"Write, write, write," he said. Ignore the wind and the waves and write.

Houston's books available from: Your local bookstore, all on-line bookstores or click here at: (Just Dust Publishers)

Friday, June 15, 2012

San Jose Book Signing

Yes, my GPS will find our way to San Jose on June 26th for a book reading/signing of Julia, Coming Home. The event will be heald from 5:00-7:00 at Berean Bible Bookstore, 1375 Blossom Hill
San Jose, CA.

I'm excited about this event, the second stop on a California book signing tour to promote the book.
Hope to see some friends there!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Contest! -- Remington House #2 Book Cover

The second book of the Remington House Series is due to be released by the fall of 2012. The first book of the series, Julia, Coming Home was set in the mountain touristy town of Sage Meadows, Oregon. The sequel and second book starts there, but intrigue transports the characters to France. The main plot of book 2 is about a young woman's quest to find her father's love. (As you know if you read Julia, Coming Home, there will be many subplots.) The cover will be similar to the first, but with a French air.

We'll work on a title later. But for NOW--the cover photo contest!

I traveled to France in 2007 and have many photos that could be used for the cover of the book. however, I can't decide which one! So, I am running a contest to ask for your help. The only thing that you have to do is to leave a comment here (or at my e-mail Shelley@JustDustPublishers.com ) saying which one you like best, and be sure to leave your contact info (e-mail is fine.) When I decide on the photo for the book, I will put the names of everyone who liked the winning photo in a hat and have my son draw a winner. The prize is a free signed copy of the new book  when it is released in the fall and, if you are a writer, a critique of 5 pages of your writing.

So, here they are. Choose your favorite scene and let me know the number  of the photo or send a description (and your contact info!) Before June 30th. (Please choose only one.) I will announce the winner on July 1st and send the winner confirmation. May the best reader win! Blessings!

P.S. If you have not read Julia, Coming Home and would like to you may order a copy from the author, www.JustDustPublishers.com   for $2 less ($13) than it is sold on Amazon.com ($15) and have it shipped to you or a friend for $1 less than other on-line retailers. Plus the author will sign it! Great deal.

Several have asked me how to vote: Go to bottom of this post. There is the word "comment." Click on that and a box opens up. Leave a comment there.







Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Best Mother's Day Gift--EVER!

My 34 year old son can't seem to remember my birthday. Or to send a card for Mother's Day. It's not easy to dismiss this with a wave of the hand and, "Oh, well..." Even though I can readily recall days that he blessed me with exorbitant generosity, like flying half way across country when I graduated from college and bringing with him a hand tooled leather computer bag for me. (What was he thinking? He couldn't afford that!)

I remind myself that he is a man of great integrity, an independent thinker of authentic character. One who can't be told by Hallmark how to express himself to his mom. In that knowledge, my buttons burst. But is it so wrong to want a personally signed card every Mother's Day? Maybe. Especially since this year he unknowingly gifted me with a surprise blessing of which I never dared to dream.

This desire of my heart began in music class at Cajon Valley Junior High. Our glee club teacher introduced us to a wide variety of music, Cowboy folk songs, WWI era songs,  and lullabies were just a few groupings of traditional music we learned. We were expected to memorize the songs for concerts--a great way to seal the lyrics in adolescent minds.

Jump forward twenty years to the birth of my first child--this precious, albeit forgetful, boy of mine. As I cradled my infant in my arms, I sang him many lullabies, some of which I had learned in the seventh grade choir. One in particular, I decided, would always be his. "Golden Slumbers." In time, I bore two more children, assigning each their own song as well.

I loved singing my babies' songs to them, always choosing a range that best suited my alto voice. I thought I did pretty well with these melodies. In fact, it was the only time in life that I ever wished I could make a recording. I wanted to make burn a CD while my voice still was warm and full. Not for commercial distribution, understand. Instead, I dreamed my kids would play these recordings someday to bring back good memories. Of course, I never made that recording. Another disappointment surrounding these lullabies was that the children themselves never sang them. I loved their voices and urged them to sing, but they were always the audience.

Present Time: Mother's Day, 2012
This is my first Mother's Day as a Grandma. What a year it has been since last May when I had no suspicion of my status change on the horizon! Today, my daughter and her husband are having my darling granddaughter baptized. And my first born son and his wife are nine months into adopting a four year old. You might assume that the two grandchildren are the best gifts ever, and they are a dream come true. I LOVE being Grammy.

