Update on retail availability of The Road Back From Broken

Hey, everybody!

Please note that you can buy Road at the following retailers:

Amazon US (paperback & Kindle)
Barnes & Noble  (paperback; releases on Nook 1/19/2016)
Amazon UK  (paperback & Kindle)
Amazon Canada  (paperback & Kindle)
Kobo (preorder – releases on Kobo 1/19/2016)
iTunes (preorder – releases on iBooks 1/19/2016)

For readers outside of the U.S., U.K. and Canada, you can get Road on Kindle (and in many markets, in paperback, too) from your local Amazon site: .au, .br, .de, .fr, .in, .it, .jp, .mx, and .nl.

Find out why readers are raving about the story of Fitz and his family!

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The Road Back From Broken – release day!

This is my story of one soldier’s journey home from war.
There are many such stories, but this one is mine.

CarrieMorgan-BookCover Small

Over the several months, I’ve used this space to tell you about the process of writing and publishing my novel, The Road Back From Broken.

I’m happy to say that it’s finally time to let my novel speak for itself, and for my readers to turn their focus from my journey to publication to Fitz’s journey from anguish and self-destruction to reconciliation and healing.

The Road Back From Broken is now available in paperback and on Kindle:

US readers: get your copy here*
Canadian readers: get your copy here
UK readers: get your copy here

* US readers interested in acquiring Road in both formats can get a discount by buying the paperback from Amazon first.

For readers in other countries, Road is available on your nearest local Amazon site. If your local Amazon store doesn’t offer the paperback, you can order it here.

If you’d like to read the first couple of chapters for free, you can do so on my Wattpad site.

I sincerely hope you all enjoy the book, and encourage you to leave a review on  Amazon or on Road‘s Goodreads page. Reviews help writers like me spread the word about our works to other would-be readers.

For those who are wondering, there is a  sequel (tentatively titled What Fury Left Behind) currently in development. With Road now in the hands of my readers, I’ll be able to focus on finishing the first draft of Fury, which I hope to have in readers’ hands in late 2016 or early 2017. 

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this first installment of Fitz’s story.



I am thrilled to reveal the cover for my debut novel, The Road Back From Broken.

People say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but really, when you’re an author in search of a cover design, that’s precisely what you want would-be readers to do: to see the cover and immediately get a sense of the book, its subject, its tone, and its basic themes. And my cover designer, Mark Aro of Hyperactive Studios, did a fantastic job distilling my novel into a single image. He took the swirling muddle of ideas I gave him and created a unique and gorgeous cover for my tale of a man and his family struggling to heal from war trauma.

CarrieMorgan-BookCover Medium

The Road Back From Broken is set in Colorado, and since the Rocky Mountains are a constant presence in the book, I wanted the cover to reflect that. A good half of the story takes place in and around Colorado Springs, and one of the key scenes takes place at a scenic overlook adjacent to Garden of the Gods. I was thrilled that Mark was able to work the Colorado landscape into the cover art.

Like many tales of homecoming warriors dating back to Homer’s Odyssey, my novel Road is a story of transformation, healing and return. With a literal road in the center of the image, the cover does a fabulous job of showcasing the concept of journey, but because we don’t see the driver’s face or hands, the image puts the would-be reader in the driver’s seat.

I also love that the rear-view mirror features so prominently in the design, because Road examines the problematic role of memory and hindsight in recovery from trauma and loss. It’s appropriate that the landscape in the rear-view mirror is especially blurry, since hindsight is always distorted by our experience of the present.

I adore what Mark did with the vehicle’s interior. The deteriorating metal trim around the windshield and the cracked, faded dash do a great job simulating the interior of the 1976 Scout that appears in the story. The colors are great, too. Not only do they complement the scenic backdrop, but they evoke the hues of military camouflage, which helps set the tone.

But my absolute favorite part of the cover is the set of dog tags hanging from the rear-view mirror. Mark rendered them in exacting detail. Let’s take a closer look. 

