Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Home, Sweet Home

<<Deep Breath>>

Can it finally be over?  Well, almost over.  I’m still hearing the sound of some kind of saw coming from my kitchen/dining room.  The hardwood floors are almost in.  And when that happens, I can finally unpack the boxes that have been sitting in my great room and spare bedrooms for over a month now. 

And when that happens, we’ll truly be moved into our new home in Myrtle Beach.  That’s when I’ll take a long, deep sigh of relief.

So far, we love it here.  I mean, what’s not to love?  We played tennis on a morning in December then took a walk on the beach (after devouring two Krispy Kreme donuts--another perk in this area--well, until I step on the scales, anyway.)  But until we get completely unpacked and get the pictures hanging on the walls, it won’t feel completely like home. 

That moment is close…I can feel it!  And then I can finally get back to my normal routine—working on student assignments and writing!  Do you know I haven’t written one line of fiction since I finished INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS in July?  And the old (not literally-speaking) brain is starting to storm about my next novel.  I wrote the prologue during one of the writing exercises in Ireland, and I’m starting to feel that familiar itch when I know it’s time to start working on my next novel. 

But I can’t do that until sometime next year.  We’re spending the holidays in Destin with the grandsons, and then once the New Year checks in, I’ll be heading to Kentucky to spend some time with my sister and dad.  Once I get back from Kentucky, then I can buckle down and start writing.  My brain should be done with the storming by that time and straining at the bit to write.  I’ve already got a title.  HOWLING AT THE MOON.  What do you think?

As for INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS, it’s with a publisher and if they make me an offer, I will consider it.  But whether or not I accept it remains to be seen.  I may just go ahead and self-publish, since we all know how much I like being in control.  I’ll let you know what happens.

As I said, I really love our new home in Myrtle Beach, but I have to tell you of an alarming incident I experienced last week—kind of put me off a bit.  I found a really fun karaoke place that actually has it at a decent time.  It starts at four pm on Fridays, and I can usually stop in and sing a couple of songs before I meet Frank for our Friday pizza movie night.  Last week, a friendly couple sat down to join me…at least, I thought they were friendly…until the male began to spout off about African Americans, and using the N-word three times.  I was so astonished and horrified that I just sat there, staring at him.  (I’m sure my mouth was agape.)  Finally, after the third time, I got up and walked out of the bar, mentally kicking myself for not having the nerve to look him in the eye and say, “What is it about me that makes you think I wouldn’t be offended by language like that?  You don’t know me.  Is it because I’m white that you feel like you can get away with your racist remarks?”

Of course, I didn’t say anything.  If it had been one of my characters, she would’ve spoken up. 

It’s disheartening to know that in this day and age—and during this holiday season, bigotry is still alive and well.  I will pray for enlightenment for people like this.

And to everyone else…

God Bless and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Happy Kwanzaa!!!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Hi, everyone!  I know it's been FOREVER since I've posted.  It's been crazy here with Frank's retirement and our upcoming move to Myrtle Beach in November.  I promise...as soon as we're settled, I'll write a nice, juicy post about all my news from this summer.

But this couldn't wait.  Yesterday I was notified that LILY OF THE SPRINGS was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2013 Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards.  So exciting!  

One of my prizes was a $50 gift card at the Writer's Digest Shop, and I want to pass that gift along to one of my lucky fans, many of whom are writers. And in the process, I'm going to promote my print novels. To enter my contest to win the $50 gift card from Writer's Digest, buy one of my print novels, and send me your receipt. You'll be entered in the drawing on December 1st. This week's spotlighted novel: my first novel, RITA-award nominated BORDER CROSSINGS. (But you can buy ANY of my novels to enter the contest.)

