Sunday, April 2, 2017


When should a person self-publish their work?

Anytime they want to, of course.

Here are some specific situations when self-publishing might be the best option for a writer:

  • When the writer wants complete control over the title, content, layout, and cover. (Most pay-to-publish companies do not waver from their process and allow customization, so this may not be the best route for someone who MUST have total control over the production of their ms into a book.)
  • When the work is to be used for seminars on a topic that the writer is deemed an 'expert' in the field. These books are usually non-fiction and the price is higher than fiction because the value added by the author's expertise.
  • When the work is to be used to accompany another product, similar to a manual for the user of the product. Have fun with this if there are lots of schematics to add to the text.
  • When the writer can afford to hire experts to create an industry quality book or is competent in the required skills and doesn't care whether it bears the stamp of approval that comes with being vetted and published by a traditional publisher.
Before submitting a query to a publisher or literary agent, a writer should be able to affirm within their heart that they have done the best they could and they are now willing to let it go and let someone else take it to the next level.

For some people, letting go of their work is difficult. If that is the case, the writer should consider self-publishing the work or simply remain a writer and never become a published author. I'm not sure that this is a bad thing. It depends on each person's goal or vision of the future for their works.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sample Chapters

Your manuscript is finished. It is no longer a first draft. You've gone over it a couple of times. Your friends and family have gone over it. Together you toast the thing and proclaim that it is ready.
Hopefully, that is true.
Just to be sure PRINT it and read it ALOUD. 
The internet is full of literary agents, small publishers, pay-to-publish outfits, and do-it-yourself sites. There are print directories to buy, should one choose. Just like we will do with your submission, sort through them and find the 'best fits' for your work. 
Whatever method you use to develop a list of places to query, the main thing to do is to follow the submission guidelines completely.
What we are expecting for sample chapters at Cactus Rain Publishing:
  • Manuscript format
    • full page - 8.5" x 11"
    • double spaced lines
    • standard font -- I'm going to change it to Tahoma, because that is more readable for me (remember that I'm dyslexic?)
    • standard form for fiction -- no space between paragraphs, that is for non-fiction. Fiction indents each paragraph. Start a new paragraph (with quote marks) for dialogue. We accept the non-American single quote marks or the American double quote marks -- be consistent throughout the sample.
  • No front matter -- you are way head of yourself doing this
  • No cover -- you are way head of yourself doing this
  • ONLY the first three chapters
  • A prologue is not a first chapter, don't send it to us.
The fastest route to a rejection letter is to stand out in a bad way. We don't advertise. We don't need to advertise. If we published all of the queries we have right now, we have enough for the next 5 years. It is truly survival of the fittest, not the quirkiest.
Send us something that meets our submission guidelines and you are highly likely to see a request for the full manuscript.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

First Impression

Because of the agreeable weather, Phoenix frequently hosts car shows. Unofficial previews are available on the road, whether the car is driven or trailered. Singularly, they are impressive. At the show where they are parked next to each other a pecking order of quality emerges.

The same is true of submission packets. While friends and family [usually] shower the writer with praise, at our end of the process where they are lined next to each other is where the quality differences is obvious.

There is only one opportunity to make a good first impression. One. Late at night with a glass or two of wine or whisky is not the time to decide the work is ready for the light of day.

For Cactus Rain Publishing the three elements of the submission packet are: 1) a query letter; 2) a synopsis; and 3) the first three chapters of the ms.

We see query letters that range from ridiculous to amazing. A query letter is a business proposal. It needs to sound professional, pitch the project, and include any specific information the publisher has listed on their submission page.

Attitude speaks volumes. Sending a query email that says, "Here you go. I've sent my fiction novel for you to publish," is not a good idea. First off, "fiction novel" screams that the person is clueless. Novels are ONLY fiction. If it isn't a fiction, then it is non-fiction, poetry or who knows what.

