Monday, February 4, 2013

I’m ready for my chance

A brief story about myself (what could be more fascinating, huh?) and the kind of flexibility that would make a circus contortionist green with envy. 

I say often here that I wrote for ten years before I got my first book published and when that fateful day came that I received a contract, I had twenty finished books on my computer.
I think of this now as….NOT a decades-long slog spent in mole-like anonymity. (well, I think of it as that some!)

But mostly I think of it as the time I spent getting ready for my chance. 

I want to talk today about whether an unpublished author should write a series. This can be tricky because so many acquiring editors aren’t going to buy three books (or however long your series is) from a first time author. No, they want ONE book and if your book is tied up in a series, then does that ONE book stand alone well enough that they’ll go for the one and keep you in mind for the next two if the one sells well.

My first long book Petticoat Ranch ended up being a series. 
But Barbour Publishing just bought the one. When they offered me that contract I honestly didn’t pout and say, “HEY I’ve got two more books here, and now they are ORPHANS.
Nope, I was too thrilled to sell the one book, for the other two, all I had was hope.
So here’s the thing with series, especially when you’re unpublished. Those books need to stand alone but they need to have the potential for a series. The books I do now are often laid out in an obvious ‘series’ style. Three brothers. Three sisters. Three Army buddies. It’s pretty obvious who’s going to be the leading man in each of the three books. 

But if you’ve read Petticoat Ranch and can remember, that book wasn’t like that
Petticoat Ranch had the heroine in it who ended up starring in Calico Canyon, but Grace was the school marm. 
Not particularly important, though she had some troubles. Mostly, Grace was just a secondary character who appeared in a couple of scenes.
So I wrote those books, very deliberately, to sell alone or together. But there’s more to it than that.

Also, in the original form, both Montana Rose and The Husband Tree were completed books that had nothing to do with each other. They were in different states. Belle Tanner was certainly not a character in Montana Rose. For that matter, Tom Linscott, who ended up appearing in six books, started out as a 'cranky area rancher who didn't mind bidding against Mort Sawyer for Cassie Dawson's ranch.' That was it. He had no part. All of these characters emerged as I put series options together.

When I sold, I was pitching a lot of different books. I took four one sheets to ACFW that year. Historical romance. Love Inspired Length. Heartsong Presents Length. Contemporary romance. One series I was pitching was a three book series with fraternity brothers, each with their own troubles after they got out in the world. At the time I called it From Here to Fraternity, which I still think is cute.

They were set in modern day Houston among the rich and powerful in the corporate world. Which ended up not being my thing, huh?

Two of those books have never sold, one sold as Clueless Cowboy in a different series. I have a really soft spot in my heart for Clueless Cowboy because it is the second or third book I wrote. (whether it was second or third has been lost in the mists of time-or more accurately, lost in the air pockets in my brain!) 
That book has for a hero, a burned out rich guy living in a derelict house far from  the nearest town, trying to ‘get back to nature’. You can maybe see how he used to fit with those powerful corporate types, though so much of his backstory got cut and changed I doubt anyone would ever think of it.

Well, when I had that three book series finished, I didn’t just set it aside. By this time I was learning enough about the market that I knew these books would be a fit for Heartsong Presents, Love Inspired or they could stand alone. 
The trouble with that is those lines are all different lengths.

So, I rewrote them, each three times. I wrote full length novels, around 90,000 words. Rewrote them again to Love Inspired length at about 55,000 words, then cut them each again to 45,000-50,000 words for Heartsong Presents. And as I rewrote them I kept in mind that they needed to stand alone or work as a series. And btw, when I say I had 20 finished books, I am NOT counting these as nine of them.

This way when I talked with editors at the ACFW Conference and pitched my book I could honestly say, “Yes, this is book is finished and it's the right length for an HP. It can stand alone but I've got an idea for a series....”
So I didn’t just write three books, I turned those three books into NINE books. And this is what I think of when I say, “You need to be ready when your chance comes.”

When finally Heartsong Presents wanted a book from me, it was clear by then that they were more interested in small towns and/or rural settings. 

So I tossed out the two books of the three set so firmly in Houston’s corporate world and dragged out another short book, Buffalo Gal, I’d written set around a Buffalo Ranch in Nebraska and pitched those when HP was doing their STATES books. 

I didn’t just promise to move Clueless Cowboy from a small town near Houston (thinking I could do it later if they bought it). NO! I did it. I rewrote it and set it in the Sandhills of Nebraska.

 And then pitched a third book that I had in mind for a secondary character from Buffalo Gal as the third book, this one still unwritten.

Heartsong Presents was interested but they’d already sold “Nebraska.” Could I possibly move my book to South Dakota?

You all know the answer to that, right? It is: “ABSOLUTELY I COULD! IT WOULD FIT PERFECTLY IN SOUTH DAKOTA!!!”

So I’d already rewritten The Clueless Cowboy to divest him of the connections to that original three books series AND moved him from Texas to Nebraska, now I uprooted him again and moved him to South Dakota, and I uprooted Buffalo Gal right along with Clueless Cowboy and then, finally, when that was all in order, I could write book three, The Bossy Bridegroom, set in the place it was always meant to be, a small town in South Dakota’s Black Hills, near a buffalo ranch and a strange hermit who’d turned into a heroic…if clueless…cowboy.

These three sweet contemporary romances are all available as ebooks these days if you'd like to read them.

This is what I mean when I say “Be ready for your chance.”

The answer to editors is always, “Yes, I can jump, and how high would you like me?”

You need to be able to say, “My books is done, I can have it to you today.”

You need to say, “I’m ready for my chance.”

Today I'm again urging you to GET YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER. We are gearing up for SPEEDBO. (James Earl Jones)

We are all trying to get ready for our chance.

So tell me what you can do to a book you currently have finished but that isn't selling? Can you move it? Can you connect it to a series? Can you rip it out of a series? I'm not saying you have to, or even should, but you need to open your mind to the possibilities. Don't limit yourself due to a lack of imagination--because if there is one thing a writer has it's a good imagination!!!