"A stirring first novel of terror, death, love, and hope, told with power and
conviction and set in the troubled part of Northern Ireland where peace at long
last seems almost possible." Andrew M. Greeley, bestselling author of IRISH





Monday, August 19, 2013

In a New York Minute

You may have heard the song.  Don Henley’s “New York Minute” from his “The End of the Innocence” album.  It’s about how life can change suddenly, and in the case of this song, tragically.  Luckily, I’m not writing about that today.  Everything has changed for us in “a New York minute,” but it’s all good.
It all started on July 3rd.  Frank and I were sitting out on the screened porch, enjoying the hot summer night, and we started talking about his retirement.  We chatted about how it was a good time to buy our retirement home in Myrtle Beach because it was a buyer’s market down there.  He suggested that maybe I should go down there and scout out houses, and if I found the right one, we’d go ahead and buy it; then, when he was ready to retire, we’d already have a house. 
The next day as we drove to a winery for a 4th of July event, Frank brought up retirement again, and how much he’s disenchanted with his job.  “So, retire,” I said.  “Pick a date.”  So, he did.  April 26th, 2014. 
A week or so later, we saw an article in the Washington Post about the hot real estate market in the Washington DC area.  I was astounded to see that houses in our county sold within an average of 12 days on the market.  So, we called a realtor just to chat.  That was, I’m guessing, somewhere around July 20th.
Fast-forward to today.  We’ve received three offers on our house.  After signing with a realtor and packing up everything we absolutely could not live without, we had painters come in a couple of weeks ago and paint the entire interior.  Then we had the carpet replaced upstairs.  Last Tuesday a photographer came out to take pictures.  The listing became live on the MLS on Wednesday afternoon, and our first offer came on Thursday morning.  On Friday, we had five groups look at the house.  On Sunday, we had an Open House and over 20 groups came through.  Now, we have three offers, and have countered with one.  Waiting to hear now. 
I’m kind of in shock.  I can’t believe my days of living here in Manassas are running out.  I’m excited to move to Myrtle Beach, and especially excited to look at the 34 listings I’ve saved on Realtor.com.  But I’m going to miss so much about this place—most of all, my church, my Bunco group and my karaoke group.  But I know that new adventures lie ahead and I can hardly wait to get started on them.  Now, if only Leah and her family can get back to Myrtle Beach, it will be absolutely perfect!
Oh, did I tell you?  INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS is finished and off with an agent.  Cross your fingers for me that she’ll fall in love with it.  J  Until we’re settled in Myrtle Beach, I’m suspending my monthly contest, but hang in there—it will be back soon!
Hope you all are having a great August!  J

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Our Non-Human Loved Ones

A friend and I went to a spiritual medium last week, Elizabeth Herrington, (http://elizabethherrington.com) and if you’re in the market, I highly recommend her.  Pam, a long-time friend, and I were both hoping our mothers would come through.  They did, but that’s a story for another time.  Let’s just say we both received remarkable validation that Elizabeth was communicating with our mothers. 

But one of the most astounding moments during our hour-long reading occurred when Elizabeth described a grey-striped cat with my mother.  And I knew immediately who she was talking about—my Asa who’d traveled to the Rainbow Bridge back in the mid-80’s.  An outdoor cat, Asa had the run of the woods to the back and side of our house on Andrews Air Force Base—cat heaven!  Except for the four-lane highway, Route 5, bordering the woods nearby.  I don’t know if that’s where it happened or not, but when Asa didn’t come home for two weeks, I knew in my heart something terrible had happened to him. 

I was right.  One afternoon when I stepped out my front door, I heard a cat’s meow coming from the gated area where the garbage cans were kept.  I stepped inside, and there he was, looking up at me with his beautiful amber eyes.  At first, I was overjoyed.  My Asa was home!  But then he tried to come toward me, and that’s when I saw, to my horror, that he was dragging his hind quarters.  My joy at seeing him alive drained away.  I think I  knew, even then, that this was something he wouldn’t recover from.

On the way to the vet, as Frank drove, I held him on my lap.  He didn’t make a sound, just gazed up at me with those haunting eyes—eyes that held pain, and yes…I’m sure I wasn’t imagining it…resignation.  It was almost as if I could read his thoughts.  Make the pain go away, Mommy. 

I prayed during the short drive.  Please, God, let him be okay.  Let this be something that can be fixed. 

But it wasn’t to be.  After the vet examined him, he told us that Asa had suffered a spinal injury; he was paralyzed.  Nothing could be done, and it was better to put him out of his misery.

