Friday, December 9, 2011

Romance at Random e-book Giveaway!

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Enter Here!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hello? Hello? (tap-tap) Is this thing on??

Wow! Talk about taking a hiatus from apologies! And now, for the rest of the story...

New Year's Eve 2010, I finally got the news. The second agent loved my story and wanted to run my manuscript by her boss! Considering that my original query hadn't cut the mustard with the head of the agency the year prior (it really was horrendous!), I was a basketcase! Plus, it was the New Year, and I'd have to wait a few days. So, I waited. And waited.

Within a few days, school started back up. My hopes were growing dim. I had visions of the agency head taking one look at my ms and laughing his head off at the thought of ME ever becoming a published author. I even dreamt I was Ralphie from A Christmas Story, getting my Christmas Theme back from Miss Shields at Warren G. Harding Elementary School with a BIG FAT C+ on it and Miss Shields cackling at me dressed in a witch costume. I had a horrible feeling this was going to end badly. However, by this time, I had a contract in hand from the first agent. Knowing that I already had an agent offer kept me sane...somewhat.

January 6, 2011 at 11:28 a.m., just after giving my seventh graders the dreaded Muscle Quiz, an e-mail popped up. I read it quickly, and COULD NOT believe what I was reading. I was being offered representation by the second agency, with the agency head's blessing! My squeal of joy had to be explained to a group of stunned 7th graders, who quickly began applauding my good fortune, and by the next day I was signing my name on the dotted line. I was now, officially, a client of The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency!

That, my dear friends, was only the beginning. I had to gracefully inform the first agent of my decision. That was truly hard. I knew she had a passion for my story and would do everything she could to try to sell it. She was, of course, disappointed in my decision. Then, I had to get to work. Months of editing, getting my ms ready for submission, and finally constructing a list of first-round editors who would be receiving my ms had to take place.  I'm still in the midst of receiving responses from the editors and hoping we can make a list of second-round editors, if needed.

Will THE TIP TOP CAFE' ever be picked up? Maybe. Maybe not. Meanwhile, I continue to write. And worry. And dream...from my own little corner, in my own little chair. That's the best part of all!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus...

Some of you have been waiting an EXCRUCIATINGLY long time to find out how I finally landed THE ELUSIVE AGENT--AGENT--AGENT (Is there an echo in here???)  Here it is.

After taking a five-month hiatus from querying, I finally worked up enough nerve to start the process again. But this time, I was going to go in armed and ready for battle, and, as you have already been informed, I lurve me some internet research. So, I hit the interwebs (yes, I said it) once again. I typed in seven simple words--how to write a great query letter--and hit the "enter" button.  What popped up was exactly what I had been looking for.  This.

I had no idea who Noah Lukeman was, so I googled him, of course, and found out that he is an agent to best-selling authors and the head of his own agency. Best of all, he has a really good reputation. The more I read of his simple ideas on how to write a great query letter, the more they made sense. So, I followed his advice. I started off with what I hoped would be a great hook, cut the synopsis down to four (he suggested three) tight sentences, listed the pertinent information (genre, word count, etc.), and got rid of the names of the characters. This last bit of advice really made sense to me. You know how a person associates certain things with certain names, ie: THAT was my ex's name--I HATE that name? Why wouldn't certain names conjure up some weird thoughts in the minds of agents, too? I didn't want that, so I dumped them.  I then posted my query on a forum to get some feedback. After one particular person who is a YA writer agented by Writer's House (they rep Stephenie Meyer--think TWILIGHT-- and the estate of VC Andrews, among others) gave me the thumb's up, I sent out a test batch.  BINGO.

One of my first responses? Seriously…this is the best query…ever! With that was a request for the first three chapters, and a thank you for making my day!   I must admit, the thought flashed through my brain that the woman was pulling my chain, but when I reread the e-mail for the fortieth time, it finally dawned on me that she wouldn't have requested chapters if she didn't really like it. I allowed myself to have a little squeal of delight and share my good news with loved ones. A few days later, she requested a full. From query to three chapters to full. This was a good sign. A VERY good sign. Soon, a few other requests for full manuscripts came in, and I happily e-mailed them off.  Then the waiting began.