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for

coming in March from Bethany House Publishing

Swept away when her wagon train attempts a difficult river crossing, Ruthy MacNeil isn't all that upset at being separated from the family who raised her. All they've ever done is work her to the bone. She prayed for a chance to get away, and then came the raging flood. Alive but disoriented, she's rescued by Luke unfortunately, there are more chances to die in her immediate future.

Luke is heading home to reclaim the ranch stolen from his family. But the men who killed his father are working hard to ensure Luke doesn't make it alive. He has no choice but to keep moving. Still, he can't just abandon Ruthy, so she'll have to come along.

Available for Pre-order on

His friends--a ragtag group of former Civil War soldiers--take a fast interest in the pretty gal. Luke thinks that's rather rude--he's the one who found her. And the more time he spends around the hard-working young woman who is a mighty good cook, the more he finds himself thinking beyond revenge and toward a different future. For the first time in a long time, Luke is tempted to turn from his destructive path and be swept away by love.

In the wild west being a pretty woman has it's advantages. Like if a lady can't cook, the men come to the diner anyway and are honored to accept her  burnt offerings. Glynna Greer, a woman with a powerful fear of rawness is on her way to being the richest woman person in town.
Jesus sent the disciples out to practice medicine without a license so Dare Riker figures he can, too.
The only thing stopping them from firing up a romance is: 
1) Her hostile son who probably isn't trying to kill Dare 
2) The fact that Dare killed her brutish first husband--which isn't that big a deterrent, still it's kinda awkward
3) The repeated attempts on Dare's life. 

Sort all that out and these two could be happily married and also make a fortune. Glynna feeding the local men, Dare treating stomach ailments. 

Newly available on FIRED UP, book two in The Trouble in Texas series, in bookstores in August 2013


  1. I still don't have 20 books on my computer, but I have 13 and almost a third of number 14.

    I've done a lot of reworking, much like the processes you describe.

    And I've got the coffee pot set.


  2. Oh my goodness, rewriting three books three times. You had older children than babies at that time, right? If you had babies, I'm going to feel like a slug.

    But yeah, I'm not married to my words. I'll set them book wherever they ask if they buy it. :)

  3. I have one right now I'm rewriting from first person to third. Retyping the sucker. Contemplating doing that with a couple others as well.

    Generally, I write the first one in a series and figure I can write the others if it sells. Haven't written many book 2s yet - though I'm working on 2 right now as I'm VERY hopeful about the first books [more so than the others] and at least one of them could be a first book with minor tweaks.

    There was something else I was going to say.

    But I forgot what it was.

    Except Swept Away is awesome. And Fired Up is too far away.

  4. I had one book ready when my chance came, and since God opened that door, it sold. And now I'm playing catch-up to all you prolific writers.
    You're my hero, Mary. Three books into nine...WOW! I'm so glad you were that dedicated, because I love picking up one of your books. In fact, my dad does, too. He's re-reading all of yours right now. :-)

    Hope you all have a great week, mine is starting off fun. My sisters and I are going to a Josh Groban concert Monday evening. Pretty cool! He's doing a live concert in NY,and they're simulcasting it to movie theaters.
    Josh Groban Live

  5. I really need to get around to reading your shorter books (these three and the three in Nosy in Nebraska)! I have read all of your novels and love every one of them! I literally squealed when I saw the cover and description for Fired Up! I can't wait to read this whole series!!

  6. Helen, I love your work ethic and the coffee. :)

  7. Melissa I began writing the year my baby went to Kindergarten. That's when I got my first computer, so who knows if I'd have waited for the poor little girl to go to school if I'd had a computer, let's pretend I was waiting for Katy (Connealy Daughter #4).
    I don't know how you young mothers do it. My oldest daughter was born in 1979 and my baby was born in 1989. I have at least a decades-long stretch of amnesia. I might've gone close to that long without a shower, too!!!!!!!!

  8. Good work, Carol.

    You know, like I said with Montana Rose and The Husband Tree, I did some dancing around to connect those two.

    So who knows what you've got there on your computer that could connect with a few zillion hours of blood sweat and tears.

    And thanks for the kind words about Swept Away. I love that book. I love the connection between the heroes, they truly are heroic men, but the heroines ended up being so fun.

    And of course my little red-headed, hard working Ruthy is slightly reminiscent of our own sweet Ruthy here at Seekerville.

  9. Really? Josh Groban? Are you going to the live concern or to see it in the movie theater. I love that btw, that new concerts at movie theaters thing. I've never done it, but I love knowing that maybe some of these madly expensive and far away shows could get to me.

  10. And CLARI, tell your dad thanks so much for reading my books. God bless him for that. (You, too!)

  11. Ooooooh I can't wait to read "Swept Away" *squeel* hope I win *grin*

  12. ABBI, the three books in the Black Hills Blessing trilogy are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CBD and where ever fine (if- somewhat-supernaturally-and- mysteriously- delivered-into-a-device-lost-in-your-home) ebooks are sold. For really cheap, like 4 bucks. And these three really fit into my brand. Kinda cowboyish with a similar voice.
    the cozy mysteries are, to me, really fun and funny but they are different. Still, small town setting in Nebraska but they are a different voice and pretty wacky, so know what you're getting into there. I had a blast writing them. They are available now from Mary Nealy so look for that strange chick on Amazon and see if you can find them.
    They are now called:
    Bury the Lead
    Fright at the Museum
    Trial and Terror

    But they are the same books. I just got my rights reverted on them so I could publish them myself.

  13. Hi Winterrose. Thanks for the enthusiasm. :) Your name's in the drawing.

  14. Mary-Just finally went and purchased the Black Hills Blessing set! And I already have the Nosy in Nebraska-one or two twice over since I have them in book form and on my kindle! Now the only one I don't have is the one in the Christmas set with Robin Lee Hatcher, but I'll probably wait to get that until Christmastime!

