The Professor’s Mistress & Other Secrets

One of the East Bay’s best kept secrets is that it’s home to talented and prolific novelist Thomas T. Thomas. With nearly two dozen novels — spanning science fiction, cyber punk, military fantasy, history and now — romance — Thomas continues to display an astonishing virtuosity, a commitment to hard work and a respect for his readers.

Much like the prolific Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, widespread, popular success, has eluded Thomas for years. But that appears to be changing as each successive novel pushes him ever closer to mainstream recognition and acclaim. It took Trollope nearly 15 years to gain popular attention and another 10 years to enjoy real success with English readers.

Tom Thomas has been writing novels for about the same length of time and each book seems more engaging that the last. The Children of Possibility, a time-travel science fantasy filled with Bay Area settings, was published in 2012, followed this year by the sequel to the Wheelock family history that began with The Judge’s Daughter. The new novel, The Professor’s Mistress, follows the next generation of Wheelocks through a turbulent twenty years filled with longing, love, greed, deception, and madness.

In 2012, he also published Between the Sheets: An Intimate Exchange on Writing, Editing and Publishing, which collects Thomas’ thoughts in private conversations with me about the art and craft of fiction.

The Professor’s Mistress finds the Judge’s son, William Henry Wheelock enjoying some success. He has achieved his ambition of becoming a professor of classical studies and settled down in a cottage on a quiet campus with his wife Jane and young daughter Dani. But Jane is ill-suited to sedate academic life and—in a fit of rage ignited by an old misunderstanding—suddenly leaves him for parts unknown.

or search your iTunes bookstore app for “Thomas T. Thomas”
and “The Professor’s Mistress” to find the title.

William Henry plods on stoically, teaching his classes and raising his daughter, while the social upheavals of the 1960s change the world around him in ways he doesn’t always understand. Then one day the long suffering professor falls under the spell of an older woman, Galatea, an antique pleasure yacht from the Gilded Age, and his life begins to change.

“Old boats are like a beautiful woman,” observes a passerby at the dock as he inspects the graceful steam yacht. “They call to you. They entice you. And then they steal your soul.” The man calls that feeling “the sickness” and William Henry has gotten himself a bad case of the love-sick blues.

Because I’ve known Tom Thomas for nearly 30 years there are many things about him and his writing I respect. One of them is his unflagging curiosity about the way the world around us works. He’s a geeks geek, with a wicked sense of humor and piercing insights into the human condition. If I want to know how things work — from Skype to nuclear fission — I talk to Tom.

His writing career spans 40 years in editing, technical writing, public relations, in addition to popular fiction writing. Among his various careers, he has worked at a university press, a tradebook publisher, an engineering and construction company, a public utility, an oil refinery, a pharmaceutical company, and a supplier of biotechnology instruments. When he’s not working and writing, he may be out riding his motorcycle, practicing karate, or wargaming with friends. Catch up to him if you can at

When asked about his techo smarts, he says, “I am a son of the Eastern technocracy. One grandfather was a civil engineer who—according to family legend—helped develop the stress tables for pre-stressed concrete and poured the concrete dome for the main building at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The other grandfather was a small town lawyer, later elected judge in his rural Pennsylvania county.”

Thomas’ father was a mechanical engineer. His mother was a landscape architect who knew the Latin name for every flower and shrub. The connection with civil engineering holds good on his mother’s side of the family, too, as she was a direct descendant of Sir Christopher Wren, who designed London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral and rebuilt much of the city after the Great Fire of 1666.

“My education was all in public schools, including Pennsylvania State University, where I earned a BA in English Literature,” Thomas says. “I studied Latin, French, and Russian in high school (with some great teachers), Russian and some Greek in college. And I’ve spent the rest of my life making up for my early deficiencies in mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics with reading and working at science-based companies.”

It was not until the mid-80s that Thomas started writing and publishing fiction. The result was eight novels, plus two novellas.

“Short stories never attracted me as projects, however; I tend to think in book lengths,” he says.

In retrospect, Thomas says he sees his corporate editorial writing and editing as a way to learn how the Western industrial world is put together, how the necessities that support our daily lives are created and distributed, and how the technology of the twentieth—now the twenty-first—century has evolved and grown.

“I hope this knowledge and understanding makes my novels more interesting for the reader,” he says.

Readers are getting interested and they’re exploring Thomas’ impressive body of work in fiction. Will his work gain the popular success of Trollope? Will his creative output match that of the prolific 19th Century author? We’ll find out once the secret’s out.

Paradigm Changer?

The Ambassador of Bliss, J.P. Hansen, also author of the popular romance novel Pink Slips and Glass Slippers, as well as a nationally recognized expert in career development picked up a copy of Adrift in the Sound and called it a “Paradigm Changer,” going on to say:
For a first novel, Kate Campbell writes a masterpiece. The free love 70s evoked memories of that era. Protagonist Lizette is well-developed throughout a complicated but effective plot that involves witnessing a murder.  Intriguing setting, clever use of metaphor and symbolism, colorful prose, convincing dialogue, and mythical themes make this story come to life. From Looney the Orca whale to Lizette’s father, the minor characters strengthen the story. In “Adrift in the Sound,” Campbell manages to challenge the reader’s paradigms and cultivate new ones by story’s end.”  
Rating: 5 Stars

And, Jim Crocker of Missoula, MT, named one of today’s hottest thriller and mystery writers (ADAM JAMES THRILLERS and AARON NORCOST SUSPENSE) last week offered reviews of Adrift and its companion non-fiction book on the final editing process for publication, Between the Sheets: An Intimate Exchange on Writing, Editing, and Publishing on Amazon:

This story was a privilege to read–a true gift. Thank you, Kate.

