Why I Wrote: Rosa No-Name

Last week I shared with you why I wrote The Devil and Pastor Gus. Today I’ll give you the background on Rosa No-Name, which will release sometime in late April. Pictured above is a proof copy, used for catching final mistakes before it’s too late.

My daughter, Kristi, went on a short term mission trip to Mexico after graduating from high school. When she returned, certain facts about her trip struck my imagination:

  • She was eighteen at the time. Maybe not really spoiled, but in need of doing some more growing up.
  • She failed to pay attention to the directions she’d been sent about what to bring and not bring. Consequently, she paid for extra luggage to bring a number of things she didn’t need and failed to bring some of the important things she did need. Like a sleeping bag!
  • She was part of a house-building project.
  • That area had a lot of trash on the ground.

Struck my imagination? Ha! Fired it up!

One evening I sat down and roughed out the idea of a story involving all of those elements. That short story was the original “Found in the Translation.” You may read it here. I entered the final version in an online contest, and it placed within the top ten of seventy or eighty entries. That was encouraging!

Even while writing the short story, I knew it would ultimately become a full-length novel. The short story was just the warm up.

You wouldn’t believe the changes I made to the short story in writing the novel, but I was pleased with the outcome. Nobody seemed to want to publish Found in the Translation, though, no matter how my wife and I believed in its merit.

At a Christian writers conference I showed the first couple of pages to writing teacher and overall writing guru James Scott Bell. He advised me that I didn’t have a proper start.

So I cut the first fifty pages and wrote a new beginning. I shared a sample with an editor friend who then asked to see the whole thing and subsequently landed me an agent. Within a year Found in Translation–Barbour Publishing dropped the “the”–and its sequel, Lost in Dreams, were under contract. I was on my way!

But there were a number of things I hadn’t brought out in Found in Translation. I was especially fond of Rosa, the mother of the little girl whose right arm ended at the elbow. Why had Anjelita been born that way? And who was her father? Those are just some of the things the protagonist, Kim Hartlinger, didn’t learn during her time in Santa Maria because of the language barrier.

Consequently, I wrote Rosa No-Name as a prequel. But because it dealt partially with adult situations, I never considered it a teen novel. (I’d never considered the previous two to be Young Adult, either, but because the characters were eighteen, that was the only way my publisher could market them.)

Potential publishers weren’t interested in Rosa No-Name. So just as I’d done with the little play The Devil and Pastor Gus was based on, I stuck Rosa No-Name in a drawer and tried to forget about it. That was ten years ago.

But my wife and my daughter have always been especially fond of Rosa No-Name–they like it better than any of my other published novels and unpublished manuscripts–and five or six months ago I decided to reread it. I fell in love with it all over again, and I felt led to ignore the objections traditional publishers had expressed and go the independent route.

Amazon has a couple of amazing free book publishing facilities–the books aren’t free, just the ability to publish them–and soon I was on my way.

God didn’t whisper in my ear and tell me to publish Rosa No-Name, yet I believe this is what He wanted me to do. My prayers are for its success in blessing and entertaining a number of readers.

Do you think you have a book in you, waiting to be written? It may not be one the general public will be interested in, but perhaps one your children and grandchildren would benefit from being able to read. Is that you? How about leaving a comment?

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Best regards,
Roger

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Why I Wrote: The Devil and Pastor Gus

I was recently challenged to share why I’ve written several of my novels. I’m taking up that challenge today to give you some background on The Devil and Pastor Gus. I’ll talk about Rosa No-Name next week.

My minister father was almost a rabid fan of C. S. Lewis. Although he failed to introduce me to the Chronicles of Narnia, which I discovered quite accidentally while browsing the bookcases of a family I was spending the weekend with in Maine as an adult, he did mention the Screwtape Letters. Probably in a sermon. Even so, I never got to read it until eight or ten years ago.

My father must have mentioned the fact that the Screwtape Letters is a satire about the Devil (Screwtape), who is sending letters of advice to his nephew Wormwood,  who keeps failing to win the enemy (a Christian). I must’ve tucked those few facts somewhere in my head, because I ended up writing a short play, “B.L.Z.,” during the 1970s; it was published in a local, free magazine in 1977.

The Devil, B.L.Z. (B.L.ZeBubb)–named after a very troublesome car my parents used to own–is getting ready to retire, but he’s afraid to turn the reins of his evil kingdom over to his son, Junior, who never ceases to do good when he’s supposed to be doing bad. So he gives Junior one last chance to prove himself.  I won’t give away the ending, though. If you’re interested in reading the play for free, go here.

Writing that play and having it published were fun, but–like so many other things I’ve written–I tucked it away for safekeeping and all but forgot about it.

