Some of you are familiar with my longtime blog, The Three Rs: Rants, Raves and (Occasional) Reflections. I also have a new one, an ongoing serial featuring the characters from most of my past novels. Ever read (or write) a book and wonder what happened to the characters in the years that followed “The End?” I did. And I decided to do something about it. I hope you’ll check out An Army of Angels while I decide what direction–if any–this blog will take. Word Press isn’t as easy to use as it used to be!
“Compromise when you can.When you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right, even if the whole world is telling you to move, plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say ‘No. You move.'”
–from Captain America: Civil War
In the past few days, a problem arose that I believe has been resolved–but it reminded me of another problem my agent and I faced years ago with one of my former publishers.
Early in my career, I realized the publisher’s marketing chimps were trying to turn me into a Sidney Sheldon clone. I was a big Sheldon fan, so on one level, I was flattered. But as a writer trying to establish my own professional identity, I knew being a clone of anybody was not a good idea. I dug in my heels and resisted. There were a lot of arguments. I objected to the Sheldon knock-off titles: The Other Side of Midnight and Rage of Angels (I got Angels at Midnight)…Windmills of the Gods (they chose Dance of the Gods)…The Sands of Time (A Time for Legends). They decided to re-title Solitaire—Players of the Game (as in Sheldon’s Master of the Game).
I’d had enough. I did a lot of shouting, while Maria went about searching for the means to stop them. She found it in my contracts. Back then, I was quite prolific. As it happened, I had delivered manuscripts months ahead of schedule–and once those manuscripts were accepted, the clock was ticking. They had, according to my contracts, a limited amount of time to publish the books. I was a second position lead title author with the promotional budget that goes with that position, so they would only publish one book a year.
That left the publisher with three options: publish the books within a few months of each other, an expensive option; lose the books and the sizeable advances paid for them, also an expensive option; or give us what we wanted and get an extension to publish. Maria made it clear to them that if they didn’t back down on the title, I wouldn’t sign the extension.
As you can see, the title wasn’t changed.
When I delivered the manuscript for book #5, I gave it a title that sent a clear, if sarcastic message: A Cold Day in Hell. They pointed out that it wouldn’t play well in the Bible Belt, so I submitted the actual title I’d chosen for it: Luck of the Draw.
I sent them a message, and they sent me one–a really crappy cover. Oh, well. At least it didn’t have jewelry on it!
…you might like my 1990 novel, The Unicorn’s Daughter, originally published by Berkley Books as A Time for Legends, reissued last year by Creativia. Cover by Collin. The ebook is only $.99 now through August 31st!
From Publishers Weekly
My new author page on my publisher’s website is now up. Check it out at Creativia.org!
Hope that didn’t make you make a quick exit!
Today, I have a special promotion for The Unicorn’s Daughter. The Kindle edition is available now through March 6th for $.99. And I’ve just posted an excerpt of the first draft of the sequel, The Ides of March, at Write On by Kindle, if you’re interested in seeing what Jaime’s been up to since 1986….
When we signed with Creativia, I told Collin I was seriously considering complete rewrites for most of my backlist books. They were written and published in the late ’80s and ’90s (1988-1997, to be specific) and were outdated. I even mentioned the possibility to our publisher, Miika Hannila.
Then, I gave the books a good, hard look. Did I really want to invest that kind of time and effort when I could be writing new books? No. I didn’t.
I knew I wasn’t going to rewrite The Unicorn’s Daughter. It was my favorite of all of my backlist books. I recalled how much I’d enjoyed writing it, especially those last few chapters, intertwining Jaime’s search for her father with the US air strike against Libya. It had become relevant again, with all that’s currently happening in the Middle East. It would be the basis for a series, if I could kick my brain into gear and actually write it.
But what about the rest of the books? How could I interest readers in twenty-year-old novels? It took me a while to realize I already had the answer.
I had contemplated a series of “Where Are They Now?” blog posts about each of the main characters, catching up on the events in their lives since their books ended. I already knew what had become of them–why not weave their current stories into my works in progress? It could work….
This is one of the best things about not being under contract to a conventional publisher, specifically a Big Six (or is it Big Five now?) publisher. Nothing is ever chiseled in stone. We as authors are in the driver’s seat. If something’s not working, we can change direction, plot a new course.