  15. Mary I am so looking forward to reading Swept Away. Just when I think that I have read all of your books , I read of others that I am not sure to Amazon to check it out with my stack of your books by my side.

  16. Haha! Love this!

    This is so true. I've had to start a system for titles so I can tell all the versions apart.

    My 90K historical that is also a 75K historical and is also the first of a series and is also a stand alone. Or the contemporary suspense that is also a LI that is also a longer women's lit family saga? yes, indeedy. These were all changed to fit different markets when I'd sent out queries and received pointers or 'revise and resubmit' notes.

    Ick, just thought of my YA urban fantasy series of 70K each that was re-written from 3rd person to first after Leis Pedersen's comment when it won the Emily all-around. That was a pain in the patootey.

    My LI debut was originally set in LA, but LI wanted to move it somewhere near the mountains. "Sure, I can!" (Forget that a major plot point had to do with actors and rich celebrities.)

    I've killed characters off, brought them back, made them younger, given them kids, moved them from state to state, and cut out all their funniest lines.

    I think my books must hate me.

  17. Lol, Mary! I loved your reviws on Amazon for your Mary Nealy books!

    I want your niece. Five stars- "These are my aunt's books. I haven't read them yet. I'm sure they're good."

    Dang it. Why don't I have relatives like this???

  18. Good morning, Mary.

    I've been reading around about how much everyone loved last night's RAM ad about God Made a Farmer. Seems to me you have a farmer's work ethic about writing. Hope you take that as the compliment it's meant to be.

    I have at least one of those books - it started out as a Rev War book, then became a Regency Romance (didn't really work right) then a paranormal when those took off (that actually worked despite how bizarre it sounds.) Ultimately, the contemp story that was half of the paranormal became my Genesis-winning contemp.

    I tend to think series in my head when I begin, mainly because
    a) I love series; and
    b) I want my characters to have friends. And then once I start knowing their friends, I immediately start thinking of their stories.

    Happy Monday everyone.

  19. Morning Helen, hope you're feeling better.

    Mary thanks for sharing. I'd move my setting. I'd write in a specific setting if I thought it'd help.

    Right now my stories are based around two specific settings. Lexington, KY because I know it, and an island I created in NC.

    I've debated branching out to a new setting for the latest story beginning to percolate. Any suggestions?

    Thanks so much.

    Jackie L.

  20. I have stories in various stages of completion all over my computer. Some are only a list of characters or an outline. Some have full chapters completed. Others have the first sentence written. I do have one that is completely finished. I even submitted to the First Novel contest about 10 years ago. It didn't win and I don't know how far it went. I've not really thought about trying to get it sent to other publishers, at least not seriously until like the last year or so.

    I'd love to be entered to win a copy of Swept Away. I'm looking forward to reading it.


  21. Very good advice, Mary.

    I only linked the three Heartsongs that I've published together because that is what Barbour wanted at the time.

    I try to write stand alone's with minor characters that can get developed into a hero/heroine in the next book.

  22. I THOUGHT I was prepared, but after reading your post, I'm not sure I am, lol.

    You have inspired me, as always.

    Happy Monday, Seekerville!

  23. Mary is so right!!!

    I blew my first big chance because I wasn't ready. I couldn't regroup fast enough because I had two major surgeries and two difficult recoveries. I was too sick and overwhelmed to worry about books and publishers.

    Mary makes this sound easy or at least doable. It's doable, but hard. But again she's right! It's very helpful to have different versions (lengths) for the same book with an eye toward various publishers. Be as prepared as you possibly can for anything or at least be ready to go into high gear.

  24. Mary,

    Awesome post. I've never thought of having different novels in various stages before. It brings a whole new perspective to the entire enterprise. Thanks for that!


  25. Love your post today Mary! Oh, and thank you for offering your new book as a giveaway, as you know I love your books too!


  26. I hate when I have to 100% agree with the Connealy-meister.


  27. Hi Mary,
    Good ideas. The more productive we are, the better we get. I am working on a series now, but after reading this am thinking of marketing one of my stand-alones, just to see if that has a better chance. Please enter me in the drawing -- you know how much I love the Oregon Trail!
    Kathy Bailey

  28. Mary, back in October when Elizabeth Mazer from LIS did the speed track thing. I thought. Hmmmm. I have a sweet contemporary that could easily be converted into a suspense.

    I wasn't ready then, but now I'm signed up to pitch that story in May, during Love Inspired's Happily Editor After online speed pitch.

    Wish me luck!

  29. This is such a great post. Writing my book (s) again in different lengths is a good idea. It's a bit overwhelming to me at the moment. :) I've written one book, and yes, I'd change the setting if I needed to. Don't have a clue how to change the word count. But, it's a women's fiction, so that will put other parameters on it anyway.

    My new story is also women's fiction, and though it would take more work, I could change the setting.

    Mary, you amaze me. Thanks for sharing your books and your wisdom!

  30. Hi MARY, Your productivity always amazes me. Love it.

    Love that another book is coming out.

    Love that you are getting rights back and putting your own books out there. Good going. I think you will be pleased with the results.

  31. Wow Helen. I am impressed. And I read on Facebook that Cindy Wilson finished book 16. You guys are really incredible.

  32. Excellent post, Mary! I'm always blown away by how many books you wrote before you sold. But I had no idea how many versions of those stories you had. You were learning about the business and applying that knowledge to your books. And were ready for anything, much like your savvy, gutsy heroines.

    My first books were single titles. Not sure if that's typical of writers starting out, but it took me a long time to discover that opportunities were more plentiful in category. And that even cutting thousands of words, I hadn't lost a thing. My first books were also written for the secular market, another easy fix when inspirationals were where my heart and God led me.


  33. You've inspired and confused me, Mary, with your state hopping, word-hatcheting stories. Kudos to you though for being so open to meet different publisher's requirements. It obviously paid off big time!

