Saturday, 27 August 2016

My DIY chronicles #1: Coconut Oil Hand Soap

Today I'm sitting in a breathtakingly lovely, misty, rainy valley on a tropical island (my home, Trinidad) babysitting my granddaughter and I figure it's the perfect time to plunge into the first task on my DIY skin care journey: 3 Ingredient Coconut Oil Hand Soap, the basic recipe for which I found on Popsugar here.

Yes, yes, yes... I'm an author and this is a writing blog, but it has always been about the writer's life--mine specifically. The older I get, and the more I learn about the toxic chemicals to which we are subjected--in our food, in our cleaning and beauty products, in our water, air and soil, the more compelled I feel to do as much damage control as I can. I also grew up and currently live with a mother who has always had a mania for homegrown. In my case, homegrown has extended to home-made, and I plan to catalogue my DIY journey here on my blog.

The recipe for this hand soap can be found at this link, but of course you can tweak it as you see fit. One of my concerns, and the reason that I've decided to journal my experiments, is that I live in the tropics and I've realized that some of those DIY recipes that look so fabulous online won't work here. Whipped lotions and creams with a coconut oil base is a good example. Outside of the supermarket our coconut oil is liquid, unless we live in an air-conditioned home--which most of us don't. Even when we do use AC, it's seldom at a low enough temperature to keep the coconut oil solid, so those lovely whipped lotions and creams will turn into oily, gunky swill--if we get them to whip at all. Yes, we can refrigerate, but will the goodies stay solid even long enough to be whipped or emulsified? I doubt it. So I'll be experimenting, substituting, and doing whatever I can to ensure that the products I put on my body are as devoid of harmful ingredients as they can possibly be.

Step 1: Gather ingredients; sterilize bowl & utensils
These are the ingredients I used. French milk soap or castille bar soap is recommended in the original recipe but all I had on hand was a bar of the lovely Pre de Provence shea butter soap in the fragrance 'violette', so I used that, coconut oil, boiling water, 10 drops of lavender essential oil to add another layer of fragrance to the light scent of violets in the soap, and 10 drops of orange essential oil for its cleansing properties. Both of the latter also have aromatherapy properties that soothe and uplift the spirits.

Step 2: Grate soap, about 2 oz.
The image above shows the bowl with the grated soap...

Step 3: Add 1 tbs. coconut oil and 4 cups boiling water; stir till soap dissolves
...and this one shows the mixture after the coconut oil and hot water have been added and the mixture stirred to dissolve the soap. Once the soap has dissolved the mixture should be left alone to come to room temperature. It will thicken as it cools.

Step 4: Let mixture cool to room temperature; add essential oil; fill sterilized soap dispensers
This is my final product, after the mixture cooled and I whisked it lightly. Because of the soap I used the hand wash turned out a pale lilac colour. This recipe yielded enought to fill the 8 oz. dispenser in the photo as well as a 14 oz. dispenser.

Final note: I've read up on sterilizing everything used in the making of DIY products and learned this can be done by boiling or baking glass utenils, or using bleach or alcohol. I chose to use alcohol in a spray bottle because it's easy and convenient. I sprayed the countertop workspace as well as all the utensils after I washed them with soap.

If you try this, let me know how it turns out. Now that mine is cold it has become very thick, but dispenses easily from the bottle in the photo. (The dispenser came from Rail19 who sells a range of glass dispensers in gorgeous shapes and a wide variety of pumps. Some designs also come in frosted and coloured glass. I got mine from Amazon.)

Disclaimer:
1. I am not in any way associated with the manufacturers or sellers of any product used in my DIY recipes.
2. Try these recipes at your own risk! (And let me know how they turn out.)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Books on Writing: Spicer's Picks

Several of my favorite books on writing, such as Stephen King's On Writing and The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, have already been discussed on Novel Spaces over the past weeks. My approach to writing differs somewhat from the "craftsman" approach mentioned by Kevin Killiany in "Kevin's Picks: Books on Writing". I like to believe mine is more holistic--embracing both the preeminence of craft and the mysterious, subliminal, sometimes magical nature of writing.

Stephen King puts it well: “At its most basic we are discussing a learned skill (writing), but do we not agree that sometimes the most basic skills can create things far beyond our expectations? We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style... but as we move along, you’d do well to remember that we are also talking about magic.” Spanish writer Luis Buñuel writes: “Mystery is the basic element of all works of art.” And Jorge Luis Borges views writing as "Nothing more than a guided dream."

I'm not King or Borges, or Buñuel, or Steinbeck who famously said, “I have written a great many stories and I still don’t know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances.” But I'm in good company. When Joan Baez claims "...those songs that have been any good, I have nothing much to do with the writing of them. The words have just crawled down my sleeve and come out on the page” I feel the hairs raise up on my arm because this has been my lived experience. My very best stories come to me in an intuitive flash and these rare gifts invariably eclipse the ones that I consciously, deliberately and laboriously craft. It makes sense that the books on writing which I choose to read are eclectic rather than craft-heavy. Here are two of my favorites.

Page After Page by Heather Sellers is one writing book that I hardly ever see other writers mention. It's for those who are just starting out and it does an excellent job of dispelling the illusions with which most of us begin. Sellers is a teacher of fiction, poetry and nonfiction writing workshops and she brings a wealth of experience in coaching writers to the table. There are chapters on the state of mind you bring to starting something new, on balance, on tools for getting the work done, on reading, on the influence of parents on your work, on managing anxiety, on daring to suck, on mentors, rejection, workshops, ambition... In short, it covers everything beginning writers need to know about what they're getting themselves into. I'm glad I read it early on. Bonus: There are exercises at the end of each chapter. I admit I did very few of them.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, Tides of War and Last of the Amazons) is all about breaking through the blocks to creativity, or put another way, about overcoming potentially paralyzing fears and doubts. Pressfield says:

"There's a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't, and the secret is this: It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance."

He defines the many forms that resistance takes, shows how to combat it, then discusses the powerful psychic forces that sustain artists on their journey.

I've given away one writing book because I knew I was never going to read it again. That was Zen in the Art of Writing, a collection of essays by Ray Bradbury. There are others languishing on my bookshelf: A Writer's Space by Eric Maisel, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, and Letters to a Young Artist, also by Julia Cameron. I have no idea when or if I'll read them. I called a moratorium on buying books on writing, but given all the intriguing suggestions I've seen on the blog this month, my resolve is crumbling fast. Thank you Novelnauts for introducing me to all these resources!

~Liane Spicer

Friday, 22 April 2016

Papyrus, Paper, Pixels...and Life

I had planned to write a sober assessment of the paper versus digital publishing situation, and the ramifications for traditionally published, indie and hybrid authors. I was planning to write about the way Amazon's Kindle Unlimited subscription programme all but killed my indie sales on the Zon since its launch last year. After reading several depressing essays on the issues in sources such as The Economist (The Future of the Book) and Smashwords (2016 Book Publishing Industry Predictions--a must read for anyone in the indie publishing business), I decided to give it a rest.

Since my first novel was published in 2008 there has been nothing but turmoil and upheaval in the industry. I'm tired to the bone of it all. I've come full circle and I'm back to the basics: my love of reading and my love of writing. Reading has been the mainstay of my life, my escape, my therapy, my delight, my muse, my great teacher. And writing? I no longer fuss about what I 'should' be doing. I do what I want, zipping back and forth between genres, between novel and novella and short story, between editing and formatting my own work and doing the same for other writers.

Late last year I discovered the pleasure of writing in a totally new, fun historical niche (new to me as a writer, not a reader) when a short story turned into a novel which I serialized and which now outsells my twenty-something other indie titles. I'm now reading up on the history because I'm about to start another series set in the same period. Plus, I'm back at school and one year into a graduate programme. The taught courses are behind me (or will be when I turn in the last paper on Friday) and then the real work begins for the vivas and thesis that will absorb much of the next two years. I see a lot of juggling in my immediate future: school-related research and writing, fiction writing and publishing, editing jobs.... I've also been invited by one of my lecturers to tutor her UG courses. I have to make time to enjoy my two awesome grandkids...and to do this every now and then:

Me just chillin' on Maracas Beach, Dec. 2015
So, let the publishing battles rage. Let the players--the giants like Amazon and the ocean of tiny authors trying to eke some cash out of making up stuff--duke it out. Let others sweat and swear and worry. Me? I'll be busy doing...other things.

~Liane Spicer

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Writing or Wasting Time?


Kevin Killiany's column on August 19, "I Was Just Getting To That", touched on a sore issue for me: disrespect for writers' time. Except for the big guns—who I assume command respect based on their impressive royalties and resultant lush lifestyles—nonwriters regard your writing as a kind of sneaky self-indulgence at best, or an affectation at worst. The expression "I'm working on a novel" has somehow become synonymous with pie in the sky or dereliction of duty.

I tend to write late at night because that's when the house is cool and quiet and I can string two thoughts together without any kind of intentional or nonintentional interruption. My mother knocking on the door to ask for the five millionth time if I might have purloined her car keys or reading glasses just for the fun of it, and if not, whether I happened to see them anywhere unusual, falls under "intentional interruption". The man cutting the grass outside my window with what must be the loudest weed whacker on the planet falls under "unintentional interruption". But whether one or the other, these things interrupt the flow of my thoughts and sometimes it's hard to get back in there.

One of the problems with intentional interruptions—and part of the reason there's so much disrespect for writers' time—is that the writing process looks like wasting time or just chilling to others. Writing is hard work, but nonwriters think we're having them on when we say that. Case in point: back in December I achieved what I think is a personal record: I wrote roughly 8,000 words, the first draft of a short story, in one day. I was in the flow and I just kept going until I reached the end. I don't recommend these marathons although they sound impressive, and the reason is that I was completely fried: I spent the day after my marathon in bed, firing up the laptop for short stints to work on the edits for another project. To anyone who saw me in crash mode that day, I was just lying around doing nothing. They have no idea that I crashed because I did four days' writing work in one.

When I taught high school, no one visited or intruded on my work unless there was a real emergency. A call during school hours was rare—like that time my brother whacked off several of his toes while mowing the grass barefooted, or the day he was found alive after being lost at sea for three weeks. Now that I'm a home-based writer, however, everyone thinks I'm accessible all the time. It's really annoying.

The question Kevin raised about whether the writing or your family is more important should not even arise. It's unfair, a straw-man argument that has no correlation. No one ever suggested I should abandon my students back in the day to run errands, do laundry or clean the house. I did what I could manage around my workdays, and what I could not do had to be postponed. The hours the job required were inviolate. Not so a writer's hours.

I don't expect that nonwriters—and especially the families of writers—are going to develop respect for what writers do anytime soon. It's therefore up to us, the writers, to respect our own writing time, to growl, bark and bite when we need to so that we get the point across: writing is a job and trying to do it around the edges of other people's expectations of us and demands on our time won't cut it. Be strong. Be firm. And eschew the guilt.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

NaNoWriMo? Not for me—or is it?

Never, ever have I been even remotely tempted to participate in NaNoWriMo. Not once. Not even part of once—you get the idea. I always figured that spitting out 50000 words in a month is just a bit silly, and that the focus on quantity over quality would not work for me. But something strange happened over the course of three weeks from the end of November to roughly the middle of December. I began writing a short story that I'd had in mind for years, and the story 'magically' grew into a novel. In three weeks! I was writing 3000 to 7000 words a day most days, and before the end of those three weeks I had a complete first draft that weighed in at 55000 words.

I'm not sure exactly how it happened, and I still don't quite believe that it did. The story was so much fun that I just kept going. There was no pressure to meet a goal because I had completed the original target of writing the short in two days. There's also the fact that I was in procrastination mode: I was supposed to be working on a paper on critical and cultural theory, which apparently motivated me to focus all my attention and energy—elsewhere.

So who knows? Maybe it's time for me to rethink NaNoWriMo. Seems I may have stumbled across a foolproof formula: 1. It must be a lighthearted, fun project, and 2. There must be something else of critical (pun intended) importance that I absolutely should be doing during that time instead of fooling around making stuff up. Now that I've figured this thing out, I might actually give NaNoWriMo a whirl next year.

Here's wishing the community of writers and readers a very merry Christmas and a productive, healthy and happy 2016. Jewel Amethyst shared the meme below on Facebook and it encapsulates my sentiments for the season perfectly.

Lots of love and warm hugs to all!


~Liane

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Location, schmocation

In the real estate industry, there are three important watchwords: location, location, and location. Publishing, it appears, is not quite that geo-fixated. Let me illustrate. When most people think of the Caribbean, this is what they picture...

Maracas Beach, Trinidad, West Indies
...and this does in fact exist, many times over. This particular beach is a 45 minute drive from my home in Trinidad, at the butt end of the Caribbean. [see illustration of butt end below]


Map of Caribbean illustrating butt end, aka Trinidad
When I first got serious about writing for publication in the late 1990s, my location mattered a lot. The Internet existed but accessing it was a slow, tedious process that involved dial-up modems and, if one did not own a computer, long hours spent twiddling one's thumbs in Internet cafes waiting for a single web page to load one [minutes pass] thin [more minutes pass] line [maybe I should step outside and get some fresh air] at [sigh...they need to fix the AC in here] a time [damn and blarst..my half hour is up!].

So, I got info on publishers and literary agents from a friend who printed out a few pages for me now and then, and from magazines like Writers Digest which advised me to invest in a monstrous telephone book-like tome called Writers Market that was published every year and was out of date before it hit the shelves. I bought it anyway. Back then no one was accepting queries by e-mail so I became familiar with SASEs--self-addressed stamped envelopes--and IMCs--international mailing coupons--all of which were a pain in the assets. I had to acquire rolls of US stamps to stick on the envelopes, figure out how many I should put, wait months--and usually in vain--for a response, etc.

I did not do much querying back then, and no wonder. More than six years of inactivity passed between my first flurry of queries and my second.

The second bout of querying, at the bottom end of 2005, began in much the same vein, but then I discovered the website AgentQuery, a database of agents that could be sorted in various ways, including by those who accepted e-queries. I sent out the first e-batch in the first week of January 2006 and got several responses immediately, four of which requested my full manuscript. Printing out the 420 page monster plus synopsis times four cost me money I could ill afford: photocopying was expensive here in Butt End.

Two months after I sent out those first e-queries...I had an agent and let me tell you, no milestone in publishing has thrilled me, literally bringing me to my knees, like that day the agent called with her offer of representation. This was BIG, I thought at the time. Susan had sold The English Patient, one of my favorite films, to Miramax, and Holes to Disney, and repped Julia Cameron and Jonathan Safran Foer. This wasn't just good; it was stratospheric.

"I have to tell you--I'm in Trinidad," I told her haltingly, thinking of her telephone bill.

"That's okay," she responded. "We have clients all over the world." I said it before and I'll say it again: this was my kind of agent. She sold the book some months later.

Over the years my location has become less and less relevant to my publishing life. High-speed, wireless net access caught up with Trinidad and with me, as did lightweight laptops, netbooks, tablets and phones that are way too damned smart. Self-publishing platforms such as KDP, D2D and Smashwords, as well as social media utilities like Blogger, Facebook, Twitter etc. also helped to shrink my world and give me near instant access to everything and everyone I needed. My network of writers and readers is modest by some measures, but far outstrips the reach I could even have imagined back in 1997 when I bought that Brother electronic typewriter and converted my tiny scrawl on piles of legal notepads into a readable manuscript.

There are still downsides to my location in Trinidad: the popular conventions, workshops, retreats and book fairs are too far away and thus too expensive for me to attend. I seldom meet my online writer people in person--I've met only one to date, actually. But I don't complain. I have consolations, like writing retreats on the coast with local writer friends who are a lot like me. Writers. Dreamers. Thinkers. Just like every other kindred writing spirit I've found around the globe.

I now have 29 titles (two novels, several novellas and a slew of novelettes) out there in the world under a variety of pen names and in several genres. With the exception of the first novel, I managed every aspect of their publication myself. And I've done it from right here on my little rock at the butt end of the Caribbean. You asked about my location? Location, schmocation!

Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad & Tobago
~Liane Spicer

Monday, 22 June 2015

Happy anniversary, Novel Spaces!


July 1 will mark the 6th anniversary of the Novel Spaces blog, and the beginning of our 7th year.

We're a different kind of writing group. Whereas most author blogs focus on a particular genre, Novel Spaces authors come in every stripe, from romance to historical, sci-fi to horror, literary to erotica, mainstream to fantasy graphic books, young adult to paranormal, crime fiction to poetry, media tie-in games to mystery. Yikes! That pretty much covers every major genre out there. Our writers are as diverse as their output, coming from backgrounds that range from biomedical research to information technology, the military to education, archaeology to law enforcement, health administration to broadcast media, graphic art and more. They are dotted around the planet, from Asia to the Caribbean and the US. So what on earth do we all have in common?

