Bird of Paradise: Romantic Suspense Novel Set on the . . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 15, 2013 Under Uncategorized

. . . West coast of Mexico!

Finally! After all the proofreading and all the formatting and all the figuring out how to get Palace of the Blue Butterfly on Amazon Books and Goodreads, I‘m starting to revise my second romantic suspense novel Bird of Paradise.

This is sort of what I look like these days—only no fishbowl, no fish, no green branches, just me staring out into space.

Any normal person would wonder what I’m doing.

Well just FYI: Yesterday, my imagination took me to a beach on Mexico’s Pacific coast. I felt the sand on the soles of my feet, the wind in my hair, heard the waves, the shells being pulled out to sea, and in this trance, characters emerged from nowhere, for example, the French guy— Francois Richter. Where did he come from? He wasn’t in my first draft. But Bee, my main character, opened the door of the van, and there he was in the front passenger seat. I’ve spent my insomniac hours between 2 and 4 am trying to figure out who he is, what he’ll do.

I suppose the rest of you have real jobs, right?

Bird of Paradise started a long time ago when Dave and I took a trip to the west coast of Mexico. Our plan was to hit the funky beach towns around the Bay of Melaque for a few days and then luxe it up at Costa Careyes before heading east to Oaxaca, San Cristobal and Palenque.

Unfortunately, the first night in Barra de Navidad, I came down with a horrible flu—fever, coughing, absolute misery. In desperation, Dave went to the local pharmacy in search of some Mexican version of Nyquil and returned bearing a brown glass bottle, retrieved, it appeared, from some sorcerer’s den. “I don’t know about this,” he said, holding the bottle up to the light to see if it had congealed. “The guy got it from the back of the store. It was covered in dust.”

Since the bottle came with no instructions, I figured two tablespoons would do it. Boy did they. I think I hallucinated for a week; everything I heard or saw—the vacationing pot growers from Humbolt County, the surfer dude expats, the beautiful Europeans at Costa Careyes, swathed in gauzy, white pareos, who punctuated everything they said with the words “tu sais, tu sais” regardless of what language they happened to be speaking — charmed me.

It — the place, them — all seemed larger than life, mythic, iconic. Wow was I stoned!

Tropical beach in Mexico

Anyway, I never forgot them. Neither have I forgotten the stunning woman —an American travelling alone— writing in a notebook as she lay on her chaise lounge in front of the small cove of Playa Rosa, lifting her binoculars every now and then to look at birds.

Who was she? I wondered. What was she doing there alone?

Bird of Paradise is my answer.

Mexican Beach

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I Keep Thinking About Something Adrienne Rich . . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 8, 2013 Under Uncategorized

. . . wrote about women and lying.


Well, because I’ve been thinking a lot these days about blogging and truth-telling. You know, the opposite of lying.

I discovered women’s blogs when I moved out of the city. How? Looking for recipes. Back in the Bay Area, I would have simply grabbed a copy of Saveur on the way into the supermarket. Oh look. We’ll have Thai inspired shrimp skewers with cilantro jasmine rice. Done.

In the boonies, it’s not so easy. See Jane search for recipes and come up with all these women’s blogs. Like Etsy, you can get lost reading about these women’s live. What struck me then, and what I think has been lost, is how honest they were, which is why I was thinking about the essay I’m going to share with you.

I mean back in the day even Pioneer Woman was writing things like this little poem:

“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, their war crimes pierce my brain.
Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, I slowly go insane.”

Now, that she’s on Food Network it’s all sweetness and peonies 24/7.

Not that I blame her. Her children have the right to their privacy now that she’s a big star. But, I think the national conversation anonymous women were beginning to have with each other has been diverted. That’s too bad.

