For the cozies, I can tell you this much: Susan Downs definitely wants "quirky" characters. Also, it's almost a necessity to use a small town setting. The stories need romantic tension, but it's not a romance.

    Best way to learn what makes a cozy "cozy" is to read them. I studied the characters created by Elizabeth Peters, Lillian Jackson Braun, Janet Evanovich, Diane Mott Davidson, etc.

  23. Sorry, Dr. McDreamy, my hero is has straight blond hair. LOL.

  24. Last but not least:

    Feel free to email me privately if you want. I think you can get the email address at my blog profile?

    Thanks for inviting me along!

  25. Great info, Darlene! Thanks for answering all our questions!!

    And a quiet congrats on the soon-to-be sale! :) (lips are sealed)


  26. Hey Darlene,

    I agree wholeheartedly about the contest thing. I quit submitting for a while back when I was getting nothing but rejections and applied the money toward contest entry fees. The information I got back from the judges was SO much more helpful than the form letter rejections!!

  27. Great article, Darlene! Thanks for sharing!


  28. My goodness gracious, Darlene, I think you've got a better handle on what Barbour is looking for than I do! Great advice and counsel. Thanks for going into such detail. You're a blessing!
    Susan Downs,
    HPMysteries Acquisitions Editor
    Barbour Publishing

  29. Seekers, you heard straight from the editor! Yeah, Susan! Thanks, HPM team, for coming in to support me.