Right off, the floor fell away and I was adrift–no stopping, no turning back. It was like walking through a doorway and it was forty years ago.

This gripping story of personal struggle is set against the turbulence of the seventies. But this is no Love In. This is hard-boiled, in-your-face writing, and Kate Campbell pulls no punches. It reads like memoir, but really it is fiction shot through with the stinging clarity of truth.

If you lived through the era, you’ll recognize the characters–adrift on the emotional roller coaster that racked and paralyzed the nation. This is the story of all of us–those who “made” it, those who fell and those struggling today with truth and justice in their search for the American Way.

Rating: 5 Stars

Between the Sheets—Thomas T. Thomas and Kate Campbell
A Peek Behind the Curtain—A Journey of Discovery!
Ever wanted to be the fly on the wall? Here’s your chance.
Between the Sheetschronicles the dialogue between writer (Kate Campbell) and editor (Thomas T. Thomas) concerning Kate’s first novel, Adrift in the Sound—which was a fabulous read. Dorothy called it, “Best book I’ve read in a long time.”
Of course, immediately after finishing Adrift, I jumped Between the Sheets, as it were, for an opportunity to find out just how this amazing story evolved into the light of day. The collection of emails between writer and editor discloses more than I’d anticipated. You’ll be privy to a candid, honest discussion, where lives (albeit literary) hang in the balance.
Thomas is a wonderful editor and spirit guide. We would all be fortunate to have him covering our back.
Between the Sheetsis a must-read for writing students and seasoned writers, alike.
Writing is a journey of discovery. While yearning for the end—the publishing of our new baby—we bask in the process along the way—whiling away in solitary hours writing, editing, turning over stones, trying on hats, anticipating the next surprise waiting around the corner. Conjuring a story may not be magic, but we certainly hope the final result will be.
Rating: 5 Stars

Look for a Word Garden review from me of Tom’s forthcoming novel: The Professor’s Mistress, due soon in ebook format.

Interview with Columnist Laura Lafferty About Adrift in the Sound

Interview With Author Kate Campbell

This is Part 1 of the interview, which appeared this week on Goodreads. Adrift in the Sound has been nominated for a Goodreads “Reader’s Choice Award.”

Here’s author and book columnist for the Examiner Laura Lafferty’s part-one interview with me about my new book Adrift in the Sound, as well as the companion nonfiction read Between the Sheets: An Intimate Exchange on Writing, Editing and Publishing. She includes the second half of the interview and a review of the Adrift in the Examiner.

Adrift in the Sound, which takes place in 1973 Seattle and Orcas Island, tells the story of the exceptionally gifted and emotionally vulnerable artist, Lizette Karlson and her struggle to overcome mental illness while seeking love and acceptance. A full review of the book can be found on my October 29th Examiner column

Q: I was a little surprised by the way Lizette’s mother initially reacted to Lizette’s odd behavior, throwing her out and not wanting to see her. I expected her to be more understanding since she herself was an artist, and artists tend to be somewhat unusual. Did she push Lizette away because her own mental health was in question and it frightened her to see abnormalities in her daughter as well?

A: I’m not sure Lizette’s mother was a real artist. I think her mother was a pretender, which her husband sees and chides her for. Her mental health was ignored because it was convenient for her father and his career. But, I think Lizette’s mother recognized the authentic genius in her daughter’s work, envied it, coveted it, and killed herself over it. In the late 60s, early 70s, millions of kids were rebelling and running away from home—smoking marijuana, getting drunk, having casual sex. There literally were millions of young people living and getting high on the streets in America at that time. I think Lizette’s mother wanted perfection from her daughter and rejected her for embracing the hippie lifestyle, as well as disregarding her talent, which Lizette’s mother desperately wanted for herself.

Q: Did Adrift in the Sound require a lot of research?

A: Yes. I spent hours researching online and reading, particularly the history of the Lummi Nation and the Coastal Salish Tribes, but also orcas that live around the island and in Puget Sound. I took a research trip to Seattle and spent as much time as I could in the Seattle Art Museum, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington. I spent tons of hours viewing and exploring the University of Washington’s online photo archive, which includes extensive images of Native Americans from the late 19th Century onward. I also read Seattle newspapers from the time and dipped into the city and state archives.

And, I read books on the 60s and the problems of homelessness. I have worked as a volunteer at Loaves & Fishes in Sacramento, which serves the homeless, but I delved deeper. I love exploring new subjects and guess I caught a bad case of “research rapture.” With experience, I hope to learn how to research more efficiently. Research is fun, but it can be a time suck.

In addition, I read several works of fiction that helped inform the writing, including John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, T.C. Boyle’s Drop City, Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, and Toni Morrison’s Paradise. I had already written the snake chapter when I read Wonder Boys and felt like Michael Chabon was a kindred spirit, exploring some of the same creative ground as me. I read extensively about mental illness and how it was treated in the era, the impact of rape and the practice of midwifery. I read about how to cook heroin and shoot up, and I also spent time on the docks talking with inland boatmen and hung out in some very sketchy bars.

Q: Can you envision Adrift in the Sound on the big screen? If so, who would you want to see in the roles of Lizette and Rocket?

A: That’s such a funny question. They say every writer wants to see their story on the big screen, but I’m not so sure. I think Lindsay Lohan would make a good Lizette, if she could find the discipline to do the work, and Leonardo DiCaprio would make a good Rocket, if he could muster the humility. As the creator of the characters, it would be interesting to see how skilled actors interpret them.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with Adrift in the Sound?

A: That’s a good question, one I haven’t been asked before. My hope is readers will see themselves or something familiar in the characters and, in that recognition, understand the era and its importance to all of us. In some ways, Adrift is a morality play and a history lesson.

Q: You’ve written a very unique companion book to Adrift in the Sound titled Between the Sheets: An Intimate Exchange on Writing, Editing and Publishing. What can you tell us about this book?

A: I’ve known co-author Tom Thomas for nearly 30 years. He was my editor when I was doing corporate editorial work in the 80s and early 90s and I appreciated his quick mind. He went on to write more than a dozen books in a variety of fiction genres. I have great respect for him.

Tom took on the final editing and shaping of Adrift as a favor and during a three month period—chapter by chapter, line by line—he challenged me on points of fact, intention, language and style. His emails to me were filled with advice and valuable information about the craft and business of writing. I feel sincerely that it would have been a shame to bury the exchange in my computer and act as if this extraordinary and dynamic discussion had not taken place. I believe that beginning writers, teachers of writing and those who love words will gain a lot from peeking behind the curtain to see a writer and editor at work. I’m grateful Tom agreed to publish our exchange.

Q: What are your future writing plans?

A: Launching a book has been time-consuming. I was warned that would be the case and it’s true. But, I’m working on a book set in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. I’m about a third of the way into the first draft. The main character is focused on her career, getting to the top, but a serious misstep lands her in the delta where she’s given the task of turning a crumbling estate into a five-star destination hotel. She drinks too much, hates what has happened to her and wants out of the boonies. At the moment she’s stuck on a beautiful yacht in a mucky slough off the Sacramento River. The estate’s dock is falling apart and floating away. The mansion has no electricity or running water. I urgently need to get back to the story and figure out how to get my main character back on dry land.

I have a collection of stories, Songs from the Caldera, I’ve been working on for a while and want to publish it next year and I’m beginning research for a memoir. A number of readers have asked about a sequel to “Adrift in the Sound,” and I’m considering it. These projects will take me a number of years to complete. I’d also like to shoehorn in a couple of other books just for fun. I hate that there are only 24 hours in a day!

The second part of this interview can be found on Examiner…

7 True Things About Kate

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a hobo. I spent hours making camps out of rocks and sticks—fire pit, spit, water bucket, spots for bed rolls—arranging everything perfectly to welcome the vagabonds I was sure would arrive. I couldn’t wait to hear the stories I was sure they’d tell. Many people have asked me to tell them who I am, which is awkward. Where to start, which stories to tell, what is true, what is fancy footwork? Well, here’s the truth about me, as best as I can muster.

  1. I was raised in San Francisco at a time when ladies wore white gloves when they went shopping downtown.
  2. I have my B.A. in Journalism, a major I chose because I thought it would help me put bread on the table and allow me to develop my writing craft. I’m still deciding if the plan worked.
  3. My parent’s first car was a 1948 Hudson Hornet.
  4. My father was a cowboy.
  5. When referring to me, my mother usually started by saying, “Kate’s biggest problem is . .
  6. Adrift in the Sound, my mainstream debut novel, started out as a creative writing exercise about something I didn’t understand. It was supposed to be a simple story about a piano, but instead of finger exercises, it turned into a symphony.
           Seven things not enough?
99 Random, Irrelevant Things About Kate
  1. I’ve been married three times (twice to the same man), my sister never, which proves the law of averages and that misses only count in horseshoes.
  2. My first car was a yellow VW beetle stick shift with no radio, which is why I like to sing while I drive. Mostly Aretha.
  3. I learned to drive on the hills of San Francisco in a Toyota HiLux pickup truck, with stick shift. It took a while and a few mishaps, but eventually I mastered the art of going from a dead stop to moving forward on a very steep hill.
  4. I can’t resist chocolate, a common affliction.
  5. My first “real” job was making cotton candy at Playland-at-the-Beach in San Francisco, the city’s first amusement park. I was assigned a short, tight uniform and stood in a glass booth in the middle of the midway where I had to bend over to lift large bags of sugar.
  6. I like pot roast with pan seared and parsleyed potatoes, hate tomato soup.
  7. I often spend an entire afternoon shopping at a local thrift store and maintain a rigid $20 spree limit. Retail therapy in tough economic times.
  8. I have a recurring dream that I’m in a tight dark place and then move into a coarse, rippley place and wake up scared and panting. I think I continually relive my own birth trauma. How creepy is that?
  9. I hate when people shove past me and don’t apologize for the rudeness, especially when getting in an elevator or on a bus because then I have to stand passively beside them in the stink of rude and act like I don’t notice.
  10. The fastest way to make me angry is to criticize my family. Sure, they’re all a little odd, but only I get to say that.
  11.  I always think couscous is going to taste better than it does, think the opposite about hummus and find it delicious, but then garlic fixes everything.
  12. If I stop and think, words, the perfect words, evaporate and I find myself stammering while I try to catch up with them.
  13. Favorite flower – Jonquil, it was the badge for our Girl Scout troop.
  14. In the movie “Out of Africa,” when the two lions go to rest on Denys’ grave, I burst into tears. The first time I saw it my 9 year-old son had to help me from the theater I was sobbing so hard. One of the saddest scenes ever.
  15. I secretly think people who say I’m hard to buy for lack imagination.
  16. Believe it or not, my first published work was Between the Sheets: An Intimate Exchange on Writing, Editing, and Publishing, a book about editing the novel before it was published. What kind of sense does that make?
  17.  Wrote my first short story when I was 9 about a Bunyanesque tugboat captain on San Francisco Bay, who rescued ships and eventually the city. The teacher showed it to the principal, Mr. McGinnis, and he took me around to all the classrooms at Alvarado Elementary School and had me read it the other kids. He also brought Claudia, a girl from another class who wrote a story about racing on the rings of Saturn. It was a better story. I knew that since my story wasn’t the only one selected, it probably wasn’t that good, sort of second best, if best at all. This kind of insecurity has plagued me all my life.
  18. I’m a cakeaholic. I’d rather eat cake or a cookie and keep going that bother with the rigmarole of sitting down and eating something good for me. As a result, I have a righteous muffin top.
  19. I love the color red but, but since my husband died about five years ago, I always end up wearing black, like freaking Queen Victoria. I swear, I’m going to start wearing sea foam green and powder blue.
  20. Every time it rains, I want to stay home and watch. It’s a miracle here in the West.
  21. I once worked as a bet taker (para mutual clerk) at Golden Gate fields because I wanted to be closer to the horses. Quit after a guy with a losing bet threw beer all over me and a fight broke out and the guy got escorted off the track. The sport’s too rough for me.
  22.  When I’m alone, I dance and pluck my eyebrows, not at the same time, however.
  23. Favorite candy? Chocolate in all its guises. OK, let’s get honest here. MandM peanuts. How boring is that?
  24.  I get bored.
  25. My Great-aunt Eva spent her last years making tatted lace for pillow cases and petticoats and telling us kids tall tales.
  26. I met my best friend when our sons were in preschool and we all grew up together.
  27. I frequently forget what day it is. Hell, I forget to close the garage door, turn off the boiling tea water on the stove, leave the doors unlocked and can’t find my keys.  Sometimes the specific day seems inconsequential.
  28. I was obsessed with swimming before I was obsessed with writing. I love practice more than races. Still chant kick rhythms in my head.
  29.  I still occasionally wear my grandmother’s screw-back earrings with the green rhinestones.  40s Tre Chic!
  30. I thought John Travolta was fantastically sexy in “Pulp Fiction.” Oh, come on. Admit it. He was. Bopping in the restaurant, the anxiety dripping from the screen. Forget “Saturday Night Fever.”John-Travolta-Pulp-Fiction-1994-600x337
  31.  I’ve been known to speak with great formality to officious store clerks because I hate giving up dollars without a fight and I hate being spoken to like I’m a street person.
  32.  I eat asparagus naked. I like it undressed.
  33. Semi-popped kernels at the bottom of the popcorn bowl are my favorite and will go on the attack if anyone tries to get to them before I do.
  34. I’ve been writing and editing for nearly 40 years. It took four years to write my first novel after 36 years of wanting to.
  35. When I was in journalism school at San Francisco State, my brothers mockingly called me the “reporter for the people.” I’ve thought of myself that way ever since.
  36. I have the driest cuticles ever. Do you think it’s a vitamin E deficiency?
  37. I love Mexican folkloric dancing because I want one of those skirts.
  38. Downward Facing Dog is my favorite yoga position.
  39. My step dad had a scuba diving company. I was scuba certified when I was 11 and spent a lot, I mean a lot, of time in the Pacific Ocean.
  40. I’m easily overwhelmed by bookstores because I want everything and can’t decide.
  41. I’m also easily overwhelmed by shoe stores for the same reason and always impulsively buy shoes that hurt.
  42. Misplaced commas in my writing are deeply embarrassing. It feels like smiling with lipstick on my teeth. I don’t see it, but everyone else does and politely acts like they don’t notice.
  43. My favorite quote is by novelist John Steinbeck, who worked as a journalist for a while at the Salinas Californian, where I also worked for a while as a freelancer. “If they wanted someone who could spell, they should’ve hired a school marm.” I love the guy!
  44. I’ve always thought my sister Joyce got the better name. It sounds happy, while everybody and their dog is named Kate.
  45. I don’t drink but, mysteriously, I have dozens of wine glasses gathering dust.
  46. I act like I know what I’m doing, but most of the time I’m a mess.