Frank and I returned home alone. I couldn’t stop crying.  I spent the next three days on the sofa, sobbing off and on.  Every cat food commercial broke my heart all over again.  How could it be so painful to lose a pet?  I felt like a part of my heart had been cut out and stomped on.  Along with the pain, I felt guilt.  If only I hadn’t allowed him to go outside.  I vowed then to never have another outside cat. 

The years passed and other pets came into our lives.  And inevitably, we suffered other losses.  Our beautiful white Golden Retriever, Kai, who came to live with us at three months old in Hawaii.  He lived to the age of 14, and the night before we had him euthanized, we took him to the Manassas Battlefield—one of his favorite places—for one last walk; he managed only a few feet before collapsing to the grass.  We served him a whole slice of pizza the morning before we left for the vet.  Again, we returned home in tears, and I took a solitary walk on the battlefield that afternoon to send up prayers and blessings to him.  And then last year, on the night of Mother’s Day, I sat with my beautiful 13-year-old orange-tabby, Ruby, in my lap, knowing it was our last night together.  Broken-hearted, we returned home without her, and even though we now have two beautiful kitties, Mario and Lily, whom I adore, I still miss my Ruby.  (She appeared in several of my books.)

So it was with some surprise that I learned that Asa was the cat with my mother, but Elizabeth went on to say that it was because he’d been in such pain, and wanted to thank me for taking care of him up to the end.  Elizabeth also said, contrary to some beliefs, pets do have souls, and someday we’ll be reunited with them.  I can just imagine how cool that will be—meeting all our loved ones who’ve passed on, and also being surrounded by all the non-humans we’ve loved throughout our lifetimes.  I can just imagine Kai and Asa and Ruby—and pets from my younger days, Gilbert and Marty and Carol Ann Kitty and Happy all playing together and vying for my attention.  Now, that will definitely be Heaven.  Until then, I know they are all up there with my mom, and she’s taking care of them.  Or they’re taking care of her.  J

Congratulations to Carrie Castro of Los Altos, California, my May website contest winner.  She won a copy of UNDERSTUDY and a piece of jewelry from Beautiful Evening Beads.  (www.beautifuleveningbead/etsy.com)  You can be next month’s winner.  Just go to my website and enter my contest.  www.carolebellacera.com.

As for news—my new novel, INCENSE & PEPPERMINTS, is finished, and is in the revision process.  As soon as I finish it, I’ll be sending it to an agent who has requested to read it, so wish me luck!  I’d dearly love to sell this one to a New York publisher, so we’ll see.  I did a book trailer for it, and you can see it here:

Also, TANGO’S EDGE will soon be available as an audio book at www.audible.com.  I’m very excited about that because I had to listen to the complete book to approve it, and I got wrapped up in the story and couldn’t wait to hear more!  I know, I know…I wrote it.  But it had been a while since I’d read it, so it was like listening to a completely new story.  And the narrator, Amy Ulrich, does such a wonderful job (especially with Mikhail’s Russian accent) so it really captivated me.  I think it will captivate you, too. 

Well, that’s it for me this month.  I’ll be heading down to Destin, Florida in a few weeks to visit my darling grandsons.  It’s been over three months since I’ve had any preschooler hugs and kisses—and I’m suffering withdrawal! 

Have a fantastic June!!!



Friday, May 10, 2013

A Smile is Just a Smile

A Smile is Just a Smile

Fifteen eye contacts, four smiles and two hellos.  That’s what I received from five days of walking from my hotel near Grafton Street in Dublin to a friend’s house for a writing workshop—a 25-minute walk there and back.  I started counting to entertain myself.

See, I love smiles.  I love giving them, and I love getting them.  So, this was kind of an experiment for me.  I’ve been to Ireland before, but this was the first time I’ve spent the entire time in Dublin.  And yes, the Irish are friendly people, but Dublin is a city, and like people everywhere, they’re rushing around, trying to get to work, chatting on cell phones, and pretty much lost in their own little worlds.  So, it’s not all that unusual to get only minimal eye contact in 370 minutes of walking.  In fact, I was quite surprised—and delighted—that two people actually smiled and said hello during a couple of my morning treks. 

