DOWNEY - I have attended several annual Friends of the Downey Library luncheons over the years, where some author or authors share their experiences on their tortuous way to publication and, really, their one, unvarying message, assuming one takes the traditional route, has been this: expect a stack of rejection slips before your book gets published.The three determined, successful women authors who spoke at the June 1 event couldn't have reinforced the notion more. Bespectacled Linda O. Johnston, who got her undergraduate degree in journalism from Pennsylvania State University in 1970 before obtaining her law degree from Duquesne University School of Law, said: "The first few rejections were particularly painful because of your high expectations of yourself and your work." Linda, who resides near Universal Studios in Hollywood, in the hills overlooking the San Fernando Valley with her husband and their two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, has since published several mystery and romance novels as well as a number of short stories. She knew she got a good foothold on her writing career when her first published fiction appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for Best First Mystery Short Story of the Year. She is also an active member of the Los Angeles chapters of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and is involved with Romance Writers of America, participating in the Los Angeles, Orange County, and Kiss of Death (romantic suspense) chapters as well. She said, "It's a never-ending process." The second author, Debra Holland, has an even more interesting background. She has a master's degree in marriage, family and child therapy as well as a Ph. D. in counseling psychology from USC and is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Her bio says that as a specialist in communication and relationship issues, she has counseled individuals, couples and groups for 23 years. Debra, a three-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist and one-time winner, is the author of the recently released "The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving" for Alpha Books, a subsidiary of Penguin Books. Debra's Golden Heart winner, "Wild Montana Sky," was the first in the Montana Sky Series. The others are "Starry Montana Sky" and "Stormy Montana Sky"-all falling under the sweet historical western romance genre and all "available in e-book and print at amazon.com and other retailers." Commenting on the success of Debra's approach (i.e., self-publishing), one e-mail suggested: "In the end, it all comes down to 'finding our readers', and then giving them what they want and not what the marketing departments of traditional publishers think they want. Keep up the good work and write on!" The third author to speak was Laura Drake, who has earned the title of author of women's fiction and romance, and hails from Boston. She said she has fallen into the habit of waking up at 3 a.m. to write. And although she acknowledged she is the greenhorn of the group, the way she had her first novel, "The Sweet Spot", published should serve as a good guide. Laura says she gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full-time. She says her 'biker-chick' novel, "Her Road Home", will be released by Harlequin's Superromance this August. Here is one critic's appraisal of "The Sweet Spot" turned out by the wife, grandmother, and sometime motorcycle chick (she used to imagine fictional characters while clinging to her husband on the back of his motorcycle): "From the cover and title you expect a sweet contemporary western, but this is a sensitive, honest look at a family destroyed by loss, a family that must try to rise from the ashes of their old life and see what they are now-different, certainly, but pieces or a unit? Drake's characters are so real, and so like us, that you will look at your own life and count your treasures." In answer to a reader's inquiry about her previous disappointments at past setbacks on the road to publication, Laura said: "I believe it's all about focus. When I got discouraged (and in 15 years, there was plenty of opportunity for that!) I'd try to remember why I started writing to begin with. And it wasn't to sell a book. I began writing for the pure joy of it-for the moments I manage to pull out the perfect sentence to describe a deep, complex emotion, or to do the characters in my head justice, when I get them on paper... When I got frustrated, invariably it was because I'd lost focus; this was supposed to be fun! Finally, Laura said she was motivated to maintain a rigorous schedule because "I love to write. It's what I'd do whether I'd sold or not." And her advice to an aspiring author? You have to [write] your way. You can only discover what that is, by doing!" Debra H. summed the whole thing up best when she uttered the familiar exhortation: "Follow your dreams! Never give up! You never know what lies beyond the bend."
********** Published: June 13, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 09