We love books. We love to read good stories, and to write them. We love the creative impulse, the idea that comes screaming through the ether begging: "Write me! Write me!" We love the research, the actual act of writing, of fingers flashing over keyboard or picking hesitantly at keys, of the swash and backwash of words forming into images. We really love words--all those sounds, shapes, and shades of meaning. We agonize over them, chuckle at them, cry over them. And perhaps most importantly, we love interacting with people who understand all of this and who feel the way we do about stories, about books, about writing.

To the 22 wonderful authors, past and present, who have stepped aboard the Novel Spaces ship, we thank you all. We appreciate the unique perspectives you have brought to the group, as well as your discipline and commitment over the years. To the new members waiting in the wings to join us July 1, welcome! We look forward to the new flavors you will bring to Novel Spaces as we embark upon our newest odyssey. And to our guest authors, readers and followers over the years, a heartfelt 'Thank you!' You're a lovely bunch. Never once have we had to deal with unpleasantness on our threads. That is something rare and beautiful.

Happy anniversary to the Novelnaut community! Off we go again.

Friday, 22 May 2015

So, you're a writer? Let me annoy you for a bit...

Back in April Dayton Ward wrote this post about the things people say to writers, which gave me the idea to do my own version. Every question/remark below has been said to me--by relatives, friends, or total strangers. As you can tell from the responses I wish I had made, this sort of thing brings out the very best in me. I deserve gifts of chocolate for not strangling anyone--yet.

Why don't you try to get your book on Oprah? 
Do you have any idea what I write? Do you have any idea what sort of book Oprah promotes? Do you have any idea how...  Sigh. Never mind.


I need some quick money to cover my bills while I wait for my severance payment to come through, so I'm going to write a book.
ROFL. ROFLMAO. Bwahahahaa! That's a good one... Oh--you're serious?


I'm not much of a reader but I'm writing a book. I'll send you the first draft and you can fix it up and get it out there for me as you know about this stuff.
Sure I will, you lazy SOB. That's what friends do. Because instead of writing my own books, I'd like to spend a couple years polishing your first draft, researching markets, submitting to agents and editors, following up, promoting, etc etc etc. Yeah, that's what I do because, you know, I took about 15 years to learn this stuff so I could do all your work for you.


So--you're writing the great West Indian novel?
No, I'm writing the great Nahuatl erotic sci-fi lesbian vampire novella. I'll let you know when it's out.


Can you get your agent or editor to read my manuscript? [Asked by total strangers]
Of course. Because that is what my agent and editor do--read manuscripts by people their clients do not know, recommended by said clients who have no idea what or how you write. This is the way we build trust in the author-editor-agent relationship.


So how much do you make? Give me a ballpark. [Said with a condescending smile.]
Frankly, it's bad manners to ask people probing questions about their earnings. Even if you know them. Even if you're family. What possible use can this information be to you? Until such time as I ask you for a handout [read: never] what I earn is none of your [expletive] business. Upside: You've given me a great opportunity to practise concealing my anger behind my mild-mannered facade while fantasizing about planting my foot up your smug rear end.
Are you getting a private jet?
I'll let that pass because you're technically still a child. A money-obsessed pest of a child, but a child nonetheless. I doubt I'll ever be into ostentatious status mega-symbols so if I ever strike it rich you'd never know it--unless you sneak into my shoe closet, maybe. Now get out of here before I whup your precocious butt.


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Lit Fest & Novelnaut meet-up

Author panel at Bocas Lit Fest, May 2, 2015 in Port of Spain
Gadabout social butterfly that I am, I managed to completely avoid the Bocas Lit Fest every year since its inception. This year I had to be there come hell, high water or the onslaught of any of my usual avoidance impulses, and for two very good reasons: Carol Mitchell, my fellow Novelnaut, and Vaughn Stanford, my friend, first reader and publishing client, were featured authors this year. I made it on the second to last day and had such a good time my only regret is that I didn't attend at least one other day. On to Bocas 2016!

Metropolitan
Bookstore's display
Bookstore chat
I had a long and sobering chat with the proprietor of an independent bookstore who has been very supportive of my work from the get-go. He said that sales are terrible (yes, everywhere), and the talk got around to a particular bookstore chain that continues to snub local writers unless they are already big names in the business. That chain snubbed me back in 2008--twice--and I've heard similar stories from other writers. Very unwise of said chain, since the books are in the big stores internationally and people can just get on their devices and order online. Way to cut your own throats, boys!