I set out from the beginning in this blog trying to tell the truth, well, as much as I could, without spilling the family secrets and all. Maybe I focused too much on the positives. Here are some things I might have left out:

Living in the middle of nowhere is not always easy.
I miss going to foreign films in San Francisco. What I don’t miss is the city’s nightmare traffic, so Yoo-hoo. Netflix. But, it’s not the same. It’s just not.
Rattlesnakes scare me, and they are part of life here. Only one this year so far.
Killing rattlesnakes scares me.
Dave killing rattlesnakes scares me.
I worry about my cat when I hear the coyotes.
I will never waste days freezing tomato sauce again. It’s the fresh tomatoes I want anyway.
The heat in July gets to me and makes me crabby.
I even get tired of the relentless sunshine.
And yes, I get tired of cooking ALL. THE. TIME.

And this list covers the externals. It doesn’t reveal what goes on inside, all the self-doubts, weak moments, fears, disappointments. I told Dave that this year I felt like a sponge just soaking up everyone’s sorrows. But, my friends and family have the right to their privacy. So, I can’t really talk about it.

What I can do is share something that guides me in my blogging, my fiction writing, my friendships and my life. This quote comes from a book by Adrienne Rich called ‘Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying’, (1975).
Here goes—

The possibilties that exist between two people, or among a group of people, are a kind of alchemy. They are the most interesting things in life. The liar is someone who keeps losing sight of these possibilities.

When relationships are determined by manipulation, by the need for control, they may possess a dreary, bickering kind of drama, but they cease to be interesting. They are repititious; the shock of human possibilities has ceased to reverberate through them.

It isn’t that to have an honorable relationship with you, I have to understand everything, or tell you everything at once, or that I can know, beforehand, everything I need to tell you.

It means that most of the time I am eager, longing for the posssibility of telling you. That these possibilities may seem frightening, but not destructive, to me. That I feel strong enough to hear your tentative and groping words. That we both know we are trying, all the time, to extend the possibilities of truth between us.

The possibility of life between us.

Anyway, this explains why I haven’t even tried to go commercial— no photos of Land-of-Lakes butter or Kraft cheese.

I want to create a space for myself that’s safe for “groping tentative words” a place that extends the possibilities of truth and of life between us.

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Thinking about Derek Wolcott, Adrienne Rich and. . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Aug 1, 2013 Under Uncategorized

. . . me.

I read an article recently in which a critic made a disparaging remark about women’s blogs, how it was fortunate that so many women out in the sticks had an outlet.

An outlet? An outlet? As opposed to, say, writing book reviews in a journal that probably has far less readers than those little, ole, bloggy thingies, right?

Okay, Jane, breathe. Breathe deeply.

Anyway, the snide remark got me thinking about a speech the poet Adrienne Rich gave at Smith College thirty four years ago during the height of the feminist movement. I had to dig around to find the quote I wanted. Here it is . . .

“When those who have the power to name and to socially construct reality choose not to see you or hear you . . . when someone with authority describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in the mirror and saw nothing. It takes some strength of soul to resist this void, this non-being, into which you are thrust, and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard.”

That strength of soul is what you are witnessing in many women’s blogs and self-published books. They may seem traditional on the surface, but that belies a greater subversiveness I think. In another statement, Rich tells us “A revolutionary [ work of art] reminds you where and when and how you are living, and might live. It is a wick of desire.”

Is that not true of so many of the non-commercial women’s blog and novels? And that wick of desire? That’s what my novel Palace of the Blue Butterfly and my website represent to me.

And then I remembered a poem I wanted to share with you by the Caribbean, post-Colonial, Nobel Prize winning poet Derek Wolcott. He uses the convention of a traditional love poem, but this time, the returning lover is the despised colonized self who has broken free from the colonizer’s destructive grip.

This poem reminds us where and when and how we are living and might live

Love After Love
by Derek Wolcott

The day will come,
the time will come,
when with elation you greet yourself,
arriving at your own door.
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,
saying “Sit here, eat.”
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine, give bread,
give back your heart to itself.
To the stranger who has loved you all your life,
whom you ignored for another,
who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs
the desperate notes.
Peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit, feast on your life.

