Friday, June 27, 2008

Tammy Doherty ~ Guest

I’d like to thank Mary and all the Seekers for having me here today. I love Seekerville, with the fun to be had while learning about all aspects of writing. I’m honored to be here and doubly blessed with all the advice and help the Seekers have given me over the past year.
I began writing seriously in 2001. As a young girl I made up stories all the time. Back then my heroes came from the TV shows I loved – Bonanza, Big Valley, Battlestar Galactica, and later, Magnum P.I. I have very eclectic tastes.
I was struggling with writing a more grown up version of one of these tales when a friend gave me Danger in the Shadows, by Dee Henderson. It was my first taste of modern Inspirational Romance - stories with realistic Christians. Christians have to remember to lean on God, and some of us take longer than others to accept our needs. I’m a slow-poke!
I finally saw the light and decided to make my story one about trust, specifically trusting God when you can’t trust anyone else. My writing experience following that decision is typical – the words seemed to flow almost on their own. It still took me another eight months to finish, but I wrote the whole thing within a year.
Then I did another typical thing. I let a few friends read the manuscript. And listened to their glowing words of praise. They all wanted me to get the book published. Easier said than done! I didn’t have any hope of ever attending a conference, so how was I to get an editor to read my MS? I knew all about those nightmare slush piles.
My husband and a good friend encouraged me to self-publish. After looking at a number of companies, I chose to publish with Xulon Press. I’ve been very happy with Xulon, but there are times I wonder if it was the right choice. Was it God’s will or mine? Looking back, I’m still not entirely sure but I lean toward it being God’s will.
Sure, that book didn’t launch me into the stratosphere of writing fame. Neither did the two that followed. But the satisfaction of seeing my name on a book cover and the praise and encouragement of readers is what spurred me to keep writing. Particularly inspiring were the cards and notes I got from strangers, telling me how much they loved Celtic Cross. That book even brought my family into contact with distant relatives, enabling our daughter to get first hand experience harvesting cranberries. It brought both my family and my husband’s a little closer.
When I began entering contests, the bubble burst. As a self-published author, I qualified for the unpublished categories of most contests. I perceived my scores as dismal and the comments vicious, or at the very least clueless. Okay, maybe all new authors are like that with their first contest (except those few who rocket to the top with their first MS – gag me!! LOL). Naturally, I ignored every bit of advice given and plunged into writing more.
My second novel, Claddaugh, shows how much I snubbed my nose at the rules. It’s not bad, it just could be so much better. That’s where self-publishing is a drawback. If I had an editor, she would’ve smacked me upside the head and made me rewrite a lot of the book. And the true gem of its writing would’ve been drawn out.
By the time I wrote Celtic Knot, I was beginning to accept the idea that maybe some of those critics were right. Chiefly, I had a head-hopping habit that needed breaking in a big way. I worked really hard at that and thought it was under control. My first contest score sheet proved I was wrong! This time, though, I looked at the examples the judge pointed out and was willing to agree with her.
The problem is, the books are in print and can’t be changed without spending a small fortune, which I don’t have. My dream is that one day I’ll be picked up by a publishing house, become a best-seller (or at least exceptional seller) and they’ll want to publish my other works. Then I’ll have the opportunity to fix some of the “problems” in those three novels. I wouldn’t do anything that changed the story, just change some of the style, like POV. Ah, it’s a good dream. LOL
Most important, after so many “mean” critiques, my skin thickened and my brain was absorbing. I put all of my knowledge and skill into my third novel. Then I set it aside for a short break, going back to edit and rewrite. And then again. I entered contests and listened to what the judges said in their critiques. I didn’t necessarily agree with them nor change everything each one suggested. I used the rule that if two or more people say the same thing it probably needs changing.
And I was finally a finalist!
I didn’t let it go to my head, mostly because I didn’t win that contest. I edited and rewrote some more. Then again. Then – you guessed it, some more. And it’s a finalist in the TBL contest this year. I still can’t go to any conferences. I still probably won’t get an editor to read it (unless I’m a finalist in TARA or Lone Star). I have a new strategy, and being a finalist fits into it perfectly. I’m going to get me an agent.
It’s what I should’ve done way back when, instead of self-publishing. But I don’t regret the route my writing journey has taken. It’ll just be a little longer this way. And I’m enjoying the scenery.
Tammy Doherty She's Mine - 2008 & 2007 Touched by Love finalist GH and Genesis flunky ~ Future contest hopeful!
(Note From Mary)--Tammy included a picture of 'her muses' the two cuties on the right here.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tammy, you brave girl, you touched on a lot of the problems of self-publishing and small press publishing that most of us don't dare say out loud.