    I have a children's novel that is being transformed as we speak. Chopping it and turning it into something for a younger market. It's not my highest priority, but when I get stuck on other things, I haul it out and play with it. Very therapeutic.

    I'm also gearing up to pare down my first 'really-finished' inspirational romance. I was going to hack it to bits in the original word doc, but now that you've mentioned having different lengths of the same story, I think I'll keep the original preserved as is and create a new doc for the edited version. Just because. :-)

    Oh -- and I just uncovered a YA fantasy I totally forgot about. Don't even have it on a word file -- just a file box filled to brimming. Terrible writing full of "he asked curiously" and the like, but the plot is solid so that's something I'm looking forward to working on in the future.

    I'm excited that Swept Away is coming out in a month! I was beginning to suffer from Connealy withdrawal. And super excited about all the spring releases coming out of Seekerville.

  34. GREAT post.


    Every writer should read this. :-)

  35. VIRGINIA! Girl, it sounds like you're just doing whatever creative thing you think needs to be done to get those books ready. Good for you.

  36. I saw that review by my niece and it makes me smile everytime. That was so sweet of her.

  37. MARY CURRY I actually included in my pitch bio before I was published, "I've got a Nebraska farm wife work ethic."

    And here's the thing about editing so much like you're changing setting, which includes attitude and voice and characters reactions. But fundamentally you're telling the same story.
    When I hear someone say, "My first book will never see the light of day"
    I like to challenge them about it. I'm sure for many of us that first book isn't well written, because we keep getting better and learning skillz, but the STORY, what about the story you told.
    Drag that dusty little baby out from under your bed and tell your story better. Unless it's a stupid story I suppose, but why would anyone ever write one of those, huh???

  38. JACKIE, I like the idea that you've sort of attached yourself to a particular area like that, even created your own island.

    All I'd say is, don't be so stuck to the one place and time that you can't occasionally explore elsewhere.

    I found changing time, place, genre really energizing. So switching from historical cowboy to contemporary gothic ... I think ... made the historical cowboy better when I went back to it.

  39. DAWN save all of those book ideas, you'll be glad to have them. If you've finished one book ten years ago then I'm assuming life is 'happening' to you and making it hard to write, which is just fine. When you're ready to write again all those ideas and chapters will be there to awaken your creative self.

  40. HI ROSE!!!!!!!!! I haven't seen you for a while. We need to get together, girl.

  41. Oh, Mary--been there, done that!!! (And much of it on YOUR advice!) Yep, when Autumn Rains won the Golden Heart, it was set in Texas. But when the manuscript finally caught the right editor's attention at Heartsong Presents, naturally, Texas was already taken in their states series.

    So . . . how about Missouri? I know something about Missouri. My parents were raised there. As a child I traveled with my mom to visit relatives the St. Louis area nearly every summer.

    Yes, Missouri was available. Rewrite time! But they needed two MORE books in Missouri for the 3-book series. I had a book almost complete that was set in Washington State (remember those, Mary?). Easy to switch to Missouri!

    The third book (actually, it ended up being the second) evolved from a vague idea I'd been toying with and planning to write. But, hey, Missouri would work fine as the setting.

    So I totally concur. Flexibility is a huge part of being ready for your chance.

  42. CARA, I don't think having two major surgeries is exactly something you could have skipped. So to say, "I wasn't ready..." well, no one pencils surgery into their schedule. The great thing about writing is, the book is still there when you get back to it.

    CARA is actually a great, great example of flexibility. Her first published book changed from contemporary to historical. I read both versions and thought the contemp was a great book, then when she switched it, she just brought the whole voice and attitudes and setting and clothing into the past and it worked so well I was amazed. But her STORY was still right there.

  43. ANNIE RAINS well, if you're not ready, darlin' then get yourself set to go for SPEEDBO (James Earl Jones echoing voice applied, please).
    You can spend March kick starting your 'I'm Ready For My Chance' campaign.

  44. Mary,

    I have a series in progress, but I made sure all can stand on their own. I sent out a requested proposal on book 1, and will complete book 2 during Speedbo just in case.

    The first book I ever wrote still has potential, and I've brainstormed on how to change the setting to incorporate it into my other series.

    I'm preparing, I'm just not moving near as fast as you. But then who does?

    Love the covers to both your books. Oh, and pleae throw my name into the hat for Swept Away.

  45. PIPER Now that I'm published, yeah, sure, I can got back and see how much I worked and revised and fiddled around to get ready.
    But trust me, at the time, it was maddeningly frustrating. :(
    It was more a monument to obsessive compulsive disorder than ambition.
    Worth it, though....eventually.

  46. WENDY, did you know I've got a daughter named Wendy. It is possibly my favorite name on earth.
    My other three daughters have good names, too, but Wendy is, to me, the perfect name. Almost universally spell-able, pronounce-able and yet unusual.
    You're in the drawing.

  47. I love hearing your story in more detail, Mary.
    Gives me hope...and a certain type of reverent fear!
    I've known you and Ruthy long enough so that your advice has been put into action.
    My agent sent my historical back to me with a long list of changes, and...I did what she said.
    On Friday she sent my contemporary back to me with a long list of changes (namely, take your witchy heroine and make her nicer) and...last night I started on those.

    Friday, Summerside sent me an email (out of the blue) asking for my historical I'd pitched at ACFW. it's the first in a series....(the next words are written with pained expression) but it doesn't HAVE to be.'s going out.... TODAY!
    Am I ready? I haven't rewritten my stories like you did, Mary- but I know what I need to do in each one of them to adjust the length according to the editor-requests.
    And...I'm not married to my stories. We are kind of in long-distance relationships

  48. Hi Ruthy. Sorry to make you so miserable. (not!)

  49. Oh, don't put me in the drawing, Mare. I have you book on the way already.

  50. KATHY BAILEY!!!! HI!!!!!!!! I have had the pleasure of reading part of one of Kathy's books and it's really good. Unusual and fascinating and well written.

    Good luck with it and with everything.

