Friday, June 26, 2020

What is Free Speech? Ask the Manners Doctor


Dear Manners Doctor,

What should I do about people who always make negative comments on my Facebook page? I like to keep my page light and fun. But no matter what I post, there is one guy who has to say “You're so gullible. This was photoshopped.”  (Even if I already said it was photoshopped in my intro.) Or “No cat could actually do that.” Or "Why do you think cats can't spell? Do you know any cats who can write?"

He’s especially harsh when I post fun articles about science and space exploration.

What he says is usually obvious, but it’s negative and unpleasant.

He doesn’t get that the point of these posts and memes is humor and food for the imagination, not realism.


I’ve had a number of people complain about this guy. I’ve asked him to lighten up, but he just blabbers about “free speech.” Am I violating his rights? What’s the polite way to deal with him?

Keeping it Light


Dear Keeping it Light,

The Manners Doctor would like to remind people that “free speech” refers to speech in a public place. The First Amendment to the US Constitution gives us the right to express our views in a public place and not go to jail for them.

It does not, however give people the right to say whatever they want in a private space. It also doesn’t say there will be no consequences to “free” speech.  

If you walk into your Mother-in-Law’s house and call her a fat pig, she has every right to tell you to get out and never darken her door again. And you may find that your spouse doesn’t want much to do with you either.

The government can’t send you to jail for calling your Mother-in-Law a fat pig, but you will suffer some
Not your Mother-in-Law
painful consequences.

As to your Captain Obvious/ Debby Downer Facebook visitor, you should have unfriended and blocked him some time ago. He has no "rights" to troll your page. If a visitor is annoying your friends and diminishing your brand, then it’s your job to remove him. Facebook is a private company and your page is yours. Nobody has the right to change the tone of your page but you. And of course, Mr. Zuckerberg.

The polite way to deal with trollish behavior is block and unfriend. Don’t threaten or interact with him in any way. Interacting with a troll always leads to dark places.

Very Truly Yours,

The Manners Doctor

BOOK OF THE MONTH


THE FIRST THREE CAMILLA RANDALL MYSTERIES

Some escapist comedies for pandemic-ing
Snarky, delicious fun! The Camilla Randall mysteries are a laugh-out-loud mashup of romantic comedy, crime fiction, and satire: Dorothy Parker meets Dorothy L. Sayers. Perennially down-and-out socialite Camilla Randall is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but she always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way. Usually with more than a little help from her gay best friend, Plantagenet Smith.

Only 99c at Amazon stores world wide in June. 

Ghostwriters in the Sky, Sherwood, Ltd. and The Best Revenge in one convenient boxed set.


Ghostwriters In The Sky: When a young writer is found dead in her gay best friend's bed at a writer's conference in California wine country, Camilla must enlist the help of a cross-dressing dominatrix to clear Plant's name. Unfortunately, she suspects the hot LA cop who has stolen her heart may be the murderer.

In Sherwood Ltd. a homeless Camilla lands in Robin Hood country, where some not-so-merry men may be trying to kill her, and of course Camilla once again ends up in the most improbable, but always believable, circumstances.

The Best Revenge is a prequel to the series, and takes us back to Camilla Randall's teen years, when she first meets Plantagenet Smith—and is accused of murder herself!

Get the Boxed set at:
all the AmazonsKoboiTunesSmashwordsGoogle PlayNOOK,  and Scribd


Friday, May 29, 2020

The Manners Doctor Has No Answers




The Manners Doctor doesn't have any answers for you today. She doesn't know if there are any answers anymore. She is unbearably sad about what is happening in the world and to our country. 

So she's turning the blog over to her cat Buckingham this month. He doesn't have any answers either, but he'd like everybody to know he's very fond of salmon. 

Buckingham believes that any world that has salmon in it is intrinsically a good world, and even if right now it feels as if somebody has locked you in the garage by mistake and gone away for the weekend, there will be salmon again. 



Buckingham also has this advice: When in doubt, imitate a meatloaf and hope the bad things will disappear. 



BOOK OF THE MONTH


SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM: Camilla mystery #5

This comic novel—which takes its title from the most famous Shakespearean quote that Shakespeare never wrote—explores how easy it is to perpetrate a character assassination whether by a great playwright or a gang of online trolls.