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Blackberry Picking: Every Summer I Think of This Poem

Posted by Darren on Wednesday Jul 24, 2013 Under Uncategorized

While I’ve been getting my new website up, I’ve been picking blackberries daily, fighting the bees to get to them. They are so dark and sweet I often don’t use sugar with them. Recently, I’ve taken to making a super simple blackberry cobbler. So simple. Here it is: Put 4 cups of blackberries in a greased 9 by 9 dish. Melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter in a microwave. Add 1 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 to 1 1/2 cup of sugar. Stir this together into kind of a dough. Can be crumbly. Pinch off enough dough to make small golfball size balls and flatten into discs with your hands about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Lay discs on top of the blackberries and cook for forty-forty-five minutes in a 350 degree oven. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream. Your husband will love you forever.

Like all homey simple recipes, you may have to adjust the sugar, depending on the blackberries and your taste. Don’t add more butter, though.

Here’s to “days of the good flesh continuing, to tenderness, to those afternoons, those evenings, and blackberries, blackberries, blackberries “

Meditation at Lagunitas

by Robert Hass

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

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Posted by admin on Wednesday Jul 24, 2013 Under Uncategorized

Okay, so if we still lived in the Bay Area, we’d probably celebrate the launch of my book and the new website at Gary Danko’s, or Boulevard or even the old sentimental favorite Chez Panisse.

But we don’t.

Good news is no waiting one month for reservations, no major attitude. (I remember my mother rolling her eyes at Chez Panisse and drawling, “They act like I’ve never seen a candied violet before in my life.”)

However, if I want food that good I have to cook it. More good news. If you keep it very simple, it’s possible. (Okay, not the white corn and lobster soup that I had there that I will never forget, but still . . .)

As this was a celebration, I didn’t want to spend hours slaving. I’d already done that on the book and website. In Food and Wine Magazine, I found a great simple recipe I will save for all time.

Grilled Scallops in a Honeydew and Avocado Salsa


Finely grated lime zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 pounds honeydew melon, rind removed and melon cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 1/2 cups)
1 Hass avocado, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds large sea scallops

In a large bowl, combine the lime zest and juice with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the diced honeydew melon and avocado. Season the salsa with salt and black pepper.

Light the grill. Drizzle the scallops with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until nicely charred and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. ( I used scallops from Whole Foods and grilled them 2 1/4 minutes total.) Transfer the scallops to plates, spoon the salsa alongside and serve.

The toasty flavors of a California Chardonnay would be delicious with the sweet and smoky scallops. We drank a bottle of Talley Rosemary Vineyard Chardonnay that we’d been saving for just such an occasion. Their Arroyo Grande Chardonnay is excellent with this, too.

I wish I had a picture of the patio with all the little twinkling lights and flickering candles and me and Dave happy, happy, but I don’t. I’ll put up this old picture of the patio.

This is just to say that you can have a Chez Panisse meal on a Wal Mart budget. Cost of ingredients maybe 10 dollars. The wine a splurge given the event, but my Italian friends love Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. Can’t beat the price there.

For some reason, I’m on this mission to show all us 99 percenters that we can live like the 1 percent with a little creativity and work. Maybe if we’re all having a good time, are not angry and resentful, we won’t vote for mean, stingy people who cut food stamps for poor children. Maybe.

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(read part 1 of this article)

In April of this year, Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little Brown, published a mystery novel by an unknown author, Robert Galbraith, titled Cuckoo’s Calling. It got some nice reviews, including starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, as well as praise from well-known authors in the genre. You know how many copies it sold in three months?

Cuckoos Calling CoverFive Hundred, as in 500 all over the world.

If Robert Galbraith had really been Robert Galbraith, the one with the complete biography at the back of the book detailing his service in the army, his work in civilian security etc. etc., he would never have earned back his advance. It’s fair to say, he might never have been heard of again.

But, Robert Galbraith was as complete a fiction as the book itself. The author, finally outed in an anonymous tweet, was none other than J.K. Rowling. Yes, that J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. I’d also venture to guess that if Robert Galbraith hadn’t really been J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, but rather let’s say, Joe Blow or even Jane Rosenthal, and said writer created such a fictional biography and only sold 500 copies and was outed in the press, there would be enough lawsuits to keep lawyers in business for years. The only thing worse would have been if Oprah had chosen it for an Oprah Book Club selection.

Suffice it to say, Cuckoo’s Calling is now number one on bestseller lists. Same book. Same story. Same words.