  51. BRIDGETT HENSON ... Good for you. There's that writer imagination.

    If you want to convert to a suspense are you reading the LI suspense line? It helps to learn what their tone is.

  52. Mary,
    We're going to the theater "version" of the live concert. :-) And even that is an hour and a half away. But I love that we get to experience it because there's no way I'll ever make it to NYC or Chicago, etc., for something like this. :-)

  53. JEANNE, I found that cutting and revision was amazingly healthy. I remember being ... well, let's say ... chagrined ... rather than HUMILIATED, when I set out to cut Clueless Cowboy (remember this was an old book) to LI length and I think I cut 15 pages near the beginning with out losing one single bit of the story.
    It was very good for that book to get cut. Most books have plenty of deadwood.

  54. KAV. I just love it that you 'discovered' a YA fantasy on your computer. I seriously love it.
    It sounds like you're doing great work. Keep it up!!!!!

  55. Mary, Yes, I am reading LIS to get a feel for what they want. It helps that I've won three suspense books here in Seekerville. :)

  56. JESSICA NELSON, seriously, every writer? That would be fantastic for Seekerville hits today, huh? :)

  57. CONNIE QUEEN, seriously, girl, does ten years seem fast to you? cuz it seems really SLOW to me.

  58. PEPPER, LOL, Not married to them, not even engaged?

  59. And PEPPER, God bless you for getting my book. I sincerely appreciate it. I don't foresee the day EVER when I think about being a published author and am not stunned and amazed.
    Honestly, I just still can't believe it ever happened.

  60. A long-distance engagement, maybe?
    I'll make sure to get your books, Mary. One way or another

    Btw, had the best compliment from Ruthy when she read my contemporary. She said my hero's POV had some Connealy charm to it.

    She probably wouldn't want you to know that, though. So don't tell her I said anything :-)

  61. Yes, Mary, even in ten years.

    That's about how long I've been writing (okay closer to 14-15 years), but I spent too many years writing, stopping, writing, stopping.

    I've been trying to pick up the pace and write consistently, it's helped, but I'm still not fast. I know if I keep making it a priority, I'll get there.

  62. Mary, you know better than to splash that many numbers on a page with the spreadsheet queen in residence.

    It was all I could do not to try to add it all up to see how many versions of each book you had.

    No, not gonna go there! Not today.

    It's Monday. I've got the sinus crud AND my caffeine hasn't kicked in.

  63. Connie Queen,
    I think your dedication after 14-15 years is amazing. Life happens. Family happens. Fast or slow, the big deal is stick-to-it-ness. Don't you think?

    I WISH I could write more often, but God's placed me in this moment with my wonderful family and my blessed job - and (amazingly) He's still called me to write.
    Thankfully (and sometimes quite frustratingly) we're on His time, not ours. LOL
    Focusing on the 'thankfully' part of His timetable is better, right? :-)

  64. I say that to remind myself in the middle of the frustration :-)

  65. The book that released this year with Linda Goodnight as a Christmas book was one of those books.

    It was a story about a woman who grew roses and made candles from the rose scent in the Ozark Mountains and a city boy who moved in up the hill (okay cliff) from her and his desire to build a house will tear the heart of her rose garden.

    Well, that book came very very close (okay, not close at all, what do I know) to selling to Barbour Heartsong Presents.

    In fact, I'd pitched it to HP and done some revisions and they'd shown real interesting. I'd also pitched an unwritten book with Cathy Marie Hake and Kathleen Y'Barbo.

    When I got my first contract at the ACFW Conference...I had to walk up front to get the 'contract' from Tracie Peterson. I was back at my table for quite a while holding the paper she handed me in my sweating palms when I finally unfolded it and read it. And they hadn't purchased the lovely and well edited and oft revised Scent of Heaven (Now part fo Candlelight Christmas), oh no, they'd bought Golden Days.
    I had to go home and write a book.
    That book Scent of Heaven was a contemporary in the Ozarks. Well, for the purposes of a Christmas novella, I turned a 45,000 word contemporary romance set in Arkansas in the summer, into a 25,000 word historical romance set in...first Montana, then Arizona, then finally back to Ozarks. (I was trying to 'cowboy up' the setting but the weather and soil just would NOT cooperate.
    I did find, in my research, the most fascinating stuff about botany though and a man who explored the unusual plants near Yellowstone I want to make a hero out of him one day, so all that work wasn't wasted.

  66. CONNIE QUEEN Stopping and starting and stopping...that's just life happening to you. God bless you for your dedication to writing AND to the life that distracts all of us sometimes.

  67. Thanks, Mary, for sharing some of your journey.
    Please, please, please enter me in the drawing!

  68. Mary, you AMAZE me!! My head is spinning right now. That was definitely a three ring circus! But look at how you've been successful!

    Amazing. :)

  69. Hi Mary,

    This is great advice. I've been revising a book for a few months now, the first in a series and also a stand-alone. Already thinking of the others as stand-alones in case the series doesn't sell.

    Flexibility is definitely a must for writers!

    And Pepper! Awesome news! Sounds like you've got a couple of irons in the fire. Praying for good news!

    Put me in the draw - Love the covers of the new series!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  70. Amy, you're in the drawing.
    My journey. I suppose that's a better word for it than TRUDGING, STAGGERING, STUMBLING, LONELY TREK THROUGH THE EMPTY FROZEN WILDERNESS.

    (picture me as one of the sled dogs, not the guy riding on the sled cracking a whip, the jerk!)

  71. SUSAN ANN, good for you, for being flexible. Have you ever seen a circus contortionist btw? Strange, it doesn't look like all that stuff she's doing can be at all good for her.