But I cherish most the awakening I have had in watching my children parent, in particular, one night I spent with my son. The little boy he and his wife are adopting is a firecracker! Sharp as the proverbial whip and giving them the ol' run for the dollar. Add all the other cliches you can think of that say he's a challenge to which they rise.

They keep a schedule for him that would cause a station master to envy. The bedtime routine I watched one night started exactly at 7:45 with vitamins, brushing teeth, toilet and bath. By 8:15 we were upstairs with my darling wearing his terry cloth "roofie' robe (it looks like a dog with flopping ears hanging on the hood) reading two--not one, nor three, but two--bedtime stories. Next came the prayer, song, kiss, and backrub, in that order.

I was impressed with the close interaction the two had developed. My son seemed to finally be a man in my eyes. I was in awe. Then came the bedtime song.

"Golden slumbers kiss your eyes," my son sang in a voice I had never heard.

"Smiles await you when you rise," my grandson joined him on the second line. Tears flooded my eyes as they finished the song in a duet. I was not tempted to join them. I could hardly breath, not wanting to ruin the moment. I found out that night that my grandson has a natural ear for melody and almost a photographic memory, not to mention a lovely voice. But more astonishing, I realized that my son had been listening, patterning his life as a child in my steps.

I could not have been more surprised than if ten angels were standing around us singing in chorus. And honestly, perhaps they were.

The real wonder for me: that from generation to generation we pass that which we value to our children. They do see the love and sacrifice we give to them, and largely adopt the same.

This also caused me to look backwards. How much of what I am and do has been handed to me from my grandmother, great grandmother, and maybe much, much farther back?

The Bible says that the sins of the father are visited on the children to the third and fourth generation. Implied in this, and now learned by me, is that so are the blessings. And while the aberrations of the parent have a half life, so to speak, with being limited to bring less and less harm, the blessings are multiplied.

Today, I am truly a blessed woman. I thank God for song, children, grandchildren, but especially for the order of the family of which God granted us. And as for my Hallmark card? Think I've got that one beat.

PS My son technically did not give me a card on this Mother's Day, however, my GRANDSON brought me a bunch on white roses and a huge card that plays mechanical music!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I am deeply humbled and grateful to announce that the Amy Foundation has seen fit to award me 4th place in a national writing competition. The accompanying cash award is $3000. A nice boost to the writing career!

Here is the winning piece: "Warming Center Puts Life in Perspective"
by Shelley L. Houston
For The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon Saturday, March 12, 2011 (D4)

It was a bad night. I frequently have trouble sleeping, but when my alarm went off at 5:00 a.m., I viewed my couple hours’ sleep with contempt. I forced a smile at my husband, who scurried past me to dress for our morning task—the Egan Warming Center.

We were due at 5:30 to relieve the night crew. Why did I agree to this? I brushed my teeth, washed my face, swiped a comb through my hair, and blinked at my reflection. Perhaps no one would recognize me…

As I lumbered out the door, the cold slapped me fully conscious. I then thought, some of the one thousand homeless people in our county probably slept outside last night. Maybe they shivered, even now, under some bridge.

 The church windows glowed as I pulled into the parking lot. There, some of our “customers” stood with their cigarette smoke evaporating into the darkness. I nodded to them as I walked by, which a few returned. One man glanced my way but looked too weary to nod. As I entered the church, the smell of hopelessness offended my senses. I greeted fellow workers but I staggered under the feeling of desolation that so many homeless people experience.

Then, inexplicably, a fire to survive surged through me. I wanted to overflow with love—God’s love, which I so often take for granted.

 I handed out plastic bags in which people stored their bedding. “Good morning! How’d you sleep? Would you like a bus pass? Yes, there’s dry socks for you. Now, get a good breakfast.” I managed smiles of comfort and words of encouragement. I had difficulty maintaining that character as all ninety people filed by, some with frostbitten faces, rashes or scrapes. One man burned with fever.

 I greeted the next young man in line, “Good morning, James.” His eyes searched mine as he took the bus pass. He had something to say. I waited. His hands fussed with his jacket. His mouth opened, but his voice broke. I smiled, encouragingly. “Would you like some socks?”

He shook his head. “Just—thank you.” He fidgeted a little more and started to turn away but then he found the words and turned back. “It means so much for you to do this. Thank you.” Tears welled in his eyes.

Shame flooded through me as I recalled my grumbling that morning and my distaste as I arrived. I shook my head. “No,” I said. “Thank you. It’s a blessing to be here.”

I reflect on what Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in…”

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you?…’”

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me’.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

On to Independent Publishing!