These characters’ lives have changed dramatically in the past two decades. All were affected in one way or another by world events and personal crises. I might still write those intended blog posts–but now my characters will also live on in new novels. Their author has undergone some major changes…and so have they.
All my life, people have told me how smart I am. When I was having trouble in school, Mom asked my guidance counselor if I had a learning disability. “Not at all,” he assured her. “She could make straight As if she made the effort. Your daughter is bored. She’s smart and she has a photographic memory. She picks up things much faster than her classmates, and gets restless when the teachers have to spend the time normally needed for the kids to learn. Because she’s bored, she cuts class and acts out.”
In the hospital following my first head injury, my doctor came into my room one day and announced, “I have a surprise for you. You’re going to college.”
“I have a surprise for you,” I told him. “I didn’t finish high school.” All the effort I’d put into going over the wall, and here was this guy wanting to send me back? No way!
These days, there are courses to be taken before taking the GED exam. I never took any classes, just the exam. It wasn’t that difficult.
I left St. Louis University with one year to go to get my degree. Why? Bored again. I just don’t do well in a classroom environment. I see Collin taking his courses online and wish I’d had that option. I might have actually finished what I started.
I’ve never felt all that smart. I’ve certainly made some stupid decisions in my life. But then, intelligence and common sense don’t always go hand-in-hand. Dad used to say smart people know they don’t have all the answers, while idiots are too stupid to know they don’t know everything. Sometimes, emotion overrides intelligence. Sometimes, pride gets in the way. Pride can be a dangerous thing. I speak from experience there.
I’ve been a writer–professionally–for thirty years now. I’ve written sixteen published novels. By this time, I should know the drill, right? Write, rewrite, revise, edit, proofread–I’d done it all with each book. Since signing with Creativia, we’ve already prepared two of my books for re-publication. Yet when I received the proofread copy of The Unicorn’s Daughter a few days ago, as I went over it, I was surprised to find so many words in red. Why were they in red? Was something wrong with the file?
I quickly emailed my publisher. As I waited for his response, it was pointed out to me that the red words are words that had been changed. They were in red so I could find them!
I’ve been doing well on the new medication, but I’m not completely seizure-free yet. Sleep deprivation is a real seizure trigger. After a seizure, I’m often confused for a little while. I had gone over the proof copy after a seizure, knowing I should wait. As a result, I didn’t recognize the red words for what they were.
I get to show a bit of motherly pride today! It’s a bit after the fact, but my super-talented son Collin (who does ALL of my covers) has had two of his cover designs make the semi-finals of the Authors Database 2013 Book Cover Contest! One of them is the cover for my re-released novel The Unicorn’s Daughter. The other is the cover he designed for my friend and fellow author Eve Gaal’s delightful romance, Penniless Hearts.
Just a week ago, I was contemplating my retirement. I had dropped the ball with regard to marketing my books (I hadn’t even checked my Amazon pages in a while—I just discovered I have some new reviews! Yay!). I hadn’t written anything in weeks. I wasn’t sure I could write anything. I wanted to…it just wasn’t there, and I didn’t know how to fix the problem.
I did know the source of the problem: this old gray mare ain’t what she used to be. My focus is nowhere near what it once was. Just a year ago, my characters were living their lives inside my head 24/7. It was crowded in there, but I didn’t mind. Now, nobody’s home. Not even me, most of the time. Not only was I not writing, I wasn’t doing much of anything else, either…the housework, laundry and cooking weren’t always getting done. More than once, I’d end up scrambling to get Collin something to eat or wash his clothes before he had to leave for work.
Because I was online—sometimes five or six hours a day. By the time I got offline, I would be so drained mentally, I was no good for anything but sleeping or sitting in front of the TV. It should have been a no-brainer, right? Just cut back on the online time. I’m no internet junkie. I’m perfectly happy with a couple of hours online a day. But in my own defense, this has been discussed among my friends and fellow authors at Facebook on more than one occasion. Too much time spent social networking is cutting into a number of authors’ writing time. It’s an epidemic! Nobody intends to do it. It just happens. You start chatting with friends and the time gets away on you.