It's a laugh-out-loud mashup of romantic comedy, crime fiction, and satire: Dorothy Parker meets Dorothy L. Sayers. Perennially down-and-out socialite Camilla Randall--a.k.a. "The Manners Doctor"--is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but she always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way. Usually with more than a little help from her gay best friend, Plantagenet Smith.

In this hilarious episode she makes the mistake of responding to an online review of one of her etiquette guides and sets off a chain of events that leads to arson, attempted rape and murder. 

Sample reviews:
"Delicious wit, wonderful eccentric characters, and a beguiling plot. Camilla Randall is a delight!"...Melodie Campbell, "Canada's Queen of Comedy."

"Both a comedic romance and a crime suspense thriller, it presents the 'Perils of Pauline' adventures of a modern author, Camilla, whose mad-cap follies are hugely entertaining. But the novel has a serious undertone of social comment. Even the craziest of its zanies have their counterparts in the real world and the author faithfully depicts their grim, and often deadly, sub-cultures behind a veneer of knockabout wit. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys romance, and crime suspense, with a lethally satiric edge." Dr. John Yeoman.

"Anne Allen's ability to weave throughout her stories a current social commentary easily and throughout the story amazes me. She does this without jeopardizing her plot or her characters' development."...
blogger Sherrey Meyer


So Much for Buckingham is available in ebook at all the Amazons,
And in paperback it is available at


The Audiobook, narrated by CS Perryess and Anne R. Allen is available from 


Friday, April 24, 2020

How to Deal with a Garden-Variety Social Media Pest: Ask the Manners Doctor



The Manners Doctor, aka Camilla Randall, author of "Good Manners for Bad Times" and "Rx for the Modern Wedding", has agreed to visit this blog once a month to answer some of our questions about contemporary online etiquette.


Dear Manners Doctor,


I’m on social media because I use it to promote my gardening blog. But I'm thinking of deleting my accounts because a weird person has been attacking me with nasty accusations that have no basis in fact. 
Three or four times a day he’ll send me a Tweet saying. “You are so wrong about Gerbera daisies!”  and “Why do you hate Gerbera daisies?” and “What did Gerbera daisies ever do to you? Time to apologize, Karen!”

I tweeted back at this person, who calls himself "CadDeVil" asking him politely to stop harassing me. Then he sent a barrage of Tweets calling me a "snowflake" for getting angry when someone "disagreed" with me.

But you can't "disagree" with something that was never was said, can you?

You're Next, Karen!
Unfortunately, now he's found my Facebook page and keeps posting pictures of dead Gerbera daisies, saying “You’re next, Karen!”

Here’s the thing: I’ve never written one word about Gerbera daisies, and my name’s not Karen.

I don’t particularly like Gerberas, but I have never said that on my blog. I’m mostly all about miniature roses, especially the new hardy climbers. I’ve gone through my archives twice looking for something I might have said about daisies that could trigger this person’s anger.

All I could find is something I wrote in 2017: “Shasta daisies do not like to have wet feet. Make sure you plant them in well-drained soil.”
Shasta Daisies do not like wet feet

Do you think anybody might find that offensive? Should I apologize? I feel terrible if I’ve offended this person, but I honestly can’t find any evidence that I've ever written a word about Gerbera daisies.

I want to prove to him that I haven’t done what he accuses me of, but I don't want to offend him further. I'm losing sleep over this! 

Should I delete my social media accounts?

Not Karen in Kansas

Dear Not Karen,


Should you apologize? By all means. The Manners Doctor believes that apologies are the lubricant that keeps civilization running. She believes an apology can be the solution to nearly everything.   


The person who apologizes has the power to alleviate the suffering of the person demanding it. So by all means accept that power.

A nice apology also makes an escape much easier when you need to make a quick call to law enforcement. 

But did you do anything wrong? Absolutely not! 

Why would you delete social media accounts you need for your business? You just need that handy button that says "block." 


First, it's possible you're dealing with a person with mental health challenges, and unless you are a medical professional, any further communication would be practicing medicine without a license. 

However, in all probability, your social media has simply been invaded by a garden-variety pest known as the Internet Troll. So the block button is even more valuable.The only rule for dealing with a troll is "Do Not Feed." 


The Manners Doctor herself often has to deal with this invasive species.

Unfortunately, the word “Manners” can trigger angry responses from people who have none.

A troll is fed by attention, so you must eliminate it, entirely.


Back when the Manners Doctor was in schoolwhen the earth’s crust was still coolingif a person wanted to make an aggressive, bullying, childish bid for attention, they would often lower their trousers and bend over to show off their derrieres to the desired audience. I believe they learned this from chimpanzees.

