Monday, August 11, 2008

Only the Beginning

Hi, Janet here.
My debut novel Courting Miss Adelaide releases September 9. Maybe that’s why I feel the need to look back at this journey toward publication and recall the steps that brought me here.

At twelve, I wrote and illustrated little romances—always drawing my heroine in profile with a cascading mane of hair. Only to set the dream aside for a career in teaching, followed by marriage and caring for two daughters.

Then one day I woke up to the passing of years and the shock that I’d never tried to accomplish my dream of writing a book. I didn’t aspire to publish, merely wanted to see if I could get a story on the page. So I began with three women and endless dialogue, all going no where. I knew it wasn’t working, but I not only didn’t know how to fix it. Worse, I was terrified I couldn’t.

I was a big fan of Erma Bombeck. I read her newspaper column and books and watched her on morning television. Concerned about her breast cancer diagnosis, I sent her a note and mentioned I’d always wanted to write, but feared failure. She sent me a typewritten reply and said something that gave me insight into what was wrong: “Get thee to the typewriter. You can have the greatest story in the world inside your head, but if you don’t put it down on paper, you have nothing.” Unknowingly, Erma nailed my problem. You see, I didn’t have a story inside my head. In fact, when it came to writing books, I didn’t have much inside my head.

But I took Erma's advice. I love to read historical romances so I sat at a word processor and plotted a marriage of convenience story set in Texas. I took two years to write that book. When I finished, I wrote Erma to tell her I had typed "The End," and to let her know I was praying for her kidney ailment. She sent a handwritten postcard congratulating me on my accomplishment and telling me her recovery was slow. The last postcard I have is from her family, thanking me for the Get Well card I sent that arrived after her death following complications from kidney transplant surgery. I grieved for Erma. But celebrated the words she left behind—her gift of laughter and insight into the human soul.

I titled that first manuscript Bleeding Heart. It was peppered with POV errors, head hopping and exclamation points. Worse, my heroine didn’t drive the action. Instead things happened to her, poor thing. But I didn’t know these were problems. Author, speaker and educator Dr. Dennis Hensley told me about Romance Writers of America. I found my area chapter, and from that, my critique partner, Shirley Jump. As we say in our plots—there was no turning back. I discovered ignorance isn’t bliss. I had lots of learning to do. Because now I knew writing a book was no longer enough. I wanted to sell it.

I read How To books, took classes, attended conferences and took workshops. I got a weekly dose of reality from my cp Shirley. I entered contests and took the judges’ comments to heart. I started to final in some. I was flying high. About this time a writer friend Sue, aka Elizabeth Guest with over 30 books in print commented writing was hard work. Well, I was still in the new puppy stage. You know, jumping and yapping with energy and joy, full of myself. By now I’d written another book. It was much better. It even won some contests. Filled with optimism, I felt certain it would sell. But it didn’t.

I turned to inspirational romances. I loved the faith thread and felt God had me where he wanted me to be. Sure enough, something wonderful happened. Orphaned Hearts was a Golden Heart finalist in 2005. Stolen Hearts finaled in 2006. That first final was a marvelous, joy-filled time. I met Tina, Julie and Myra, three fellow finalists (Myra was our winner) and wonderful women who led me to all the Seekers. But when it came to my dream of publication, nothing changed. I loved historical romances. But the market had tightened. Publishers only bought from established authors. I tumbled from the mountain top to the valley in a matter of weeks.

And then Steeple Hill announced their plan to launch the Love Inspired Historical line. I polished Orphaned Hearts one more time and sent the partial off with a prayer. On June 29, 2006, I got The Call. Over two years later—a long gestation period—my book now titled Courting Miss Adelaide is in print and will be in the stores a month from now. I'm thrilled that Romantic Times gave Courting Miss Adelaide a 4 ½ star review.

I am grateful, amazed, happy, and yes, filled with trepidation. Why trepidation? Lines close. Editors change houses. Rejection is not only a possibility, it happens to pubbed writers, too. My editor bought the second book in the series, Courting the Doctor’s Daughter, to release in May 2009, but then passed on the third book. So I've experienced it first hand. I’m starting another series that excites both my editor and me. A writer's life isn't easy. I totally understand what my friend meant when she said writing is hard work.