After gnawing my fingernails down to useless stubs over the next six weeks, I got THE e-mail. My query fan agent wanted to arrange a time to talk to me. ME. About my story. Over the phone. GULP. My mind flashed to some posts I had read from a woman who had just been offered representation by this same agent, and then the post made by her husband a few weeks later letting the rest of us know that his wife had an aneurysm and died suddenly.  RIGHT AFTER GETTING AN AGENT. How ironic. I immediately went to my favorite forum to get advice, AND to calm my fears. Do agents call to let you down easy? Should I ask questions? How do you prevent hyperventilation? Will I have a heart attack and die while talking to her? What if I say something stupid? If she offers, what do I do about the outstanding manuscripts?

The day finally came. I got out all my notes, my questions I’d ask, had my laptop queued to my manuscript, made sure my cell phone was charged, laid everything out on the dining room table, and I sat, and waited, trying not to hyperventilate. Ten minutes after the time she was supposed to call, I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen. did. I swallowed and answered on the second ring. An hour and a half later, after she went over everything she loved about my story, she offered representation. She told me to take my time deciding, and guided me on what to do with the other agents who had my manuscript. She was very clear that this was a major decision that could have a profound effect on my future, and that I needed to weigh all the options. I, of course, wanted to scream, YES!!, but I didn’t. I thanked her, told her I’d get back to her in a couple of weeks, and hung up.

After screaming and doing cartwheels into the next room (mental cartwheels, mind you) and dancing around with my family, I called my sisters, and my mom, and my best buddy, Jan. I got on facebook and announced it to the world. I got on my favorite forum and announced it to my writing buddies. Then, I let the other agents who had my full manuscript know I had an offer. Within a few hours, I got an e-mail from an agency I had been salivating over for the last year. I had sent it to them, knowing it was a long-shot. When I first began my querying adventure, I queried the owner of this particular agency with my original, horrendous query letter, and didn’t hear back from him. It stated very plainly on their site that they only respond to queries they’re interested in. I didn’t blame him for passing. I wouldn’t have requested a manuscript from that letter, either. But now, there was a new agent in the game. And she was interested. VERY interested. She asked for a few extra days to read it. I couldn’t believe it! Of course I’d give her some time to read it. My fingers trembled as I wrote back to her.

Was I about to receive a second offer of representation?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Ummm…where was I? Oh, yes. Now I remember. Before we were so rudely interrupted by my little ghostly hallucinations (which turned out to be my husband falling asleep with his finger on the TV remote), I was telling you about my publishing adventure…

After finishing my first story and editing the tar out of it, I began the QUEST FOR THE ELUSIVE AGENT. My first move was to buy a used copy of Wr!ter’s M@rket from H@lf Pr!ce Books. It lists publishers, literary agencies and agents, and gives advice on how to get published. It also had a free trial for the online version of the book. I spent hours gleaning a list of agents who took my genre, and small publishers who accepted non-agented submissions. Once I had my list complete (or thought I did), I read up on how to write a query letter. I thought I had this thing whipped. I tried to cram as much information possible onto one page. Big mistake. You know the acronym KISS? (keep it simple, stupid?) This goes for querying, too. I found out the hard way.