Dog Tag Closeup

Go ahead, click on the image to enlarge it. I love the detail—the dog tags actually show my protagonist’s name, SSN, blood type and religious preference, all arranged in the proper Army-approved format. So while we don’t get to see Fitz on the cover, the cover does give us a hint of him and signals that Road is a story about military life.

The Road Back From Broken will be available on Kindle and in paperback on October 20th, 2015. You can add Road to your Goodreads “Want to Read” bookshelf here. And while you’re at it, pay a visit to my brand-new Facebook page and drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you. 

A Change Of Course

I know, I know. It’s been awhile since I last blogged about my path to publication.

A lot has changed since I last wrote about the process. In my last post on this subject, I outlined why I had decided to make a run at getting my novel The Road Back From Broken traditionally published. I’ve long dreamed of writing and publishing a book. From the time I was a teenage sales clerk at a mall bookstore, my dream was always to see my book on the shelves.

Seven months after I started querying literary agents in pursuit of a traditional publishing deal, I’ve decided on a change of course. I am abandoning my initial strategy in favor of an entirely different path. After receiving ample feedback from literary agents, published authors, editors, and others wise to the ways of the traditional half of the publishing industry, it’s become clear that the goals I had when I set out to write Road can only be met by publishing the book myself.

Some people will assume that I’m impatient and that I gave up too soon, or that I am too stubborn to accept feedback, but the reality is, the traditional publishing market itself made the choice clear.

While I received more than my fair share of form letter rejections from agents (“After careful consideration, I have unfortunately come to the conclusion that this is not something I wish to pursue, and therefore, must pass”), I also received a number of rejections that revealed the reason I wasn’t getting requests. The gist of these substantive rejections was that the agents felt that my book, while very well-written, had no viable commercial market; or, put a different way, they didn’t think they’d be able to sell my book to a publisher’s acquisitions editor. In a way, I can’t really blame them. Why would an agent take a chance on a book like mine when they can take on clients who write in more popular genres/categories like romance, women’s fiction and young adult?

A few people suggested I rewrite Road to fit into one of those trendier, more popular categories. Others said it didn’t matter, because women don’t want to read about a male protagonist (one agent said that) and men don’t want to read about feelings and emotions (yes, an agent said that, too). I wrote a book that challenges certain widely-held stereotypes about military families, and I saw rejections that were based on the assumption that those stereotypes are, in fact, true.

The story I set out to tell in Road is not one I can tell if I gut the novel and rewrite it from the point of view of the twelve year-old son, or solely from the point of view of the male soldier’s wife. (For what it’s worth, Road’s sequel, What Fury Left Behind, will focus primarily on the wife’s point of view.) I didn’t write this book to make millions. I wrote this book to tell a story I think needs telling, a story that hasn’t really been told before, and not to fit into some publishing house editor’s preconceived notions about men, women and the military.

So I am going to publish Road and its sequel myself. In a way, that means (for now) I’m abandoning my longtime dream of seeing my book with a famous imprint sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. But in another, more important way, I’m not abandoning that dream, but rather fulfilling it via other means, means that didn’t exist when I was a sixteen year-old clerk at the B. Dalton Bookseller at Southglenn Mall.

When I worked in a bookstore (circa 1990-93), there was no such thing as Amazon. The ubiquitous Barnes & Noble big-box stores that anchor modern malls didn’t exist (the first ones opened in the early ’90s). The concept of ebooks as we know it today didn’t exist either, which makes sense because email and the internet were alien to most people in 1992.

We live (and read, and write) in a very different world than existed ten or twenty years ago. B. Dalton Bookseller, the huge bookstore chain I worked for, no longer exists, and the venerable Southglenn Mall was torn down in 2006. The biggest retail booksellers in the world are Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which acquired my old employer in 1987. But they aren’t the only places people buy books. Readers can buy ebooks through a number of other outlets, including the iBookstore, Smashwords, Oyster, Scribd, and Lulu.com. Readers who want to read their books in paperback can buy them at a retail store or online, where small publishers and self-published authors can fulfill orders via print on demand, which eliminates the need to maintain an inventory of preprinted books.