It was called “mooning.”
Trolls in simpler times.

However, in this era, the same sort of people get attention by claiming to be offended.

The Manners Doctor rather prefers mooning. It may be crude, rude, and unattractive, but it's not as dishonest. 

You have allowed yourself to be manipulated by the troll's unjust accusations. We all feel an instinctive need to defend ourselves against injustice, so an unjust accusation is a simple way to hook their prey. 

But be aware the accusations have nothing to do with you. They are simply the "trousers" that Mr. DeVil has lowered. 

The Doctor would be very surprised to learn that "CadDeVil" had been emotionally wounded by any Tweets about gardening.

Here’s what you do: Go to one of Mr. DeVil's tweets and click on the little downward facing arrow in the upper right corner. A menu will drop down. You can choose to block or mute this person’s Tweets, and unfollow him, of course.

Then you go to Facebook and unfriend and block him as well. Also adjust your privacy settings to block anybody from posting on your page without your permission. And I suggest you remove your email address from public view.

You might want to do a quick Google search of the miscreant's online name with the word "troll." This will probably tell you that you are far from the only victim of this particular pest. 

After that, simply put him/her out of your mind.

Or if a fleeting thought of CadDeVil should appear, imagine he's desperately showing you a chimpanzee-like "moon" and act accordingly.

Very Truly Yours,

The Manners Doctor.


BOOK OF THE WEEK


"Delicious wit, wonderful eccentric characters, and a beguiling plot. Camilla Randall is a delight!"...Melodie Campbell, Canada's "Queen of Comedy"

It's a comedy-mystery about cyberbullying, the gangs of new media, and the ghost of Richard III. Plus a cat named Buckingham.

"This wonderfully satiric comedy is a joy to read. On the surface, it's a frothy romance cum suspense story about a whacky writer, Camilla, whose life is threatened by trolls and who topples from one hilarious disaster into the next. But underneath, it provides a perceptive insight into the mad world of modern publishing, the sub-culture of Internet lunatics and the mindset of cultists who can - and do - believe ten impossible things before breakfast. The reader is left with the question: how much of the story, perish the thought, might be true? Tremendous fun, wittily satiric and highly recommended."...Nigel J. Robinson

Available in ebook from:
Available in paper from:

Friday, March 27, 2020

What is the Polite way to Greet Others in our Post-Handshake World? Ask The Manners Doctor



The Manners Doctor, aka Camilla Randall, author of "Good Manners for Bad Times" and "Rx for the Modern Wedding", has agreed to visit this blog once a month to answer some of our questions about contemporary etiquette.
  


Dear Manners Doctor,


In the era of COVID-19, we are not supposed to shake hands when we meet someone. And obviously, we can’t hug. 

When I greet people now, some stick out their elbows, looking like they’re doing some kind of silly chicken dance; some want to fist-bump like tough guys; and others perform a strange kicking ritual.

What do you think is the politest way to greet people in our post-handshake world?

Want to be Friendly, but Don’t Want the Plague

Dear Want to be Friendly,


The Manners Doctor feels your pain. She does indeed feel like some species of less-than-graceful poultry when she tries to stick out an elbow to bump another.

And she is not terribly fond of making a belligerent-looking fist when greeting a business associate, or kicking her friends and colleagues in the shins.

It is important to be aware why the handshake became a method of greeting. In ancient Greece, men clasped hands upon meeting to show their hands held no weapons. 

The ancient Romans' handshake was more like those unpleasant arm-grabs some men use to show dominance. This forearm grabbing was a way to make sure neither one had a dagger up the sleeve of his tunic.

The actual shaking of hands began in Europe in the Dark Ages, when it is said knights would shake the hand of the other to shake loose any hidden weaponry.  

So a handshake originally meant, “I don't trust you any farther than I can throw you.”  

Perhaps we should take this occasion to permanently adopt a more civilized form of greeting.

The Manners Doctor thinks we should follow the custom of the Japanese, who discovered long before the rest of us that when you are sequestered in a small place—whether a house or an island—it’s always best for everyone to follow proper etiquette to avoid annoying each other.

Or if one is annoyed, one learns to keep quiet about it.

The bow is the Manners Doctor’s preferred form of greeting in these contagious times. It allows for a full six feet of social distancing, and shows good manners. 

A pressing together of the palms in the “Namaste” gesture of South Asia while bowing is also an excellent, polite greeting, although the “Namaste” gesture may not be for everyone, since some feel it has religious connotations.

However, a bow is a simple way of saying, “I do not think myself above you.”

Isn’t that a bit friendlier than, “Let me check to see if you have any weapons.”?

So the Manners Doctor suggests we all adopt the
bow as a form of greeting.

It is an excellent way of avoiding the exchange of germs and viruses, and in her opinion is much superior to impersonating an unwell chicken.

Very Truly Yours,

The Manners Doctor

What about you? What form of handshake substitute are  you using? Do you think we should substitute a bow for a handshake permanently? 

BOOK OF THE MONTH

SALE! Only .99c at all the Amazon stores!




SHERWOOD, LTD: Camilla Mystery #2

Suddenly-homeless American manners expert Camilla Randall becomes a 21st century Maid Marian—living rough near the real Sherwood Forest with a band of outlaw English erotica publishers—led by a charming, self-styled Robin Hood who unfortunately may intend to kill her.

When Camilla is invited to publish a book of her columns with UK publisher Peter Sherwood, she lands in a gritty criminal world—far from the Merrie Olde England she envisions. The staff are ex-cons and the erotica is kinky.

Hungry and penniless, she camps in a Wendy House built from pallets of porn while battling an epic flood, a mendacious American Renfaire wench, and the mysterious killer who may be Peter himself.

Available in ebook from:
also:
Available in paper from:


Friday, February 28, 2020

Unwelcome Birthday Greetings: Ask the Manners Doctor

Is it acceptable for strangers to post advertising and political rants on your Facebook page on your birthday?


The Manners Doctor, aka Camilla Randall, author of "Good Manners for Bad Times" and "Rx for the Modern Wedding", has agreed to visit this blog once a month to answer some of our questions about online etiquette.

Are Girl Scouts taking over the world with poisoned Thin Mints?

Dear Manners Doctor,


I recently had a birthday, and I was gratified to see how many of my social media “friends” wished me happiness. But my Facebook page was also crowded with ads for books and services, plus a 2000 word rant from a man who claims that Lizard People from Betelgeuse have infiltrated the Girl Scouts and are planning to take over the world by poisoning people with bogus Thin Mints.

Some of my friends complained about the rant and some of the books, so I deleted the posts. Now the Lizard Person complains I have violated his freedom of speech. So did one of the authors who advertised a copy of her erotica book.

Am I violating the rights of these people?  

Birthday Girl

Dear Birthday Girl,


The Manners Doctor is always appalled by the behavior of people who think that being “on the Internet” somehow eliminates the need to practice good manners. Being online actually requires more attention to manners since one can’t use facial expressions, tone of voice, or body language to fine-tune one’s messages.

What you describe is the equivalent of posting advertising billboards and political signs on a neighbor’s lawn without permission. Whether or not these are posted on the neighbor’s birthday, this is bad manners. 

These people are trespassing.

The doctor suspects that these people have read the Facebook guidelines that say it’s a no-no to post on another person’s “timeline” unless there is some occasion where you want to send good wishes, like a birthday.

But this does not mean that people are invited to invade a neighbor’s personal space on their birthday.

As for the accusation of the victim violating the “freedom of speech” of these trespassers, the victim is not the one doing the violating. Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas in public without fear of retaliation by the government.

It does not say one’s speech is free from consequences. Just free from government retaliation.

If you call your mother-in-law a Lizard Person from Betelgeuse, you will have to deal with the consequences, and “freedom of speech” will not save you.

Besides, Facebook is not “public.” It is a private company. And Mr. Zuckerberg is not the government. You have every right to decide what is printed on your page as long as Mr. Zuckerberg does not object.

The Manners Doctor does not believe the Girl Scouts are Lizard People planning to take over the world with poisoned Thin Mints. This is because the Girl Scouts have already taken over the world with Thin Mints, which are one of the most addictive substances known to man. 

Very Truly Yours,
The Manners Doctor

Have you ever had unwanted things posted on your FB page on your birthday? At other times? How did you deal with it? Do you have any questions for the Manners Doctor? 

