The Serendipitous Path to a Publisher (Part 1)

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I now have a publisher! Booktrope will be re-issuing “High Strung, A Glass Bead Mystery” and publishing new books in the Glass Bead Mystery series. And while this is exciting news, at least for me, the story behind how I ended up with a publisher is the stuff that good tales are made of: fear, dumb luck, bravery, and ultimately, a happy ending.

In January I sat in a cafe drinking coffee with my friend Kim. The San Francisco Writers Conference was coming up in a month and I told Kim I was thinking about going, but that I was nervous about it.  I was worried that I was not a real writer, even though I had self-published a book the previous year, and that I wasn’t professional enough to attend a conference for authors.  I hadn’t been writing for long and was worried that someone would find out that I was an impostor or that I’d embarrass myself by being such a newbie.

Kim told me to go and just “breathe the air” at the conference. She encouraged me by saying that I didn’t need to do anything but be there and absorb what information I could.  The next day I sat at my computer, shut my eyes, and I clicked the Submit button on the registration form for the conference. I was going.  And I was nervous.

A month later I stood outside the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, ready to dive in.

I can do this.

I had arrived ridiculously early, so I sat in the lobby chatting with a couple from out of town, giving them sightseeing advice. When it was time for the first session, I filed into a large conference room with the rest of the attendees. The first thing that the moderator did was ask anyone who had brought a book with them that they had written to hold it above their head. I held up my empty hand and told to the moderator in my strongest voice that I had sold the book I brought to the tourists in the lobby.  Maybe the weekend was going to be okay after all.

I hadn’t signed up to do the the Pitch-a-Thon, that was over-the-top intimidating to me. For the uninitiated, a pitch-o-thon is like speed-dating with agents and publishers, instead of potential mates. Authors move from table to table pitching their story in 4 minute segments with the hope that an agent or publisher will be interested in seeing a full manuscript. The prospect of pitching my book scared the hell out of me, so instead I went and sat on a bench in the park across from the hotel, soaking in the sun during the pitching session. I had breathed enough conference air for the day.

Janice with High Strung manuscript

Here I am at the San Francisco Writers Conference with my manuscript. Note the nervous smile.

In the final hours of the conference, I sat at a round table in a ballroom with many other attendees. I’d learned a lot about book marketing and I’d found other new authors like me who were there to learn and to meet people who had a love of words, books, and stories. I was feeling good. Maybe I wasn’t an impostor after all.

There was a raffle and I won a prize—a free pass to go to a Pitch-o-Rama hosted by the Women’s National Book Association in San Francisco. Ugh! Of all the prizes, this was the one that I didn’t want. I was going to have to pitch my book to publishers and agents.  And I was scared as hell all over again.

Emboldened by my success at the writers conference, I decided I would go and pitch.

I can do this.

Here’s Part 2:


Lessons Learned in Napa


I had a mini-vacation in Napa last weekend. Surprisingly, I learned a lot about how to live well on that trip, and not just which cabernet sauvignon I like best (I like most of them.)

Here’s my list of lessons learned in Napa:

Reading a book from cover-to-cover is awesome.

I read Colin Cotterill’s “Six and a Half Deadly Sins” all the way through, with only brief pauses to eat and sleep. I don’t take time to sit and read like that at home, in long stretches. Instead I’m always rushing off to the next thing, filling the hours with email, writing and editing, the occasional quilt square, the gym, working in my studio making glass beads, and sculpting clay. Sitting and reading a really good page-turner of a book with no distractions was bliss. I will remember to spend more time indulging in the pure joy of reading.

Sitting in hot mud is better than it sounds.

I wish I could come up with a good metaphor about taking a mud bath—like: once you’re up to your eyeballs in mud, you need to pick yourself up, scrape yourself off, and get back to work. Or, when you’ve landed in the mud, you have hit rock bottom, and the only place to go is up. But really, all I can say is that spending a little time in a giant pit of volcanic mud is relaxing. Then, after the attendants haul you out of it, you can soak in a mineral bath until all the black grit is gone from the various unmentionable areas of your body.  Lesson learned:  Doing weird things can be fun and relaxing, and may even help get rid of some extra toxins in your body. Or maybe not, I don’t know if I even have toxins.

Drinking a glass of wine at 5 o’clock is therapeutic.

Okay, I already know this, but I was reminded as I sat on the front porch of our little bungalow at Indian Springs in Calistoga. Chatting with my husband while drinking wine is a fantastic way to relax after a long day.  Even if our long day was full of soaking in the 98 degree pool, having a massage, reading, and eating at my favorite restaurant—it was still long and full of activity.  I’ll remember this too, next time we need to slow down and talk about our day. We’ll sit on our back deck while the sun goes down and clink glasses. Or, maybe we’ll just sit and talk with no wine glasses, relaxing a little every day, and not just when we’re on vacation.

Being spontaneous can lead to drinking champagne.

As we drove through Napa and on to Calistoga, I saw a sign for Chandon.  “Hey!  Let’s go wine tasting!” I said to my husband. I swung a quick U-turn and within minutes we were standing at the tasting bar with glasses of pink champagne. And we were chatting with our new friend Lisa behind the counter who had decided we needed to taste every kind of sparkling wine Chandon made.  Lisa used words like “gorgeous” to describe wine.  I liked her for that, and for her generosity in pouring wine samples.

Sometimes that best thing to do is swim instead of sleep.

I don’t have a pool, nor access to one late at night, so the chance to swim in the middle of the night was special.  Often I’d be asleep at 11:30, but while on this mini-vacation I took a couple of midnight swims with my daughter. It was a lovely, relaxing way to get ready for bed, and to hear about what my daughter did each day at the music festival she attended.

But the main lesson, really, is to not forget the lessons—to remember how it was when I could read a book straight through, when I wasn’t a slave to email, when it was okay to stay up late to do something unusual. To fully embrace this world and its possibilities.  To relax, to live, to be in Napa…in my mind.



I’ll Never Quilt Again


I said I’d never quilt again. And here I am, only a few months after making that vow, quilting up a storm.  Once again.  I had started a quilt several years ago, and it sat  half-completed in pieces for at least five years.  Every time I opened the closet door, I saw all these lovely colorful fabric squares: unloved, unfinished.  I finally decided to finish the quilt before there was any more psychic energy lost to that incomplete project.  I did it.  I sat down and powered through the damn quilt.  Was it fun?  Not really—it was more grit my teeth and finish. Is it great now that it’s done?  Absolutely!

So, why am I making another quilt, so soon after I promised I’d never make another one, after all the guilt I felt for not finishing that project?  (Have you ever noticed how “quilt” and “guilt” look basically like the same thing?) At the quilt shop, I saw a sample quilt hanging on the wall. As soon as I saw the possibilities for this wild cacophony of color and pattern, I knew I needed to make one. It’s made of scraps, just thin strips of fabric, those unloved bits, the left overs.


Here’s what I’ve got so far…16 lovely squares.  I’ve been making one each day.  Just one a day…a little progress, so that I don’t shove it in a box in my closet, so I don’t curse at it and beat myself up because I can’t finish what I started.

I’m finding it therapeutic to make my daily square.  It’s a chance to step away from a day full of words, words, and more words. And instead, do something with no words, only shapes, colors, patterns and the hum of the sewing machine.

I think I’m going to finish this one in no time at all.