Other things have changed since 1990. Back in the day, an agented author would sign with a publisher and receive a sizable advance, and the publisher would handle the rest of the process, including the marketing of the book. Now, even agented, traditionally published authors must do much of their own marketing. The size of the average advance is at an all-time low (adjusted for inflation). Simply put, traditional publishing isn’t what it used to be, as far as authors are concerned. It’s not the only way to get a book into a reader’s hands, and in many cases, it’s not the most lucrative.

When I saw how many “nicely-written but has no market” responses I got to my pitch, it became clear that the only way to get Road published via the traditional agent-publisher route was to rewrite Road to fit into other people’s concept of what the book should be. Some people told me to wait, to write something else, and maybe the traditional publishing markets would someday change to better accommodate Road. Others told me to try a small speciality publisher, but most of those have specific market niches and Road didn’t quite fit into any of them.

The thing is, I know Road has a market. It’s probably a small market, if I’m being honest with myself. There’s no doubt that market is substantially smaller than the market for, e.g., young adult or romance, but I don’t really care. I’m not in this for money alone and I’m not quitting my day job. The size of the market doesn’t matter to me as much as telling Road’s story, the story I wrote, to the people out there who want to read that story—to the people who have been erased by the wider publishing world that insists that they, in fact, don’t exist.

Maybe the agents are right and Manhattan’s big publishing houses aren’t interested in investing money in a book that may only sell a few thousand copies (or fewer). That’s fine. I’m lucky that I have the time and money to invest in publishing this book myself. If they aren’t willing to bet on Road, I am. I’m willing to wager that the market that the agents say does not exist actually does exist, even if only on a very small scale. And yes, that means it may cost me a couple thousand dollars to publish and market Road, money that I may never earn back. There’s a very good chance I’ll lose money on this book. That said, to me, every penny I spend is worth it if the story I’ve told is meaningful in the life of one reader.

So I’m happy to let you all know that The Road Back From Broken will be published this fall. My target date for release is October 20, 2015, and barring any unexpected technical hiccups, you will be able to buy Road in ebook and paperback on Amazon on that date.

Stay tuned to this blog for a look at Road’s cover, which I hope to be able to reveal later this month.

Behind The Book: Second Editions Are Twice The Headache

From my friend A.C. Dillon, more wisdom from a self-published author…

A.C. Dillon

This is part of a series of posts entitled Behind The Book, where fellow author Carrie Morgan and I share the ups and downs of the writing and publishing process — traditional and self-published.

We all judge books by their cover.

No matter how much we want people to judge our stories by their actual content, it’s a foolish notion.  Cover art matters.  Marketing and packaging matter.  In 2012, I knew this to be true, but as a self-publishing author in between careers, I simply did not have the funds to hire a graphic designer, nor did I have any awareness (if it existed at the time!) of services like SelfPubBookCovers.  I winged it, solicited reviews from bloggers and existing readers from the fandom world, and hoped for the best.

Word of mouth for Change of Season fared well, but I lost the casual browsers.  I knew it…

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Patience is a virtue (that you’ll need if you want to trad-pub)

In my first post in this series, I explained how being published (and by that I mean traditionally published, going the agent-to-publisher route) has been my dream since I was a teenager.

What I didn’t know back then, and what I didn’t realize until I’d already started down the trad-pub path, was that whatever patience it takes to write book-length fiction is just the beginning. If you want to get your book out there on the streets as quickly as possible, trad-pub is probably not for you.

First, of course, you have to write your novel. How long this takes varies widely by person. In my case, setting aside the year or so that my novel concept swirled around in my head before I sat down to actually write it, it took me ninety-four days to write the first draft of my novel, The Road Back From Broken. While I didn’t exactly “fast-draft” the way some folks do for NaNoWriMo, completing a first draft in a single calendar month, banging out a 95,000-word draft in just over three months represents a pretty good clip for a lot of writers. Everybody writes at their own pace. Writers will tell you that some of their books get written more quickly than others. In any event, the first draft took me about three months.

But as I explained in my previous post, typing “The End” is just the beginning.

