Happy Birthday Red Clay and Roses!


Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the day that Red Clay and Roses went live for the whole world to see.

I want to express my appreciation to all of the people who gave me an opportunity to share this story. Thank you most sincerely for the decision to invest in me and the time you spent reading; perhaps reviewing, my work.

Tomorrow I will put on my lab coat and go to work on an assignment that will pay me more in eight hours than I have earned in sales on this book this year. Yes, nurses often earn more than writers. Does this mean my sales are bad? No, it means my earnings in nursing are better. Most of you know I stepped out of career nursing to write. “You must be crazy!” some people have said to me.

Though I can’t refute that I am crazy, what they don’t understand is this: It is not about the money. Not for me, anyway. It’s about having the time and the peace of mind to dedicate myself to a life that I love. To do what I most enjoy. To spend my time pleasing myself and my readers.

I don’t write genre fiction. I don’t cater to trends. I don’t even write to fit into any specific category.

I write American life drama. Maybe some would call it historical fiction; maybe some would call it literary fiction. There is even a little romance in there. It wasn’t written about the last ten years, so it doesn’t qualify as contemporary fiction, but there are issues explored in it that are contemporary issues. I cannot even claim to know what it is by Amazon or Goodreads definitions.

I cannot claim to to know anything except that I am a perpetual student.

I have learned so very much this year and there is so much for me yet to learn.

Red Clay and Roses was written between April and July of 2012. I spent four months doing nothing but writing. It was not written as a novel to be published. It was a creative writing project that I devoted myself to out of a passion to record a story.

After I wrote it, I placed it on a shelf for about a year. I took it down, read it, and made a few changes. After sharing it with others, which took immeasurable courage, we (my support group and I) decided to publish. It was published March 27, 2013.

I did not know what the hell I was doing. (Not sure if I know now.)

I liked to read. I liked to read stories about life in America. I liked to write stories about life in America.

I liked history. I liked reading about history. I liked writing about history.

I made all of the mistakes it is possible to make. I published Red Clay and Roses in its rawest form. I was clueless. I didn’t know a damned thing. I did not know about blogs, platforms, branding, writing rules, beta readers, editing, blurbs, book cover images, marketing, sales. I didn’t know shit. I won’t claim to be an expert now either. I am learning every day and I am writing and reading every day.  I will say this: I have mentors, trusted confidants, other authors, a reader audience, friends, colleagues, valuable associates that I did not have a year ago.

As I learned from these people, and continue to learn, I made improvements on my product, my book, my novel, Red Clay and Roses. I know now that it is not the best that it could have been, but it is what it is, features, flaws and faults included.  I know that my next product will be even better, because you are who you are. Most significantly, I have the capacity to keep learning from YOU!

I was going to end this post right here with my eternal gratitude, but I think this is a good place to tell you the rest of the story if you will bear with me. I want to tell you how I feel about the concept of success. Success is measured many ways through different perspectives.

I have read numerous posts declaring success is measured by numbers sold, dollars earned, an ability to make a living at the craft, and I suppose that may be true for some, but it isn’t for me. Success is measured by starting a project and seeing it through.

Red Clay and Roses is a success.

After we (I say we because I had support people around me at the time.) pushed the publish button, there was a celebration. Of course, nothing much happened.

For weeks, nothing much happened. I think a few friends and family bought the book, nobody posted any reviews. On the advice of a friend, I started a blog. I didn’t know much about that either, but I learned. (Am still learning.)

Not knowing anything about how to find readers, I went to the library. Surely there would be readers there. I met a reading group, strangers, people I did not know, and they expressed interest in reading my book. So they bought it and read it. This was in May of last year.

They were eight people, a nurse, a middle school teacher, a college professor, an IBM corporate executive, and so on. Ordinary people, strangers who became acquaintances. Four of the eight wrote my first reviews on Amazon. Five star reviews. I was excited, overjoyed. That was enough for me. My confidence was stoked, but they did not stop there.