  72. Hi Mary:

    This is probably the most pragmatic piece on writing since Samuel Johnson wrote, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

    I can only think of all those aspiring writers I’ve met over the years who told me that they were writing the book of their heart and didn’t care a hoot for the marketplace. Boy, did they ever need to meet you. ☺

    I’d say you never waited for your chance. You went out and made your chances. This reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon of two buzzards perched on a telephone line in the desert and one says to the other, “If something doesn’t die pretty soon, I’m going out and kill me something!” (A proactive vulture.) Sorry, I had to tell that story to cheer Ruth up. You know the words to the old song, “When Mama Ain't Happy, ain't nobody happy”. You can ♪ ♫ ♫ ♪ it here:

    BTW: today “Golden Days” is only 99 cents as a Kindle. I bought this when it first came out and the postage was more than the book and it must have cost $8 or more total and then after a chapter or two, I had to stop reading because it must have been their special extra small type edition for eagle-eyed young readers. If I remember right, the story reminded me of Jack London going to Alaska.

    Also, “Clueless Cowboy”, is just $3.99 on Kindle which I think is less than the postage I had to pay per book from that Heartsong Presents bookclub thing. I now have both “Clueless Cowboy” and “Golden Days” on my Kindle with type big enough to read! Wouldn’t it be great if you could go to Amazon and for $3.99 stop time for about three hours so you’d have the time to read the book you just bought?

    Hey, there’s a YA paranormal plot in there somewhere: everyone starts buying ‘time stoppages’ and it fractures the fabric of reality. Two teenagers rush to halt the cracking before it reaches the point of no return. Together they save all existence.

    Got to go and get some work done, like taxes, so I can clear some time for Speedbo.


  73. Vince, thanks for the reminder. Must get taxes done before Speedbo!

    Now that's an incentive if I ever heard one!

  74. Vince I'm laughing because I love the way you get to the heart of everything.

    And the saying, "Whenever someone says "It's not about the money", you can bet: It's about the money.

    That's a truism!

    I'm never ashamed that I write for money. I wrote for 8 years with no money and I'd do it again, but how nice to have that hard work and willingness to work according to editorial standards recognized in a paycheck.

    I've always had a fondness for paychecks! Waitressing, selling Tupperware, planning weddings, working with little ones, decorating cakes.

    Never once did I hand the check back and say I was decorating the cake of my heart.


    I love my job. Have I said that often enough?

  75. "Never once did I hand the check back and say I was decorating the cake of my heart."


    Totally made me lol!

    But.... just a word on the other side of the fence... Because there's so much talk of paychecks....

    Sometimes you can't be bought. James Artemis Owen tells a great story in his 'Drawing Out The Dragons' book about having an entire team waiting to hear what their contract would be, and him having to explain how the publisher wwanted to change the terms. So, no contract.

    It wasn't the money, because they even offered more than the amount team had suggested, it was preserving the vision. They wanted changes he couldn't make.

    Of course, in the end (twelve years later) they're all a huge success, but then, at that moment, I'm sure plenty of people told him to take the money and be flexible.

  76. Mary, you are ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!! I have to admit, I've always been a wee bit jealous over ALL those ms. you had ready and waiting, although I see now that you rewrote and revamped them as needed, so you put LOTS of time and work into them, which impresses me all the more. I didn't have any ms. under the bed, but how I wish I did!!

    You are my hero!!!


  77. Hi, Mary! I can't tell you how timely I believe your post is for me. I've just gotten through perusing the speed-pitching "Happily Editor After" opportunity gearing up over at Love Inspired. I'd almost discredited it until I read your post because my novel(s) are longer than their guidelines. Perhaps shortening one and pitching it wouldn't be too bad of an idea after all. Thanks. :) Oh, and I look forward to reading your new book whether I win it here or have to buy it myself. :D

    Crystal L Barnes

  78. Ooooh! Thanks for the peek into your mind, Mary!

    I had a couple of sleep deprived nights this week, thinking about just this topic for my WIP. And YES--you confirm what I decided...write it as a stand alone, but with the series a possibility. What would be your suggestions for preparing for the series expansion? Just mention a character in the story, have "bit part" characters, refer to possible connections from other places/occupations?

    Love the way you were able to change's all in the imagination! And being ready.

    As I was plotting this weekend, I was planning the goodies--soap, jewelry, shawl, CHOCOLATE--I would put into my GIVEAWAY basket for my first publication, and then thought, "God must be laughing at me!!!" But then I got the message from Him...."You are preparing the field." :) Maybe I should "prepare" the book before I go shopping, but.......Thank you for the perfect inspiration, Mary. We need to be ready....and flexible! And I'm getting ready for SPEEDBO!

    Helen: So glad you are feeling better!

  79. HI VINCE The day isn't complete until you come in and leave a comment. I always know you're going to have something great to say.

    And you know, there is NOTHING wrong with writing the book of your heart, but that always goes on the assumption that you have to write it in an uncompromising fashion, exactly as you envision it. Well there is NO genre that isn't published, at least I can't think what's getting left out.
    So write the book of your heart. But write it brilliantly and don't be afraid to cut it and adapt it and revise it into something that an editor will buy.

    If the book of your heart is a deep look into the soul of a coming of age armadillo with PTDS from dodging cars on the highway, well, good luck. Make sure and tell it really REALLY well.

  80. It's the cake of my heart.

    OH MY GOSH. I am using that saying now for EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!

  81. Julie, sweetie, I have a feeling that while I was sitting alone, so very very alone, writing, you were out having a life. I'm the one who should be jealous.

  82. Besides these are the kinds of things people work with when they DON'T get their first-ever-written book published.

  83. Go for it, Crystal. I can't prove it but I think a lot of editors are running aspiring authors through a little test when they ask for changes.

    They want to see if you're willing to work with them or will you be hard to deal with. DIFFICULT. So don't give them a reason to fear you.

  84. Sherida, what is great about having time before your books sell, is you can finish both (or all three or all seven) books before a publisher asks for them. Then you have the gift of perspective. You can have (as in Petticoat Ranch) Grace Calhoune and the hero Daniel Reeves in the story and because you've already done their whole story you can be true to their characters in your story.

  85. Sherida, don't feel silly for the gift basket plan...although if it were ME I would probably buy and eat the chocolate if the book release date was a long way off. So you might want to hold off on that for now.

