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Doris Ex Machina, Part the Third

It was my plan to post a new blog yesterday but Jeff was hogging the computer.  He was mumbling about line edits and cursing periodically, but mostly he seemed happy with his progress. Which is, I think, a good thing. Being dead, I am not such a good judge. Anyway, last week I introduced you to our synchronized swim coaches, Irina and Paul Cojocaru. So today I should be telling you about our progress in the pool. But I think perhaps I feel sad, or maybe guilty that yesterday was my dear Mother’s birthday and I didn’t tell you anything yet about Stela. Stela was a seamstress, a beet farmer and a chanteuse.  Here she is, between sets, at our most famous of Romanian nightclubs.

Stela was much beloved. Here you see her most loyal fans. Please to excuse their rowdy behavior, but they are most eager for Stela to return for the second set.

Stela was a most perfect mother and I miss her dearly. She is dead now a very long time. Of course, I am also dead a very long time, so anyway there is that. I should tell you that Stela was jealous of my relationship with Irina, but not today.  I think they call that picking a nit and I will not pick even one of my dear Mother’s nits on this day.

Besides, I am running out of the time and I still need to tell you about the murder of my cousin Vlad, in Doris' dressing room on Romania's Got Talent.


Adelina was born in Bucharest in 1887.

She died of tuberculosis in Brooklyn in 1936.

Being dead, she has time to blog.

Doris Ex Machina, Part the Second

Where did I leave off? You will excuse me, but my memory is not so good any more now that I am dead.

Anyway, if I am remembering, my cousin Iulia gathered us all in the kitchen to tell us of what she would daydream. We were very much surprised when she told us of her hope to become a member of the Romanian Olympic Team.  That we would all become members of the Team. Iulia explained that we must all agree on a sport. Tunde suggested gymnastics. Doris said, what were the chances that Romanian girls would ever become world-class gymnasts? Doris is the smartest so we agreed that gymnastics was a bad idea.  We waited for Doris to suggest another sport. After much time, she suggested skeet shooting. Andreea had not so very long ago joined PETA. She explained to us how skeet are like humans, with hopes and dreams, with feelings and thoughts and a central nervous system and we were all deeply shamed by our willingness to murder poor defenseless skeet.

It seems that our Olympic dream would die there, until Vlad suggested that we form a synchronized swimming team. Vlad said he would be the team leader as he was of all the cousins the best at swimming.  If Vlad could tell you the story, which of course he cannot, he would tell you he was the best at everything. So you will not be surprised when I tell you that when we decided to perform a Greek classic on Romania’s Got Talent, that Vlad would play the part of God and that the rest of us would be the Greek chorus. Also that our acting troupe would be known as Vlad and the Impalerettes. But you are not ready to hear that part of my story. So please to forget about the Impalerettes. (I know, it is a hard thing to forget, but promise me you will try).

Because I am still needing to tell you about the Olympics. We were fortunate to secure the two best coaches in all of Romania, Paul and Irina Cojocaru.

Here they are at their home on the Black Sea. That’s Irina on the left.

We were fortunate indeed.


Adelina is the pretty one. She was born in Bucharest in 1887.

She died of tuberculosis in Brooklyn in 1936.

Being dead she has time to blog.

Doris Ex Machina, Part the First

Jeff assigned me the responsibility to blog for him while he’s busy dealing with chapter business. He assured me that people would be interested in my experience as a contestant on Romania’s Got Talent, and perhaps he is correct, but so far it seems that he is not. Don’t tell him I said this, but Jeff is not correct about many things. Still, he trusted me with this blog and I feel some responsibility, in his absence, to build for him the audience. You may be wondering who I am. I am Adelina, Jeff’s dead Romanian ancestor.

Anyway, Jeff says I am supposed to tell you about how I discovered my cousin Vlad’s body, in Doris’s dressing room, on the set of Romania’s Got Talent. As if I could begin the story at such a point. I do not understand how Jeff can find a publisher who will pay him any money at all for his stories when he does not seem to understand that a story must have a proper beginning, middle and ending.

And, of course, a title. A story must have a proper title.

So today I can only begin to tell you the story.


My name is Adelina. I am the pretty one. The others in the photograph are my cousins, Andreea, Iulia, Doris, Tunde and Vlad. (I do not understand how a boy with such a tiny putz can gain the nickname The Impaler. I asked my cousin Tunde. She smiled, but would not say).

