Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Books Belong to Readers

“How do you think Secret Sister ended?”
My dear friend Kathleen R. asked me this question when we were discussing my new book and the reviewer’s response to it. I was surprised at her question, and my first thought was, ‘what do you mean, how do I think it ended? I know how it ended. I wrote it.’
But of course her question was brilliant, as are most things Kathleen R. says are. And it got me thinking.
My opinion on how Secret Sister ends is just that, my opinion. I weaved hints, clues, and statements of fact throughout the 90,000 word novel.  I  ‘showed’, like all we authors try to do, what the various characters were thinking, mulling, and concluding about the very strange situation Cathy and Nick Chance found themselves in. And my opinion is solidly based on my reading (and writing) of this contemporary ‘trading places’ romance.
But that doesn’t make me the final word, or ‘right’. About any of it.
Authors tell their story, and if we do it well, the ending themes and situations are clear and factually grounded in the incidents that make up the story.  Yet, I knew this but may have forgotten it, readers bring themselves to every story. The novels we immerse ourselves in reflect back into us, illuminating each of our unique life experiences.  They let us confirm, and question, our positions on life and love, and innocence and guilt, and on all the wonderful complexity of the human soul.
How many wonderful arguments have each of us had over the years about a particular character’s true motives or emotional make-up? I’ve had several heated ones in my critique group about New Yorker magazine short stories, books and numerous films…some of the most heated about characters in each of our books! “What do you mean he’s a sniveling weakling, I think this shows he’s empathetic,” I believe is an exact comment I uttered. Possibly more than once. (My male characters are very in touch with their feminine side. HA!)
The reviews about Secret Sister have certainly proven this to me…I have been shocked at readers judging the book as ‘intense’ or ‘painful’.  I’ve loved that most find the plot really hooks them and they can’t figure out how it’s going to end. But I’ve also been unhappy that some have pretty much hated my characters ‘at one time or another’ when reading. How could they hate these folks, I wondered? Yes, they are flawed and make mistakes, and are a bit self-involved, but… Okay, I just read that and realize, yeah, readers could hate them. Some of the time (the author wrote hopefully).
But why did some readers love these guys, and others not? But of course, Kathleen R.’s comment is the answer. The words of the story touched something in each of the readers, something unique and wonderful in their memory or heart, something I may not have intended, but something real for that reader. And real for the reader is real. Reading is a collaborative sport, and the author doesn’t get to complain about what a reader concludes. No matter what.  
So, as for the ending of Secret Sister? Cupcake’s review on Goodreads and Amazon said, “The ending  is not as neat as it appears, and you will find yourself asking "what if ..."
This, in my somewhat shocked opinion as a writer, is a valid take away.  It wasn’t consciously designed to be an ending open to interpretation. But I realize that, if I tell the honest truth, a case can be made for Secret Sister’s final scene to prove almost the opposite of what I intended.   
Ahhh…the subconscious mind. All those experiences in my life, rising up and ambushing my good narrative intentions. Or, fulfilling them?   
The bottom line is ‘Yay readers’. They get the final say what your book ‘means’. It is what the reading experience is really all about. Thank you, Kathleen R., for reminding me of this.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

New Again...courtesy of the Rockville 8

This week the Rockville 8 ( welcomes Emelle Gamble! She's been an invaluable resource for me, personally, and I am thrilled about her new book, Secret Sister, hitting the virtual shelves. You can find her at and on Facebook at

On Wednesday, July 10, 2013, Secret Sister by Emelle Gamble went on sale at Amazon.

It's  my first new book for sale in over a decade. I won’t bore you with the details of why this is (but it is spelled L-I-F-E), but let me say that, while it's just as exciting now being a ‘new author’ as it was the first time,  it’s also a lot more nerve-wracking and challenging the second time around.