Ten or eleven years ago I wrote my first novel. And then a second and a third. I envy novelists who seem to have an unlimited supply of story ideas. I didn’t, and I still don’t.

But something–I prefer to think of it as God’s inspiration–made me reread “B.L.Z.” Yes, the language was dated in a couple of places, but the basic idea was sound and I loved what almost happened to Junior at the end.

Ideas began percolating, but was this truly a novel-worthy story?

Once I started writing, I decided it was. I kept B.L.ZeBubb as the antagonist, but relegated Junior to a reference rather than an actual character. And what almost happened to Junior at the end of “B.L.Z.” almost happens to B.L.ZeBubb in the novel. I kept the selling of the soul to the Devil idea, but made Pastor Gus Gospello decidedly more of a protagonist in the novel than he had been in the play. And I tried to retain the satirical quality of the play as well.

One thing I enjoyed in writing The Devil and Pastor Gus was having Gus battle typical problems in writing a first novel. Much of that had to be edited out in the published version, though. My publisher thought those details would be of less interest to most readers (other novelists would be the exception). Plus we needed to cut the length of the book by a number of thousand words.

If you’ve read both the play and the novel, you can easily see the similarities and the differences. If you haven’t–and if you’re curious–it won’t hurt my feelings if you buy a copy of The Devil and Pastor Gus.

Have I said anything you’d like to comment about? Please do!

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Best regards,
Roger

On Judging a Book by its Cover

There’s something to be said for the old cliche, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” It would be impossible to determine or even just  guess how many excellent books have the least appealing covers or how many of the absolutely worst books have covers that not only gain a potential purchaser’s second look, but are largely responsible for their ultimate purchase.

I suspect we’ve all avoided at least one excellent book and settled for one of the worst instead. Not that we’re apt to admit it, of course.

The longer I’m in my post-retirement career as a novelist, the more I’ve come to appreciate how important the cover is. And I’ve changed a lot in how I evaluate a cover.

I admit it. I want to see some kind of resemblance between the cover and what the book is about. But it doesn’t always work that way.

I was allowed to give input for my three traditionally published novels, and I had very specific ideas. What I didn’t realize at the time is that publishers have various sources they check for stock photos and use a model only as a last reserve. Undoubtedly a more expensive move for them.

My wife and I really liked the covers Barbour Publishing came up with for Found in Translation and Lost in Dreams. The Kim Hartlinger depicted on the first book is appropriately shown with a suitcase.  But Kim in the book was petite and looked almost Latina. Not so on the cover. It was still a good cover, though. One readers could connect with it, and that was the important thing.

Barbour very intelligently used the same girl on the cover of Lost in Dreams.  That in and of itself was appealing, and it helped to tie those two books together. Kim’s wistful look was perfect for a story that started out extremely seriously.

Although the way LPC depicted Gus on the original cover of The Devil and Pastor Gus was whimsical and clever–I can just hear Gus thinking, “Is this plan to defeat the Devil going to work?”–the cartoon-ish depiction of a stereotypical devil on the upper right not only didn’t fit the book’s depiction of B.L.ZeBubb, we know of people who were afraid to buy the book because of the cover. Not good.

LPC realized the need to try again, and the new cover is immensely more satisfactory. Although I’m not sure exactly what this night-time view of the church represents, it’s intriguing without being scary,  and I’m satisfied. I think the addition of those two lines of text at the top helps.

For Rosa No-Name, the prequel to Found in Translation, a novel I’m independently publishing, I knew I would need a professional cover. Not something I could do myself. So I got in touch with graphic artist Ken Raney, who’s done a number of excellent book covers, including some of his wife’s (popular women’s lit novelist Deb Raney).

My wife and I sent him a list of very specific suggestions. Although Ken couldn’t fit those ideas to any stock photos he could find, he sent us four or five photos to consider. We fell in love with two of them. Picking the right one was tough.

But since Rosa No-Name is a fictitious memoir about Rosa from age sixteen to twenty-nine, we thought the more mature Rosa would be the better choice. She looks like she’s actually thinking about her past, and we love that.

Everyone we’ve talked to loves Ken’s cover . We hope it will make people take a second look and hopefully read the description. And then buy it if it appeals to them. We want them to judge Rosa No-Name–initially at least–by its cover.

How do you feel about book covers? Do they make a difference in your buying…or at least in your considering buying? How about leaving a comment?

By the way, please note the form below you can use to sign up for my quarterly newsletters. I’d love to have you as a subscriber.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

My Current Project

What is an author to do when he has nine unpublished novel manuscripts on his laptop and one of them, ROSA NO-NAME, is his wife and daughter’s favorite? They even prefer it to the three novels that have already been published.