A synopsis is a one page summary of the story, single spaced, and written in third person. The synopsis summarizes the story's main character's transit through the story. It is not the back of the book tease. It is the whole story, including the ending.

The last piece of the packet is the first three chapters of the manuscript; nothing more or less than what has been requested. Sending different chapters and telling us that the first three chapters don't show the awesomeness of the manuscript should tell the writer that those chapters need reworked or deleted.

Not following the instructions on how many chapters (or some publishers want the first 50 pages) tells us that the writer doesn't follow instructions. Whether they are simply arrogant and don't think rules apply to them equally or they are special [for some unknown reason]. It tells us "This person is going to be difficult."

The sample chapters should be in manuscript format: Full size page (8.5 x 11 inches) -- not a simulated book-size page; it should be double spaced; it should contain computer functions (use the center button to center things like the title, end the chapter with a "page break" command, not several "enter key" strokes); and dialogue should start a new paragraph and have quotation marks.

Compared to 50 other queries, how strong is yours? It is easy to weed out the ones we aren't interested in. Sometimes I won't read the sample chapters if the query letter and the synopsis are bad. What would be the point?

First impressions are a one time occurrence.

Friday, December 23, 2016


Those of you who know me, know that I know quite a few amazing people who have autism. Though I do not know this young lady, she is truly amazing.

Please enjoy:
Kaylee Rodgers

I'm sure that Leonard Cohen is smiling at this little angel.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Read To Learn To Write!

Brilliant idea! I drive, so that makes me a mechanic. Right?

Who comes up with this stuff?

There is an element of talent required to write, but even more important is the skills of writing. The way we read fiction isn't done in a way that directly teaches writing. We may pick up a few things about style, but overall, I want to see YOUR style.

The reason professionals attend training and are required to have continuing education credits is so they keep their skills fresh and improve upon them.

Read fiction for enjoyment. Read about writing to improve your writing skills.

Here is a book that covers the basics of writing. It is good for beginners or as a refresher for seasoned writers.

Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft by H. Thomas Milhorn.
Check it out and let me know what you think.
(I am not compensated for mentioning this book.)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Telling vs Showing

Telling vs Showing is a basic skill that the beginning writer should strive to master. Too much telling is boring. It drons along in a monotone voice and doesn't have the momentum to keep the average reader engaged.
One of the best examples of telling a story through showing is Passengers by Diane Keziah Robertson. Diane brilliantly tells the story through the life events of six people who first meet on the coach. She created the setting against the backdrop of the plague in England. Passengers is almost like theatre with the characters coming and leaving [the stage] in a way that advances the overall story.

One way to self-monitor whether you're writing in Telling Mode too much is to look at how much dialogue you've written. Are the characters telling the story through their actions and words? Or is the writer narrating the story in their own voice?

Characters are defined by their words and deeds. When the writer tells who the characters are, it is almost like gossip. Let the characters tell who they are rather than the writer telling about them.

There are times that I call, "Meanwhile, back at the ranch," when the writer needs to tell some short bit that transitions the characters to a different setting or introduces benigning information that will be important at some later point.

Here is a benign piece of information: He reached for the handrail when step unexpectly gave under his weight.

Basically, who cares? I don't, unless that loose step or handrail plays a role later in the story. Don't go on and on about how many times he had planned to fix the step. Who cares? Not me.

What I will care about is later, when he pulls up the end missing nails and stashes something under the step tread while someone is pursuing him. In this case, the broken step needs to be in the setting earlier so it can be used later. Please, please don't introduce it when you need it by saying, "He suddenly remembered..." It feels like a cheat.

Read your work out loud so you hear it out loud. Reading to yourself in your mind allows for skimming and self-correcting words in your thoughts, but not in the ms because you didn't notice them.

Reading aloud also shines a bright light on long rants of telling. It will scream "BORING!" as you drone along reading it out loud.

