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Entries in Don Juan in Hankey (6)


Booktrope: My path to reinvention

Creative writing can be a pathetically lonely pursuit. And a demoralizing one. It is not for the feint of heart. (Yet, the feintly hearted pursue it--trust me.)

There is only so much unrelenting rejection a sensitive soul can take before it starts to eat away at your feelings of self worth and challenge your creativity.

That’s why I need to tell you that one company blessed my life five-and-a-half years ago and changed me in ways I could have never imagined when I began writing fiction 11 years ago, keeping me in the writing game.

Yes, that company is Booktrope.

Despite the fact that Booktrope announced they have to cease operations at the end of this month, I want you to know that they gave me a foothold to pursue publication for as long as I wish to play. They helped me realize success and recover my confidence to a degree I never thought possible. 

Speaking on a fiction panel with Chris Hinz and Mary Beth Matteo at the Reading Public Library

In 2010, after completing my thesis for my M.A. program—a humorous novel—I began shopping it. I was hardly new to the trials of querying agents and publishers. I’d been doing it since 2005 and even obtained a literary agent from Foundry Literary and Media in 2008 for GRACE UNEXPECTED, after pitching that novel aggressively for a year.

Because that agent and I parted ways, when my master’s thesis was ready to shop, I queried agents for six months. Got a great response, too. I received 19 requests for partial and full manuscripts, had two agents read the entire work and say how much they liked it, yet I received no offers of representation.

I shot one more arrow into the air, sending off a partial manuscript to Booktrope, having heard about them on Twitter. And I received word back from Booktrope’s co-founder Ken Shear that they wanted to publish what would be called DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA.

I feel as though I owe Booktrope and all the folks who toiled there to try to make this enterprise work my life. Or at least, I owe them my midlife.

Midlife is a time in a woman's life when people begin to forget you exist--unless of course you are Madonna. (We are the same age and have so much more in common--I like lace, she likes lace, I can crawl on my belly especially getting out of a sand chair, she crawls on her belly--that I thought I'd use her as the gold standard of middle age. Soon millennials will be saying Madonna who?)

I published my first novel with Booktrope, and my life began anew. At age 52, somehow I mattered again, for something more than being someone's wife or mother. I added artistic value to the world. I had written things that made a difference in people's lives, or so they said. 

I met wonderfully generous book bloggers. I received extraordinary endorsements of my writing from perfect strangers:

"Don Giovanni has never been more fun. Kudos to Gale Martin for offering up something fresh and doing it with operatic flair. Standing O, for sure." -- Shirley Y. Thomas

Kirkus Reviews, "Packed with comic misadventures, mystery, intrigue and opera lore, the book rollicks along to a satisfying conclusion." -- Don Juan in Hankey, PA

Curled Up with a Good Book - 5 stars for DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA from Barbara Bamberger Scott, "Charming, intelligent and welcome first novel." 12/07/11

Grace Unexpected by Gale Martin might just be one of the most smart and funniest books I’ve read in sometime. Book review by Ali Crean, All the Things Inbetween, 1/16/14.

Gale does such an amazing job at crafting realistic characters but adding a fun little flair to each of them, Book Review of Grace Unexpected by Sara Palacios, Chick Lit Plus, 2/28/13.

I had the chance to do readings at bookstores and galleries:

I received feature coverage from the media:


Centre Daily Times, "BOOK REVIEW: ‘Don Juan in Hankey, PA’ an entertaining opera tale," 6/29/12

A Comic Opera is the Basis for Funny Fiction, Book Review, Lancaster Sunday News, Jo-Ann Greene, 12/4/11 

Lovely, generous people sent me photos of DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA from around the world:


My husband realized I was a humorist and laughed out loud, especially at Don.

Friends and colleagues came out of the wordwork and invited me to read with them. Just last week, someone at a memorial service stopped me and said that she was so-and-so's cousin and she'd read WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'? and that whenever she needs to lift her spirits, she thinks of my book.

Bloggers like Jen created outfits for my literary characters:

None of this richness--none of it--would have been possible with Booktrope's founder Ken Shear believing in my first book and encouraging me to publish more books with them.

Because of Booktrope, I learned a ton about publishing, kept practicing my craft, and my writing was able to touch so many more people than I'd ever dreamed of. And I sold two Booktrope novels to an Amazon imprint called Encore, which generated more sales than I ever expected when I started on this journey some five years ago.

I can't thank the Booktrope team enough for giving this experiment a hearty go. Besides Ken and Katherine, others at and working with Booktrope who made a profound difference in my writing career included Jesse James Freeman, Emily Clanton, Heather Ludviksson, Adam Bodendieck, Andy Roberts, Evie Hutton, Toddy Downs, Greg Simanson, and many fellow authors.

I can't and won't join the chorus of those who think Booktrope owes them something. The blessings I realized as the result of this publishing relationship will be cherished the rest of my life. Did I work hard to sell my books? Absolutely. Hundreds of hours of life energy invested. Did I spend my own money to help boost book sales? Yes, too much of it over the last several years.

The publishing industry is a fragile one, endeavoring to meet changes in the markets and technology, and often getting clobbered in the process. Booktrope is not the first publishing enterprise to close and won't be the last. To have found a great publishing partner for five+ years--who believed in me and my work, who got my work noticed, who helped me reinvent myself--sounds like a sweet deal to me. 

With gratitude to everyone at Booktrope,

Gale Martin 


Art imitates books or why Don Juan is a square

You heard it here first. DON JUAN, the most notorious womanizer in the history of Western Civilization (not even Tom Jones on his best day is a close second), is a square.

Let me 'splain.

Or better yet take a look:

I work at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr. I'm heading up a committee as part of the centennial celebration for a community engagement art project called Bears & Squares. While I am good at project management, I am not exactly known for my visual artistry. I must say that as a former schoolteacher, I can do a heck of a bulletin board. Since I have been asking students, faculty, staff, and alumni to do a Centennial Square, I thought I'd try my hand at it myself. 

Basically, this is a 10 x 10 gessoed panel that I decoupaged with my book cover, tea-stained pages from the book, coffee-stained paper doilies, and little stencils.

Here's the impetus behind my design. You may know that Don Juan or Don Giovanni as he is known in the opera world is a Spanish libertine. Don Giovanni, Mozart's most acclaimed opera, is set in Seville. So, I stained one of the doiles black to look like a mantilla. Then I added some bric-a-brac which reminded me of a wrought-iron Spanish balcony:

There's a famous balcony scene in Don Giovanni, which inspired my little bric-a-brac, which is supposed to be used for scrapbooking, I think.Then I added some eighth notes since there's tons of musical references in DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA.

It was great fun to do. Very cathartic. Months of stress melted away as I placed the elements on the prepared square and eventually stood back to admire my artistry. It I plan to do squares for each of my books and then display them at home or in my office.

So, that's the story of how DON JUAN became a square. You know what that means, don't you? Tom Jones is destined to become a square, too, which I'm certain legions of fans would say is inconceivable.



Six days left to show me your DON JUAN! 

Headed anywhere festive or frolicsome before August 31, 2012? Or do you already live in a lovely part of the world? That works, too.

Take your copy of my humorous backstage novel DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA along just for fun! You might win big bucks for a few minutes of thinking, arranging, and posing.

Shoot a digital photo of DON JUAN at your favorite vacation spot this summer. Post it on your Facebook page or as a Twitpic by August 31! Make sure to tag me, Gale Martin, so that I see your photo, or add @Gale_Martin if using Twitter, which I will then post on this page.

That's all you have to do to be registered to win a $100 gift card from!

Winner of DON JUAN GETS AROUND! will be announced September 1, 2012!

What should your photo look like? Take a look at some of these fantastic photos submitted by Barbara Bosha (Puerto Rico), Ann Lander (Stafford, England), and Linda Orlomoski (Salem, Massachusetts):

For more photos of DON AROUND TOWNS all over the world, really, click here.*

All photos submitted for DON JUAN GETS AROUND! will be added to this space after they appear on Facebook or Twitter. Don't have a Facebook or Twitter account and don't want one? Feel free to email them to me at But make sure you send it by August 31.

Where can I get a print copy, you might ask? From, Barnes & or at many independent booksellers. If you live in the United States, I'll gladly ship one to you. Email me for details.

*If you've already contributed a photo of DON JUAN appearing in an intriguing locale, you're already entered to win the gift card--per moi. Send another pic with DON, and you'll increase your chances with each new photo.


This Week's Top Ten Tickled About's - April 6

This week was a wonderful and memorable week (for the most part). almost blooming coral bells

Sidebar: I'll address the parts that were less than wonderful on my opera blog at

Anyhoo, for April 6, 2012, here are this week's Top Ten Tickled About's:

10. Seeing all my coral bells ready to burst into bloom.

9. Enjoying several days of bona fide, sunny spring weather. Clear skies, temps in the upper 50s, with more to come.

8. Having Good Friday and Easter Monday off.

7. A bunch of new, really favorable reviews of DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA (DJIHP) on Goodreads and Amazon from people I don't know.

