Paths to Publishing: Mistakes along the way by Martha O’Sullivan #amwriting

Paths to publishing

Because my Chances trilogy is set in Northern California, I could say that my “Path to Publishing” began when I discovered Lake Tahoe a decade ago. But it was more seminal than that. Like many writers, I was an avid reader from an early age. And as an only child, books were my default playmates. In high school, I found myself drawn to the revolving wire rack of musty-smelling, dog-eared paperbacks at the public library. Some days I would get off the bus a few stops early and pick some up on the way home. The novels took me to places all over the world where effortlessly beautiful, wonderfully flawed heroines were swept off their feet by unapologetically successfully, wildly handsome heros to live happily ever after. And in the event I found the ending to be unfavorable, I would simply continue the story in my head to my liking. So my unwitting writing journey really started in my adolescent imagination.

In those days our imaginations had little competition for our attention. There were only a handful of television stations, no video games to speak of and the computer of today was a thing of science fiction. My imagination could soar infinitely. Characters, layered in observation and steeped in expectation were formed with each new acquaintance. The framework of a story was subtlety built as innocence became experience and naivety became discernment. And a serendipitous cross county trip in my affecting teenage years started a love affair with California that provided the perfect backdrop for it all to come together.

Decades later.

I wrote for the school newspaper in college, cranked out promotional pieces and ceremonial correspondence in my first job, wrote everything from new book info sheets to author bios to publishing plans in my last.

But that’s different.

Writing a novel is personal. It’s the kind of writing that exposes you, defines you. The kind you can’t write until you’ve experienced life, love, heartbreak, fear, loss.

For me it all clicked one spring night seven years ago, when I started writing my first book, Second Chance. I sat down and started writing — and couldn’t stop. I wrote three books in the next five years, two of which were finished, revised, revised again, and rewritten countless times. By me. Before I sold.  I have a college education, am a lifelong reader and consider myself to be of at least average intelligence. But I had to teach myself to write. By entering contests. And listening to feedback. And learning from rejection. By putting myself out there.

But I didn’t know what I didn’t know. That writing the book was the easy part.

Second Chance was rejected what felt like 100 times.

But I kept going. Because all the rejection and disappointment made me a better writer. And I ended up with a trilogy, the conclusion of which I had the joy of finishing with a deadline imposed by a publisher.

I’ve had more than my share of rejection over the last few years and I expect I’ll have more in the next few. So I’ve put together a list of some of the mistakes I made on my path to publication.

             15 Mistakes I Made On The Way To Publication                                      

  1. I thought I needed an agent.
  2. I thought I had to go through traditional publishing and print channels.
  3. I thought Harlequin ruled the world.
  4. I didn’t think it would take five years to get published.
  5. I should have brought The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglist before I wrote my first book instead of when I was editing my second.
  6. I underestimated how generous, supportive and welcoming writers were.
  7. I should have gone to RWA Nationals the year I started writing.
  8. I should have joined TARA the second I got home.
  9. I should have kept reading. I started writing at night instead of reading.
  10. I should ALWAYS write the last chapter first. I should have known this since I often find myself reading the last few pages of a book midway through chapter two.
  11. I should have joined a critique group.
  12. I should have shouted that I was writing from the rooftops instead of keeping it to myself.
  13. I should have known the last rejection hurts just as much as the first one.
  14. I should have gotten an iPhone three years ago.
  15. I knew how bad I wanted it, so I should have known I would do it.

But the one thing I did right? I never gave up! And that’s how this writer became an author.

second chance covMartha O’Sullivan’s Chances trilogy is available from Red Sage Publishing. Second Chance, the trilogy opener, is a reunion/love triangle romance that keeps the shores of Lake Tahoe blazing hot long after the sultry summer sun has set. Chance Encounter, the trilogy’s second installment, heats up San Francisco’s chilly days and blustery nights with white-hot passion and pulse-pounding suspense. And in Last Chance, the conclusion of the trilogy, lifelong friends-turned-lovers melt the snow-packed Sierras into lust-fueled puddles despite the single-digit temperatures of the Lake Tahoe winter. Here’s a blurb and PG-13 excerpt from Second Chance:

Lindsay Foster has convinced herself that marrying Paul Webster is the right thing to do. But she and Brian Rembrandt have some unfinished business. And Brian never met a rule, or a woman, that couldn’t be broken. So when Lindsay won’t come to him, he goes to her. But this love triangle has an extra side. And even Brian is no match for what happens next. 


The Chances trilogy by Martha O’Sullivan is available at: 


                         Second Chance (Chances trilogy #1)

                                 by Martha O’Sullivan

“Married?” Brian was still on top of Lindsay, rising and falling with her shallow breaths. And hard as a rock. He had never been so aroused without making love before. “To Webster?” The words burned his tongue and he jolted back, repulsed.

Lindsay’s nod was swift and, he told himself, the least bit reluctant. As if suddenly modest, she began fumbling with her top. “I should have told you before.”

Brian sat on the edge of the sagging cushion and ran a dumbfounded hand through his hair “Yeah,” he huffed out, “that would have been nice.” He was thoroughly spent, all the life suddenly drained out of him. And his erection. “Why didn’t you?”

“I don’t know.” She finished tying and stood. “I guess.” Her eyes went hollow. “I was afraid.”

“Of me?”

She searched the air for the words. “No, of me. Of it. Once I tell you, it’s real. No going back.”

It was frighteningly real to him already. He stood and took her hands, grazing her fingers with his thumbs.