  47. My former husband loved Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, but for me, it was Love in the Time of Cholera. Truthfully, I can’t get over the book’s feeling of longing. Marquez was a journalist first and 20 years later wrote 100 Years of Solitude (1967), which gives me hope as a writer, however, slender the thread of my talent.
  48. My alarm clock is set for 5:30 a.m., but I’m usually up about 3 a.m. to write.
  49. I hate my 2nd grade photo, (see above) missing front teeth and oddly curled hair, a homemade dress I never liked. Who sends a kid to school looking like that?
  50. Alcohol addiction is rampant in my family, which is why I got clean and sober 30 years ago. Scares me to death.
  51. My signature scent is “Rain,” which is a body oil I used to buy at a little shop on Haight Street before it got taken over by Yuppies, Nerdsters and Techsters and the neighborhood went gentrified.
  52. Sometimes I forget to turn off the automatic sprinklers and water the garden in the rain. I’m always afraid the water police are going to show up and bust me.
  53. My house is named NutTree Cottage, but my sister calls it the “Nut House.”
  54. I have accidentally broken my plumbing at 3 a.m. while trying to clear an inconsequential drain problem. What some people do to put off writing. The drain still isn’t fixed, but a bucket works fine.
  55. I feel compelled to eat everything on my plate, even when I feel full after half of it. Childhood conditioning always kicks in. I remain president of the “Clean-Plater Club.”
  56. I used to write (mercifully never published) plays about the foibles of friends.
  57.  I once worked as a typist for a famous Hollywood screenwriter. I’d go to his house and start typing, he’d come into the room complaining about shoulder pain and ask me to rub Absorbine Junior on his joint. I quit after a couple of weeks. Hated the smell on my hands.
  58. Half-asleep in the house I rented in Pasadena, I felt a ghost-like presence move like a silken scarf over my body. I would have thought this an odd take on prickly heat, but the sensation occurred many times in that house and never again after I moved back home to San Francisco or sense then in Sacramento.
  59. Irrationally, I fear I’ll be bitten by a rattlesnake. Well, maybe not so irrational, given the remote places I go on assignment. I don’t wear sandals or heels when I’m working, also, tube tops and chandelier earrings are out.
  60. I am the person who can’t decide on paper or plastic when you’re in a hurry at the grocery store and behind me in the check-out line. Thankfully, they’re banning the plastic option. So much easier for me than having to figure it out.
  61. I pair mashed potatoes with yogurt. Keeping the whites together just makes sense with food and laundry.
  62. I have always had a crush on Paul Volcker. What’s not to love about the craggy former Federal Reserve chairman? I used to think he was Superman, not I just think of him as a hero with a towel tied around his neck.
  63. I lived with my grandmother when I was young and wish I still did. She was smart, talented and fearless, about 4′ 8″ tall, but stronger than a mountain.
  64. I wore white saddle shoes to school until high school. Just when they got comfortable, the school year ended. Then I used them to walk in creeks.
  65. Many years of morning workouts means I’m a good swimmer. It also means I hate the smell of chlorine in the morning.
  66. For some odd reason, I grind my teeth at night.
  67. I am an excellent procrastinator.
  68. I always look for parking spaces on the street. I hate handing my car keys to complete strangers who claim to be parking valets, worse yet, I’m never sure how much to tip them, which is embarrassing.
  69. I once unknowingly had the back of my dress unzipped on a very crowded Muni bus. After I got off at my stop, I walked a half block wondering about the odd breeze I felt on my back.
  70. I have worn out my Leonard Cohen CDs and need to replace them.
  71. I have ugly feet. Plain and simple.
  72. I love the Lauren Bacall preppy look, but I’ve always been too short waisted to pull off the shirt tucked into pleated front trousers style.
  73. I have the same birthday as Tiberius, Roman Emperor, (42 BC) and actress Maggie Gyllenhaal. Neither has ever sent me a birthday card.
  74. I was the Smart One. My sister was the Pretty One. My sister would argue it was the other way around.
  75. Make room and watch in awe: When I dance it’s like Tina Turner on some good stuff.
  76. When I was a child, I wanted to be a figure skater, despite the fact that I’ve never owned a pair of ice skates. Must have been something about sequins.
  77. I’ve always wanted to be blonde, but I’m allergic to the chemicals in hair dye.
  78. I’ve read every issue of Life magazine from 1958-1988. I blame Life for my desire to see everything in black and white.
  79. My college directed-study thesis was on the complete correspondence between R. Cunningham Graham and Joseph Conrad and how the exchange evoked literary creativity. I’ve never met another person who knew about R. Cunningham or considered the project particularly interesting.
  80. This isn’t very nice, but I hate when people knock on my  front door. It seems ominous.
  81. I am, essentially, a loner. I join in and make nice, but I’m aware that’s what I’m doing and secretly resent having to do it.
  82. And, yet, I adore parties.
  83. I’m Scots-Irish, and, according to my father, half hillbilly.
  84. I consider a bike ride of less than 50 miles a waste of time.
  85. I went kayaking a few weeks ago and now I want one, bad.
  86. I love to be there, hate the journey, which is why I’m not an experienced traveler. And, I don’t want to go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. I want a better reason then the desire to stand around, looking up, saying, “Golly. Would ya look at that? Take my picture.”
  87. I had an imaginary friend when I was small, Mr. Duggie. He went everywhere with me. Concerned about my fantasy life, my mother decided to have my brother, which I consider an inadequate response to my creative expression.
  88. I am superstitious and try not to adopt the superstitions of others. I have way too many of my own.
  89. I changed my name to Kate when I became a swimmer. Before that it was Kathy. No one, except close friends and family, even knows my name is Katherine.
  90. I love the smell of fresh-cut hay on a hot summer night.
  91. I once joined Jacque Cousteau (and my step-father) in testing a two-man, personal submarine in San Francisco Bay. Afterwards we had lunch at the Italian consulate in Pacific Heights. The manufacturer was Italian and we were promoting the Sports and Boat show at the Cow Palace. Message: So easy a child could operate the thing – even a girl. Buy It. Loved the consulate’s dining room chandelier.
  92. Flan, caramel sauce, warm. I swoon.
  93. Tree roses and Christmas tinsel (not necessarily together) remind me of my mother.
  94. I cried for three hours after my son went to kindergarten. I’ve never gotten over it. When a mother says their child is going to start school, I pass the tissue.
  95. I drove a two-toned yellow and black Rambler in high school. The trunk could fit 3 bass drums, a tuba and one drunk cheerleader.
  96. I was on the debating team in high school. At my class reunion, the program had the letters NFL next to my name. I’m thinking football, the organizers are thinking National Forensics League lifetime member. Who knew?
  97. People told me the 7 True Things About Kate on my website needed to be fleshed out. Bet they wish now I’d cinched my belt.
  98. When people ask me what I’d do if I wasn’t a writer, I hate to tell them the truth. I’d be a hobo, unless there was an position opening for a wood nymph.
  99. Oh, last one. I’ve always secretly wanted to be Judith, Queen of France.