On the night of April 4th, I closed the document and let it sit for a month, untouched and unedited, so that I could put some distance between me and the actual words that I’d written. The next step was editing, which is a process I took in phases. First, when I picked Road up again on Cinco de Mayo, I edited using the software tool Scrivener. My goal on that first pass was to tighten up the prose: eliminate unnecessary dialogue tags, pare down wordy passages and scenes that don’t advance the plot, and correct obvious boo-boos. That first pass took a couple of weeks. For my second pass, I went to Fedex/Kinkos and printed out a copy of my 2nd-draft manuscript in 14-point Arial font (so that it looked different to my eye than it did while I was writing or first-passing). I went through it with a pen, forcing myself to look at the story on a sentence-by-sentence basis. That took another two weeks to do, and I spent another week after that entering my changes into the Word document.

On June 21st, I sent the third draft to my team of beta-readers, with a target of getting their feedback by Labor Day. I spent the fall of 2014 reviewing the feedback from my beta-readers, making changes to my manuscript per their suggestions, which included adding several new scenes (one of which was a new first chapter), and cutting down other scenes/passages to make room for the additions. I knew that I had to keep my manuscript under 100,000 words in order to have a real shot at being picked up by an agent and publisher. My personal goal was to keep it under 95,000 words. In the end, the manuscript I’m querying with is 93,556 words long, and it took a year to get it into its present, presentable form.

And that’s where the fun begins.

Okay, maybe it’s not “fun” in the usual sense, but this is the part where the trad-pub path and the self-pub path really begin to diverge.

While this would be the part where the self-publishing author would start thinking about cover designs, text layout and formatting, etc., this is the part where those on the trad-pub path get down to the business of finding a literary agent.

And that means querying.

And querying means going through databases of literary agents (the QueryTracker database lists over 1,300 of them), checking each agent’s website and industry sources like Publishers Marketplace, in order to find out which agents you want to pitch your book to.

Then you have to write a query letter. Word for word, writing a query letter is several orders of magnitude more difficult than writing a novel. After spending a year or more writing and honing a 94,000-word novel, distilling the book’s concept into a blurb just 250 to 350 words long is a very tough thing to do. A query is more or less a sales pitch, and for those of us who aren’t natural salesmen, it can feel a bit cheesy and awkward to write.

Next, you have to write a synopsis: a one- to two-page summary of your novel’s plot, which invariably reads like an eighth grader’s book report. The challenge of a synopsis is to summarize the entire plot (including the ending) within the space constraints and yet still give the thing a little bit of punch.

Then you have to format your novel manuscript for submission to agents and editors, which means following a very specific industry format (double-spaced, one-inch margins, starting each chapter one-third the way down the page, and so on). Warning: if your manuscript includes flashbacks, letters, diary entries or any other passages that demand a different font or formatting treatment, save yourself some hassle and use styles.

Having done all of the preliminaries, you’re ready to start querying, which is where the real waiting game begins. You’ll send query letters out to agents (I’m sending all my queries via email—I’m not querying any agent at this stage unless they accept queries via email), and you’ll wait for responses. Some, in my experience, come quickly (the fastest I’ve seen so far is ten minutes), and some will take four to eight weeks. Some agents adhere to a “no response means no” policy, which means you may never hear back from them. At some point, having heard nothing, you’ll mark them down as a de facto rejection. In any case, querying means waiting.

That’s as far as I’ve come in the process thus far, and I know I’ve got a long way to go before I’ve realized my dream of seeing my novel on bookstore shelves. I’ve had friends and family ask me when they’ll be able to read my book. The honest answer is, assuming I sign with an agent sometime this year, and assuming that agent can sell my book, maybe sometime in 2017 or 2018. It might happen more quickly than that, but maybe not. It’s hard to say. Agents are securing publishing deals for their author clients in March 2015 for publication in the summer of 2016. A quick look at the deals being announced in Publisher’s Weekly reveals that for some publishing houses, the lead-time is even longer.

The trad-pub process is anything but quick. If you want to get your book published quickly, trad-pub is not for you.

On the other hand, if you want to ensure your book is available for purchase at major book outlets as well as independent bookstores and libraries (not all of which will acquire self-pubbed titles), then trad-pub may be the best route.