Hey, readers.

Thanks for following my struggles in writing, and more exactly, in my pursuit of publishing this year.

Your insights and comments have been encouraging and instrumental in the birth of my first novel, and perhaps more important--my own publishing company.

If you have not done so already, I would invite you to visit the web page of the same. I will be blogging there now and talking about the new books coming out soon. It's all very exciting to me and very humbling.

Come join us at:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

On the other hand...POD, "Self Publishing", and more

OK,I'm a long way from exhausting all aspects of a traditional publisher--especially a Christian publisher, which has its own peculiarities. But many of you already understand about tradition publishers simply because they HAVE been around a long time. So,if you have any more questions about them ask me in the comment section and I'll tell you what I know.

I feel like I need to move on to alternatives in how to get your book to the reader. I'm guessing traditional publishing houses are thinking about making changes too. The truth is the market (people who buy books)is changing quicker than anyone ever imagined it could.

February of 2011 was the first month that electronic books outsold regular hardhand (I am using this to mean any books you hold in your hand that have print on pages. As far as I know its an original use of the word.) I also heard one woman published one of her books electronically for 99cents. She sold a million copies. Even if she received only 50 cents of the 99, that's half a million. I also heard another woman put five of her our of print books up electronically and made $10,000 in two months. There is no arguing with the idea that electronic books have "arrived."

Now, I will sneak in one more little bit of info about a traditional publisher--they want your e-rights--can you see why? That means they own the electronic rights so they can offer your book electronically to 25,000 sights and you receive only a fraction of the profits--not the sale. So, that's sometimes 10% after costs.

What is their cost to posting your book electronically??? Good question.

When does that contract expire. It is, of course, negotiable, but one publisher was incredulous that I would ask to have the rights EVER. So, what about the old alternative called the vanity press--paying some company to publish your book?

(Also called "Self publishing." I will cover this industry more fully in its own column)

So,let's say you do contract with a publishing company to "publish" your book. What rights do you retain? Well, this varies from company to company, and because of the changing demands and numbers of the readers, this industry has tons of small publishers sprouting all over the world. If you can contract with one to print your book and post your book electronically, that may be a good deal for you but my main concern I have for authors is that we be sure that you retain the electronic rights, because that's where I think the future of publications are going. More on this later.

I'm going to bottom line you right now because many of you want to know what's up with me and how what I'm learning applies to your experience. Her's what I am trying to do just now (and why I have so little time to write on the blog!) I'm reading a book about establishing my OWN PUBLISHING COMPANY! (probably means just what you think it does!)

Yep! I am reading on how to interface with Lightening Source, one of the two Print on Demand (POD) presses in the USA. The other one is owned by Amazon--and yes, they will also work with individual authors to print their books, but their take is higher than Lighten source. The "problem" with LS is that they don't want ot deal with authors, but don't mind if authors become their own publishers--as long as they are professional.

So, long story short, that's what I'm looking into--although, I am not closed to other forms of publishing and am also thinking I could also publish other people's books.

I hope this is exciting news for you. It is for me and I will be filling you in on as much as I can as I go through the ropes. I will also explain the whys, especially if asked. So, hang in there and write me back if you are wondering about some aspect. So many wonderful developments in publishing---and reading!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Much Does a Traditional Publisher Pay?

I am doing research on this and so far am finding that the most accurate answer to this is: "Depends--It's negotiable."

However, that answer is not limited to traditional publishers at all! In fact, my experiences with the POD (print on demand) and "Self-publishing" services, seem even more likely and well known to vary of their costs and your cut.

However, there are general practices that I can outline about traditional Christian publishers that will give you an idea of what you can expect.

Typically, if a publisher approaches you with a contract, they will offer you an advance (money up front)and this amount can widely vary. I've heard a new author quote me $2000 and one who was on her sixth book quote me $5000 for an advance. The publisher is hoping that the book will sell enough copies to cover those costs, obviously. And, in fact, an "advance" means just that in that each book that sells the author contracts to receive a portion of the sale. Again, that varies, but I've heard often that amount could be 50 to 80 cents a book. Let's say the author is hot stuff and so they are able to contract for $1.00 a book, for easy figuring. So, if the publishing house has advanced $5000 to the author, the author must wait until the publishing house has sold 5000 copies of the book (to reimburse the publisher for the advance at $1 a book) before the author receives another dime for their book. From then on the author would receive $1 a book--this is for a book that sells in the stores for $12-$14, for example.