Celeb sightings
The legend Earl Lovelace himself, imposing as always in head-to-toe white; Nalo Hopkinson who set my groupie friend L'Oreal all a-twitter with adoration; and NYT bestselling spec-fic writer Tobias S. Buckell who hails from Grenada.

Liane Spicer & Carol Mitchell, with Gulf of Paria in background
Shout-outs
I 'bounced up' several familiar faces, including my old UWI classmate, Chad Cumberbatch, who's now the Arts Minister in Montserrat. You go, Chad! Also met Kirk B. who will be joining the "Word Warriors" on our writers' retreat in July.

In a rare burst of maturity,
Vaughn ordered this drink from
the children's menu. 
Party!
We had our own little 'afterparty' at a seafront bistro on the Chaguaramas peninsula. Vaughn, L'Oreal, Isaiah and I started proceedings while Carol Mitchell and her charming friend Patti spent a lot of time driving around Chaguaramas (it was night by then) looking for the turnoff to our spot. Just so happened that the sign I told them to look out for was unlit so they never saw it. We eventually located each other and it was a blast! I'm here to tell you that Carol is every bit as lovely as she appears online. Writers, writer talk, book talk, coconut water and she-crab soup... It was bliss and I can hardly wait for the next Novelnaut meet-up. Who will it be, I wonder?

Cheers!

Liane :)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Confessions of a Clueless Author, or how NOT to submit a novel for publication

Oops...
It was 1998 and I had completed my first novel--a contemporary romance--the year before. At the time I had never heard of Publishers Marketplace, Writer's Market, or towering "slush piles" of unsolicited manuscripts destined for rejection. I lived on a rock in the Caribbean. I did not know the name of a single person in the publishing industry.

Then serendipity happened: I read a story in a local newspaper about a new Kensington Publishing imprint called Arabesque that was pioneering multicultural romances. The article gave me a precious scrap of information: the name of the Arabesque editor: Monica Harris. I asked a friend to find the Kensington address online as I had no computer and I shot off a three-page query to Ms. Harris via snail mail--yeah, it's what we did in 1998--and I waited.

A few months later I got a response, not from Monica Harris who had moved to another house by then, but from Karen Thomas, her replacement. Ms. Thomas enclosed submission guidelines and asked for the full manuscript of that first novel. There was one little problem: my novel was 10,000 words short of the word count she requested. So what did I do?

Clueless act #1: I brushed that minor word count detail aside, printed the manuscript, and off went the 10,000-word-too-short novel. (Pro tip: DO NOT DO THAT!)

Clueless act #2: Enclosed in the package was a lovely little bio on decorative stock, mentioning my adorable son, the lush valley where I lived, my precious rose bushes, and so on. (Pro tip: DO NOT DO THAT!)

Clueless act #3: What I did not enclose was a synopsis, although the guidelines specifically asked for one. It was too much of a bother and I was in too much of a hurry. (Pro tip: DO NOT DO THAT!)

Did I ever hear from Ms. Thomas again? Well, uh, no. I proceeded to....

Clueless act #4: Instead of sending the manuscript out to other potential markets, I waited...and waited...and waited for a response from Arabesque. I eventually got despondent and put the whole publishing idea on indefinite hold. (Pro tip: DO NOT DO THAT!)

I know--you can't believe anyone could be that deluded. I can hardly believe it myself but I was, and trust me, I wasn't even the most clueless aspiring author out there. In hindsight, putting down the manuscript and backing away was probably the least clueless thing to do then: I was a danger to myself. I spent the next eight years expanding that first manuscript, getting critical feedback from a first reader, editing the novel to a state of squeaky cleanliness, ignoring it for years at a time when life got "interesting", and learning everything I could about the publishing industry. At the end of 2005 I was ready to enter the publishing fray once again, this time as a serious player.

I was lucky. Within months of my decision, frustrated with the glacial pace of snail mail queries, I discovered a site that listed agents who accepted e-queries. I got four requests for full manuscripts immediately and about two months later, I had a literary agent. She sold the book to an editor who said she loved the story and wanted to acquire it for Dorchester Publishing. That editor? Monica Harris, the former Arabesque editor whose name in a newspaper had sent me gung-ho on the road to publication almost a decade before. I'd gone full circle.

~Liane Spicer