It doesn’t help that he has recently parted ways with his agent. Not because he dislikes her or because they don’t get along well. They are still friends. But because she doesn’t think she can do anything with any of the four manuscripts of his she’s looked at.

So, what is that author to do? Especially if he’s not in love with the novel he started writing months ago and not making much progress on?

As you’ve undoubtedly guessed, I’m the author in question. Even though I’m in good health at seventy, there’s no guarantee how much time I have left. God has given me the ability to write, however, and I feel led to keep using it as long as I’m able to.

By the time my first two novels were published in 2011, I had already written ROSA NO-NAME as a prequel to FOUND IN TRANSLATION. It wasn’t a Young Adult novel, though, and my publisher wasn’t interested. No publisher  would be interested in a book that related to another publisher’s series.

But Kathleen and Kristi loved ROSA so much that I reread it and fell in love with it all over again myself. I knew I could self-publish–I’d done that with two little books of my shorter writings–except for two things. A self-published book–they call it “independently published” now–needs a professional cover and it needs to be professionally edited.

I spoke to Ken Raney, the talented graphic artist husband of novelist Deb Raney. His quoted price wasn’t nearly as much as I’d expected, but it wasn’t something the family budget could handle. I told Ken I would start saving. And I did.

Can you imagine my joyous shock when I opened my Christmas presents and found that my wife had gotten the other members of the family to chip in money for the book cover? They not only contributed enough that Ken has already been paid in full, but enough money was left over to add to what I had saved for me to seek someone to  do some basic editing. I’m meeting with an editor this coming Thursday.

On January 2 I verified with my former publisher that I am free to proceed with my project, even though some of ROSA tells part of the story from FOUND IN TRANSLATION, but from Rosa’s point of view.

Ken will begin working on the cover later this week.

I’m really excited! I have a very worthwhile project to work on, and I hope the thousands of people who read FOUND IN TRANSLATION will want to read ROSA NO-NAME and learn some of the back story they’ve had questions about.

I  hate talking about myself and my project this way, but I’m too excited not to share it with my blog friends. You can’t blame me for that, can you? All comments gladly received.

NOTE: I wrote that earlier this past week. Ken has finished the cover, and it’s GREAT! People who see that will be likely to take a second look and turn it over to read the back cover. As much as I want to share the cover with you, I’m holding off till my wife and I get a handle on preparing for ROSA’s release.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

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Best regards,
Roger

Which Book Would You Pick?

For the sake of this post I’m assuming that all of you are readers of novels. Maybe Christian ones, maybe secular. Maybe both.

And you’re confronted with far more books than you have the time and inclination to read. And possibly the money, too. Are you with me so far?

You spend a long time browsing the bookshelves–or doing a comparable search online–and you’re paying special attention to three things: the title, the front cover, and the back cover blurb.

If those three things impress you, you may also look at the first sentence and maybe the first paragraph. Those steps help you make the best possible choices.

Well, let’s have a little fun with this now.  I have nine UNPUBLISHED novel manuscripts on my computer. So there’s no front cover or back cover blurb. I’ve listed their titles below along with a brief description. Please read them carefully. You should be able to tell which ones are Young Adult and which ones are general adult. All of them are Christian novels, however.

  • Project Muffintop: A teen girl diets to attract a boyfriend. But is she after the right boy?
  • Do I Ever!: Two couples try to hide their pending divorces from one another only to fall in love all over again.
  • Impractically Yours: Middle-aged best friends Robbie and María must overcome trust issues, blood sugar complications, and an ill-timed practical joke to keep their friendship intact and reveal their mutual love.
  • Fifty-Fifty: A greedy businessman who’s turned his back on love faces certain death at the age of fifty. But what if he miraculously survives?
  • Misfits: Two teenaged preacher’s kids discover the joys of being different when they start a misfits club that even the in-crowd kids want to join–and then rediscover one another.
  • Wherefore Art Thou Ramon?: As children, Ramón and Julianne unwittingly start a feud between their fathers. As teenagers, they must stop it. But do the ends justify the means?
  • Rosa No-Name: A young woman returns to the tiny Mexican village that once rejected her and earns acceptance by helping the villagers learn to read, to forgive, and to survive.
  • Overshadowed: A teen who’s lived under the shadow of family and friends discovers a self she never knew she could be after becoming a hesitant leader.
  • A Twisted Rainbow: Two young men discover the never-ending joy of following Christ after winning and then losing a fortune in the lottery.

Okay. You still with me? Would you now please leave a comment specifying which two manuscript would appeal to you the most if they’re ever published. Don’t worry. You’re not committing yourself to anything. I’m just curious.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger