What do you think when you enter a contest?


The answer depends on your personality: how seriously you take yourself, what you think about your work, and certainly your competitive nature.

Me? I’m inclined to throw in a touch of magical thinking, If you want it too much, you shall not have it.

Naturally, a little voice way down deep whispers–but maybe. That’s when the internal monkeys start their chatter. Silly, there’s a typo no one caught. What about the passive voice in that one chapter? You can’t have your protagonist so stressed the reader doesn’t have a chance to breathe. Look here at so-and-so’s book. Now this author knows how to write. Sigh.

Last November, my book, THE FLAPPER, THE SCIENTIST, AND THE SABOTEUR, won the First Book New Mexico-Arizona 2017 Award. Of course, I’d entered the competition, but I never expected to win. After all, I listened to those monkey voices, besides no one knows my book publisher–no big name there–and no funds for promotion either. I needed a different attitude, one of no expectations.

Think about all the freedom you enjoy when you have no expectations. I went to the awards banquet last November, relaxed, full of smiles, and happy to be in the company of my author friends. When they announced my name, I felt total disbelief.  Certainly they’d made a mistake.

The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur

New Mexico-Ariziona 2016 First Book Award

Even though I believe in my own work, being a voracious reader causes lots of grief. I’ve read some phenomenal books and wonder how authors create those deep conflicted emotions or conjure up surprising and unusual plots.

Yesterday, when the email came announcing I’m a finalist in the International Book Awards for 2017, my head felt light and my stomach felt jittery.

What do you think when you win?

Going back to my magical thinking, if I want it too much, I can’t have it, puts me in a terrific place. Yet, I’m a firm proponent of positive thinking, so to not be negative I had to eliminate winning from my mind along with all expectations.  Disappointment no longer exist, and now I can truly celebrate others who win.

On the other hand, winning took away my relaxed, comfortable feeling.

Well, now what?

We write isolated. Most of us go to critique sessions and listen to other tell us what they think needs tweaking or changing. We revise, revise, and revise. Finally we have our work professionally edited. We’re using other as our yardstick, measuring the quality of our writing. We never truthfully know how our writing  will be received by the reading public.

Now once again I’ve cornered that relaxed feeling because today I learned the value of winning. Winning validates our work.

How do you approach winning or deal with losing?


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Some Visuals for The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur

The Brown Palace Hotel almost becomes another character in my story during Chapter 14. For those of you who haven’t enjoyed the ambience of this magnificent hotel, here are some photos.

2011 Brown Place downtown DenverDowntown Denver: This is the street between the former Girl’s School on the left and the Brown Palace on the right.

2011 Brown Place Where the Gentleman's Smoking Club was1

Interior of the Brown Palace: This is where the former Gentlemen’s Smoking Club was located, the seating area on the left. Just to the right is a door leading to the basement where the tunnel was.

2011 Brown Place The old girls' school

Here is the former Girls’ School. Enough said, because we don’t want to give away any of the story. I’ll post more photos soon.

Have you been to the Brown Place Hotel, stayed there, or had tea in the lobby? Tell us what you liked most.

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_EE41444Several years after I started writing, one of my dearest friends said, “When this book gets published, I’m throwing a huge party.”


She thought she had a couple of years to prepare. Eight years later, on June 12, 2016, she, her husband, and another close friend created a book-launch celebration that left me almost speachless.


Danielle Foster, co-owner of Bookworks Book Store, Albuquerque, NM did the honors . . . .


When I worked for Houghton Mifflin Publishing, now HMH, I did many displays. I found this a useful transferable skill.


New Mexico deserts make people thirsty. Guests found a well-stocked bar out on the patio.


And what a lovely patio!


Guests inside enjoyed food, conversation, and a book presentation.


While everyone enjoyed the day conversing, drinking, and eating . . . this poor author couldn’t party. She had to sign all those books. Life is tough.

Photos: Courtesy of Professional Photographer, Eban Bell and my brother, Bruce Bell





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Last year at the 2015 Colorado Gold Conference, I moderated a lively panel discussion by incredibly sharp-witted agents and editors.  I had no idea why they asked me to moderate this panel, but I have to say, I enjoyed every second of it. Well, not really. I didn’t like having to fuss with the microphone.  But once I found the right spot and finally got it clipped on–everything from then on was a hoot. What can I say. The panel took each question and ran with it full of energy and humor, leaving the audience with wonderful insight.

In preparing questions, I asked the panel about things I didn’t know. If I didn’t know the answers, probably the audience didn’t either.

Here are two question with profound answers.

Q: What happens right after you receive a manuscript you love?

Their collective answer stopped me cold.

Did you know if they love your manuscript, they have to sell it to their team? They may only have forty-five seconds to a few minutes to sell your book to a team of five to twenty people. Can you sell your own book to someone in that short of time? Could you sell it to a team of twelve when each may have their own favorite book to push? I knew I couldn’t.

My own query letters weren’t going to cut it. What query letter could possibly be powerful enough to do this work? This led me to ask the next question.

Q: What do you need from the writer to successfully sell his/her book to your team?

All of them agreed on this next answer.

They needed a shorthand way of describing your book to their team mates. The way they can do this is with comparable titles. Then they started giving riotous examples of what not to do: Annie of Green Gables meets the Motorcycle Diaries, or some such nonsense.

Anyway, it all came down to the fact these talented professionals spend hours researching comparable titles to showcase your manuscript. It’s draining and time consuming. Another huge frustration for these agents and editors is finding people to write cover blurbs for your book after they’ve acquired it. As one editor said (something like this) “Thank you for writing a blurb for XXX. Would you write a blurb for this other great book? Also, I have another great book….And another great book….”

Now you get the idea. Everyone agreed these writing conference are where you meet and build relationships with current and future authors. When you become more than heart to heart writing companions, these writer friends will read your stories. If they’re your friends, then you can ask them to write good stuff about your book so you can put their words on the back of your covers. Right? There’s a plus for them, too.  When you sell your book, the blurbs on the back of your cover help to advertize  their books too.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Each one of you who is about to send off a query letter should stop. Rewrite that letter and include comparable titles with a couple of blurbs from respected authors. Now you’ve given the agent or editor ammunition to take to their sales meeting. They can quickly shoot out a description of your book and then hit the bulls eye using the validation blurbs from those other authors.

Pssss~~I did this. My book will be coming out in a few weeks. I’m excited! Really-really excited!

Have any of you sent comparable titles and/or blurbs with your query letters? How did it work for you?







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If praise is given for what’s expected, then why strive to excel?


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If you slow down so everyone can catch up, then no one reaches his or her full potential.

2013 New Sony 075.jpg

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I hate roller coasters.

Now I’m on one, excited–intimidated–euphoric–worried– Well, you know how it goes if you’re a writer and remember when your very first book finally found a home after all those years of revisions, advice, revisions, and more advice.Disney and Denver, Sept, 2010 017

First, there’s the excruciatingly slow ride up a well-worn track where many before you have traveled. You imagine when you get to the top a kindly, intelligent publisher reaches out and accepts your book, thus turning your dreams into a reality.

When you found a home for your first book did you want to whoop and holler and  broadcast your joy to the whole world? I thought that would happen to me. It didn’t.

Did you feel hesitant? Maybe you visualized the swift downhill part of the roller-coaster ride. I did. I couldn’t bring myself to do any type of shouting from any type of rooftop. I sure as heck didn’t want to jinx anything.

The copy editor plans to be finished with his editing by the end of this week. The interior-design editor is doing whatever it is interior-design editors do. The most exciting part for me–I actually saw the book cover today. I’m speechless.

This is all about to become a reality. Wow . . . .

And here’s a thought: Quill Mark Press believes a book should leave the reader thinking about the story long after turning the last page. Can you think of a better way to evaluate a good book?  Okay, now I’m really, really, really excited!

I’d enjoy your leaving a comment below about the state of your emotions a few weeks before your debut novel appeared in public.  (Big smile.)


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