But come September 9, I’ll savor the moment when I first see Courting Miss Adelaide on the shelves. I’ll recall the admiration in my grandchildren’s eyes as I opened the box of my author copies. I’ll think of all the wonderful people in my life who encouraged and believed in me like my husband, parents and children. And I’ll think of Erma, a woman I never met, but a woman who took the time to encourage me.
Please share who encouraged or encourages you. Give us a peek at your journey. We all have a story. It's written in our hearts.


Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

A closet writer for many years, with a husband (now ex) who HATED me doing anything that did not give him gratification I have to say there was not much encouragement during that time. One day my aunt invited me to go with her to a conference where Nora Roberts was hosting a workshop. Ms. Roberts asked us to do an opening line and gave lots of encouragement to those of us who read ours aloud. That opening line is now a short ebook titled Cathy's Angel and available through The Wild Rose Press!

I've received LOTS of encouragement once I came out of the closet.

My husband and family are my biggest fans.

Thanks for sharing your journey, Janet!


Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Janet, What wonderful encouragement from Erma Bombeck! Isn't it amazing how God encourages us with the right word at the right moment? I hear you on learning the crafting. There's a divide between wanting to write and being able to do it. Craft books, workshops, etc. have helped me, too.

I can't wait to read CMA. Love the cover!

Ausjenny said...

congrats on the book it comes out the day before my big trip to Canada.
thanks for sharing your journey.
I will look out for the book (my friends are taking me to Walmark which we dont have in australia)

Cheryl Wyatt said...


I LOVED reading about your journey! And I loved Erma Bombeck's amazing that she encouraged you like that. What a gift!

Congrats on your RT review! I'm not at all surprised. Your writing is out of this world.

Great post,


Janet Dean said...

Hi Pam. How cool Nora was an early encourager for you! And how fun to have an aunt who shared your love of writing when you needed it most. Glad you have oodles of support now.

One of my cousins wrote a book and recently attended her first writers conference. Leah's contest entry came in second out of eight finalists. Very proud of her accomplishment.

Congratulations on your ebook.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Victoria! You're so right, but the divide between wanting to write and being able to was more of a chasm for me. LOL But I believe when God places the urge to write in us, He'll see us through if we're willing to work at it and can hang in.

I loved your LIH, The Bounty Hunter's Bride! I've received my second letter from a book club reader and her words really touched me. And made me doubly glad for this opportunity. I'm sure you can relate. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Jenny, if you hit WalMart during your trip to Canada, you'll find Courting Miss Adelaide in the romance section. What bookstores do you have in Australia?

Have a great trip!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Cheryl. I admire your writing gift! I'm hoping your ability to plow through a draft will rub off on me. LOL. Guess that's not how it works, but you're an inspiration and role model of time management.


Ann said...

Hey, Janet and everbody, I like reading about everyone else's journey. It resonates more with me than women's magazine articles where the subject lost 100 pound by eating only Shredded Wheat.

I mean, this writer thing sounds do-able compared to that.

My husband encourages me a lot because in his eyes, I already am a writer although unpublished. That's kind of neat to think he thinks of me that way.

Jenny, one of my goals in life is to see my books on the shelves at Wal-Mart. If (When) they reach Wal-Mart, they can be seen by people who might never ever go to a Chrisitan bookstore, or even a secular bookstore. Hope the trip goes well!

Julie Lessman said...

Wow, Janet, it's such much fun to hear the whole story of how you got started. And I loved Erma Bombeck too ... uh, only I wasn't pen pals with her!

As far as someone encouraging me or I should say inspiring me, that would be Margaret Mitchell because her novel Gone With the Wind inspired me to write in the first place at the age of 12 when I actually penned 150 pages of what is today my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. But as far as people in my life who encouraged me, that would be my little sister, Kate. As the last two of thirteen children, we shared a room, and that golden-haired nine-year-old girl would lie on her bed, chin in hand and eyes wide as I read my “novel” to her night after night. Her interest, love and encouragement meant everything because I was not a favorite of my mother’s. God used Katie to channel His love and encouragement to me, and continues to do so today.