Me on Ole Paint on the ranch
in Marin County 1950s
Me and my brother Steve on the American River about 1960
where our family was dredging for gold. I swam the tie-down lines
back and forth across the river to secure the dredges. Took off my
wet suit, but not my diving hood. I loved that thing.
Hiking the John Muir Trail, a leg of what is now the Pacific Crest Trail
Gold Country Rodeo summer 2011


Great Aunt Eva and me on her ranch
in Lake County, early 1950s
Suiting up for a dive off Van Damm State Beach
in Northern Calif. about 1970
Learning to kayak in Fresno Slough near Mendota
a couple of weeks ago
Although I’ve seen a number of new authors provide detailed background like this as an introduction to potential readers, I have mixed feelings about doing it. I’m not sure readers care that much and it seems like the writing should speak for itself. Then I think about all the successful writers who make a living writing about nothing but themselves.
I think about writers who’ve carefully crafted personas — Mark Twain, Hemingway and Fitzgerald come to mind — and wonder if readers ever really know a writer beyond their work. In some cases, like Lady Gaga, artists are their own performance pieces, Freda Kahlo come to mind.
But, I’m just a girl who grew up outside, became a writer, and I’m very glad to meet you. Thanks for visiting the Word Garden and thanks for checking out my new book, Adrift in the Sound. It’s available now on Amazon.
 Adrift in the Sound, a novel about sex, drugs and Seattle in 1973, from local booksellers or online at

Are Books Going the Way of the Dodo Bird?

One Best-Selling author thinks so. Here’s what acclaimed ghost writer Michael Levin says about the future of ink on paper:

“Unless something changes, books as we know them are doomed, and not simply because people prefer to read on their iPads or Kindles.” says Levin, (, a New York Times best-selling author, as well as editor, publisher, co-writer and ghostwriter.

“You’ll see the major publishing houses starting to go away in three to five years,” Levin says. “Their business model is in free fall. Already, we’re seeing books becoming shorter, cheaper, and diminishing in quality. You’ll soon see fewer really good authors bothering to write books, because books are no longer a meaningful source of revenue.”

Levin points to several developments he says foreshadow a sad ending for books:

• Attention spans are diminishing. Three-fourths of teachers said their students’ attention spans are shorter than ever, according to a poll released in June. By 11 years old, nearly half of the kids had stopped reading for pleasure. The poll, by publisher Pearson UK, is just the most recent survey/study documenting shrinking attention spans and a corresponding drift from books. “Part of the problem is children don’t see their parents reading,” Levin says. “Obviously, the kids’ aren’t the only ones with diminishing attention spans.”

• Major publishers are producing lower-quality books. The big publishing houses today are more interested in a quality marketing plan than in the quality of the book, so we’re being deluged by low-quality books. One reason is that many large publishers have stopped taking on the expense of marketing books, but they know it’s necessary for sales. So they take on authors with a marketing plan and budget. They’re also less interested in “star” authors, who demand higher royalties. They also lost authors when they eliminated advances in response to the 2008 recession.