It’s good, too. I’m reading it until wee hours.

I’d even be willing to say that if Robert Galbraith were really the army bloke he was portrayed to be to be with few literary contacts, he would have never gotten published at all. He would have had a manuscript in a box. He might have even turned to self-publishing, as many have.

As I just have.

All I can say is that it has been incredibly liberating to do something people in power said I couldn’t do. One small step for Jane, one giant step for talented, interesting, older women everywhere.

Go to and check it out.

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. . . Robert Galbraith.

That’s the story for this week’s blog post. Read on, and you’ll see why.

I sort of disappeared for a few months. Why? Because I was getting Palace of the Blue Butterfly, my own debut romantic suspense novel, up on Amazon. That, friends, was a lot of work. Like many things, having children for one, I had no idea what I was in for. Also, life sort of intervened there, too, with a few hard knocks and blows. More about that later, and how I am facing those things. Poetry helps. Meditation.

Jane's Amazon Book PageBut, today is a celebration. My book is up on Amazon, and I’ve got a great new website where, with a few clicks, you can get the book, read about the history of chocolate in Mexico, look at pretty pictures of the book’s settings, get some great recipes, and, in general, have a good time.

I’ve come a long way.

Three years ago, I had a book in a box in the closet, an agent in New York who felt the character was too old to reach a large audience. (She’s forty-two, for God’s sake. How old are the women who are actually readers in this country?) The country was in the grips of The Great Recession, and publishing houses were totally freaked out about publishing anything that wasn’t by John Grisham, Nora Roberts, or, indeed, J.K. Rowling.

Hand holding Kindle readerAlso, forget the setting. Mexico. Seriously. I have the rejection letters from publishing houses that say that.

Oh, and I knew nothing, nada, zippo, about blogging, websites, podcasting. I learned all those things. And I’m even older than fifty, you know, that cut-off age where no one is interested in what you do anymore.

Today, I’m out to prove the nay-sayers wrong. Today, anyone with an e-reader anywhere in the world can buy my book on Amazon. $2.99 will get you a trip to Mexico City where you’ll meet interesting, unexpected characters, root for the fifty-year old protagonist, see how exciting and glamorous and even romantic Mexico City is. I’d say it was a pretty good deal. If you’re suffering through a heat wave like we are, I’d make some ice tea, download Palace of the Blue Butterfly and escape for a few hours.

Now as I promised, here’s where the story about J.K Rowling and Robert Galbraith comes in . . . (read Part 2)

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The Mill River Recluse and the Story of Another . . .

Posted by admin on Thursday Nov 15, 2012 Under Uncategorized

. . . self-publishing heroine of mine. Darcie Chan.

Here’s the second installment in a series about four women who’ve taken fate in their own hands.

I mean, if you don’t do it, no one else will. I’m pretty sure of that.

In this case, the women wanted a published book. You, on the other hand may want something else, and I think these stories serve as a guide. At least for me, they do.

I’ve learned a lot of practical stuff from these women’s struggles, but, more importantly, I’ve learned not to be afraid of breaking rules and to develop a very thick skin when it comes to other people’s negativity. They’re not going to help you anyway, and if and when you do succeed, they’ll be the first to jump on the bandwagon. Latest tale to prove that? An agent telling a self-published writer she’d previously rejected something like “Whatever I said before forget about it. That was then, this is now.”

You may have heard of The Mill River Recluse. The novel and the story of its author Darcie Chan’s self-publishing journey have gotten a lot of press.

Why? Because the book is a huge success even though it’s only in e-book format and has never found a publisher. Furthermore, it had been rejected by over 100 agents and 12 publishers and had languished in a drawer for five years.

That thing about taking your fate in your hands? I’m just sayin’ . . .

Anyway, here’s the story—one I’m using as my model— which I’ve excerpted from The Wall Street Journal

“This summer, Darcie Chan’s debut novel became an unexpected hit. It has sold more than 400,000 copies and landed on the best-seller lists alongside brand-name authors like Michael Connelly, James Patterson and Kathryn Stockett. It’s been a success by any measure, save one. Ms. Chan still hasn’t found a publisher.