But be prepared to exercise every last bit of patience you have (and then some).

Behind The Book: A New Feature

For those considering the possibility of self-publishing, you should follow my friend A.C. Dillon, who’ll be blogging about her self-pub experience. Read on, folks. Read on.

A.C. Dillon

I am thrilled to announce an exciting joint blogging venture with fellow writer Carrie Morgan.

On Twitter, Carrie and I subscribe to the philosophy of Writers Helping Writers:  that is, we believe that as a community, we should strive to support and lift each other up, sharing our mistakes and lessons learned.  Writers understand the demands of time, energy and belief in oneself and one’s work to survive this business, and that makes us natural cheerleaders for each other.

Where we diverge, however, is the path we’ve each chosen towards our goals.  I opted years ago to take the self-publishing route, having spent my life being a storyteller and valuing the ability to share my words on my terms above all else.  Blame it on years of school newspaper columns and fanfiction that resonated with people so deeply, their reviews sometimes made me cry:  while a traditional book deal…

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“The End” Is Only The Beginning

When I was sixteen, I got my first real job. My first introduction to the working world of W-2s, withholding and fifteen-minute breaks was as a retail sales clerk for the now-defunct B. Dalton Bookseller. For a teenager whose nose was always buried in a book, it was the perfect first job, even if it did pay only a nickel more than the minimum wage of $3.80 an hour.

I loved working at the bookstore, which was tucked into a busy corner of the old Southglenn Mall in Littleton, Colorado. Being surrounded by books, seeing the new ones come in and handling the stripping or return of older titles that didn’t sell—it was a great gig for a young bibliophile.

That same year, I started to write a book of my own—a long, aimlessly rambling monstrosity called The Four Horsemen that told the story of a Scottish soldier during Henry V’s invasion of France in 1415. For a year, I sat in the unfinished basement of our house in Littleton and banged it out until the demands of college applications and Advanced Placement exams forced me to abandon the effort.

Over the ensuing years, I made four more attempts to write a novel, always with the hope that maybe, just maybe, my book would end up gracing the bookstore shelves where a reader could stumble on it while browsing.

As the years went by, I held fast to that dream, despite my past failures.

On New Year’s Day 2014, I sat down and started to write, giving life to the rough-hewn idea that had been rattling around in my head for the better part of a year. Three months later, on the night of April 4th, I finished the first draft of the novel I would eventually call The Road Back From Broken. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment, in no small part because of the five previous times I’d failed to reach “The End” on other novels.

What I didn’t realize that night was that typing “The End” wasn’t the end of anything.

It was only the beginning.

And so it is with any writer who seeks to publish. Writing the book (poem, magazine article, etc.) is only the beginning when the intended end is getting that piece out there and read by paying readers.

My friend A.C. Dillon is on a journey of her own, but she chose to self-publish her novels Change of Season and Waiting for a Star to Fall. I’ve watched her journey with interest (and a little envy) as she readies her first novel for re-release and her second for its summer 2015 debut.

We hope that our little cross-posting blogging experiment “Behind the Book” will cast some light on our respective experiences, highlighting the differences and allowing us to commiserate on the similarities along the way.

Will you join us?

Why did I join the Military Writers Guild?

I’m not in the military.

I’m not even a veteran (though I did marry one).

So why did I join the Military Writers Guild?

Because I write about people who serve in the military, and the families that endure the burdens of military service alongside them. Because as a writer, I believe that the challenges and struggles faced by military personnel and their families affect us all, even if we don’t realize it (or don’t want to).

Because I want to make sure that the stories I tell are as well-told and authentic as I can make them.

Because I want to learn from the experiences of my fellow writers and share my own experiences with them, that we may all be stronger writers and tell better stories having the benefit of those lessons learned.

Because writing is hard, and because being part of an active community of writers makes the inevitable aches and pains of the writing life a little easier to bear.

Because the people in the Military Writers Guild are friendly folks who write all sorts of different things (from novels and memoirs to white papers and strategy blogs) who’ve warmly welcomed me into their community and conversations.

So, do you write about the military?

Join us.