We did not start out to become contestants on Romania’s Got Talent. We did not start out to be anything. We did our chores and studied the Talmud and daydreamed about our future husbands. (I do not know what Vlad dreamed about.)

Also, I did not know what Iulia dreamed about until one day, she gathered us all in the kitchen and told us of her plans. And that, I think, is as much as I can tell you today.



Adelina is the pretty one. She was born in Bucharest in 1887.

She died of tuberculosis in Brooklyn in 1936.

Being dead, Adelina has time to blog.

Pathways to Publication

bloody bills

We all know that in a mystery the most obvious suspect, the first “person of interest,” isn’t always the culprit. The same is true of pretty much every aspect of publishing.

There’s a lot—and I mean a lot—of debate, acrimony, and bad information out there about what you can or should expect, or what you’ll be doing as an author as well as writing and how much you will—or won’t—make. Don’t expect me to give you the answers. I won’t. I don’t know them. I don’t think anyone does, no matter what they say because every book is different. Every author’s experience will be different.

I have short stories in three anthologies, two published with small presses in both print and e, the other we did as a crowd-sourced charity anthology, so once the original Indiegogo campaign was over, it became available to the public only in e. My four romantic suspense novels were published by  a major publisher—Penguin—but in their e-only imprint, InterMix, so they had no paperbacks. I've also self-published two shorter contemporary romances, as well as re-publishing the Penguin books when I got my rights back. I haven't covered all the publication bases, but I've come close.

And I still don’t have the answers.

Publishing is a business. The decisions you make must be business decisions. The fact that there are so many new pathways opening up has both positive and negative aspects–you have more choice, but you also have more responsibility.

Here are questions I ask for every project before deciding what to do with it…as always, your mileage may vary.

  • • Who will want to read it (and no, you can’t answer “everyone”–the more specific you are, the better)
  • • Where do those people hang out–online and off?
  • • How do those people choose to read? In e or in print or both?
  • • How much do you think those people will be willing to pay for a book, especially if it's by someone they may never have heard of?
  • • Do these people look at covers when they are making choices about what they are reading?
  • • Where do these people find recommendations about what to read next?

Now, let’s say you want to go the traditional route. And let’s say you don’t have an agent you trust, who can help you vet the publishers to query. Publishers aren’t going to come to you, so you have plenty of time to check them out before sending out your query!

  • • Have you heard of any of the other authors on their list?
    (Check out their websites and see if you can find them on social media. Look to see if there are any who appear friendly. Ask them about their experiences—politely.)
  • • What do their covers look like? Would they make you want to buy the books?
  • • How about the cover copy? Check out their books on Amazon or B&N and see whether the copy is well-written and makes you want to buy the book.
  • • What kind of promotions have you seen for the books they publish?
  • • Can you even find a list on their website of the books they’ve published in the last year?
  • • For that matter, is their website filled with information about their authors and books, does it have links to the authors’ own sites? Does it have “buy buttons” for the books?
  • • What do they charge for their paperback books? Is it more than you think your readers would pay? What about their ebooks?

Businesswoman looking through a magnifying glass to contractNow, let’s say the books look good and fit your requirements and they offer you a deal. You’re still not done doing your homework!

  • • EXAMINE THE CONTRACT THEY SEND YOU. This one I cannot stress strongly enough. Be sure you understand every word of that contract. If it says “out of print,” you need to know what that means in a world of print on demand and ebook. You need to know if your royalties are standard. Do they own foreign language rights? What about audio rights?


I am sure there are questions I’ve missed, but I am trying to stress something here: not all publishers are equal, and even if you like your publisher for one project, they may not be right for all your projects. What does your contract say? Do you owe them right of first refusal on your next project even if it’s completely different from the one they bought?

For example, Twisted was bought as part of a two-book deal. That same contract gave me a deadline for the second book, Lost. But it didn’t specify what might happen in the middle. That is, if I had the kind of speed to complete a book/novella in the middle, I could have published it, as long as what I published did not infringe on my Penguin "world."

So those are some of the things I’d consider. As I said, your mileage may vary, and I’d love to hear any thoughts in the comments about other things I’ve forgotten to include in comments!


Laura K Curtis Laura K. Curtis gave up a life writing dry academic papers for writing decidedly less dry short crime stories and novel-length romantic suspense and contemporary romance. A member of RWA, MWA, ITW, and Sisters in Crime, she has trouble settling into one genre.

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