Five years ago, Ms. Chan’s novel, “The Mill River Recluse,” which tells the story of a wealthy Vermont widow who bestows her fortune on town residents who barely knew her, would have languished in a drawer. A dozen publishers and more than 100 literary agents rejected it.

“Nobody was willing to take a chance,” says Ms. Chan, a 37-year-old lawyer who drafts environmental legislation. “It was too much of a publishing risk.”

This past May, Ms. Chan decided to digitally publish it herself, hoping to gain a few readers and some feedback. She bought some ads on Web sites targeting e-book readers, paid for a review from Kirkus Reviews, and strategically priced her book at 99 cents to encourage readers to try it. She’s now attracting bids from foreign imprints, movie studios and audio-book publishers, without selling a single copy in print.

The novel took her 2½ years to write. After seeking feedback from family and friends, she sent queries to more than 100 literary agents. Most rejected it as a tough sell. “It didn’t really fit any genre,” Ms. Chan says. “It has elements of romance, suspense, mystery, but it falls into the catch-all category of literary fiction, and of course that’s the most difficult to sell.”

She finally landed an agent, Laurie Liss at Sterling Lord Literistic in New York. Ms. Liss submitted the manuscript to a dozen publishers, all of whom turned it down. Ms. Chan stashed the manuscript in a drawer.

Five years passed. Then, this past spring, she started reading about the rise of e-book sales and authors who had successfully self published, and decided to give it a shot. She fashioned a cover image out of a photograph her sister took of a mansion in Paoli, Indiana, and she and her husband used Photoshop to add some gloomy ambience. Then she nervously uploaded her manuscript to Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing program. She sold a trickle of copies. Her first royalty check from Amazon was for $39.

She noticed that a lot of popular e-books were priced at 99 cents, and immediately dropped her price from $2.99 to 99 cents. The cut would slash potential royalties—Amazon pays 35% royalties for books that cost less than $2.99, compared with 70% for books that cost $2.99 to $9.99. But sales picked up immediately. “I did that to encourage people to give it a chance,” she says. “I saw it as an investment in my future as a writer.” The strategy worked. Several reviewers on Amazon said they bought the book because it was 99 cents, then ended up liking it.
She checked her sales several times a day, obsessively refreshing her Amazon page. In the first month, it sold 100 copies. When Ms. Chan saw the sales figure, she danced in her kitchen with her husband and toddler.

“We were saying, ‘Wow, this is really cool. What if you sell 1,000? That would be awesome,’ ” her husband recalls.

After learning that self-published authors can pay to have their books reviewed by some sites, she paid $35 for a review from (IndieReader no longer offers paid reviews). She paid $575 for an expedited review from Kirkus Reviews, a respected book-review journal and website. The review service, which Kirkus launched in 2005, gives self-published authors the option to keep the review private if it’s negative. Ms. Chan decided to have hers posted on their website.

Sales kept climbing. In July, it sold more than 14,000 copies. That month, it was featured on two of the biggest sites for e-book readers, generating a surge of new sales. In August, it sold more than 77,000 copies and hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book best-seller lists; it later landed on the Wall Street Journal list. In September, it sold more than 159,000 copies. To date, she has sold around 413,000 copies.

Ms. Chan and her agent decided to resubmit the novel to all the major imprints, citing robust sales figures and rave online reviews. Some publishers have responded warily. A representative of one publishing house feared the book had “run its course,” Ms. Liss recalls. Others worried about the novel’s bargain basement price, arguing that an e-book that sells for 99 cents likely won’t command a typical hardcover price of around $26.

A few major publishers made offers, but none matched the digital royalty rates of 35% to 40% that Ms. Chan makes on her own through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Typically, most publishers offer print royalties of 10% to 15% and digital royalties of 25%. Simon & Schuster offered to act as a distributor, but Ms. Chan wants the book to be professionally edited and marketed.