BOOK OF THE WEEK

Googling Old Boyfriends: the Latest Camilla Comedy-Mystery

Want a fun escape to a California beach town?
"If you love comic mysteries that read like watching a movie in your head, you’ll have no trouble losing yourself in “Googling Old Boyfriends.” The prose is sharp, the humor dead on, and the solution unexpected with a romantic postscript."...book blogger Debra Eve
Googling old Boyfriends cover reveal

Also
The Camilla Randall mysteries are a laugh-out-loud mashup of crime fiction, rom-com, and satire. Morro Bay bookshop owner Camilla Randall is a magnet for murder, mayhem, and Mr. Wrong. But she always solves the case in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way. With some help from her cat, Buckingham.
In this stand-alone 7th episode, Camilla befriends socialite Mickie McCormack—a sexy, mysterious older woman who’s going through a painful divorce. Mickie has been Googling her old boyfriends to reconnect and “remember who she used to be.” Unfortunately every one of those boyfriends soon ends up dead.


"I whizzed though this page-turner in 48 hrs., scratching my head every step of the way yet stubbornly determined to solve. A fun read by a talented writer who grabs your attention and refuses to let go!" Bonnie Classen

Friday, January 24, 2020

You Lost me at Hello: Ask the Manners Doctor


The Problem with the Naked "Hello"



The Manners Doctor, aka Camilla Randall, author of "Good Manners for Bad Times" and "Rx for the Modern Wedding", has agreed to visit this blog once a month to answer some of our questions about online etiquette.


Q. Dear Manners Doctor:

I never know how to respond when some man friends me on Facebook or Instagram and immediately sends a direct message that simply says “Hello”—nothing else.

I used to just ignore these naked “hellos” because they seem creepy, but recently, a man on Instagram called me rude for not responding.

So the next time I got a hello on FB, I asked the man to interact on my page before he sent me a direct message, which I like to reserve for friends and family. He got so mad he sent me eggplant emojis all night long, interspersed with messages like “Goodnight Sweetie” and “Bye-bye Baby.”

I finally got up and blocked him at 4 AM, but when I told my FB friends about it, one woman said I should unblock because it wasn’t his fault. He probably didn’t know how to use his phone and did it all accidentally.

Can the Manners Doctor tell me what I’m doing wrong? Do I owe it to strange men to interact with them on social media?

Divorced but Not Lonely

A. Dear Not Lonely:

No man (or woman) has the right to sexually harass you, online or off.  Facebook and Instagram are not dating sites. The Manners Doctor is quite sure that anyone who is unaware of that fact has either been in a coma for the last twenty years or recently arrived from a galaxy far, far away.

And she doubts that comatose space aliens would know the off-color meaning of the eggplant emoji.

What you call a “naked hello” is the calling card of the scammer.  It is intrinsically manipulative. The speaker offers nothing, but demands something of the recipient. Con artists always count on the good manners of their marks. 

Sometimes what seems “rude” in normal circumstances is simple self-preservation when dealing with a con artists.   

You were doing exactly the right thing. The person who called you rude was in the wrong. If anybody sends you a “naked hello” (The Manners Doctor is going to appropriate your excellent phrase) do not respond. Then block the sender.

Very Truly Yours, 

The Manners Doctor

Q. Dear Manners Doctor:

A friend I hadn’t heard from in several years—I’ll call her Sheila—recently sent me a Direct Message on Facebook that simply said “hello.” I was thrilled. We hadn’t parted on good terms, but I figured she wanted to let bygones be bygones and make up.

Because the situation was delicate, instead of sending a reply message, I phoned her.

I was devastated when her husband answered and said Sheila died two months ago. He said I was horribly rude to intrude on his grief when I hadn’t even bothered to show up at the funeral.

Doctor, how can I be called “rude” when I didn’t know anything about the funeral? There was nothing about it on her Facebook page, which hadn’t been updated for nearly five years. 

And I still don’t know why I got that “hello” message from Sheila from beyond the grave.

Getting Messages from the Other Side

A. Dear Getting Messages:

The Manners Doctor makes it a point never to criticize anyone’s belief system, but she is quite sure that what you experienced was not a message from the “Other Side.”

One of the most common scams in social media is a “hack” that doesn’t require hacker skills. The scammer simply goes to a Facebook page (they prefer neglected ones like Sheila’s) and skims the person’s friends list. Then they send messages (usually an unadorned “hello”) hoping to get a reply. 

Once they’ve convinced the mark that they’re really the friend they’re impersonating, they spin a tale of woe and hit the mark up for a "loan".

This must work on some victims, because these scams are proliferating.

The Manners Doctor advises that no one respond to a naked “hello,” even when it appears to be from a friend.