The first being that when we make that choice, it's usually before we're good enough to have a book bound and sold.

I love that you were upfront and honest about that, kiddo, like, "Hi, my name's Tammy and I self-pubbed..."

(And before people jump all over me with "What about "I'm OK, You're OK???" which was self-pubbed before becoming a multi-million seller, I'm going to profess that they were an exception to the rule that self-pubs are usually too quick out of the gate.)

As a contest judge in both pubbed and non-pubbed categories and across all categories, very rarely (read: never) did I stumble across a self-pub book that made the grade against editor-enhanced works from royalty paying publishing houses. And as an editor (short term) for a small press, I found that the standards involved in contracting were not where I expected them to be which makes it pretty clear why self- and small-press pubs don't often stand up against HQ or Berkley or Avon or Pocket, etc.

Hooray for finaling in TBL and you hold onto that dream.

And try this new Cassata cake I'm working on for my daughter's wedding this coming week...

Ricotta cheese filling flecked with Ghiradelli dark chocolate, layered between delicate sponge cake, fresh custard and ripe strawberries under a mountain of whipped cream.

Let me know what you think, kid, and grab an early morning coffee or tea from the espresso/cappuccino bar at the back of the room.

And thank you so much for your well-thought and honest post in Seekerville!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Tammy. Welcome to Seekerville! Thanks for sharing the downside of self-publishing. Once again your story proves the value of contest feedback. And how difficult it can be to accept. A huge congrats on the Touched by Love final!

Ruthy, the Cassata cake is dreamy delicious! Thanks for sharing.


Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Hi Tammy!

Love your post. I'm small press pubbed and though early on the editing was not that great, my current editors are a bit more strict.

I too, had(or should I say have LOL)to learn the POV thing. That is something I've found hard to understand but it's getting clearer. :-)

I'm glad you're not ashamed of your self-pubbed route. So many of us tend to regret it, but hey, we all gotta start somewhere!

Good luck and God's blessings on your writing career!


Julie Lessman said...

Congrats on the TBL, Tammy, and welcome to Seekerville!

I gotta tell ya, self-pubbed or not, the covers of your books are EXCEPTIONAL and between them, the intriguing titles, and my profound love of all things Irish (yes, that even includes Ruthy!), I am drawn to them immediately! Do you recommend buying them in order or if not, which one would you suggest I purchase first?

I have to smile about your one main regret about self-publishing (head-hopping/POV problems -- honestly, doesn't EVERY aspiring author struggle with this problem???), because I was in the same boat with A Passion Most Pure until I purchased a paid critique at an ACFW conference. That critique pretty much saved my butt on POV. So between all I learned at writing conferences and through tough contest judges (and honest critiques from friends -- thank you, Ruthy and Pam!), it's good to know that we writers have the chance to become even better if we just plug into the system, eh?

Mary Connealy said...

I have to say, Tammy, that those covers are stunning. However you feel about the editing, they really did an amazing job on the covers.

Gina Welborn said...

Hi, Tammy! Thanks for sharing your writing far. :-)

I wonder how many of us wrote our first (second or third) story and--

--had friends/family read it and tell us it was [insert glowing adjective here]

--query a few agents/editors only to get rejections

--then have glowing-adjective-bestowing friends/family tell us to self-publish?

I'd raise my hand, but this cake...gosh, cake is an understatement...this manna Ruthy brought is divine. (Ruthy, you should be impressed I ambidextrous. Can't spell worth crap, but I can hold and properly use utensils with both hands.)

Anyhoo, Tammy, I'm proud of ya for having the courage to admit your self-published past and to tell the pros and the cons from your experience.

Kudoes, for also figuring out how you can "use" contests for your benefit. Last month or so, I entered a contest for the sole purpose of getting the final round editor to re-look at a manuscript she rejected. Yeah, all hinges on finaling. And with my luck of late in contests...

I'm seriously thinking of hiring a free-lance editor.

Why spent $$ on contests where you may or may not get good-quality judges, when you could take that same money and pay someone who actually KNOWS how to write well to tell you how to take your writing to the next level.

'Cause, really, at some point, reading a Craft of Writing book isn't going to do it. You need someone to help ya turn on the lightbulbs so what you've read makes sense to how you write.

Gina Welborn said...

On a side note...

I hate PRESENT TENSE stories.