“It needs to be sized,” she ground out with a gulp, reading his mind.


“The setting has to be rebuilt—” “No. When?”

Her eyes softened with understanding. “We haven’t set a date. Before the end of the year.” She withdrew her hands and started to walk away.

Brian grabbed her arm. “Why?”

“Why?” Her expression became strained, puzzled. “Why are you getting married?”

She took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then replied inadequately, “Paul and I have known each other forever. We want the same things. We are…familiar.”

“That’s qualified. Why?”

Her face bore more struggle than strain now, which pleased Brian. “Because he asked me and there’s no reason not to.” She tried to shake him off, but he tightened his grip.

“I can give you a reason.”

Her mouth parted slightly, allowing a short gasp of air to escape. “You can?”

He whirled her around and bringing their mouths within inches of each other said, “Yeah, I can.” He could see the fear in her eyes but it was laced with hope, so he continued. “But first things first. Do you love him?”


That stung, especially since she didn’t hesitate. “Did you run away because of him?”

She deadpanned him. “What?”

Narrowing his eyes, he clarified, “Did you leave me for him?”

She shook her head incredulously, as if no farther-fetched words had ever been spoken. “No! Brian, I didn’t leave you. I left San Francisco,” she explained, looking away. “We were unraveling. You didn’t want to make a commitment; I couldn’t go on without one. Gram’s illness precipitated the inevitable.”

“I was committed to you. There was no one else. I—”

“I know that,” she broke in. “I mean marriage, a family. You’d already done that.” Her shoulders stiffened as if to summon courage before she faced him again. “It hurt too much to keep pretending.”

“Were you pretending when we made love the night before you left? Or had you been pretending all along?” His attempts to stay hinged were proving increasingly ineffective.

Unceremonious teardrops were gliding down her cheeks now, leaving behind threadlike, sooty tracks. “I couldn’t have pretended that. Any of that. I mean pretending that we had a future.”

“So you left, cut me out of your life and found someone to give you that future,” he argued in a voice colored with indignation.

“It wasn’t like that. It just…” She settled on the word. “Happened. Paul was very supportive when Gram died.” The pain was etched in her eyes now, tearing at Brian’s heartstrings.

“And I wouldn’t have been?”

She dropped her broken gaze. “I wanted to call you a hundred times. But it wouldn’t have changed anything. Other than both of us ending up even more hurt.”

“It would have changed everything,” he surprised himself by saying and tilted her chin. “The end of the year, huh? That gives me a few months to change your mind. Looks like I got here just in time.”



photo-112-1-1-1Martha O’Sullivan has loved reading romance novels for as long as she can remember. Writing her own novels is the realization of a lifelong dream for this stay-at-home mom. Martha writes spicy, contemporary romances with traditional couples and happy endings. She is the author of the Chances trilogy from Red Sage Publishing. Her current work-in-progress in a sweet and steamy Christmas novel set in Costa Careyes, Mexico. A native Chicagoan, she lives her own happy ending in Tampa with her husband and two daughters.

Please visit for reviews, excerpts and more.


Second Chance was published by Red Sage in September 2013. The 40,000 word, contemporary romance is the Chances trilogy opener.


17 thoughts on “Paths to Publishing: Mistakes along the way by Martha O’Sullivan #amwriting


    Hi Martha,
    Welcome to the Snarkology. Thank you for participating in Paths to Publishing. Your list of mistakes is spot on. I was nodding right up until I hit the iPhone and then I sort of stumbled. (I’m still using a Samsung. *G*)

    Congratulations on your success and best of luck moving forward! 🙂

    • Thanks for having me Melissa! I’ve really enjoyed being part of this blog series.

  2. Really great blog. It touched me & brought back childhood memories. Thanks.

  3. I like your list of should haves. 🙂 I listed a few of those too, and made up some of my own. Congratulations on never quitting.

  4. Farah Evers

    That’s a good list. 🙂

  5. Lovely post, Martha – and I loved your list of mistakes, many of which we’ll recognise!

  6. I recognized myself in each and every of the 15 should haves.
    Great excerpt!
    Thanks for sharing both! Best of luck with your writing and finding new fans, Martha!

  7. A lovely excerpt and post! Thanks for sharing!
    I recognize myself in each and every of the 15 should haves of your list. Best of luck with your writing, Martha!

  8. A lovely excerpt and post! Thanks for sharing!
    I recognize myself in each and every of the 15 should haves of your list. Best of luck with your writing, Martha!

  9. Lorna Elsewint

    Thanks for your list of things you wished you’d done. I recognize a lot of these.
    Having a supportive group you can run things past is really helpful in so many creative endeavours.

  10. Great list! I, too, recognize many of these and wish I hadn’t wasted so much time writing query letters. And thanks for the excerpt, too.

  11. Martha, It is so much fun to read about other writers’ journeys. One thing I think every single one of us have in common is how much we read from an early age. Back in those innocent times when a kid could wander alone a few blocks from home, I haunted the local library as soon as I could read! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Loved your list, Martha – we all need to shout it from the rooftops!

    But what I thought was really great was your excerpt. So very few excerpts make me want to go out and buy the book, but yours did. Way to lead us in and leave us hanging!!

  13. Great excerpt! I will have to check out this series.

    Although I’m a Millennial, I grew up without cable in the boonies (it only ran to the end of the street) so we had about 8 channels and two were so fuzzy you had to squint to see the after-school cartoons. 🙂 Definitely good for the imagination.

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