Great post, Janet. AND great book -- I LOVED Courting Miss Adelaide!!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Ann! If you write, you're a writer. Your husband's smart for recognizing that.

Help yourself to a slice of ham and mushroom egg bake. Oh, and there's fresh fruit, too. I'm sure Ruthy will be along with the sweets.


Janet Dean said...

Julie, God bless your sister for encouraging you and your writing! We all need others to believe in us. Without her, maybe we wouldn't have your wonderful books today. You had lots to say for a twelve year old. My romances were the short story variety.



Anne Barton said...

Janet, thanks for sharing your story. I love it when great things (like the upcoming release of Courting Miss Adelaide and rave reviews) happen to nice people. :)

Erma had a special brand of frank, self-deprecating humor, didn't she? I think hers was the first "voice" I really loved. How awesome that she inspired and encouraged you.

As far as people who have inspired me... well, to start, all you Seekers! This blog has given me insight into the writing world. Romance writers as a group are so generous and talented, and a few have really gone out of their way to help me.

On a personal level, my three, school-aged kids really encourage me. Sometimes they impart wisdom that surprises me, like, "Don't worry, Mom - this was only your first book. The next one will be better." :)

Julie Lessman said...


Uh, no! But you can bet I will ... thanks, Janet!


Kimberli said...

Terrific post and very inspiring. I loved the part about Erma, or as I call her, She-Who-Split-Sides. What an encourager.

Congratulations on the book, and for following Miss Erma's example by encouraging others.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Anne, give your terrific kids a hug for me, will you? Right after I give you a huge hug for your lovely comment about the Seekers, ladies I love and admire!


Myra Johnson said...

Janet! I had no idea you were pen pals with Erma Bombeck! I always admired that woman and loved reading her humor.

Encouragement comes to me from many sources. Number one would be my husband. I mean, any guy who will keep forking out postage and conference money through 25 years of striving and dreaming has got to be a saint! My daughters have been real prayer warriors for me, too.

Way up there on the list is my Seekerville Sisterhood. Talk about encouragers! And a big hug to Carla Stewart, my faithful friend and critique partner for the past two years.

Janet Dean said...

Julie, the book released in 1993 so I hope you can find it! MM had a lot of Scarlet in her. Or the other way around. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Kimberli, Erma would've loved She-Who-Splits-Sides!!! LOL But she could make me tear up too. Did you know her family sponsors an Erma Bombeck conference at Dayton University every year?


Janet Dean said...

Myra, Having the support of those we're closest to means the most. And as you point out, support is more than helpful, encouraging words. It's putting money where your mouth is! LOL. Jack is a great guy! And you can tell him I said so.


Missy Tippens said...

Janet, what an amazing, inspiring post! I loved Erma and all her books! And that's so cool that you had contact with her. I guess we all need to take the time to let our favorite authors know how much we appreciate them and their books.

I've been encouraged by all the authors in my local RWA chapter, Georgia Romance Writers. They kept me going through the years. And of course the Seekers did, too, with lots of laughter. And my cp, Lindi Peterson, has been there with pep talks and cheers.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Missy! I wish I lived close enough to spend time with the GRW! What an awesome group of ladies! We all know what a sweetie Lindi is. Even with a supportive family, I feel certain I would never have made it without other writers.


Patricia W. said...

Thanks for sharing your journey, Janet. How neat to have a developed a relationship with Erma Bombeck!

Congratulations on your upcoming release. BTW, I'd love to feature your book on my blog as part of my debut author series.

Mary Connealy said...

It seems like those little bits of encouragement kept me going through all the slings and arrows.
I finished third in a contest with the second book I wrote...a WAY long time ago.
Then I subbed it to HQ. Which took a year, after the request of a full, to get rejected.
There were always just little rays of sunshine in the midst of the general gloom. :)

As a matter of fact that first 3rd place win novel is being released in November called The Clueless Cowboy. It's a much better book now than it was back then, but still the same basic story, just told with some learning on my part.