6.  Learning about a new Online Pitchpaloosa competition from The Book Doctors, to which I can pitch my cozy mystery.

5. Enjoying the Earl Grey tea that's also warming my hands, with my cat Frodo lightly snoring beside me.

4. Learning there's a new bookstore opening in Lancaster--DogStar Books.

2. Receiving thrDon Juan in Puerto Rico, c. Barbara Boshaee photos of DJIHP from different parts of the world: South Korea, Paris, and Puerto Rico.

1. Learning that Booktrope Editions is publishing another of my novels, a funny and heartwarming piece of women's fiction called THE SHAKER PROPOSAL and meeting and talking with my new editor on the project.


Sample Sunday - Wiener dogs, hollow logs, and an evening séance

The famous Graveyard Scene from San Francisco Opera's 'Don Giovanni"Today's #Sample Sunday post is a favorite scene from my contemporary novel, DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA, taken from Chapter 22, "The Séance."  

I've read this scene aloud at several author events because it's fun to read and it quickly engages the crowd. In the opera Don Giovanni, which my novel is *loosely* adapted from, the graveyard scene is always a crowd-pleaser. Who doesn't love a singing headstone?

Here then are the story principals gathered in Henry's Grove, where Richard's wife is buried, to try to connect with her spirit.

(If you like today's scene and you have a Kindle, DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA is a free download today at, April 1, and tomorrow, April 2--no foolin'.)

Chapter 22
"The Séance

           “Are we allowed to do this? Have a séance in a graveyard?” Richard asked.

            He and Deanna and Arnaud stood under an oak tree, a few feet from Mary’s headstone. Suddenly, he felt very uncomfortable. Couldn’t they just as easily do this around his dining room table? “Now what?”

            “Let’s put the table on that tree stump there,” Arnaud said. “Just set it on top. No need to open the legs.”

            He and Richard rolled the table over to the stump and laid it on top. Arnaud repositioned the table, lining up its center until it was directly over the stump.

            “How long does the whole thing take?” Deanna asked Arnaud.

             “Not long. Mary is dying to come out,” he said, wincing at his poor choice of words.

            Richard glared at Arnaud over the top of his bifocals.

            “While we’re waiting for the others, everyone have a seat,” Arnaud said.

            Richard and Deanna looked quizzically at Arnaud.

            “Sit cross legged or on your knees—whatever.” Arnaud said. He tapped the center of the table. “Put your food there. Deanna, set out all the candles you have. The spirits love candles.”

            “I also have a few sticks of Dentyne,” Deanna said. “Should I dig those out?”

            “Absolutely,” Arnaud. “Who’s not up for a nice stick of gum? Especially if you’ve been dead for a while. Talk about morning breath.”

            Deanna tied the dogs to the tree, giving each a rub on the head or under the chin. “Be brave, my little babies.” She stiffened. “There’s someone coming,” she said, pointing toward the sound of rustling leaves, her hand shaking. “Is it the spirits—already?”

            “It’s Vivian, Oriane, and Knobby.” Richard cupped his hands over his mouth. “Over here!” he called.

            Knobby stopped in front of the table, surveying it. “This is interesting.”

            “It will be soon,” Arnaud said, clapping his hands. “Everyone take a seat.”

            Knobby took a quick intake of air. “Should we be doing this, folks?”

            “That’s what I want to know,” Richard added.

            “Too late,” Vivian said, sitting cross-legged by Richard. “We’re doing it.”

            “Do you really need me?" Knobby asked. "If it’s as Vivian explained, that Mary’s anxious to talk to Richard, couldn’t she just as easily talk to five people? Isn’t five a supernatural number? What about the pentagram? That’s a Wiccan symbol. I have designs to finish. I have to locate some vendors.”

            “What about The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew,” Oriane added. “Nothing occult in that story.” She turned to Deanna. “Have you read it? It’s the cutest book about the Pepper family. They live in a little brown house, and they call their mother ‘Mamsie’—”

            Arnaud clapped his hands together again—briskly, forcefully. “Know-bee, Oriane. Sit! Shut-up. We must have six people, Know-bee. And for the last time, Arnaud is not communicating with Wiccans! Arnaud is a spiritualist.”