• Books are moving to devices, where content is free and time is thin-sliced. Online, you don’t expect to pay for content. People will expect books available online to be either free or very inexpensive, and if those books turn out to be one chapter of ideas and eleven chapters of Hamburger Helper, they will be less willing to pay for them. Also, people don’t spend much time going into depth online; books are supremely inappropriate for the surface-skimming nature of the Internet. Once people have bought a bunch of ebooks they’ve never started, they’ll stop buying them altogether.

• Authors have a more difficult time earning a livable wage.Fewer authors can earn enough to make writing a full-time job. The audience is shrinking and fewer people are willing to pay $15 for a paper book when cheap alternatives are available. “We’ve already seen more books written to promote a product, service or company, or to brand the writer so he or she can pursue a more lucrative field,” Levin says. “Most books of the future will be marketing tools, since that’s the only way they’ll be profitable.”

Levin does find reason for hope, if publishers change how they do business.

“They need to stop trying to go after the mass market, which doesn’t exist anymore, settle on a niche and develop a brand. Publishers that stand for something in the reader’s mind – like Harlequin stands for romance – are built for the long haul,” he says.

Instead of publishing 500 low-quality books every year, major publishers should bring out only 50 top-quality winners and actually market them, he says. And publish how-to and other guidance and instructional books in concentrated form: short, powerful and to the point,

The rest of us have a job to do, too, Levin adds.

“People need to read, and they need to read to their kids or buy them books. If people stop demanding good books, there eventually will be none available,” he says. “The winners, going forward, will be that minority who still read and think for themselves. It’s a lot easier for government, the military and the corporate world to control the way people think if they aren’t reading for themselves. That ought to be reason enough to save the book.”

About Michael Levin


Michael Levin, founder and CEO of BusinessGhost, Inc., has written more than 100 books, including eight national best-sellers; five that have been optioned for film or TV by Steven Soderbergh/Paramount, HBO, Disney, ABC, and others; and one that became “Model Behavior,” an ABC Sunday night Disney movie of the week. He has co-written with Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, football broadcasting legend Pat Summerall, NBA star Doug Christie and Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman, among others. As a publishing consultant, Michael’s best-selling clients include ZigZiglar, Michael Gerber and Jay Abraham. He was the editor for Ziglar’s most recent book, “Born To Win.”

A discussion between writer and editor about shaping a book manuscript for market — and the shape of the book market — is the focus of my new book, co-authored with my editor Thomas T. Thomas (yes, that’s his real name). Between the Sheets is available in ereader format and old-fashioned paper (how quaint is that?). Order online.

eBooks Now Top Adult Fiction Book Sales

Sales Stats

This news just in from the Association of American Publishers, by way of GalleyCat, a top web site for writers. Digital books now dominate the adult fiction category — by a huge percentage. At the same time, I got this announcement from friend Pat Larkin: “First, the big news! Larry Bond and I have just released Red Phoenix, our 1989 bestselling military thriller, as an eBook priced at only $2.99!”

Novelists are rushing to format their books into ereader format to offer readers a chance to enjoy their work again or for the first time on the magic screen. The information is especially important to me and the legion of other writers who’ve added digital books to their paper  format.

And, it’s important to me because on July 26 my new novel, Adrift in the Sound, will be available for free download by Kindle Prime members. My book promotion in June was highly successful and I offer a big thanks to ebook readers for that. Amazon ranked Adrift in the Sound at 29th on its literary fiction Top Seller list and 35th in historical fiction. It was cool to be a bestselling author, even if it only lasted a couple of days.

According to a new joint report from the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group, eBooks exploded in the adult fiction category last year, accounting for 30 percent of net publisher sales in 2011–up from 13 percent the year before.

At the same time, net sales revenue from eBooks increased from from $869 million in 2010 to $2.074 billion in 2011. That’s 15 percent of net revenues for publishers. AppNewser has more about how these numbers have affected the total US book market.

Here’s more about those eye-popping figures, from the report: “Adult Fiction eBooks revenue for 2011 was $1.27 billion, growing by 117% from $585 million in 2010. This translated to 203 million units, up 238% from 85 million in 2010. Similar to the broader overall Trade sector, the combined print formats also represented the majority of publishers’ revenue in the Adult Fiction category, at $2.84 billion.”

The data for the report was collected from 1,977 publishers, ranging from major publishers to smaller companies.

In addition to receiving Adrift in the Sound free on July 26 through the Kindle Prime program, order Between the Sheets: An Intimate Exchange on Writing, Editing, and Publishing, co-authored with novelist/editor Thomas T. Thomas for your ereader. $2.99

Tom made the decision quite a while ago to go digital, converting all of his dozen or so Sci/Fi, Science Fantasy books to digital. His newest book about time travel: The Children of Possibility is available for ereaders from online book sellers. I recommend it. $2.99.

And, my friend and writing partner, Elizabeth Kern has a bittersweet coming-of-age story just out in ereader format: Wanting to be Jackie Kennedy. Order online.
P.S. Remember, July 26! It’s free to Kindle Prime members. Let’s see if we can do it again. Yay!

Comic’s Guide to Book Promotion

If what acclaimed filmmaker and comic Woody Allen says is true – 80 percent of success is showing up – then showing up in the marketplace with a new book to sell means you’re more than halfway there, especially if you’ve got money in your pocket to promote it.