Mary Connealy said...

I didn't know the Erma Bombeck stuff, either, Janet. How great. I loved her work.

The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank.

She was just a comedic genius. :)
How wonderful that you had some corresponence with her.

I have exchanged emails with Clive Cussler.
And Nicholas Sparks.
And Julie Garwood.

(okay it's MINIMAL! Just brief emails. But I think the emails were really from them, not one of their PEOPLE)
When I first started doing the book review column I write for my local paper I was AMAZED at how many fairly big deal authors would email me back and give me quotes to use in my reviews.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Patricia, I'd be honored to be on your blog's debut author series! E-mail me at janet@ and we'll set something up.


Melanie Dickerson said...

You sounded like me, Janet, right down to the teaching career, marriage, and two daughters, then waking up and realizing I used to dream about being a novel-writer.

I can't wait to get your book and read it! Such a pretty cover. And 4 1/2 stars is nothing to sneeze at! You go, girl!

God sends us the encouragement we need, doesn't He? And that was really sweet of Erma Bombeck!

Janet Dean said...

Mary, that's an awesome list of celebrities you've corresponded with! One day people will be saying, "You won't believe who I got an e-mail from! Mary Connealy!!!!" Hey, that's probably already happening.

More Erma titles: If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits?

When You Start to Look Like Your Passport, It's Time to Go Home.

All I Know about Animal Behavior, I Learned in Loehmann's Dressing Room.

A Marriage Made in Heaven Or Too Tired for an Affair. LOL.

I had one of her tear off calendars and couldn't throw it away. Her words ring with truth and make me chuckle.


Janet Dean said...

Melanie, are we twins separated at birth? Guess not, but it would be nice.

Hey, I also can't wait for you to read Courting Miss Adelaide. I'm looking to up my sales figures and make Steeple Hill keep me so... pass the word! If you want to be extra supportive, buy several copies. ;-)


Kimberli said...

Hi Janet. Yep, I heard about the conference. I was on the Erma Bombeck Workshop list for quite awhile. Someday I should return to the land from whence I came--I'm a Wright Patt baby--and attend.

Mary, I don't even want to tell you how I embarrassed myself in front of Nicholas Sparks. Nothing new on that front, but in this case, I'm glad I did. He doesn't know this, but months after he patiently put up with me at one of his booksignings, his actions directly contributed to a mountain search and rescue effort that saved me and my husband.

That last sentence looks grammatically incorrect, but I can't figure out how to fix it. Anyway, it just goes to show you what can result from a little bit of patience and encouragement.

Janet Dean said...

Kimberli, you can't just leave us hanging that way! What happened to you and your husband that you needed rescuing? How did Nicholas Sparks play a part in it? And what did you do to embarrass yourself at his signing? He's probably writing the book as we speak.


Anita Mae said...

Hey Janet - your book is in the mail to me as we speak and I can't wait.

Who inspired me? One person - my hubby of 30 yrs. I was a writer when I met him. He encouraged my writing and the writing course I took early on in our marriage. Then I put it aside for our family and my country for over 20 yrs.

A couple years ago, it was my hubby who read a Love Inspired book and said, 'You could write one of these...why don't you?' It kick-started my writing again.

Hubby even bought me a laptop. I've added 5 manuscripts to that 'puter so far and I've lots of ideas for more. :-)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

What a day, what a day, what a day!

We've got Pam coming out of the closet and Janet talking to dead people.

Could life possibly get better than that? I submit that it cannot!

Seriously, Pam what a great way to be inspired. Nora Roberts has got to be one of the most prolific and talented women of the century and deserves the accolades she receives.

And Janet, Erma was one of the most inspirational writers of our time without being overt.

I've used one of her stories often in workshops, the one where a young mother wrote to her from prison after (sorry, I know this sounds depressing) killing her young children.

She wrote: I didn't know people could laugh at those things...

Learning to not sweat the small stuff is huge for young families and professionals, but not everyone 'gets' that in time to avert tragedy.

Loved your post, girlfriend, and I'm anxiously awaiting the world's reception of Courting Miss Adelaide too.