These eight people, whom I barely knew, were so very impressed with my literary work that they entered me in a contest. It was a surprise to me when they shared the news. What grand support is that?

My book deals with American life during an era of conflict and political strife. It is about everyday people who made tremendous sacrifices to promote social progress, whether they knew it at the time, or not.

The Pulitzer is awarded: “For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.”

This group of eight people had pooled their resources to pay the fifty dollars necessary to submit Red Clay and Roses as an entry for the Pulitzer. Eight people thought my literary work was distinguished.

Now, I chuckle, and you may be laughing out loud as you read this. But I thought it was an amazing honor that they bothered to do this.

I have no unrealistic expectations to win a Pulitzer, or to even become a nominated finalist.

They discourage anyone from claiming nomination simply because an entry has been submitted, so there are no grandiose expectations here. I did not know how simple it was to be entered. It takes fifty dollars and four copies of your book in physical form. That’s all!

I am not trying to belittle the Pulitzer award, I am just saying that I did not know.

Anyone can enter. An author or publisher can submit their own work. Self-published works are accepted, but not in eversion. It is easy to do online. Then you mail in your proofs or your books. I have only sold one paperback copy, but four of them were mailed off by this group of readers, and passed through the hands of Pulitzer judges. Whether or not they felt the book had any merit I may never know, but it has been an exciting adventure in writing.

The Pulitzer winner and nominated finalists are to be announced on April 14, 2014.

They receive approximately 2400 entries, and there are 21 awards. In 2012 there were three nominated finalists in fiction, but no one was awarded. How they determine finalists and award winners is a mystery. The judges have the final say.

I have read many Pulitzer Prize winners, some I thought had merit and some I did not like. So, at least in my mind, it is all relative to personal opinion…a subjective analysis like it is for any reader. I am not holding my breath or anything like that, but I am honored by these readers who thought my work worthy.

I only mention it to say this; DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOURSELF!

Whether they are Pulitzer judges, a library group, hundreds of strangers found through a marketing campaign, or a few blogger friends, all of your readers are what makes doing this worthwhile. They are the measure of your success.

It is not a finished project until it is read, so keep writing! I love you all!

I am not doing any special promotions or running any sales or ads for this birthday, but if you would like to pick up a copy of Red Clay and Roses you can find it here on Amazon, where you can also find the paperback. You can also find it on Kobo, Apple, Barnes and Noble and smashwords.


64 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Red Clay and Roses!

      1. Thanks. These health fairs are easy. Basic Nursing 101 stuff. I just dread having to shower, put on real clothes and show up…LOL…I am used to a life of leisure, after all, I’m a writer now.


      1. We’ll it is very well deserved.. I think they are just showing very good taste. I hope the Pulitzer committee do too, my fingers are crossed for you!! 🙂


    1. Thanks Briana! The greatest thing that has happened to me this past year is not publishing a book, or being considered for any awards…the greatest thing that has happened is that I have made a world of friends. Glad to have you among them.


      1. However the momentum burst out of the gate, I`m happy to hear you`re cruising now and again and screaming down the water slide another time. 😀
        You go girl! And more power to YOU.


  1. This writing thing comes with a steep learning curve, that’s for sure. But it’s nice to look back on our growth, just as you have here. As you mention, the definition of success is different for everyone. What matters is that we set our own measures and not base them on someone else’s. Congrats to a very full year. You’ve done beautifully!


    1. So very well put, Carrie, about what matters. Sometimes people get caught up in things that matter to others, but just really don’t matter. Setting our own measures is the key to happiness, I think.

      I am happy with my work and look forward to continued happiness. Thank you so much for stopping by, and for the congrats 🙂


      1. OOOO…I have to tell you, back when I posted all the publishing rants on the difficulties of meeting my deadlines with CS, this is what it was all about. This is why I needed to have those physical copies so badly before October 1st!