Here is a writing exercise that helps with too much telling. Write a hundred or so pages in first person. It forces you to only write what the person knows, experiences, thinks, or says. If the main character is telling the story, that is all the writer can use. No magical fixes.

Honestly, if I can't get through the three chapter submission, then I won't ask for the full ms unless Judith wants it. Submit your best work, whether it is to us or someone else. You owe it to yourself and your story.

Passengers is here:

Sunday, November 13, 2016


It isn't normal for me to make two posts in one weekend, but it isn't normal behavior that we would create a facebook page, either.
Check out our page and contribute if you like.
True confession: I didn't do this, it was dreamed up by our authors and executed flawlessly by Joyce, our web designer. There is yet more to come. Check it out.
What do you think?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I suddenly love Janet Reid

Janet Reid is a literary agent. We have never met and are not likely to meet. However, on her blog she said read your submission aloud.
How many times have I said that? A bazillion.

It is even better if you print your ms, and read it aloud to someone who has not read it yet. I usually give a copy of the ms to the listener to follow along. That way, they can catch when you read it different from what is written.
Of course, what you read is better than what you wrote, so make changes on your copy and fix the ms when you finish reading.
I'm 100% serious about this. How can you not want to use the paper when it can make the difference of someone picking up your ms or not? Reading on the monitor is simply not the same as seeing it in print.
After all the hours put into writing do not skimp on the final polish. Cactus Rain sometimes will make recommendations and give a second chance to get it right, but most people in this industry do not give second chances so make sure you are querying with your best product.

The other issue Janet lists is not following the submission guidelines. This industry, like most others, has expectations, norms, and 'rules of conduct.' Otherwise, it would be pure anarchy. If you don't think that you need to follow our submission guidelines, think again. We won't read what you sent, if you didn't send the right stuff. Don't waste our time. You aren't that special that the rules don't apply to you. Prepare for a ton of rejection letters. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Staying Published

While staying current on the blogs that I follow is not a high priority, I did see something this morning that seems worth repeating from Janet Reid's blog. Janet Reid is a literary agent.
The post is: In one of the comments someone wrote, "It is one thing to get published and another to stay published."
Just like anything else we jump into, looking at the big picture is essential to 'correct' first steps.
Writing is on a spectrum, although some people see it as an end point. While writing itself is satisfying to most of us, beyond that euphoria we need to have a serious conversation with our self about where we want to go with this 'writing stuff.'
Bang away on your laptop with the TV blaring, take writing classes, walk the isles of the bookstore with glazed over eyes, but find a bit of quite time to think of this craft as a business.
The only way to succeed in any business is to do your homework and understand the industry inside and out. Plus, to some extent understanding the ebb and flow of the economy helps build a strong business.
The point is, of course, identify your goals, and then develop a plan on how to achieve those goals.
There is a lot of advice, mine included, on the Internet and in print books. The work is to distill all of that into a working model that fits YOU.
Write your best work and make time to understand the industry. Cheers!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

What We Like

It is a lazy beautiful day in Arizona, USA. The drizzle of the monsoons tap a soothing sound on the patio cover above me as I think about the mystery of Cactus Rain Publishing. A few years ago, a close friend told me that CRP would never work.
It does work. What is the secret? It is hard to say, and it is probably more than one thing that works. We don’t advertise – at all. Maybe we have passed on some mss that we shouldn’t have passed. However, we have done well with those we selected.
I think that Irene Watson nailed it when she wrote about my novels that, “Nadine produces works of social relevance.”
That is also true of the novels we publish.
Of course, we look at writing ability and style. Though, the social message of our books is what speaks to me as I read the submitted manuscripts. For me, it is probably the tipping point.
What does anything matter if we don’t continue to evolve into better people, better societies? Though there are many others who do more and larger than our small voice, I believe we quietly and gently contribute to the betterment of all of those who read our books, without being preachy and forceful.
Our books, and those under contract, speak to critical issues and in the end, good wins over evil in the characters.
Check out what Steve Mwase says in this interview. or here