(Did I do a good job, getting the name in there, Janet????? I tried sooooooooo hard!!!!) :)

People will love this book, absolutely. It deserved every inch of that 4 1/2 star review in my humble opinion.

And I know it's late, especially here on the East Coast (dratted gainful employment kept me busy today. What's up with that?) but I've brought you guys some ambrosia salad topped with slivered almonds. Sooooooo good. And there's a grill full of white hots, what we call 'porkers' here in Upstate New York.

These have got to be one of the most delicious hot dogs ever invented, and they're a local oddity so grab a bun and give 'em a try.

Soda (pop) goes great with hot dogs so let's pretend we're at a baseball game and the Yankees are winning...

We could go as far as having Jeter at bat, but then I'll get all flustered. And I can only talk about Yankees when Gina's out of town because she's NOT a Yankee fan.

And I like her anyway, although she's in serious point deprivation.

So dig in, gals, and try my homemade potato salad too.


Mary Connealy said...


Nicholas Sparks saved your life.

(okay, I shortened your story for dramatic effect)


Nicholas Sparks' mother lived in my hometown. For eleven of her growing up years. She was a bit older than me but my husband's mom and older brothers remember her very well. Her family owned the local movie theater in Lyons, Nebraska.

If you read Spark's book 'Three Weeks With my Brother' (a book I LOVE) he mentions Lyons...about twice on one page, not extensive, but still it's there.

Kimberli said...

Oops. I spent so much time fighting with that sentence, I forgot to post the link:

(If that doesn't work, go to my Carolina Towns and Trail blog and click on the Buckhorn Gap label.)

If you don't want to read the entire post to find out how we got in the pickle in the first place, skim the first two paragraphs and then scroll down to "We finally realized we wouldn't make it through the night. We were about to die."

To my knowledge, Mr. Sparks is totally unaware of this. I'll tell him if I attend another booksigning.

Janet Dean said...

Anita Mae, congrats on writing five books!!! And on raising your family. That's no small feat. Your d/h is a smart guy. Glad he got you back at it.

Were you in the service?


Sandra Leesmith said...

Janet, I loved reading about your story. You have a great inspirational novel in yourself-smile. It gave me much encouragement and hope.

Happy writing. Sandra

Janet Dean said...

Ruthy!!! Missed you! Pass the porkers! I love not having to cook tonight. The potato salad is so yummy, you must have used cream. Please lie and say you didn't. I've gained a few on vacation. If airports weighed passengers in public view, and not just their bags, I'd stop stuffing myself. And if we had to pay, d/h would hide my fork.

I watched him eat an entire dungenous crab while we were in Oregon. Took him forever, but he's the one usually watching me eat snow or king or whatever I can get my claws on. Can you tell I love crab? And the butter. Hmm. But I was afraid of what was underneath that shell. But the kitchen had taken off the head and whatever else we'd rather not see, and put the top back on. I kept wishing I'd ordered one. And he didn't share. And of course, he never gains.

Thanks, Ruthy, for plugging Courting Miss Adelaide!!! I owe you, kiddo.


Anita Mae said...

Janet - yes, I was in the Canadian Armed Forces for 20 yrs.

I have to add here that after I wrote my 1st ms, I subbed it to SH without incl'g 3 chapters b/c I was following the guidelines. Of course, my query was rejected. By that time, I was a regular on the eharl SH board sponging everything I could.

I was told that when you go to a conf, you learn to send in the 3 chapters as well, but I'd never been to a conference. :-(

Then I posted that I didn't have a CP and had no way of knowing what my ms lacked or even if I was on the right track, Janet Tronstad offered to give me a quick one-time read of the first chapter.

I emailed it to Janet and within the hour, she sent it back with track changes saying I was close to publication but my heroine needed work, etc. Oh - and to drop the first scene. :-)

Thank you Janet Tronstad, Margaret Daley, Dream aka Danica - and all the wonderful authors and writers that offer help and encouragement on the eharl Steeple Hill board.

I don't think I would've written these 5 ms's in the 2 yrs without them. :-)

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sandra! thanks for the lovely comment. I enjoyed sharing dinner with you in San Francisco. I wish I'd gone along on one of your personal tours of the city. How long did you live there?