    1. Thanks Marian. Once a nurse, always a nurse.

      My writer’s cap has looked like a dunce hat at times, but that’s okay…it’s all good, and I’m still learning 🙂


    1. Hahaha! You are so funny. My first royalty check bought me a bottle of wine, which I drank immediately 🙂

      It has been both a quick year and a long year…hard to explain. Kind of like feeling like I have been married to my husband forever, but knowing we have only been married for five years.


      1. I could get a GLASS of wine…cheap wine. I didn’t publish to buy my lunch. I don’t even write to publish though. Hey, I’m getting ready to publish a second collection with Kirsten. Should be by April 1. And another book of the love poems in June us planned.


      2. Way cool! Another book! I have not posted my review yet and you are already planning to publish two more! Some of ya’ll I just can’t keep up with!

        Best wishes for success with both of those projects 🙂


    1. Thank you Mark! My list is so long I can’t see where it ends. But I do appreciate you 😉 Being a Georgia resident, you may relate in some ways to things others might not.


      1. I am in the middle of a Dicken’s 1200 pager. I’m pretty quick with the smaller ones. But Our Mutual Friend has me bogged down. Not my favorite, but everything he wrote is wonderful.


      2. I loved Great Expectations.

        Some reviewers have described my work as hard to read. Not hard as in difficult to read (except for one), but as in painful from a societal point of the…the harsh reality of the subject matter. It is a bit heavy on the head. You may want to read something light and humorous before you dive into RC&R. I do promise it will make you think if nothing else.


      3. I never read that one. I will 🙂

        I read some from The Pickwick Papers published in a periodical years ago that I had never heard of. Interesting adventures.


  2. If I was on that judges panel you would have my vote! Like you I have made many new ‘friends’ through blogging and writing. It wouldn’t be good to stop now and give all that up so keep plugging along!


    1. Well, I thank you for that vote of confidence 🙂

      I am on a sort of hiatus from social media. I will poke my head in from time to time, but I am so seriously focused on writing right now that I can’t spread myself too far and wide.


  3. American life drama. Thank you for giving a name to the genre I think I write in to the extent it fits into a category. I’ve always referred to it as slice of life. I like your description better.


    1. I didn’t like that the Kirkus reviewer called my book, “An enjoyable melodrama,” but that’s what it is…lol…a slice of life sounds better to me. Hey! We have a better chance of winning a Pulitzer than people who don’t write about American life 😉


      1. This is true. It always amazes me how easy it is to get nominated for some of these things. Have you ever read about how easy it is to get nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize?


      2. I haven’t, but it wouldn’t surprise me. When I first found out about the Pulitzer, there was this author making rounds on some blogs I followed. He kept popping up everywhere and people doing interviews of him kept praising him for being a “Pulitzer Nominee”. How impressive! I thought, until I looked him up on their site and discovered he had NEVER been a Nominee Finalist…huge difference.


    1. Thanks! It peaks and valleys. Sometimes it is on a roll, and sometimes a dead halt. I figured it out based on sales over the past year and it comes to 1.5 books a day average. That’s better than I could do out of my garage. Most all have been digital copies.


    1. Thank you Traci! That is what I hope it does.

      I love your stories and the way you tell them, your writing style. You have a humorous, fun loving manner that shines through in your work.


  4. Congratulations, Susan! I think your definition of success is perfect! I have enormous respect for you for all your hard work in nursing, a job I could never do, and in writing. I think writing is always a learning process. There are certain skills you learn and you can hone, but there is also the creativity that comes from somewhere deep inside–that some may never be able to access. Best wishes for your continued success in all of your endeavors!


    1. Thank you Merril! I have been practicing 500 word stories with my writers’ group. It really makes me think about saying more with less. There is so much disorganized story in my head that needs to be mapped out, but I will get there. So much yet to learn. Thanks, too, for stopping by 🙂


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