As an independent author with a couple of new books to sell, however, I’m not working with a big promotional budget so it’s hard to figure my odds for commercial and literary success. I’ve paid for research, workshops, editing, book design, printing, and much more. The funds available for anything else have dwindled faster than a pinewood fire on a cold night.

But, I’m not letting that stop me from showing up and grabbing the arm of anyone who’ll listen: “I’ve got a book! I’ve told a story and it’s worth reading. You gotta buy it!” I’ve become my own Valkyrie, a walking opera, but as Woody Allen said: “I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.”

To help design my books’ low-budget marketing campaign, I’ve been reading everything I can about marketing on a shoestring, about conquering the retail world on five cents a day. I sometimes pitch people while standing in the checkout line at Walmart. I usually get toothless grins and glazed eyes. I spend a lot of reading tattoos and wondering, what were they thinking?

 Here are some things I’m doing to promote my book without going bankrupt

1. Set up an author blogsite—I’ve been blogging for nearly three years. Except for the investment of time, it’s free. I talk about what I love – writing, art, gardening, the environment, food, wine, books, California. However, I find a limited number of people care about my views on petunias and oil spills so I don’t have a huge following, actually 18 loyal, lovely people (you know who you are). When I get the money, I’ll set up an author website with a real domain name, registration and hosting (makes me think of a cocktail party) to help sell more books. Seems prices for hosting range from $10 to $20 a month.

2. Media Kit – High resolution cover image, press release, book summary, author’s bio and professional photo. Check, Check, Check. With the implosion of the media industry, however, it’s hard to tell who’s on first. “Who’s on first?” (Abbott & Costello shtick. Don’t make me laugh.) What media to target? For more info, check out BookBaby’s article “Is Your Author Website Ready to Meet the Press?“)

3. Throw a book launch party – At mine, held at the Comedy Spot in Sacramento, I read a funny softball scene and gushed too much over the books while signing them. The line to buy got pretty long. But, hey, as Yogi Berra used to say:If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.” (For more info, check out the BookBaby article on (“How to Throw a Book Launch Party That Isn’t a Waste of Time.“)

4. Do radio interviews, and lots of ‘em—That sounds like good advice, but I haven’t booked a single radio interview – yet! Getting radio time might sound hard, but there are countless Internet, local and college stations with time to fill and, unlike me, I’m sure you’ll bring some useful info to listeners. I’ll let you know how I do with this step or, maybe you’ll hear me.

5. Promote yourself in your email signature—No Brainer. It’s free and easy. In the words of Woody Allen:The only thing standing between me and greatness is me.” Include your contact info, website address, Amazon and Barnes & Noble links, and social media links, and maybe even a quote or blurb about your book. Or consider a quote from a character in your book.

6. Do 5 things to promote your book every day—No cheating. Some people recommend devoting a quarter of your writing time you’d spend on the next book to promoting your published books. Send your book to a couple of reviewers every week. It’ll cost you is a few bucks for postage and a few minutes of research. Make sure they’re open to unsolicited review copies first, though, or you’ll feel guilty about stealing from your grocery money to send books to people who don’t give a rip. Woody Allen talks about guilt and softball like this: “When we played softball, I’d steal second base, feel guilty and go back.” Unlike softball, once your book is mailed—it’s mailed. You can’t go back and get your book.

9. Write and send press releases—For heaven’s sake, use spell check three times and don’t forget your contact info. There are so many Websites about how to write a press release it’ll make you dizzy. Pick one site and stick with it. As a magazine book section editor, I read the press release headline, check who sent it, scan the first paragraph and decide if I should save or delete. Takes less than 30 seconds. Also, be sure to contact all the appropriate radio and TV stations in your area, local magazines, weeklies, newspapers, and events blogs through your release. Follow up with a second mailing in a few weeks.

10.  Find your social happy spot—Facebook, Google +, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, UTube. The smaller the universe of users the better able you are to connect with real readers. Stay away from author/writer networks. Writers are selling books, not buying yours. Prepare to spend 20 minutes to a hour engaging electronically with strangers who basically aren’t interested in anything but themselves. Well, OK. That’s not really true. I’ve met some great people online and consider them real friends. The point is it takes time to cultivate these friendships and the sooner you start the better.

If you’ve done these things, you’re on your way. If you can think of other effective, low-cost promotional activities, please share them in the form below. Every book needs a game plan, but  give your promotional efforts time to work. Jack Canfield, who wrote “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” sold more than a million copies of the book in 18 months and went on to produce numerous New York Times bestsellers. Don’t quit marketing after three months. Stick with your plan. But, remember what Woody Allen said about plans: If you want to make God laugh, tell him your future plans.”

Love yourself, be kind to everyone you meet for they, like you, are fighting a hard battle, and don’t forget to celebrate yourself and your work. Small triumphs, like pennies, add up.

 [Note: this article is based on a list by Penny Sansevieri of ways in which you can promote your writing for under $50 (featured HERE). So be sure to check out that post too!]

Order Adrift in the Sound and Between the Sheets: An Intimate Exchange on Writing, Editing, and Publishing from independent and online booksellers. Available in paper and ebook formats.