I wonder if they have any idea how good that made me feel?  I don’t think people realize the power of their smiles.  That simple connection between two strangers can change an ordinary day to an extraordinary one.  Oh, I know what you’re thinking!  It’s not safe to make eye contact with strangers.  You never know if someone could be a psychopath, and you can make yourself a target just by acknowledging him/her. 

Well, I suppose that’s possible.  You could be unlucky enough to smile at the wrong person—and suddenly you’ve become their next obsession.  But if I’m going to live life thinking like that, I might as well crawl into a cave and become a hermit.  And I don’t want to live like that.  I believe we’re all put here for a purpose, and we meet people for a destined reason—in some little way, they change you…make you a better person. 

I like to talk to strangers.  While in Dublin, I struck up conversations with several people—a young Irishman on Grafton Street who studied at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, a man who ran a charity shop across from Trinity College, a female customer in the same shop, an attractive young salesclerk in a trendy shop on Grafton Street, two Norwegian men in an upscale shoe store, a garrulous taxi driver who totally made my day—we talked politics, gun control, books, the high cost of drinking in pubs, the Virginia Tech massacre. As you can imagine, not all of these conversations were light and airy, but I left each person, feeling connected to them in a universal way.  And I’m glad I took the opportunity to converse with them.  I walked away, feeling like I’d learned from them in some small way.  That we were connected.

I’m not saying everybody should engage strangers in deep conversations every chance they get.  It’s not in everyone’s personality to do that.  But what I am saying is don’t ever underestimate the power of eye contact and a smile.  Try it sometime—I guarantee that when you get a smile back from a stranger, your day will feel just a little bit better.  J J J J

Okay, so I chose a winner for my April website contest, but unfortunately, I haven’t heard from her.  So…Karen Farmer, if you’re reading this, contact me at carolebella2001@yahoo.com and give me your address so I can send out your prizes.  Also, I need to know which book you want, and if you want print or digital.

If I don’t hear from Karen by next week, I’ll draw another name.

Hope all of you have a blessed May.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Winning the Genetic Lottery

Victoria’s Secret supermodel, Cameron Russell, has been in the news lately condemning the hand that feeds her—the fashion industry, and their obsession with beautiful, skinny white women.  “I just won the genetic lottery,” she says.

Well, you know what? I feel like I won the genetic lottery as well…but not for the reasons that our comely Cameron has.  (I can only wish!)  I’m talking about health and spirit and a zest for life, no matter your age.  I’m turning 60 in about three weeks.  My sixth decade.  Wow.  How is that possible?  I look back on when I first decided I wanted to be a writer.  We were stationed at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington DC, and I turned a broom closet into my first office.  There, I wrote my first novel, GIFT OF JADE, on an old Smith Corona.  The year was 1984.  I was 31.  My first published novel, BORDER CROSSINGS, came out in 1999.  I was 45.  It’s almost impossible to believe that I’ve been a published author for 15 years. 

I don’t feel like I should be sixty years old.  And people tell me I don’t look like I’m sixty years old. (Love hearing that!)  So, yes, I feel like I won the genetic lottery, but not just because of those two things.  But because I won’t let age stop me from having fun.  You know what I’m doing on my birthday?  I’m going go-karting with my grandsons.  We’ve already planned a trip to Destin, Florida, and that’s what I’ve told everyone I want to do.  See, I don’t believe that just because you’re growing older, you’ve got to stop having fun.  That’s why I went to the water park on our visit to Myrtle Beach last summer and went down all the big slides with the boys.  These days, Grandmas don’t sit in rockers observing—they’re out there doing.

I have two people to thank for choosing to be a “doing Grandma” and not a “sitting Grandma.”  My mom, Lillian (the inspiration for LILY OF THE SPRINGS) and my grandmother, Opal.  My mom, before she got sick with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, always joined in the fun with her children and grandchildren.  I’ll never forget the time she went to the water park with my sister and me and her grandchildren, and had trouble getting out of the inner tube in the Lazy River.  My sister and I were laughing so hard, we could barely stand up. It was this fun spirit that kept Mommy young for so many years before she was struck down by cancer.

