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Extraordinary Stories That Touch The Heart And Challenge The Mind

It's Never Too Late to Learn

I have a magnet attached to my refrigerator that came with an order I received several years ago from The Teaching Company. On the magnet in bold letters is the declaration, “I’m Still Learning.”
Those words have never been truer for me than in the weeks since Christmas. To put it succinctly, I’ve learned to be a publisher and publish my own books. In this case, they are books from my backlist that have gone out of print. I have yet to publish an original edition of a book, but I can say with confidence that I no longer shudder at the thought.
Self-published books used to be seen as the mark of an amateur writer, but that’s no longer the case. Writers who read this post will know why. Readers will not care. So, I’ll just say that the advent of the internet and cheap books on line has changed everything.
I’ve never been one to resist change, so when all five of the books I published recently with Cool Well Press went out of print within a year, I jumped in to learn how to publish them on Amazon’s Create Space and on Kindle.
Now you can buy SINS OF THE EMPRESS along with WIZARD and all three books in the Dr. Alexandra Gladstone Mystery Series with their new covers. I personally like the covers better than the ones Cool Well did (with the exception of WIZARD), and I can’t wait to hear what the rest of you think.
Why did they go out of print so quickly? Cool Well said it was because they weren’t selling well enough, and that it was my fault for not promoting them. All I can say is that I did everything I could think of to sell them, but I have to admit that self-promotion has never been easy for me. Could it be that they didn’t sell well enough because they just aren’t very good? I don’t want to think that’s true, but if I have to face that awful truth, I will.
For now, however, I’m still writing the kind of things I like to write and the kind of things I like to read. The most recent book I’ve finished and that has been submitted to a publisher is a novel called FORGETTING TOMMIE about a woman who accidently stumbles upon a devastating secret about her husband. The one I’m about half way through is called THE MIND OF A DEVIANT WOMAN set during a troubling time in the early twentieth century in the U.S. when forced sterilization (of mostly women) was legal. Then I will finish the next Gladstone book in which Queen Victoria is accused of murder. I have about seven chapters done on that one.
So there you have it. As much as I tout my willingness to accept change, I don’t want to change the fact that I write stories that I would want to read rather than writing whatever is selling at the moment. For example, I couldn’t get past the first chapter of SHADES OF GREY. Obviously I’m in the minority, and I’m not condemning your choice of literature if you loved it. I’m just looking for a few good readers of my own. Read More 
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HOW DO I END THIS STORY?

My late friend, Eileen Stanton, wouldn’t read a novel unless she knew it had a happy ending. She was not at all ambiguous about exactly what a happy ending is, either.

“I don’t want any of the main characters to die, and I want everybody to be happy because they’ve solved all their problems in the story,” she said. “And I don’t want the author to leave me guessing about what happens next when the story ends,” she added. “I want to KNOW what happens next and that it’s all good.”

Obviously she’s not alone in her preference. We wouldn’t have so many books and movies with Sleepless in Seattle happily ever after endings or the good guys defeat the bad guys endings if that wasn’t the case. Happy endings sell books.

A psychologist would probably say we have so many ambiguities and unsolved problems in our real lives that when we seek entertainment or escape, we want to see movies or read novels about situations where all the ambiguities and problems are fixed and tied up with a big red bow.

While I’m not fond of existential endings that leave me scratching my head and wondering what all that means that I just read, I don’t insist on a traditional happy ending. What I want to read and write are novels, whether mystery novels, literary fiction, historical fiction, or YA fantasy with SATISFYING endings.

Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Lonesome Dove doesn’t end happily. One of the main characters is dead, and the other is an old man who has lost his ranch and the love of his life. But he’s gained something, too, something better, I would say.

Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy doesn’t have a happy ending since “the prince” has died a tragic death, and so many people had been hurt so deeply, but the main character’s redemption made the ending satisfying.

One of my favorite literary novels, is Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. At the end, we still don’t know whether or not Grace is a murderer. We only know she didn’t end up with the man she loved, yet we see in the quilt pattern she is making at the end that she has no regrets about any forbidden fruit she has tasted because it gave her life.

That’s not to say that I don’t also love a happy ending, especially the kind of happy ending Anne Tyler is so good at. And of course I loved Sleepless in Seattle. How could you not love that?

My own novels include historical fiction, contemporary fiction, mystery novels and YA fantasy, and the endings are as varied as the genres. I want to know how you feel about endings. Do you need a happy ending? A satisfying ending? An existential question ending? Leave a comment on this page and no matter what your opinion, you’re automatically entered in a contest to win a free copy of my latest novel, Sins of the Empress. (It has what I call a great ending.) Read More 
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A BIRTHDAY GIFT FOR THE WINNER

Catherine the Great’s birthday is this month, and you can have all the presents—a free Kindle and a spa basket fit for an empress (or emperor).

Go to www.coolwellpress.com/sins and sign your name. That’s all you have to do. Of course, I’d love it if you would buy the novel I wrote about Catherine, although that’s not necessary to win. The novel is called Sins of the Empress, published by Cool Well Press.

You may have heard of Catherine. She’s the tsarina with all the lovers. The one they tell that salacious story about having sex with a horse. That story is NOT true. It is true that she was a very passionate woman, not only in her love life, but in all that she did. That’s the reason she is such a good subject for a novel.

She was forced into an arranged marriage with the heir to the Russian throne when she was still in her teens. Her husband, Peter III, had been an alcoholic since the age of eleven, and it stunted his growth, both physically and emotionally. On his wedding night he brought his toy wooden soldiers to share the bed with Catherine.

She was under pressure to produce an heir, and since her husband didn’t seem to understand the mechanics of sex, her ladies-in-waiting convinced her to take a lover. She had several before her life ended (by natural causes, not by the horse incident), and she did produce an heir as well as another son and daughter. One of the tragedies of her life was that she was not allowed to see her children, and she risked her life to be with them.

Some accused her of murdering her husband—I’ll let you decide whether or not she did after you read the book. She did manage to secure the throne, though, even before his death, and proved to be one of the greatest rulers of the Russian Empire.

She was no ordinary woman, refusing to stay within the confines of what a woman “should do.” Many disapproved of her, many still do. That is exactly the kind of woman who makes a great story—the kind I love to write about.
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