Before you run the publishing industry out of town on a rail, consider that the publisher is likely to spend $25,000 to promote that first book of yours. And by the way, they expect you to be out there signing books and speaking at every retreat you can to sell books as well. This is why, as one publisher took the time to tell me, publishers are no longer buying books, they are buying authors--authors who can turn out three to six books a year.

Since the American public is likely, after finding a book they like, to look for another book by the same author, there is much less of a risk, in the publishing house mindset, to publish someone with a following than a new author. Regardless of how good that new author's first book, the publisher just doesn't want the expense of introducing her to the public. Frustrating?

Wait. There's more. (And I promise in future bogs to cover viable alternatives to traditional publishing.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Traditional Christian Publishers

What I learned about publishers at Mount Hermon writer's Conference
I don't really have any experience with book publishers that are secular and precious little with the Christian houses. But I did learn some at the conference. Let's see what YOU know!

Question 1: How many Christian publishers are there in the U.S.A.?

According to four agents (more on these later)who I heard in a workshop, there are only about twenty. Many of them print only Bibles or resource material or non-fiction. So, one needs to know what genre each house publishes and can do that by checking their web-page.

Question 2: So, if a publishing house does publish fiction, what's the chance they will publish my novel?

I don't have statistics or percentages here but I feel confident in saying, your chances are SLIM TO NONE! Here's some solid reasons as to why I say that:

A)Your book may stink!

Yep. Lots of people think they can write and many of them do a lot of work and absorb huge expenses to bring a manuscript to editors that is just not print worthy. Even if that is NOT true of your work (and, of course, I consider my novel to be pretty darn good!) editors are posed to expect sub-standard work since they see so much of it. And may I repeat SO MUCH OF IT! Especially at these Christian conferences where 500 people have a book (or two or three) to pitch to five editors. So, even if your book is in the top ten percent...

B)You might present your book poorly.

If you check the conference website before you come you will find an opportunity to meet with editors comes with warnings and disclaimers that no author, especially a new author, should for a moment think that submitting a book proposal to an editor at the conference will necessarily reap a published book--in fact, they almost promise it won't. Several chances to talk face to face with an editor are provided for attendees, but if your written proposal or pitch doesn't convince them this is the next "Purpose Driven Life" in the first 5 seconds, you're pretty much outta luck. Here is where a good agent might help because...

C) Some Publishers won't deal with an author without an agent.

I have to say that I am not a very good source when considering an agent. I have had interaction with two agents, both of which were not very encouraging. But I have heard lots of success stories from other authors--who are published, I might add--unlike myself! And I have heard that agents not only have insider knowledge of what is happening within publishing houses, and friendships with the publishers that give them a natural "in", the agents at the conference were saying something about the salary they earn from pitching your books is paid for by the publisher, not by the author. But I am suspicious as the price of the book does not go up when an agent is employed. But they would know things that would help you approach different publishers that you don't know like...

D) The publisher has stopped accepting books in your genre.

Even Publishers which publish the exact genre (type) of book you write have sometimes taken all the projects on that their house can afford to promote. When I met at one of those lunch-type meetings with one editor and told her I had a novel she immediately told me her publishing company was not accepting any new fiction for two years. BTW, this could be a sign that publishers are pulling back to wait out the huge changes in the publishing world right now. Now, talking about being out of touch...

E) Some publishers won't accept manuscripts written by someone outside of their denomination or with values outside of their cultural norms.

When I first started publishing I sent an query (a request to send a manuscript for review to publish) to a denominational magazine. A very thoughtful, well written magazine. I was surprised to receive a rejection e-mail fifteen minutes later. They explained that they never accepted an article written by someone outside their denomination. My feathers were a bit ruffled, especially because my husband and I were paying tons of money to send out daughter to one of the colleges established by the denomination.

At the Mt. Hermon conference, I sat at a table with an editor of a well known publishing company. She asked me to tell her about my book. At one point I explained a character's past was hidden since she had had an affair years before with a married man. The editor interrupted me to end the conversation, saying, "We would never publish a book with that in the plot." She continued to explain that the publishing house was owned by a conservative denomination and most of the board was comprised of pastors. Then she said something almost comical, "If we published that we would immediately receive calls from all of those pastor's wives!" I calmly responded that perhaps this was a regional issue for in the Northwest we have many Christians who engage in this sin.

That was a true story, but it is only an example of the culture standards one publishing house may employ to decide whether or not your book is something they want to publish. Now, foul language or explicit sex scenes and maybe some other sexual sins would probably put up stops for most Christian publishers. Actually, I'm personally happy when I read a book that filters out some of the harshness of the real world long enough to unfold a story without the "f-bomb" inserted in every other sentence (language one can hear on most high school campuses in our city.)