I’ve cut back because I have to, if I want to ever publish another book. No more email, Facebook, etc. after lunch.
But that’s only half the problem. Now to decide the direction I want to take. Do I still want to write fiction? Yes. But I’m not sure it’s in the cards. The projects currently in the works have been in limbo for a while. The nonfiction project, on the other hand, is flying along.
I’m not sure I want to bother with print editions in the future. They’re a pain to create and earn very little. In my opinion, they’re too expensive, anyway. I might sell half a dozen copies (total) of each novel—and those are usually to my friend Carolyn, who brings them to me for signing as soon as she receives them. My friend Shelly Arkon does well with paperbacks. I don’t. Ebooks are where I make my profits…so doesn’t it make sense to put all of my focus there?
I had a brief discussion with fellow author Rosanne Dingli on Facebook the other day. Amazon doesn’t allow us to separate our own books from used copies of our backlist books being sold from third-party vendors—for which we get no royalties. I’ve considered switching to a pseudonym so when anyone clicks on the page for my current books, those third-party offerings aren’t there to usurp my profits!
Before I close…The Unicorn’s Daughter is still available for free at Smashwords today and tomorrow. Just use coupon code SP26W!
From Pearldrops on the Page, Lena Winfrey Seder’s blog. Reprinted by permission.
Today fellow author, blogger and friend Norma Beishir has graciously agreed to do an interview for us. I am excited to have her here.
LS: Hello, Norma. Thank you very much for stopping by.
NB: Lena, it is a pleasure to be here.
LS: I’m very excited, and there are so many questions that I would love to ask you. You are truly an amazing and prolific author!Could you please tell us how many novels you have published over the years of your writing career?
NB:Seventeen– so far. Fourteen through two conventional publishers: five with Berkley (Penguin Putnam) and nine with Silhouette (Harlequin). I have three self-published under my Beishir Books banner, two originals Chasing the Wind and Final Hours, and I just re-released The Unicorn’s Daughter, an ebook edition of A Time for Legends, which was originally published by Berkley in 1990. Over the next four months, I’ll be publishing ebook editions of the other four Berkley books, some with new titles and all with new cover art. In addition, I’ll be publishing the sequel to Chasing the Wind, entitled An Army of Angels later this year as well as two romantic comedies. Also coming out soon is Same Time, Tomorrow, a book I co-authored with fellow author William Kendall under our pseudonyms, Scarlett Martin and James Morgan.
LS: Wow, you have been very busy!What made you decide to leave traditional publishing houses and to move into self-publishing? Are you happier?
NB:It was a combination of factors. Burnout was the main issue. I was painted into a corner I couldn’t get out of. I started off with two very glitzy novels– Dance of the Gods and Angels at Midnight. I didn’t intend to make a career of writing Lifestyles of the Shallow and Superficial, but that’s where I ended up. Projects I really wanted to do were rejected by my publisher, and even my agent, because they weren’t “glamorous.” I knew I was in big trouble. I had nothing to give them that they would approve. Added to that was the stress of trying to live up to that image! Anyone who knows me knows I’m definitely NOT glamorous. I’m a jeans and T-shirts girl. I spend my days at home in shorts and bare feet. I’d die of exhaustion trying to keep up with the Kardashians! Added to that drama were personal crises. My father died unexpectedly after necessary surgery. My mother had a series of strokes and was left totally disabled. I sunk into a depression and didn’t write at all for some time. No one can do their best work when dealing with extreme stress, so I didn’t try. When I did start to write again, there was plenty of interest in Chasing the Wind; I worked with four different agents on that book, but we hit the same roadblock repeatedly. The publishers wanted the religious elements removed and the focus shifted strictly to the science. That would have changed the whole story! As it turned out, I was too Christian for the mainstream market and too mainstream for the Christian market! Finally, Collin and I talked it over and decided to self-publish it.
Am I happier? Definitely! I would never go back to conventional publishing now. I have complete creative control over my work, a very talented cover designer, Collin, and editor Martin Rus, who’s as good as any of the pros I worked with. I don’t have to go on the road to promote my books. I write what I want. No deadlines. No synopses to write, except for the Amazon product pages. I’m in Writer Heaven!
LS: Having creative control over your own work is definitely a plus! Of all of your novels, which one is your favorite and why?