Janet Dean said...

Kimberli! Nicholas Sparks did save your lives!!! You need to write him. I'm sure he'll remember you cause I suspect not everyone asks him to use a cell phone to wish a daughter happy birthday. Did he sing or say it? I totally understand why you kept the phone. So glad you did!!!!! You might even be able to put this phone on e-bay. Sorry, that's not very sentimental.


Janet Dean said...

Anita Mae, congrats on serving in the military. I'm guessing you've led an interesting life.

I've seen you on the SH boards so I knew you're a regular, but I didn't know LI authors helped you along the way! That's so cool!! Janet, Margaret and Dream are great gals!


Kimberli said...

Are you kidding? I haven't attempted to tell him because I'm afraid he'll remember me! lol. You're right, I'm sure he would love to know. He has another book coming out soon. I might run down to New Bern for a signing. If I do, I'll tell him the story and show him the phone.

Unfortunately, he didn't sing. He did talk to my daughter for several minutes, though. I'm sure the Rhode Island sized smile I had on my face made me look like a goof, but I didn't care. I was too appreciative of what he was doing.

Here's a photo for you. This isn't the book I bought the day he talked to my daughter but boy does it fit:

And yes, that's the phone. Ebay? No way. When it dies, it's going in the Curio cabinet along with his autographed books.

Did I remember to congratulate you on your book? If not, congrats! If someone asks you to call a family member at a book signing, consider doing it! lol

Ausjenny said...

Janet for Christian fiction you have to go to a christian bookshop like Koorong or Word. (some smaller ones may have love inspired range but as the larger ones dont carry the full range its hard)
We do have shops like angus and robertson, dymocks and bookworld but they have an extremely limited christian fiction range.

when I hit the big city Koorong and Word are my first stop.

Tina M. Russo said...

I'm so excited for your release. What a journey. Congratulations dear author!!!

Janet Dean said...

Kimberli, think about taking Erma's workshop. Seriously. You're a stitch. :-)

I can't wait for Nicholas' next book signing in New Bern. Promise you'll tell him.

I promise if someone is shelling out cash for my book and asks me to call and wish a family member happy birthday, I will. Well, as long as it's their phone. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Jenny, Love Inspired books are often not in Christian bookstores here. In my town all the big bookstores carry them. But I'm not sure over the country as a whole. Glad you're finding a way to get them. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Thanks, Tina! You've put in a long day. Thanks for stopping in.


Lisa Jordan said...

I love reading other writers' journeys to publication. I think many new writers think once they're published, they've arrived. Not always the case. That's when the real work begins.

Erma Bombeck was a wonderful writer. Her wit and insights about life resonated with her readers.

Thanks for sharing, Janet!

Keli Gwyn said...


Thanks for sharing the story of your journey to publication and showing us how much of a role Erma's words of encouragement played in it. I can't wait to read Courting Miss Adelaide and Courting the Doctor's Daughter. I'm sorry to hear the third book wasn't purchased. Maybe later?

My greatest encourager is my husband. He's president of the Keli Gwyn Fan Club. A man couldn't be more supportive. He listens when I've received good news and start to effervesce, and he's there when the news is discouraging and I need to decompress.

Janet Dean said...

Lisa, you've nailed the reality of being a writer. But even with the downs, I wouldn't trade it. :-)Thanks for stopping!


Janet Dean said...

Keli, a supportive spouse is the one of the greatest assets a married writer can have. Hug yours. :-)


Susan Anne Mason said...

Hey Janet,

Chiming in rather late here. Thanks for sharing your story. And I can't wait to read Courting Miss Adelaide. Love the cover and the title!

You must be thrilled. I think the first book in print will be the biggest thrill ever. Enjoy every second.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Susan. I'm sure nothing related to writing can top the thrill of that first book in print. Well, maybe a Rita. :-) Thanks for planning to read Courting Miss Adelaide!!!


Pam Hillman said...

Hey guys! Busy week at work, so I'm playing catchup on Seekerville.

Loved your story of your writing journey, Janet!