  86. I haven't read a Mary Connealy book since before Christmas. Please put me in the drawing.

  87. You are great at writing series, Mary!!! I actually had a wonderful time making a series out of my fairy tale retellings. My third and fourth books' heroes are two brothers who also happen to be the sons of the hero and heroine from my first book. I hadn't originally thought to do it that way, but it worked, so I went with it. And the fifth book that I have planned will have their daughter as the heroine and the grandson of the hero and heroine from my second book. Is that too confusing? It very well may be, but it's okay, because they all stand alone just fine and you don't necessarily have to read them in order. :-)

    I do have a book set in 1880 Alabama that I had hoped to make a series, but the first book has never sold, so I haven't written the second and third books yet. Some day Southern historicals are going to be BIG, and I will write them. ;-)

  88. Mary Cline. I promise I am writing as fast as I can....except on days I spend playing at Seekerville of course. :)

  89. Melanie I think your books stand alone perfectly and yet I love that you're tying them together that way. WAY TO GO MELANIE!!!!!!!!!!

  90. "If the book of your heart is a deep look into the soul of a coming of age armadillo with PTDS from dodging cars on the highway, well, good luck. Make sure and tell it really REALLY well."

    Oh my goodness, I snorted.

    And then I read that to my kids, and they're thinking it sounds a lot like RINGO.

    Armadillos are the next big thing.

  91. I would totally read a Southern historical written by you, Melanie... Isn't that what 'Gone With the Wind' is all about?

  92. Virginia, move on the armadillo idea fast, girl.
    I give you permissio.
    Also, don't dare tell anyone you got the idea from me...blame ... uh ... I mean GIVE CREDIT TO ... your kids.

  93. MELANIE are the Regencies you sold a series? You sold a three book deal, right?

  94. Great post, Mary!

    I have a Scottish historical that one agent wanted paranormal elements added before she'd look at it. An editor wanted paranormal elements, but didn't like the ones I added. All mainstream. sooooo I put it away. One day I'll get back to it and rework it as an inspirational.

  95. I am late today, so glad I had a chance to stop by when I saw Mary C here, love to read your books and definately want to be in the drawing on this one.
    you have done so much in your career and We readers are glad that you have. raising all those daughters is a great feat in itself. I suppose you helped out on the ranch too. I was never that industrious, I wonder how those that wear many hats do it.
    thanks for comments today..

    Paula O

  96. Hmm ... I am not as prepared as I thought I was. Three contemporaries in New Mexico. Three historicals in Texas. A novella in Texas.

    But ... if I made the novella into a full-length contemporary set in New Mexico about a man who has roots in Texas ... or maybe if I write a historical time travel that takes the hero to present-day New Mexico where he finds out he isn't really from 1880s Texas ... I feel a Speedbo project coming on :-)

    Thanks for the heads-up about being ready, Mary.

    Nancy C

  97. Cool. I'm starting now.

    Armadingo: the coming of age story set on the searing blacktop of Texas and in the mind of young Deranged-o.

    And I'll enter it in the Sandy for MG fiction. It's Disney Hyperion's editor that worked on Riordan's Red Pyramid series.

    Totally the same genre. He'll love it.

    Just throw in a prohecy and some ancient myths and we're all set.

    Of course, you're blurbing this for me when it gets to print.

  98. Thanks Pepper and Mary. I'm trying to get more dedicated to my goals.

    I'm determined this is my year.

  99. connie, I first read that and thought you said you were trying to get more dedicated to my GOATS. I thought maybe it was a new venture. Goat meat is huge these days.

  100. Mary,
    When I read your sentence, "Be ready for your chance,” my dyslexic-self read it as, "Be ready for your dance."

    Well, that too! I have to keep reminding myself to get on the floor and boogie. Get those manuscripts polished and into circulation.

    Thankfully, I'm not married to my writing. If someone says change it, I'm ready to rock and roll! Great post, Mary! Thanks!

  101. LOL! Lyndee! Me too. Glad to know I'm not the only one. I've actually gotten myself into trouble for reading things that weren't there. I even took my kids to the wrong address for an appointment once because I transposed the numbers. At least I didn't go knocking on any residential doors, probably would have it there'd been an actual address.

  102. Thank you so much for the giveaway. I LOVE your books!

  103. Christina,
    LOL! Or is it LLO? Teehee. Funny story about the address snafu. My most memorable encounter with my dyslexic-self was when I auditioned for the college symphonic band (flute) and after I finished, the director said, "Wow, that's the most spectacularly hard piece of music anyone has ever used for an audition. Too bad all those notes aren't written on the page!" Hey, I SAW those notes! I swear they were there a minute before! ;)

  104. Oh, Lyndee, that is funny. When one of my kids was diagnosed with dysgraphia and dyslexia, I was reminded how I used to write everything backwards and my parents thought I had done it on purpose. I still have occasions, but not too often more with numbers than anything. I've always said I have a dyslexic brain. I even think backwards.

  105. Christina, I think that way, too. Maybe that's why I read the last page of the book first? ;)

  106. It's neat to read how you got your start. I'm so glad you weren't stubborn, but were able to change your books to what publishers were looking for. Now that your talent has been found, do you feel they give you more freedom to do it your way? I love the various series. I have to wait until they're all out and read them one after another:o) Thanks for the contest and keep up the good work!

  107. WOW! You are amazing Mary---and very wise, I might add. How smart to have all those manuscripts ready, and being willing and flexible enough to make so many changes when needed. ~ I have 2 submissions in at the moment (requests from ACFW in Dallas) and I'm waiting to hear. In the meantime, I'm tweaking the contemp. ms. and seriously looking at starting a 2nd one to follow my historical ms. (there's a secondary character that really wants her own book!). ~ Thanks for this post today, and for the motivation---reading what all you did BEFORE being published is a GREAT encouragement for those of us unpubbed! Hugs, Patti Jo

  108. I love the Heartsong present books and have read those 3.
    Its nice seeing insights into the path to publication.