Yes, in my household, "hate" is a word we limit to appropriate things, and one's siblings and Mom's cooking are NEVER appropriate things to use in the same sentence as "hate."

So when I say I hate present tense, I mean it with all the vile disregard I can muster.

Please someone tell me the present-tense phase is O.V.E.R.

Why ruin a good book with present tense? (Okay, I'm assuming it was a good book. I'll never know because I couldn't get past the crappy tense to read anymore than the first page and the ending.)

Tammy Doherty said...

Thanks for the warm welcome! And the food, Ruthy. Wow, that's gonna be some wedding, or at least reception :-)

Okay, now response to comments: I went through a phase of being ashamed of self-publishing. But now I realize it was what I needed to get onto the right road. Like those who've gone to numerous conferences and gotten help. But I have to admit, without tooting my own horn (much - LOL)... the errors in my self-pubbed books are similar to things multi-pub authors have done. They're allowed to get away with it, though :-)

Julie - bless you for wanting to buy my books. You are quickly moving up to being my favorite author (and I haven't read Passion Most Pure yet!) Anyway, I love the covers from Xulon Press. If I could get B&N to put them on a shelf, I bet they'd sell just because of the beautiful covers!

You don't have to read them in order, but I would recommend reading Celtic Cross first, then you can choose to read either Claddaugh or Celtic Knot. I will confess that I "used" the Irish theme a bit. They're really western romances, but the heroine of Celtic Cross is Irish-American & wears a Celtic Cross necklace.

Thanks again to all the Seekers for having me here today - and to Ruthy for the really fattening incentive to hang around :D

Tammy Doherty said...

Oh, I forgot to respond to Ruth's "Hi, my name's Tammy and I self-pubbed..."


That's exactly what I was thinking as I wrote it.

I know there are success stories with self-pubbed books. But you're right, most of them are from impatient writers. Still, as I've said before, without the encouragement I received from people reading those books, I wouldn't have continued writing. That encouragement, by the way, includes being told by Writers' Digest Self-Pub Contest judge that I skill and great potential.

How come all those other judges can't see my potential? Hee-hee, just kidding. I've never gotten totally dissed. A few times it's seemed apparent to me that the judge wasn't focused on my entry when she judged it. I don't want to be more specific. If she wasn't focused, then I wasn't captivating her - whether because of my writing or she just doesn't like the style. Who knows?

Julie Lessman said...


Celtic Cross it is! And an Irish theme with a Western Romance??? Okay, I'm hooked out of sheer curiosity now, girlfriend. It's going on my TBR list for sure!! :)


Mary Connealy said...

Something you could consider, Gina is asking an editor at the next conference or rejection if they'd recommend an editor. That could let them know you're very serious about growing as an author plus, if they know an editor, it figures that respect said editor and might respect you more for working with them.

Just a thought.

janet thompson said...

Tammy has been told by these experts[?] that her books need hekp. Well, maybe in the literary world they do, but to just plain folks, her books are very good. When I lived in MA they were many people who read her books, mostly led on by her friends. Then I moved to NY and brought her books to almost total strangers, and lo and behold, they loved them too. Everyone here in NY and MA and TX and more states than she knows and begging for another book.
Oh, by the way, I am Tammy's mother and very, very proud.

Tammy Doherty said...

Thanks, Mom! And I didn't even have to pay her for those glowing words!!

Gina - hope things work out for you. Just getting a request for my MS would absolutely thrill me, but I know it wouldn't last long. I'd soon be champin' at the bit, looking for a contract :D

Tammy Doherty said...

A couple technical notes:
Mary, I love the way my post is formatted. You probably have a template but so what - it's still beautiful the way you fit the pictures in with the words.

If anyone's interested, those are my kids in that last photo. My daughter used to be my they both are. Even when my son messes up the computer and I hadn't saved the last few pages typed. I still love him (and I keep telling myself that until the mad goes away!)

Gina - you often comment on word verification. Well, I just forgot to enter my username, and boy did blogger get angry!!

Ann said...

Yes, those covers are gorgeous. Wow.

An aside about "Celtic knots" ... one of my restaurant customers wore cross pendant done like a Celtic knot, and it was the prettiest little thing. She had made it at some craft camp (for adults) but it looked perfect.

How interesting about self-publishing. ONe big drawback for me would be having to sell them myself. I'm glad you shared with us.

The cake is to die for, Ruthie, especially since I had a kids meal of chicken strips, potato chips and Kool Ade for lunch.

The blessed event is seriously this weekend? hope all goes well!

Missy Tippens said...

Hi, Tammy! We're so glad you to have you guest blog today!