Still, I've got to admit when writing fiction it is difficult to write an entire book, set in contemporary times, without having expletives exploding in crisis-- especially by the villain. I mean the expression, "I curse you, Bad Bart!", or "He swore at the man who had stabbed his daughter to death" are both pretty lame expressions of anger.

Still, if you want to publish with a certain house, you gotta go by the rules. They're not going to change the rules for your baby. How do you know what those rules are? These "rules" are often cultural norms so they are not on their web page. Try asking your writer friends, confernce leaders, or, if desperate, the phone receptionist at the company--from your non-writer friend's cell phone, of course!

F) Do you have to pay a traditional publisher to publish your book?

Nope. That's the beauty of the old publishing houses--they pay you! But how much? Let's talk about that tomorrow. Gotta go to bed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Publishing--which way do I turn?

It seems I have been mysteriously silent about my conference experiences and publishing. So many options and avenues have been tried since then that I was in a quandary what to share with serious readers on this page. I've decided to update my followers with info I am finding most helpful, but my final conclusions are not yet drawn. (I am defining some of the terms that are new to me in this process of publishing to be clear as to what I mean.)

First, the Mt Hermon Conference.
With all the wondrous beauty of the grounds and new friends found, I can say the time there was well spent. I also made a connection with a missionary who has established a press (actual facility that prints books and ships them out) in Bulgaria. Amazing! She thought the quality of the production has grown to be comparable with presses world wide and that she could have my book printed and delivered for about $3 a book. Amazing. This might be the best deal I have found and I will be staying in touch with her on this and looking into her presses services.

I also met with an editor who was interested in seeing a proposal I pitched (verbally presented to her over lunch as a possibility for her publishing house to produce and carry as one of their books.) I felt comfortable right away with her, even told her one of my true confession type stories about a slip I had made in the church parking lot one day. I think making a connection with an editor can be pivotal as to whether I will feel comfortable long-term in dealing with the publishing house (companies in the industry of publishing.) Of course, the same might be true as to whether or not the editor is interested in dealing with you. We'll see.

The pitch I made detailed a devotional book I have been thinking about compiling for some time. Since I have written many devotionals, I hope to have the skills to compile a book for a niche market, mothers of special needs children. I expanded on the idea and she liked it. She said I could send her a proposal (a 30 page document defining the book and the market, my qualifications and history and several more relevant items of information.) This formal request is what she will take to the publishing company's team that decides if the book is the kind of thing they want to publish and if it will be profitable for the company.

This last consideration, whether it will be profitable, sounds cut throat, but get the stars out of your eyes. How many of us would be writing much if we were not compensated in some way? The truth is, we all have mouths to feed, even if they are our own. I fully understand, being a business major in school, the necessity of making a book pay (although, I would hazard a guess that sometimes a publisher chooses to publish a book because it is too good not to, and plans to eat the cost--they just can't do that often.)

I was very happy to get the invitation to send the proposal, even knowing I had lots of work ahead of me. A month later, I still am working on the proposal. Perhaps I have waited too long for her to be interested! Well, many things have happened since talking to that editor and I could not spare the time before now. I will explain more as I continue this train of thought on publishing in future posts. Tomorrow I will finish up Mt Hermon and why traditional publishing may not be the best choice in every situation.

Next, Orange County Christian Writer's Conference. Soon POD and self publishing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm a winner! Sorta...

Hey, all!

Still in San Diego after last Friday/Saturday writer's conference in Orange County. Had a great time; met four new friends who I'm sure we will stay in touch, met John Ware and began the new path to screen writing, heard Vivian Wright speak brilliantly about creativity, AND had "Julia" take a third place (out of 38 books submitted) in the WestBow self-publishing package! Whoo-hoot!

I'm very excited about this. I had been thinking fairly seriously about pursuing WestBow or some other self-publishing house anyway. I really like the idea of preserving all the electronic rights of my manuscript, something I would have to give up with a regular publisher. WestBow Press is a subsidiary of Nelson and so has an interest in supporting the self-publishers in house--perhaps moving the book to the catalogue, etc, if it does well in sales.

WestBow will be calling me soon to make arrangements, if I am interested. Since I did not win 1st place there is a question as to whether I will publish with them or not--seeing if I can afford to pick up the rest of the package. In my dreams, I will be in print by July--we shall see!