Her mom, Opal, may not have done water parks with us, but she was a gutsy little sprite all her life.  I call her a “sprite” because she was barely five-foot tall but had the courage of a lioness.  She loved to entertain her grandchildren with stories of her youth in the Kentucky outback.  According to her, she was quite the little troublemaker.  My favorite story was one I related in LILY OF THE SPRINGS about how she discovered a rattlesnake in the outhouse, and matter-of-factly chopped its head off with a garden hoe then went about her business.  (I may have inherited her spunk, but I can tell you right now you wouldn’t catch me going within spitting distance of a rattlesnake.)  Mother (we called Opal “Mother”) was the most energetic woman I’d ever met.  Even in her advancing years, she kept herself busy—cooking, cleaning, quilting, puttering about her little house, always doing something.  You never saw her just sitting around.  She lived to 93, and the week before her heart gave out, she was still going grocery shopping on her own. 

So, you see, this is why I feel like I’ve won the genetic lottery.  I really believe you’re as young as you feel.  And a good attitude is imperative.  You can’t lose your interest in trying new things.  A few years ago after joining my church choir, I remembered how much I loved to sing.  After years of longing to try it, I finally got the nerve to sing karaoke on our first cruise.  And I loved it!  Now, I’ve started my own local karaoke group, and we get together every couple of weeks at a local bar to sing.  That’s led to me appearing in the USO Show last March, playing Marilyn Monroe, Karen Carpenter and Nancy Sinatra.  And recently, I sang at a French bistro in Reston (not karaoke.)  I’ve even sang a couple of times with a live band.  If someone had come to me even ten years ago and said I’d be doing these things, I would’ve thought no freaking way!  But now I know to never say never.  It’s trying new things that really keeps you young.

I have a friend—and she’ll know who she is because she always reads my blogs—that’s a year younger than me, but if you heard her talk, you’d think she’s at death’s door.  This woman has the most beautiful skin I’ve ever seen—not a wrinkle to be seen.  She’s got a trim figure and looks great.  But she needs an attitude adjustment!  (And you know I’ve told you this to your face, J.)  I’ve begged her to come to yoga class with me because she’s complained of body aches and sleep issues, and I know yoga would help.  But she refuses to try it.  I think she’s of the Old Dog Can’t Learn New Tricks mind.  But I believe that’s exactly what keeps us young—learning new tricks. 

So, come on, ladies.  Sixty is the new forty.  Let’s get out there and have fun. We may not be beautiful, skinny, white–or look gorgeous in a bikini, but we can adjust our attitudes about age and beauty.  As for me, I’m looking forward to my sixth decade and what it has in store for me.  J

As I mentioned in my last blog, BORDER CROSSINGS is now available at Audible.com.  Join Audible and get it for only $7.49.  http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_5?asin=B00BCR7K0S&qid=1360587261&sr=1-5

Also, I’m running a special this week at Kindle.  Get EAST OF THE SUN, WEST OF THE MOON for only 99 cents.  http://www.amazon.com/EAST-SUN-WESTS-MOON-ebook/dp/B0052OULD0/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361468956&sr=1-9

I’m off to Florida!  See you next time! 



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Calling All Angels

Isn’t it odd that we usually don’t realize the significant moments in our lives until long after they are over?  I was reminded of one on Sunday during an interview with Luke Abaffy of the Author Feast website.  I was talking about how obsessed I used to be with my career, and how miserable I was during those first years after BORDER CROSSINGS came out.  In other words, I wasn’t enjoying the ride; I was always looking ahead to the next mountain (goal) I wanted to climb.  And on Sunday as I gave advice to new writers hoping to break into the business, and urging them not to take it all too seriously, I remembered the moment that my life changed. For the better.

My career was in shambles.  My editor had left for another publishing house.  My publisher had turned down my fifth novel—and had informed me that my fourth novel would not be released in mass market (despite the contract.) My agent, having received several rejections of my new proposal, wasn’t returning my calls.  In other words, my “career” was crap.  I felt destroyed.  I even doubted my own talent.  I didn’t know where to go from there.  I wanted to give up.  Go get a real job…give up on my dreams and the destiny I’d always believed in. 