When the first request for my manuscript from a small publisher rolled in about three weeks into querying, I thought I hit the motherload!  It took everything in me to keep from doing cartwheels down the middle school hallway. I felt like Sally Field getting her first Oscar. They like me! They really, really like me! Well, my Oscar moment lasted about two days. It took me that long to realize I’d been treated to a genu-ine P.T Barnum snozwangle. (Don’t bother looking it up—there is no definition). In other words, I’d been duped. Sucker-punched. After some investigating (remember, I really, REALLY like to stalk, er, I mean research things on the internet), I realized that I was dealing with a vanity  publisher. A vanity publisher will publish just about anything, and in most cases, requires the author to buy dozens of copies. After speaking to several published authors, I finally got it through my head that money should always flow TO the author. (Thank you, YOG!)  I also found out from the YOG-ites that the way to be considered by big publishing houses is by getting an agent. Most won’t accept unagented authors. So, after getting burned a couple of times, I took their Yoggy advice.

I reworked my query even more, shortened it a bit, and sent it out to a new batch of agents. Then I waited. And prayed. And sacrificed small farm animals . . . Just as I eyed my husband’s parakeet (Would he notice that Bird was missing? How bad do burnt feathers smell? I could tell him that the dog ate another one . . .)  the requests started trickling in. From legitimate agents. Who repped best-selling authors. They like me!!!  Long story short, they eventually passed, but invited me to submit future work. The responses definitely pumped my ego, but I’d been querying for almost five months, had a few dozen rejections under my belt, plus, it was the Christmas season, and I was exhausted. So, I took a break and joined the real world. Temporarily.

Five months later, I sat down at my laptop and discovered the map that would lead me to THE ELUSIVE AGENT . . .

Saturday, May 7, 2011

things that go BUMP in the night...

So, yesterday, I woke up around 4:30, tried to look at my alarm clock, and it wasn't there. I found it on the floor between the nightstand and bed. It was totally stuck down there with the cords stuck under the enclosed bottom of the table like they'd been pulled under. After I loosened it, I pulled it up and set it on the nightstand. The lights on it indicated that it now had two alarms set on it (I had set one at 6:45), and even the little button on the side that you need to push to set a second alarm had been moved. I found out later from Tim that the channel had also been moved from my regular one to some Omaha station. Neither of us have any recollection of waking or doing any of this in our sleep.

At 7:20, I headed to work. Got to the edge of town and I thought I noticed smoke or steam coming from under the hood. Drove for another five miles, and when I stopped, it was really coming out, so I pulled into a church parking lot and took a look. I'm thinking a waterhose sprung a leak. The top of the engine had a pool of water on it, and there was a pool of it under the van. Tim had to come and get me and my brother sent a tow truck to haul it back to his shop up in Ames. Diagnosis: the hose system above the engine had pretty much been shredded. Tim said he found a large pool of water in the driveway where I had it parked. This was right outside my bedroom window which is right by my side of the bed.

Cut to this morning, AGAIN at 4:30. The dogs started whining. Tim, being the gentleman that he is, got up and let the dogs out to go potty, let them back in, then he fell asleep on the couch. I, of course, wake up when he gets up, so I lay there listening to him snore. About a half hour later I'm facing his side of the bed, and I hear a voice coming from right behind me. It's speaking in a monotone, almost electronic type voice like a voice synthesizer, and it's in some unrecognizable language. It lasted for less than five seconds, but it got my heart pumping and I was scared to death. My back was about three feet from the wall (where that darn window is open an inch), and I'm thinking someone's standing there between the bed and the wall or right outside the window. Ten seconds later, I hear Tim get up and come into bed. He didn't see or hear a thing.

So what was it? Gremlins? Aliens? Demons? Very talented puppies? Or have I been watching too many episodes of GHOST ADVENTURES?? You decide...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gettin' my crazies on...

I hate to admit it, but I did some crazy things when I was writing. Here are my two biggies:

Crazy thing #1:
Affair is probably an overstatement. Let's just say I had occasional...liaisons with it. Now, I know that sounds horrible, but just hear me out. While reading about writing, I came across a comment that writers tend to imbibe a bit more than a normal person. I thought this was asinine...until I had my first bout with writer's block. I'd sit at the screen and stare. For hours. Night after night. I could almost see the little birdies flying around my empty head. After almost a week of this, I thought my writing days were over. I went into mourning. My book was dead. Having nothing to lose, I broke open the bottle of Irish Mist my family bought me for Christmas. An hour and one modest snifter later, my computer keyboard was on fire! I couldn't move my fingers fast enough to keep up with the thoughts that were flying through my head. Every now and then I'd come up with something fantastic and yell out loud BETTE, YOU ARE A FREAKING GENIUS! It was pitiful, but, I was writing. My daughter, once again, thought I was crazy. Eventually, the liaisons subsided. Of course, it was probably my frugality that eventually brought it to an end. After all, Irish Mist wasn't cheap...and I was.

Crazy thing #2:
Now, don't get me wrong. I didn't go around following a certain person, per se, but I did do a bit of research on the computer. Since my inspiration for THE TIP TOP CAFE' was a certain man whom I hadn't heard from in over thirty years, and since I wanted to get some specific details about our relationship correct, like the make and model of his chocolate brown pickup and the color of his eyes (I really don't know why I felt that way--I was writing FICTION, after all), I tried finding him online. I began my search at the last place I knew he lived--a certain small town in California. I typed his name in on, and within a second, his name and address appeared on the screen. Holy crap! He still lived there! My heart went into overdrive. I thought seriously about going out to buy another bottle of Irish Mist, but I didn't. Instead, I did a people search on Yahoo to come up with the names of relatives living with him. Then I went on google maps streetview, and started going up his road, thinking, I'm gonna see his pickup. Right. He had that pickup back in 1976. There was no way he would still have it. Still, after a couple of weeks, I was desperate to find out the make and model of that pickup and the color of his eyes. It was driving me crazy that I couldn't remember. I had to know. So, I did the craziest thing of all. I contacted his son on facebook. I reasoned in my head that with his son being in education, like me, and if I explained to him that I was writing a book, he would understand my boldness in contacting him. So, I did it. He couldn't have been nicer or more cooperative. He answered those questions (Ford F-150 and brown eyes, BTW), plus the one question I always wondered about: Why did he stay out there? I found out the old man he worked for on the ranch became ill, and he couldn't bring himself to leave. Eventually, he married and had two kids.

Long story short, the son and I are still friends on facebook, even after two years. He eventually told his father about THE TIP TOP CAFE', and even sent me a pic of a receipt from the cafe' his dad had kept all these years. I can't help but think that he kept that because of me.

Hmmm....I think it's time for a little Irish Mist...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I can't imagine writing a book...

My dear cousin, Sharon, just dropped by my FB after visiting this blog for the first time and made that comment. Well, Sharon, before January of 2009, I couldn't imagine it either. I didn't think I was capable of writing a whole book. Sure, I'd thought about it for years, kicked around a few ideas, but, I just sat in the ashes and watched the world go by as I dreamed. It wasn't until January 19th of 2009 that I finally acted on that dream.

I guess the real action started nine days earlier, the morning of my 49th birthday on January 10th of that year. I woke up, looked in the mirror, and it was like someone slapped me in the face with a dead carp. Holy crap! My life is more than half over and I have nothing to show for it!  Oh, sure. I had my kids (I love you all, sweeties!!) I'd been married for almost 28 years. I was teaching. But I had no passion, nothing I could really claim as my own. I floundered around for the next week, thinking I'm having a mid-life crisis! I used to think a mid-life crisis was just an excuse men used to justify dalliances with younger women or an excuse to purchase a convertible that they tore around in for six months, and then sold back to the dealer while their wives shook their heads, clucking their "I told you so" clucks. But, alas, I found out that the mid-life crisis was real, and I was now in the midst of a major meltdown. So, I floundered. I cried. I reminisced. And I read the Twilight series. That did it.

Allison (my then thirteen-year-old daughter) and I were taking turns reading the series. I found her crying (after I'd done my own share), and asked what was wrong. She said she had just read the part where Edward left Bella without an explanation of why he was leaving, and she went totally catatonic. Could someone really love another person that much? she asked. I smiled, walked to my bedroom, and opened my underwear drawer. The crinkled corner of an envelope yellowed with age protruded from the side of the drawer. I pulled it out, held it to my nose, and inhaled. It smelled old...musty...with a hint of Old Spice. That was his scent. My Edward. My first love.

I walked back to Allison and handed her the envelope. Yes, sweetie, you can love another person that much. Of course, Allison looked at me like I was crazy. I urged her to read the letter. She took it from the envelope and carefully unfolded the delicate, cracking pages. Three in all. Written in perfect script. She read. I watched. She blinked and looked up at me. Several times. When she finished, she lay the pages in her lap. I don't understand. He left you?  I shook my head. He was my Edward. Then I explained.

Right before my 16th birthday, my sister set me up on a date with a young man who had started coming into our cafe' with his father and brother. He was a farmer--and a gorgeous one. Way out of my league. I could barely breathe, let alone talk, when I was in his presence. It took awhile, but I was finally able to kiss him without feeling like I was going to faint. I was in love, and, unbelievably, he felt the same way.

One Spring Saturday, after several months of dating, he arrived in the backroom of the cafe'. My mom called me into the back. She looked upset, and busied herself with getting an order out. He was holding a red rose. A smile flitted across his face, then disappeared.  I'm moving to California, he said barely above a whisper. I thought I misheard him. What? He repeated himself, and added one word. Tomorrow. After that, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. He left. I made it to the bathroom, threw up, and collapsed. I felt like my life was over.  Three months later, I received the letter.

Yes, sweetie, you can love another person that much.

Allison then said the one thing that changed my life. You should write a book. So, I did.  By the end of the evening, I had written 1500 words. Within three days, I was up to 8,000. Six months later, writing in the evenings, on weekends, and during vacations when I shouldn't have been writing, I racked up 114,000 words. Over 500 pages. I had written a book. THE TIP TOP CAFE'.  I found my passion.

But that was only the beginning of the story...

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Okay. I admit it. I'm addicted to my laptop. Before the sun peeks through the slats of the blinds, before I free my whining, "I gotta pee, Momma" puppies into the backyard, before I wash the crusted duck poop from the corners of my eyes, I head to my laptop in the darkness of my kitchen, feel for the "on" button, and push it. Only when I hear the comforting whir of the motor indicating that it's firing up do I tend to my other duties. I also have to admit I do this covertly. When my husband's sleeping. If he were up, I wouldn't dare. He already puts up with me setting my laptop up immediately after coming home from school and being on it most of the evening. If he knew I got on my laptop first thing in the morning, it might be too much for him! Of course, it's not like I actually sit. I stand, sometimes leaning a bent knee on my chair, while I check my facebook, my e-mail, the weather, the school lunch...Well, maybe it would be easier if I did sit. Oh, well. I'm addicted. And now I'm blogging. This may end in divorce. (JK, dear!)

So, you may wonder why I'm calling this The Cinderella Diaries.  Last Friday I walked into Cheri W's 7th grade Language Arts class to pick up something I printed. She was showing the original Roger's and Hammerstein's Cinderella, the one from my childhood, the one that inspired dreams of princes and parties and dreams come true. It also inspired the title of this blog.

You see, I've always considered myself a Cinderella.  I'm a loner. I sit in the ashes, watch as life goes on around me and dream of what could be. The song, In my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be, has always been a favorite of mine. I thought of it when I auditioned for plays, for America's Youth in Concert, and as a singer with The Reflections. I thought of it when I decided to become a teacher, and a wife to Tim, and a mom to my three beautiful children. And, I thought of it the day I started writing my first novel.

This blog will be a diary of my Cinderella stories, complete with the fairy god-mother, the magical pumpkin, the prince, and the wicked step-mother. I hope you enjoy them and feel inspired to share some of your own.