Sharlene MacLaren

Sharlene MacLaren is a retired schoolteacher who, after 31 years, decided to say, "Bye-bye, Students!" and "Hello, Writing World!". She first started with a Print-on-Demand press back in 2002, book's title: Spring's Promise. After much studying of the writing/publishing industry, she began her search for a mainline publisher and discovered Whitaker House. Consequently, she signed on with them in early 2006 and in December of that year, released Through Every Storm, a general fiction title that actually finaled in the ACFW Book-of-the-Year 2007. Following Storm she published a three-book historical set called The Little Hickman Creek Series with an 1896 Kentucky setting. Titles include: Loving Liza Jane, Sarah, My Beloved, and Courting Emma. Following that series, Whitaker released a stand-alone contemporary titled Long Journey Home. In January of '09 she will begin releasing her next 3-book series, The Daughters of Jacob Kane, with another stand-alone contemporary sandwiched in between. Sharlene and her darling husband, Cecil, and live in Spring Lake, MI with Dakota, their loveable collie, and Mocha, their lazy fat cat.

From POD to CBA!

I sensed the need to take baby steps toward publication...

I first got the “bug” to write at the ripe age of fifty-two, back in the summer of 2000. I was nearing retirement after nearly three decades of teaching elementary school, so I began to ask the Lord about next steps for my life. What could I do that would not only bring a sense of fulfillment, but also make a difference for eternity? I had just come through a year of emotional difficulties, mostly stemming from that age-old syndrome known as “Empty Nest,” and I felt at a loss for purpose. In fact, what was my role in life now that my children didn’t seem to need me as much as they once had and I was considering retirement?

To say I prayed is an understatement; begged and pleaded might better describe my action. Please, Lord, let me do something that will point people toward the Savior, something that will keep me occupied and “outer” focused in this second half of my life.

Shortly after, I began having a recurring dream that I had written a novel. It seemed odd to me, since the last time I’d dabbled in fiction was my teen years, but I knew those repeated dreams held extra meaning for me. God speaks to us in many different ways, His Word and Holy Spirit being the most significant, but occasionally uses a person or even a dream to nudge us in a certain direction. For me it was that recurring dream. And once I recognized His leading and the seed of passion embedded itself in my heart and soul, nothing could stop its growth. I started writing like a house on fire, the winds of imagination literally blowing through my veins.

After writing four manuscripts that next year and allowing a few friends to read them, I sensed the need to take baby steps toward publication. At first, it seemed arrogant of me. Yes, God had gifted me with a desire to write, and it imparted to me such joy and satisfaction—but publish? Just because my friends told me I had talent didn’t make it so.

Still, I had that nagging memory of asking God to give me something to do in the second half of my life that would point people toward Him. Dared I dream He might want me to push toward publishing?

Stepping out in faith, and with a huge amount of earnest prayer, I searched the Internet for publishing houses and discovered a never ending line of them. In fact, the line seemed to encircle the globe! Which one to submit to became the question of the day—and what exactly did that entail? What, pray tell, was the difference between a query and a proposal? What did “no simultaneous submissions” mean? Why did every house keep saying I needed an agent? As if that wasn’t enough, “No unsolicited manuscripts” admonitions seemed to show up at every turn!

Several rejection slips later, and with a much deflated ego, I finally found a publisher who believed in me. A print-on-demand (POD) operation offered me no advance, demanded seven-year rights to my manuscript, and promised good sales. The door opened, and I walked through it! Was it the right thing to do? In some ways no, in others absolutely! It got my foot in the door, and it started me on my journey.

Print-on-demand (meaning one book printed at a time) publishers are not for everyone. Usually, the cost to consumers is exorbitant, and the author winds up buying large quantities at a discount to resell to friends and family. Also, marketing

usually becomes the author’s responsibility, and without a marketing plan, you won’t sell many books. But it can be a start for many writers and often will get you noticed by a bigger publisher, which happened in my case.

Since that first POD book released in 2002, I have contracted with Whitaker House, a CBA publisher, and am gearing up for the release of my second historical series. Those, combined with two contemporary stand-alones, will be my seventh, eighth, and ninth releases. On top of that, there is some talk of reprinting my first book, a dream in itself.

Indeed, when God takes the wheel of our lives, there is no telling what roads we may go down—some bumpy, some smooth, but all promising and adventurous!

Sometimes I question the wisdom of having leaped into a POD contract that required owning the rights to my book for seven years. I’ve tried to figure out how many of that particular title might be circulating today, and the most I can come up with is about 300.

A waste? Hardly.

The other day I received a letter from a woman who read Spring’s Promise, about a young woman whose husband dies in a downhill skiing accident, my first POD book. I don’t know how she came across it, but her story blew me away. She told me that when she launched into my book her life was wonderful, blissful—perfect. But midway through reading it, her husband had a heart attack and died at age forty-five. Her life stopped there, and everything went haywire. But just two short weeks later, God urged her to finish reading my book, and although it was difficult and painful, she managed to wade through it to the end. She confessed it was the best thing she could have done for herself because my words spoke comfort and healing into her shattered heart.

Can you imagine? My words, the ones I’d written several years ago and put into a book that published by POD came off the pages to touch a bleeding heart. It was the only one of my books she’d ever read!

Now, that is God at work. And I am humbled.

Long Journey Home