I remember I was out and about one day during the midst of this career crisis.  Had to get out of the house because I couldn’t write.  What was the point, anyway?  Clearly, I didn’t know how to write.  The first four novels had been flukes, apparently.  I’d gone into Barnes & Noble.  Not sure why.  That certainly wasn’t a way to raise my confidence—seeing all the published books from writers I’d met throughout my four years of being in the “in scene.”  Why them, and not me, I wondered?  What had I done wrong that my books weren’t selling, yet, everyone else seemed to make the New York Times Best Seller List with little effort at all (it seemed.)  I still don’t know the answer to that question.  Maybe I didn’t invest enough in promotion.  Maybe I was lazy.  Maybe I just didn’t have any business sense.  Or maybe it was because I wanted to be a writer, not a business person.  Looking back, I can see it was probably all of those things.  All I knew at that moment, though, was that I’d crashed and burned, and I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I left Barnes & Noble, got into my car, and burst into tears. And I prayed.  “God, I don’t know what you want me to do.  From the time I was a child, You had me telling stories, writing stories.  I know this is what I’m meant to do, but if that’s so, why is it I’m failing at it?  I don’t want to give up, but I can’t take this constant rejection.  I feel worthless, like I have nothing to offer.  What is it you want me to do?”

Of course there was no answer.  Not immediately. But it came within moments.  After I’d finally cried myself out, I turned on the ignition and the radio came on.  The song coming from the speakers was Train’s “Calling All Angels.” 

I’m not allowed to write more than a line or two of lyrics because of copyright issues, but it starts like this:  I need a sign to let me know you're here.  And then the chorus:  I won't give up if you don't give up.

I couldn’t believe it.  It was like God was speaking to me.  He wouldn’t give up on me if I wouldn’t give up on myself. 

It was shortly after that that I got my writing mojo back, and I finished TANGO’S EDGE, and then wrote LILY OF THE SPRINGS.  I tried selling them to New York, but it didn’t happen so I self-published.  The best decision I ever made!  I took back my power, and I never looked back.  I will never doubt my destiny again.  I am a writer, and I’ll never let anyone tell me I’m not.  Yesterday I read a quote on Facebook that I absolutely love: Do Not Underplay the Artist and Writer for they Create What Once Did Not Exist.  What a beautiful thought—a powerful thought.  We do create what once did not exist.  I’m going to print this out and tape it near my computer, so any time I’m feeling like I’m not good enough or talented enough…or lacking in any way, I can read this and remember that I have created what once did not exist.  How cool is that? 

So…just remember…no matter what your challenges are, if you ask God for help, He WILL answer.  Just be prepared to listen.  You never know when God will speak to you…or when the angels will come when you call on them.  J

Congratulations to Marilyn Nowlin of Houston, my January website contest winner.  Be sure and stop by my website and enter this month’s contest. 

Good news!  BORDER CROSSINGS is now out in audio, and available at www.audible.com.  http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_2?asin=B00BCR7K0S&qid=1360712623&sr=1-2

And did I tell you about my daughter’s book?  Yes, writing runs in the family.  My daughter, Leah Speer’s, first book came out in December titled MUST.HAVE.WINE. A TOAST TO MOTHERHOOD.  http://www.amazon.com/Must-Have-Wine-Toast-Motherhood/dp/0615716792/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1360712459&sr=1-1&keywords=Leah+Speer  If you’re a mom, you need to read this book—a collection of heartwarming, humorous and sometimes dead serious articles about motherhood. 

Happy Valentine’s Day.  Hope you get lots of chocolate.  J  That’s what I’m hoping for.



P.S.  If you’re familiar with Train’s song, “Calling All Angels,” check it out at YouTube.  It’s an awesome song.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaG9SDxwPBg

Monday, January 21, 2013

American Idol and the Publishing Business



How many American Idol contestants can you name?  I’ve been watching AI from the get-go, so I’ll go first.