Thanks for sharing your story. Also, I see others have commented on your gorgeous covers. I was going to say the same!! They really draw a reader in.

Congrats on the TBL final!

Welcome to Janet as well! I know you are really proud of Tammy. I've enjoyed her humor in email and online. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Gina, I have a hard time with present tense, too. I love first person, but I like it in past tense.

Just one of my little quirks. And I guess yours, too. :)

Missy--who doesn't allow the words hate or stupid (or idiot, retard, ingnorant...etc.) in the house either.

Erica Vetsch said...

Tammy, how cool that you're a Big Valley fan too!

And I love the covers of your books. They're beautiful.

Scampering over to your website for a looksee. :)

Jessica said...

Wow, I love your covers. I'm very impressed by them, and by your honesty about self-publishing.
You're going places, Tammy. I'll never forget how you read through my manuscript. You are so kind and generous! Looking forward to your future books!

Jessica said...

Hey Gina,
I paid to have a Harlequin Critique and thought it was wonderful. The advice was perfect and phrase great. If you plan to pay for one, I'd go with them.
Plus they sent me a free book and a pen. lol, free stuff always impresses me.

Jessica said...

But now that I think about it, maybe part of the fee went towards the book.
Hmmm, lol, I still don't care :-)
Anyways, I meant to say it was PHRASED great, meaning they're really nice and the critiquer was very professional.

Tammy Doherty said...

Hi Jessica - I enjoyed reading through your MS. I'm looking forward to your books in the future, too.

Erica - thanks for taking a peek at my website. It's very basic - I want one of those gorgeous ones but have to stick to budget til that humongous contract ship comes in :D

And Missy, I enjoy your messages on the FHL loop and here on Seekerville. I get chills thinking of all these published authors who've "chatted" with me since I joined FHL.

Thanks again to all the Seekers!

Uncle Richie said...

"Wonderful Tammy". Ya, You are. And I will have to echo what your Mom said about touching people from around the country with your books. I know here in Texas, there are LOTS of folks waiting for the BIG #4 to hit the shelves. AndI sent copies to Caif and also to a friend of mine in a Ky prison. She shared them with others and their also waiting for U to get a publisher and intrigue us again

Tammy Doherty said...

See, writing has brought my family together :D Although, I have to admit Uncle Richie has always been my favorite relative. Guess you all can see why I love him!

Someone said the scariest thing about self-publishing is having to sell your own books. After a little over a year reading the FHL and ACFW loops and various blogs, I think all authors have that scary self-promotion thing to face, whether or not their publisher is a big royalty house. At the self-pubbed level it is a bit more of a challenge, yes. But with family and friends (and coworkers) scattered all over the country, you can get the word out.

My 1st book stems from an ongoing childhood story my best friend and I made up. I changed the names (to protect the innocent! LOL), the plot and writing is more mature, and I added the spiritual message. But she was a big part of how it began. So I gave her a copy of the book. Which she refuses to share with her husband - you go, Lorna!

Anyway, no matter how you're published, be sure to tap into that network of family and friends. Maybe they support us no matter what - but they support us, no matter what!

Now, I have 9 pages more to write to meet my June goal. Guess I better get writing!

Kathie said...

Love the covers of your books. I have written several stories and am not published. Conferences are out of the question, and although I have been encoursged to try self-publishing I haven´t. I love to write and now that all 5 of the children are grown and have left home, I hope to have time to edit and start seriously thinking about publication. Being in Costa Rica does not make it any easier, but God put us here and we know this is where we belong. Enjoyed your post.
Blessings from Costa Rica

Tammy Doherty said...

Kathie - being where you are may be a challenge but if it's meant to be, the way will be made for you. My advice, and remember I'm not published either, is to keep honing your work until it is absolutely the best it can be. Find critique partners (on-line, given your location!) who won't be afraid to hurt your feelings. But don't change something just because the CP says so - it's still your story & any changes have to feel right to you.

Did you read Tina's post from a few days ago - about shooting yourself in the foot? Some wonderful words of wisdom there :D I've been clinging and didn't even realize it until yesterday. Now I'm just dreading the work involved in a rewrite, even though I know it's the right thing to do!

Blessings & best wishes from Massachusetts :D

Camy Tang said...

Tammy, I just have to say I love those covers!

Tammy Doherty said...

Thank you everyone for all the compliments on the book covers. Wish I could say I designed them -LOL!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Tammy. I missed your post while I was out of town, but I appreciate your honesty. I'm pulling for you to get that agent!

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