Very Truly Yours, 

The Manners Doctor.

Do you have any questions for the Manners Doctor? How do you feel about the "naked hello"?


Book of the Month
Start at the Beginning of the Manners Doctor Saga--Only 99c!

GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY:  Camilla Randall Mystery #1 

After her celebrity ex-husband’s ironic joke about her “kinky sex habits” is misquoted in a tabloid, New York etiquette columnist Camilla Randall’s life unravels in bad late night TV jokes.

Nearly broke and down to her last Hermes scarf, she accepts an invitation to a Z-list Writers’ Conference in the wine-and-cowboy town of Santa Ynez, California, where, unfortunately, a cross-dressing dominatrix named Marva plies her trade by impersonating Camilla.

When a ghostwriter’s plot to blackmail celebrities with faked evidence leads to murder, Camilla must team up with Marva to stop the killer from striking again.

Ghostwriters in the Sky is available in e-book at all the Amazons  GooglePlay  KoboScribd and NOOK.

It is available in paper at Amazon & Barnes and Noble 


Sunday, December 29, 2019

Happy 2020!


I wish all my readers a peaceful and prosperous new year! 


I'm going to be taking a little hiatus from this blog in order to work on my new Camilla mystery, Catfishing in America. It's inspired by the "catfishing" would-be scammers who try to romance older women on social media then hit them up for money

A classic painting by Ohara Koson that might inspire the cover designer.

Expect it later in 2020. I'll be bringing back a lot of Camilla's old bad boyfriends, including Ronzo, Peter Sherwood, and of course, her ex-husband, Jonathan Kahn. Will she finally find Mr. Right? Well, probably not. But there will be lots of laughs, adventures and a little romance along the way. 

And of course, Buckingham, the bookstore cat. 


Friday, November 29, 2019

Being Thankful for…Rejections? Why I’m Grateful to the People Who Rejected My Early Work



On our writers’ blog, Ruth Harris and I say we made the mistakes so you don’t have to. And I sure made my share. Maybe more than my share.

I got an agent with my first query!
When I started querying agents, I scored the pot at the end of the rainbow with my very first query. I was such a newbie, I didn’t even know how impossibly lucky this was.

I was still a working actress in Southern California when I sent off a very early draft of The Best Revenge to an agent who was referred to me by a friend in the business. It was a prestigious agency in Los Angeles, and I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance in Hades.

But a couple of weeks later, I got a phone call. Yes, an actual call, from a delightful man with a British accent who said he thought the book was hilarious and he wanted to “send it around.” No mention of a contract. That should have been my first clue.

And then I heard nothing. For weeks. And months. I’d read in Writer’s Digest that you’re never supposed to phone an agent, so I didn’t call. After about six months, I sent a “follow-up” letter. (This was long before email.)

Two months later—a full eight months after my “acceptance”— my manuscript, in its stamped, self-addressed manuscript box, landed back at my house. I can still remember the sound of “thump, thwack, slide” as it skidded across the concrete patio.

Inside was a scrawled note. “John has left the agency and we understand he has moved back to England.”

Boom.

I was devastated. I felt hollowed-out and dead inside. It was like the time in 7th grade I found out that my first love, Chip Bessey, had asked Katrina Jagels to the Spring Hop instead of me.

I gave up writing for almost a year.

I Finally Get a Real Agent


Meanwhile, I wrote a play and had it produced and won some awards. I was having the success in the theater I thought I could never have in publishing.

But I also found the theater didn’t thrill me the way it used to.

And my itch to write novels was still there. I finally sat down and reread my manuscript and saw hundreds of flaws. I went back to my critique group and asked them to help me polish it up.
 
Jeff Herman's Guide was our Bible
I researched agents in a pricey copy of Jeff Herman’s Guide to Literary Agents—the only way you could find out about agents in the pre-Internet era.

I found one that looked good. Young, eager for new clients, and she had worked for the same agency with my sort-of agent from L. A.

She wrote back and asked for the full manuscript. A few months later I got the call. She wanted to rep me!

Meanwhile, I had a major tragedy in my life. My beloved Dad died. I also turned 40.

My mother reminded me that when I was small, I always used to say I wanted to live in a little cottage by the sea and write books.

So I pulled up stakes, sold my SoCal condo, and moved to the sleepy Central Coast. I bought a little 900 sq. ft house three blocks from the waters of Morro Bay.

I had an agent. And my cottage by the sea. I was going to be a real writer.