Ms. Liss says that the offers from U.S. publishers so far don’t improve much on what Ms. Chan is making on her own. She’s made around $130,000 before taxes—substantially more than a standard advance for the average debut novelist—and she’s getting a steady stream of royalties every month. “I told Darcie, at this point you’re printing money. They’re not. Go with God, we’ll sell the second book,” Ms. Liss says.”

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Where I’ve Been Since I Last Posted

Posted by admin on Thursday Nov 8, 2012 Under Uncategorized

I’d thought about going to the big Self-Publishing Book Expo that was held in NYC October 27.

Good thing I didn’t.

Sandy, anyone?

I went to New Mexico instead to see my daughter.

There were some medical issues, shall we say, and her husband was on his pilot’s hitch. She needed her Mom.

And her Dad.

So off we went.

We watched movies, ate green chile at Tomasita’s and drove along the old road to Taos.

And of course under the circumstances, we stopped at the Santuario de Chimayo for some healing dirt, which has helped everyone’s spirits, at least.

I actually did manage to follow the Self-Publishing Expo on Twitter, if you can believe that. At least, I followed people’s 150 characters worth of comments.

Anyway, one of my self-publishing inspirations was there, and I’ll be featuring her next week. What was amazing was how many editors from big publishing houses and how many agents were there. Woo-hoo.

Next Year, maybe.

Anyway, it was fun to be with my kid again like the old days, just us in our jammies watching movies on TV. Julie and Julia it was this time.

Hey folks—Julie—another self-publishing success story. All from blogging. What can I say?

And for all of you who’ve asked, my daughter is doing great.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll prove it.

Here’s a recent photo of her in the Santa Fean Magazine.

Her parents (that would be us) said go to law school.

She said she wanted to be in fashion.

Guess who followed her own path and is happy she did.

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Elle Newmark: An Inspiring, Bittersweet Story

Posted by admin on Thursday Oct 11, 2012 Under Uncategorized


Elle Newmark was one of my first inspirations for self-publishing. I remember looking at her website, wondering if I could do something like that. How? I had no idea where to start.

Once I put it out to the universe, as my daughter says, and starting telling people what I wanted, things sort of fell into place.

Still, the germ of the idea started with this self-published author and her rather incredible story.

Here it is:

Elle Newmark was 10 when she knew she wanted to be a writer, but it was only after marriage, two children, divorce and finally working in advertising so she could pay the rent and buy groceries that she got around to it.

Bones of the DeadBy then she was 60, remarried and living in Germany.

She kept sending her manuscripts off, but — well you know the story. Nothing, but rejections. Numerous, numerous rejections. The one agent who was interested stopped contacting Elle after she found out her age.

When nobody would publish her book, “Bones of the Dead,” about a chef’s apprentice in 15th Century Venice, she paid thousands of dollars to publish it herself. Then she did something unheard of at the time. She threw a virtual book launch party for herself on the Internet, inviting hundreds of thousands of people — including book agents and publishers — for a gathering of music, conversation, witty quotes from famous people and party favors like recipe downloads.

All she hoped to do was sell a few hundred copies of her novel on the internet.

What happened next made self-publishing history.

Book of Unholy MischiefAn agent in New York found out about Elle and signed her, not just because of the book, which she loved, but because of Elle’s self-promotion savvy.

Two weeks later, an auction was held in New York to sell the publishing rights to “Bones of the Dead” (eventually renamed “The Book of Unholy Mischief”). Simon & Schuster won by offering her a two-book deal for more than $1 million dollars.

I hadn’t really thought about Elle Newmark very much since then. I was busy trying to get my own stuff out. But now that I’ve come this far, I started to look for more guidance.

Well, Ms. Newmark provided it again, but in a rather sad way.

In 2009, while she was working on the second book, “The Sandalwood Tree,” a tale of love and war in India, she developed a severe respiratory disease, which eventually claimed her life.

The book was published just before her death, and its opening quote — “Death steals everything but our stories” — made the hair on my neck stand up.

Still, in addition to Elle’s fiction, we are left with the story of her feisty courage, her creativity . . .

. . . and with this final reminder of why one should keep doing what one loves in the face of all odds. “Passion,” Elle wrote, “is our consolation for mortality.”

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Mexico Trilogy Graphic Link