NB:Like most writers, my favorite is the book I happen to be working on at the time. I’ll confess that I always thought The Unicorn’s Daughter (A Time for Legends) was my best work, and Publishers Weekly agreed with me. Surprisingly, I wrote that book in four months and it required less editing that any of the others. I spent ten years on Chasing the Wind and thought I’d spend the rest of my career with those characters. But recently, I’ve found myself leaning toward romantic comedy.
LS:If you could be one of your fictional characters, which one would you be and why?
NB:Oh, my…that’s a tough one! Every author puts a bit of themselves in all of their protagonists, whether they admit it or not. This would be a toss-up: Jaime from The Unicorn’s Daughter, Lynne from Chasing the Wind, or Robyn from An Army of Angels. Dan Brown has said Robert Langdon is not him, but who he’d like to be. I think that’s how we all write our protagonists. We give them the qualities we would like to have. Jaime is stubborn like me, but she does things I’m sure I would not have the guts to do. Lynne is a Biblical archaeologist; she not only does the work she loves, but also she seeks proof of her faith for the rest of the world. Robyn is fun; she’s bold, she has a great sense of humor, and she never gives up on the man she loves. She unlocks his soul in a very real way. What must it be like to be loved that way?
LS: These sound like three amazing women! I loved reading about Jaime and Lynne. I have yet to read about Robyn, and I’m looking forward to it. Out of all of your novels, which character is the most villainous? Please describe him or her.
NB:Hands down– Nicholas Dante from Chasing the Wind. I created him to be pure evil because that’s what he is– the devil incarnate. Satan’s number one demon. He’s been sent to make sure the prophecy is never fulfilled, and that the prophet never answers his calling.
LS: Yes, I recall he was indeed very wicked! Norma, if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you visit and who would you take with you on the trip and why?
NB: You’re going to get me in trouble here, Lena! I’d love to travel around the world and take Collin and all of my friends along. Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Egypt, Italy, Greece, France– they’re all on the list. But if I had to pick one place? The Holy Land. I’d like to be baptized (again) in the River Jordan. I’d like to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.
LS: Norma, I hope you get to live your dream. You have some amazing places on that list. I was fortunate enough to visit the pyramids in Egypt and to see Jerusalem. Beautiful places! Hope you take me on your trips. It could be tons of fun!
Norma, could you please tell us what drove you to become a writer?
NB: Easy one. I’m no good at anything else! Like many authors, I started very young. My mom wanted to be a writer. She used to tell me about it. And when I started to read books– Charlotte’s Web was the first book I ever fell in love with– I knew that was what I wanted to do. I was an introverted kid who was always more at home in my imagination than I was in the real world.
LS: I can understand. I feel writing is ‘in my blood.’ Could you please tell us what inspires you to write?
NB: I like to eat. Seriously… I have an overactive imagination. It needs a safe outlet. If I didn’t write fiction, God only knows what kind of trouble it would get me into!
LS:How do you get rid of writer’s block?
NB:Oh, boy… I watch movies, TV, I read… I feed the muse and he/she will respond. Writers have to be open to all sorts of experiences. You never know where inspiration will come from.
LS:Who are your favorite authors?
NB:Janet Evanovich, Sidney Sheldon, and new author Devon Cooper. Also there’s a new book coming soon by William Kendall that I was fortunate enough to be able to read an advance copy of. Among the classics are Charles Dickens and Homer (I loved The Iliad and The Odyssey).
LS: This is a great list of writers. Sheldon was an early and enjoyable read for me. And I’m also waiting for William Kendall to share his book with the world; I look forward to reading it soon. Please, could you name your top five favorite books?
NB:Anything by Evanovich. Sheldon’s Master of the Game. Cooper’s Bad Day. Kendall’s Heaven & Hell. That’s more than five, I know. I suck at math. As any published author knows, it’s hard to find time to read when you’re in the middle of a book– I’m in the middle of five at the moment. Maybe I should have been a juggler….
LS: I find myself also multi-reading several books at once. If only there were more time! If you weren’t an author, what other profession would you be doing and why?
NB:I’d probably be a veterinarian. I love animals and love caring for them– though I’d have a problem putting any of them down.
LS:What hobbies do you have?
NB:I collect stuffed animals. I have more than I can count! In spite of my determination to live a very simple life, that’s the one thing I haven’t been able to part with.
LS: I’m sure my daughter would enjoy your collection! Norma, have you ever thought of turning any of your novels into movies?
NB: I’ve done more than think about it! There was interest in Angels at Midnight when it was first published, but I have to admit that I was always ambivalent. I’d seen wonderful books butchered in the film adaptations. And now…well, we’ll see how it goes.
LS: I agree with you on this one. Occasionally a film will successfully represent a novel while many end up getting butchered. I think it depends upon the director and the screenwriter. It is possible, but rare to find one that is done very well.
Norma, please, could you share with us your current and future projects?
NB: Over the next four months, I’ll be publishing ebook editions of the other four Berkley books, some with new titles and all with new cover art. In addition, I’ll be publishing the sequel to Chasing the Wind, An Army of Angels, later this year as well as two romantic comedies, and coming soon will be Same Time, Tomorrow, a book I co-authored with fellow author William Kendall under our pseudonyms Scarlett Martin and James Morgan.
LS: I look forward to reading your new books! Norma, what advice would you give to new writers?
NB:Develop a thick hide! If you can’t take criticism, you don’t belong in this business.
Network! Read and comment on others’ blogs. Buy and review other authors’ books. If you’re not willing to give, don’t expect to get. Writers Karma is a bitch when it comes back to bite you in the backside.
Be patient. A book you write and publish in a week is going to read like you wrote and published it in a week. (I know from experience– I’ve never rushed on the writing, but I have tried to rush the publication. It never ends well.)
Be open to everything around you. Inspiration can and does come from the most unexpected places!
I’m always tempted to promote self-publishing, but in the end, everyone has to go with what’s best for them. I understand the need for validation, the prestige that comes with conventional publishing because I’ve had it. For me, the creative control was more important. Besides, at my age, with failing eyesight and my concentration in the crapper, I don’t think I could deal with deadlines!
LS: Norma, thank you for the great advice! It has been a pleasure having you stop by. Hope we can do it again soon!
NB: Thank you, Lena, for inviting me to your blog. This has been fun!
Review of The Unicorn’s Daughter
Norma Beishir’s The Unicorn’s Daughter (formerly published as A Time for Legends) has recently been re-released. This fast-paced thriller strikes forward at lightning speed. Beishir is a seasoned author and master storyteller who takes us on an adventure from the USA to Europe and the Middle East. The story spans the World War II era up to the Reagan era.
Beishir spins us a tale of espionage, sacrifice, and growth. James Lynde was the master spy; he was every intelligence agency’s dream. Known as the Unicorn, he was just as mystical at covering his tracks. His ultimate task was to find a cover that would allow him to get into Russia during the Cold War. He came up with a plan that led him to marry a Senator’s daughter and to head an international investment banking firm, which the former Senator had inherited, that allowed him to travel throughout the world. This simple cover became complex when his daughter Jaime was born. He had never really loved or trusted anyone throughout his life, but looking at his daughter, who greatly resembled him, changed his life. We follow this special relationship between father and daughter as we observe their love and devotion to each other. Her mother Fran became severely depressed and very distant precluding her death. Jaime suffers another blow when her father, supposedly on a business trip, suddenly disappears.
Over the years, Jamie is lied to about her father until she doesn’t know what to believe. She is told repeatedly that he is dead; however, her gut intuition leads her to believe he is still alive, and she is determined to uncover the truth, despite the passage of nineteen years.
Jaime has to deal with her personal pain as she is blocked from discovering anything about her father. Someone is serious in stopping her at any cost, and people around her end up dying. Jaime tries to trust again, but only ends up repeatedly hurt. She finally meets someone willing to help her, but can she trust him? And can she really discover the truth about her father? Is he still alive?
Beishir digs deep into the psychology of her characters, and she gives them a three dimensional quality. We understand their pain, confusion, fears and motivations. We take a train through both a physical and a psychological terrain in a world of intrigue and danger.
The Unicorn’s Daughter is an amazing journey that will leave you breathless, and at the end of the trip you will be completely satisfied. It is a powerfully vivid and memorable story.