  1. Kelly Clarkson
  2. Carrie Underwood
  3. Clay Aiken
  4. David Cook
  5. Jennifer Hudson
  6. Phillip Phillips
  7. Colton Dixon
  8. Jordin Sparks


Well…that’s it.  American Idol has been on…what?  Twelve seasons?  And I can remember only eight contestants.  I know I liked a lot more than eight.  Yet, I can’t think of their names.  I remember the female country singer in last season’s AI—I really liked her, but darn if I can remember her name.  She had it all—talent, charisma, beauty, and a rockin’ country voice—but I can’t remember her name.  (I know I could look it up on the internet, but that just proves my point—I shouldn’t have to.)  This must be so disheartening for all those talented singers who make it to the AI top ten, and then after the tour is over, they vanish back into obscurity.  Oh, sure, some of them go on to become household names—Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson and…well, that’s about it.  But even some of the most talented winners of AI—David Cook, for one, kind of disappear after their initial, if moderate, success.  Why, I wonder?


I have my suspicions, and this is where American Idol and the publishing business have something in common.  The winner of American Idol gets a record contract and big-name producers like Jimmy Iovine get them in the studios, and with their star-making know-how, try to turn them into the next Britney Spears or Justin Bieber, even if it bleeds every bit of originality out of them.  Because they don’t care about originality.  They only care about the big bucks.  They want these young artists to fit into a box, following a proven formula that will churn out mega-billion dollar sales.  Unfortunately, it rarely works.  Why?  Because these kids, talented as they may be, when trying to emulate a Britney or a Justin, turn out to be nothing but a pale imitation.  And in a blink of an eyelash, they’ve faded into obscurity.  Once the record sales dwindle, I suspect the initial interest from Hollywood disappears as if it had never been there in the first place.  These poor kids end up going back to producing their own records and doing gigs in small-town bars close to home.  And this is another similarity to the publishing business.


As you know, I’m sure, I’ve been out of the New York publishing circles for many years now, so this may or may not still be true.  But I’m going to tell you how it used to be, and how the publishing industry is exactly like American Idol.  Let’s just assume it hasn’t changed much since my experience, okay?  Publishers are always looking for their “next big star.”  That unknown author who is going to write a book that generates huge buzz in the publishing house, which is a real indicator that the book is going to be HUGE—selling millions of copies and landing on the NY

Times Best-Seller List.  That’s why you hear about a first-time author’s book going into a bidding war and ending up getting six and seven-figure offers.  It happens more frequently than you would think.  It didn’t happen to me, alas, but I did get a pretty good advance for my first novel, BORDER CROSSINGS, that came out in hardcover, retailing for $25.99.  I remember thinking at the time: Who on earth is going to pay $25.99 for a book by an author they’ve never heard of?  Turns out I had reason to be concerned.  Not many people did pay $25.99 for the book.  And although I went on to sell my publisher another three books, the death knell for my career was already sounding.  Sales were low, excitement was diminishing, my editor left for a job with a different publisher—and eventually, no one at my publishing house had ever heard of me.


Something similar happened to a friend of mine.  She was already published in category romance, but when she wrote a big women’s fiction novel, her savvy agent got several publishers interested, and although it didn’t sell at auction, one publisher offered her a six-figure deal.  She was headed for the big-time.  The publisher promised they’d get behind her, and promote the book with ads, book tours and a huge New York City launch party—the dream of every author.  Days before the book hit the stores, the publisher flew her to New York, wined and dined her, and had her doing appearances even before the book was officially for sale. Sadly, her appearances were poorly attended, and the night before her official launch party, she received a phone call from her editor telling her the house was “disappointed” that the pre-orders for the book were lower than they expected.  Her book tour was canceled, and she flew back home, feeling like a whipped puppy dog.  I saw her book in a Barnes & Noble one time shortly after its release, and I don’t know if it ever came out in paperback or not.  This author—the rising star that the publisher had proclaimed her to be—suffered a devastating case of writer’s block and ended up leaving the business altogether. 