In my past life as Harlequin Intrigue writer M.L. Gamble, when I got a new  idea for a book (always the ending first, then the title), I’d get a thrilling, chilling little ‘pop’ of excitement inside my head. Sharp inhale. I knew the creative process had begun.

Very soon after that I’d begin plotting, outlining, and note card noting…The evenings saw the first pages blooming on my computer screen, the next weeks would find me bundling those exciting ‘first three’ chapters off (surely they were perfect) to my critique group. This would be followed by hearing from my honest, supportive and encouraging critique group that the chapters were, in fact, not perfect. So I wrote and rewrote, suffered middle book malaise, last chapter loathing, and re-evaluation jitters, but completed the first draft. And the second draft. And the fifth draft.

A few days before the contract deadline (most of the time) I printed the whole thing out on paper. Addressed a big-ass envelope. Drove to the United States Post Office. Bought postage and insurance (“It’s a manuscript, I’m a writer.” This sentence was always worked into conversation with the postal worker). Watched the now impressed (surely) postal employee throw  the package in a bin, giddy with the knowledge it was going to end up on my New York Editor’s desk in 48 hours.

Over the next few months, after a couple of exchanges of edits, and proofed copy checks, art approval (which meant saying, “Yes, I like it” even though my concept of a hot guy on a motorcycle turned into a psycho bowler - see If Looks Could Kill cover), the creative work was done.

Then four to six months later there would be a knock on the door and you’d get a box of books. Beautiful books. Your books. This was the reason for the long hours and hard work.  (The reason you lived!)

Exhale. Delirium. My book will be read, my story will be shared. I’m a new author.

Now, ten years later, the creative process hasn’t much changed, except for the fact it’s done electronically instead of on paper. But everything else, and I mean EVERYTHING else has changed.

Though I am still contracted with a publisher, albeit a smaller one, in this new publishing environment I immediately discovered that there was much, much more I had to do to give my new book a chance of success. For many publishing houses now no longer support authors as they did in the Wizard of Oz olden days when I was at Harlequin. Publishers expect you, as an author, especially a new author, to not only write a great book, but hunt down your prospective readers and introduce yourself..

On behalf of Secret Sister, I’ve personally contacted hundreds of blogs, review sites and readers with email pitches for review consideration. I’ve asked friends, family members, and fellow authors to read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) and consider posting a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads, and have offered to spend the time required to read others’ books and return the favor.

I’ve spent many, many hours working with a pro to set up a website, without a pro to set up a Facebook Author page, a twitter account, a Goodreads Author account. And a blog. (Worth the ten hours it took figuring that out just to see the look on hubby’s face when I explained what a blog was. HA!)

I’ve designed storyboards to help create a book trailer and put it up on YouTube. I’ve talked to half a dozen local book sellers, three librarians, and two newspaper columnists about Secret Sister. I’ve spent money on a website, book covers, copy editors, and a top notch review/ARC giveaway site, Netgalley. I’ve spent money on a Facebook ad campaign and a Goodreads ad campaign and a publicity Blog tour campaign with a highly recommended company named Goddess Fish Promotions. (And I have the surreal Paypal receipt for the IRS to prove it!)  I spent money on an ‘expert’ social media consultant who advised me to do everything I’d already done. And frankly, I have no idea if any of this effort is going to result in my finding an audience for Secret Sister.

Which brings me back to Wednesday, July 10, 2013.

Exhale. Delirium. My book is being read, my story is being shared. I’m a new author. AGAIN.

Secret Sister by Emelle Gamble is a romantic novel with a paranormal twist. It came to me (with that thrilling, chilling little pop of excitement) when I thought of a single question… “  What if everything about you changed, would your true love recognize you?

It’s a contemporary story set in Southern California about Nick and Cathy, happily married. And Cathy and Roxanne, best friends forever. It’s about faith and friendship and true love, secrets and lies and the ties that bind. And an extraordinary twist of fate.

It’s a brand new book from a brand new author in this brand new world. I hope you’ll enjoy it.