I started working on my magnum opus. This was the literary novel that was going to find me a place in the literary firmament.

You’re probably all laughing now. That’s not exactly how the publishing industry works.

Fear of Success…


Six months after I moved to the Central Coast, my new agent dropped me. Again, I was devastated. I managed to get some freelance writing work while I clerked in a couple of bookstores and sold antiques.
 
Photo of downtown Baywood by Paul Irving
I put The Best Revenge in a drawer and worked on that “big book.” And then wrote another, lighter one.

I started sending them out. And sending . I got rejections by the ton. Sometimes in return mail.

I did everything you shouldn’t.

·       I sometimes queried all three books at the same time.
·       I wrote my synopsis in a tiny font so it fit on one page—since so many agents asked for a “one page synopsis” in those days. (Who did I think I was fooling? I was only making it harder to read.)
·       I queried agents who didn’t represent my genre (s)
·       I didn’t even know what genre to say I was writing, so I improvised according to what the agent was looking for.
·       I wrote terrible query letters. Not enough hook & way too much about me and all the nonfiction articles I was writing.
·       I faked personalizations, once even saying I was going to a writers’ conference where the agent was slated to speak—even though I had no intention of going.

Is it any wonder the rejections stacked up?

I think I had a fear of success.

But I think that was because I knew, deep down, that I could do better. And that took time. I think my freelance writing helped me improve. Plus all the research I was doing on agents also taught me about the publishing industry and how it works.
I was collecting lots of rejections

Without that time to grow and learn, I don’t think I would have succeeded in this business. I was too na├»ve and would have got myself in all kinds of trouble.

Two more Agents!


Finally  I started doing some things right.

·       I went to writers conferences,
·       Joined a local critique group
·       And a writing club.
·       I kept learning from what I’d done wrong the last time.
·       I placed short stories and poems in literary magazines.
·       I even won some contests, one for a story and one for a poem.

Finally, it worked! I got another agent.

She sent my “big book” out on submission for a year.

She couldn’t sell it. In fact, she couldn’t sell much. She ended up leaving NYC and gave up agenting altogether and moving back to Texas.

But I was better at getting agents by now. So I got another one.  She liked Food of Love but made me do lots of edits to dumb it down and make it more of a romance.

I Fire my Fifth Agent


While my romanced-up version of Food of Love was making the endless rounds with editors, I got an email from one of the magazines that had accepted a story months before. The editor said the magazine was going under, but he had taken a job at a small press in the English Midlands. He was in charge of acquisitions— did I have any novels looking for a publisher?

I sent him Food of Love. A month later I got a call from the managing editor of the company—a former BBC comedy writer—with an offer of a nice advance. He also offered me a place to stay if I wanted to come to England to launch my book.

Do I have to tell you how fast I bought a ticket to London and fired my agent?
I was off to England!

I’m not going to tell you that everything was beer and skittles after that. (Although there was a lot of beer involved.) But I embarked on the adventure of my life (which inspired my comic mystery Sherwood, Ltd.) And got to see two of my books in print. I got to go on a book tour and live out my fantasy.

But I also had to deal with some strong criticism and major changes from my UK editor. I was finally mature enough as a writer to understand what he wanted and why my book needed the changes.

A few years before the edits would have made me sad. So would the book signings where only three people showed up. But I finally knew enough about the business to take it all in stride. All those years of rejection had taught me a lot.

And so, in a way, I’m grateful to them. They gave me the time to learn and grow into a confident, professional writer.

Did my magnum opus make it? Nope. It took another, fiercer editor to whip that puppy into shape…but that’s another story.

What about you? Did you collect a boatload of rejections before you found a publisher? Are you still on the query-go-round?


BOOK OF THE MONTH



SHERWOOD, LTD: Camilla Mystery #2

Suddenly-homeless American manners expert Camilla Randall becomes a 21st century Maid Marian—living rough near the real Sherwood Forest with a band of outlaw English erotica publishers—led by a charming, self-styled Robin Hood who unfortunately may intend to kill her.

When Camilla is invited to publish a book of her columns with UK publisher Peter Sherwood, she lands in a gritty criminal world—far from the Merrie Olde England she envisions. The staff are ex-cons and the erotica is kinky.

Hungry and penniless, she camps in a Wendy House built from pallets of porn while battling an epic flood, a mendacious American Renfaire wench, and the mysterious killer who may be Peter himself.

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