Sound familiar?  I wonder how many AI contestants totally give up on their dream after their brief brush with fame?  It all comes down to two different animals—artists and corporate business.  Artists just want to create their art, and corporate business wants to back artists who make them money.  And if they don’t, it’s goodbye and on to the next. (Because there is always a hungry “next.”) Sometimes, everything comes together and an artist gets to make their art—the art they want to make, and the money flows in. Those are the lucky ones.  The rest of us?  We turn to self-publishing and self-recording, and sharing our art wherever and with whomever we can.  And who knows?  Maybe in the long run, we’re the ones who are happier. (Although I’m betting Nora Roberts is pretty darn happy.)


So…if you loved some of those artists on AI who didn’t make it big, search them out and buy their self-produced CDs.  And while you’re at it, support your local indie authors.  J  For us, every little sale counts.   

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


The older I get, the more spiritual I’ve become.  Spiritual, not religious.  I’ve never been a big fan of organized religion.  Maybe it had something to do with my “fire and brimstone” upbringing in the Baptist church.  But even as a child, something didn’t sit right with me about a punishing God who glares down from above, waiting for you to screw up so He can send you to Hell.  Somehow, that just didn’t jive with the Jesus who loves me that we’d sing about in Vacation Bible School.  Thus, after years of searching to fill my spiritual void, and visiting various churches throughout the many places we’ve lived, the moment I walked into Unity of Fairfax in Vienna, Virginia, I knew I’d arrived in my church home. That was many years ago, and I still feel the same way. 

So when I walked in last Sunday, I had no idea that one five-minute conversation would change the course of my life.  (Or at least, the course of my year.) Now I know it was Spirit, and I’m so glad I was open to it.

I had a few minutes before the choir met to rehearse, and sipping my coffee, I saw Lisa across the atrium and decided to join her.  Earlier in the week, I’d seen her post on Facebook about going to Ireland in the spring, so I asked her about it.  She told me all about a writer’s retreat she was attending in Dublin.  It sounded like so much fun, and I told her how envious I was that she was going.  (When I’d first read her Facebook post, I remember thinking how I wished I could shrink myself down to the size of a ladybug and crawl into her luggage.) 

“You should go,” Lisa said, smiling.

“Oh, no!  I couldn’t,” I said quickly.  “Can’t afford it.”

But then I heard the voice inside me.  Spirit, I know now.  It’s a tax write-off.

Lisa went on to tell me the cost of the retreat, the flight, the hotel, and mentally, I’m calculating.  I shook my head.  “Too expensive.  It would practically clean out my checking account.” 

But Spirit spoke again.  You’ll get your income tax refund in April.    

It was time to head into the sanctuary for choir rehearsal.  I gave Lisa a wistful smile and said, “I know you’ll love Dublin!  Wish I could go, but I just can’t swing it.” 

During church, my mind kept returning to my conversation with Lisa.  Ireland!  It had been eight years since I’d been there.  Way too long.  And to be able to go there to write?  How cool would that be?  Suddenly I tuned into the minister’s message.  It was about taking risks.  Imagine that! 

On the way home, I broached the subject with Frank.  Guess what my wonderful, supportive, The World’s Best Husband said?  “You should go!”  And then later, the Most Fantabulous, Sweetest, Adorable, Man of My Dreams said, “What can I do to make this happen for you???”

Of course, I turned down his generous offer of monetary help.  After all, this is a business trip, and it’s my responsibility to pay for it, but the fact that he offered melted my heart.

I mused it over for a full afternoon and night, and on Monday morning, I woke up, knowing this was meant to be.  Spirit spoke and I listened.

I’m going to Ireland in April!!!!! 

Now, if only I could win the lottery so I could take my daughter, Leah, and my sister, Kathy, with me.  But you never know.  Spirit moves in mysterious ways.


At last!!!!!  LILY OF THE SPRINGS is out in audio!!!  It’s available on Audible.com, and if you join the Audible book club, you can get it for only $7.49. 

My third novel, EAST OF THE SUN, WEST OF THE MOON, will be reissued in print in a few days.  If you haven’t read this steamy older woman/younger man novel (the most erotic of all my titles) you’ll want to pick up a copy.  Check out the book trailer:

Happy New Year to all of you!  And don’t forget…listen to Spirit. 


Carole Bellacera