  109. PS. I have Swept away on preorder for my kindle so dont enter me.

  110. It's always fun to read how you write your books, but even more fun to read them! I'm looking forward to this new series. I'd love to win a copy of Swept Away.

  111. Yes, my Regencies are a series. It's three friends who are the heroines. And thank you, Virginia! I should be qualified to write a book set in the South if I'm qualified to write ANYthing. Growing up in Lower Alabama, it wasn't really that different than it was in 1880, if you know what I mean.

  112. I keep hearing this from more than one source on this blog.

    The Japan novel I completed is the first in a series, but it does stand alone. The other two in the series are in process, but I've set them aside for now. I had to take a break from it and write something new. (Granted, I chose
    1st century India, which is nearly as insane as Japan but keeps my muse going.)

    I will be ready for Speedbo. I have an Americana novel that is begging to be written.

    And has anyone noticed that you're getting close to 1000 followers. Less than 10 to go.

  113. mom2abcd I have to propose my books to Bethany House and come up with a proposal they like and of course it's all within the Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys brand, but honestly yes, they trust me to deliver a good book and when I tell them I'm excited about a story they usually say yes.

  114. WALT I'm glad you're going to try Americana. I think you're a very talented writer but you've picked very tough settings to sell. Which doesn't mean it can't be done, but why not give yourself a break, huh?

  115. To be ready for the opportunities that may come your way - all important.

  116. Thank you Mary for shedding light on 'series' writing. I've always thought I should work towards that and it tends to bog me down and keep me from completing one book let alone three. This is a Keeper post for me. Thank you.

    I would love to be entered into your giveaway. Thank you for the opportunity to win SWEPT AWAY.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  117. Ah! Such a lovely post, and I missed it, missed it, missed it. Please don't hate me for being eight hours late!

    Mary, your story is really inspiring. As for me, no I haven't played around with any of my pre-pub books. Well, the first two are so bad I don't want to touch them. The third has some potential and I might go back to it someday. But since I've gotten my first contract, I've been too busy writing the follow-ups to the book that "was never supposed to sell" and certainly wouldn't turn into a series. Even our wonderful agent told me there would never be a sequel to my French Revolution story. And guess what? Two more books under contract and on the way.

    So what does that tell you about series? :-)

  118. Mary,
    You are pawmazing...
    Wisdom from the wise and fearless leader.
    Thank you!!!
    I've been wondering about life after May 3, or... Should we continue on?
    This is a great catalyst. ("") ("")
    2 paws up!)
    Congratulations to all the previous commentees. Wshew.
    I <3 Seekerville!

  119. Mary, thanks for writing all that out in your wonderful friendly style. I so appreciate the encouragement . . . you give us hope, and such a great example of FLEXIBILITY.

    Gail Kittleson

  120. Mary,
    Is it permissible to rewrite and retitle a self-published book and present it to an agent?

  121. Mary,
    Is it permissible to rewrite and retitle a self-published book and present it to an agent?

  122. I could relate to your experience. I have three complete novels, sagas really, written years ago, still sitting in the closet. No one was buying sagas, at least not from an unknown. Then one day at church when the sermon was about the talents, the Lord gently reminded me I had these complete manuscripts plus several partials buried in the closet and I wasn't getting any younger. I was reading series historicals at the time and realized I could turn those sagas into series. I've done that with one of them and working on the next. Thanks for affirming that I'm going in the right direction.

  123. I would love to win,Enter me!!!
    Thanks for the giveaway and God Bless!!!
    Sarah Richmond

  124. I love the covers of your new books Mary and can't wait to read them. :)

    Like Melissa said, I'm not married to my words either, which is why I'm working on the second set of revisions that an editor requesting, hoping and praying one day I'll get that 'call.' :)

    Jodie Wolfe

  125. Looks Awesome!!!

    Abigail Richmond

  126. Thanks Mary...i have been trying to find out the difference in numbers of words per each type of book...i sometimes like to throw that type of trivia into my reviews. And i'm sorry, but i don't really like it when books change titles. More than once have i bought a book thinking it's new to me, only to find out i have it with a different title. i think Robin Lee Hatcher's are famous or notorious for that! Thanks for the coffee, Helen. Would love to win Swept Away...or atleast review it on my blog.

  127. Oh my. 20 books. That's truly awesome!

  128. I loved reading this! (You're one of my favorite authors!) Please, enter me! Clp1777(at)aol(dot)com

  129. This comment has been removed by the author.

  130. I love Mary's books. Who doesn't love her hunky cowboys?


  131. You are my hero, Mary. I feel like a slacker with only 10 finished unsold manuscripts, and none of them are triplets!

    Toss my name in the hat if you're willing to substitute a digital version. Can't read print very well any more.

  132. Jewell It's absolutely permissible, but you've got to tell the agent the books history when you're pitching it. Getting an agent for a self-published book...after it's done all the time.

    It gives the agent a good look at your work and even if they don't want to take on the self-published book they might sign you for future work.

  133. Is it just me, or does the guy on the cover of Fired Up look like a younger Kevin Costner?

    Mary, I look forward to all of your books and I'm sure this series will be no different.


  134. Looking forward to reading your new books even if I dont win.

  135. I would love to win a copy of Swept Away!! I always look forward to reading one of your books :)

  136. Wow! What a trail ride, Mary! You're such an inspiration!

    I don't know that I have enough written material to talk about changing anything up. I'm still a bit of a beginner. I do have my first novel sitting in the drawer. It needs an over haul of a different sort. From telling to showing. :)

    Am I too late to jump in for the drawing? LOVE the cover!

  137. Loved this post and I am dying to read Swept Away. I've not read a Mary C book yet but I am going to read this one! What a plot line!!!

  138. I have no idea how you keep coming up with all these stories! I have loved your writing forever - even send them to my 87 year dad who loves western clean books! Can't wait for this one & Fired Up!