            “What’s going to happen when Mary comes?” Oriane asked. “Should we look up? Look down? Is Mary going to fly by like a character in The Wizard of Oz?”

            Arnaud huffed. “No, darling. Arnaud is clairaudient. Mary will speak to Arnaud who will relay her thoughts to you. Everyone ready?”

            “I watched The Devil’s Daughter once. Don’t we have to sacrifice something?” Oriane asked.

            “How about one of the dogs?” Knobby said. “Three is about two dogs too many.”

            Deanna raised a well-shaped eyebrow. “Over my dead body.”

            Don’t tempt me, Richard thought. Dead bodies. Living sacrifices. Headstones hulking in the distance. A lead-in to an evening news story ran through his head: Has Rover disappeared recently? Maybe it’s because of the Hankey Opera Guild, a secret coven sacrificing your house pets in occult ceremonies in the city cemetery. That scary story, coming up, after this commercial break.

            Arnaud held out his hands on both sides of him. “Join hands. Now, say with Arnaud. Wait! One more thing. Keep the candles burning. You extinguish the light, you drive away the spirits. Okey-dokey? ‘Our beloved Mary.’” He noticed he was the only one speaking. “Okay, first time through, just say after Arnaud. Our beloved Mary.”

            “Our beloved Mary,” the rest of the guild said.

            Arnaud continued, “We bring you gifts from life into death…”

            Richard scratched the scruff on his face, realizing he’d forgotten to shave. Nerves probably. “A bacon cheeseburger’s not a proper gift.”

            “Shush!” Arnaud scolded. “It’s the sentiment that matters, not the gift.”

            Arnaud resumed the chant, talking over everyone. “We bring you gifts from life into death…”

            “We bring you gifts from life into death,” the others said.

            “Commune with us, Mary,” Arnaud said, adding, “and move among us.”

            They repeated the entire chant three times total, in unison.

            One of the dachshunds howled. Arnaud shuddered. “She’s here. She’s saying a lot of things in a rush.”

            Richard felt an unusually cool blast of air rush across his back. “Mary?’ he asked. “Mary, is that you?”

            “Richard,” Arnaud said but it didn’t sound like Arnaud. His back was ramrod straight, as if in a trance. “You monkey face,” he said in a cheesy falsetto. “What are you doing here?”

            Vivian leaned into Richard. “She’s talking through Arnaud. Answer her.”

            “She never once called me a monkey face,” Richard whispered back to Vivian. “It must be someone other than Mary coming through. Someone I don’t know. This whole thing is bogus.”

            Vivian made a face that said, You’re blowing it, buster.

             Richard cleared his throat. “We—we came to see you. To tell you we . . . miss you. I miss you.” He stopped and whispered in Vivian’s ear. “I can’t do this.”

            Vivian squeezed his hand. “Yes, you can.”

            “The hospital,” Arnaud said. “In the hospital, I never got to say goodbye, honey.”

            “Arnaud just called me honey,” he whispered to Vivian.

            “Not Arnaud. Mary. Answer her.”

            Is that why she was hanging around? Richard wanted to ask her that. Could he ask it? Richard began, “It’s okay, schnookums. I sensed that. That you missed saying goodbye.”

            “Oh, Don Juan. Beware Don Juan,” Arnaud said.

            “She means, ‘Don Giovanni,’” Deanna said.

            “Shhh,” Vivian said, scolding Deanna with her finger.

            “Don Juan. Don Juan is standing at the top of the mountain,” Mary said through Arnaud. “On one side of the mountain is a . . . a big pile of dollar bills. On the other . . . a chicken? I mean a turkey. A big, fat turkey. Keep Don Juan away from the turkey.”

            “Well, we already knew that,” Knobby said.

            “Why is Mary talking like she’s the Oracle at Delphi or something? Is that sort of thing normal, Vivian?”

            “Shhh!” Vivian scolded.

            “No chance of a turkey,” Knobby said. “Not with me at the helm. Never mounted a turkey yet.”

            Oriane elbowed him. “Vivian said, ‘Shhh!’”

            Richard sighed. “It may not be as simple as that.”

            Arnaud spread his arms out in front of them to silence the group. “You have to teach Don Juan. Teach him . . . teach him. Now, Richard, about the beautiful big blue-green pool. Put on your swimming trunks, and dive headfirst into the pool, the blue-green pool. Dive, man, dive,” Arnaud said, sounding like a trailer from Run Silent, Run Deep instead of a channeled spirit.

            Richard turned to Vivian. “Can you tell her I love her? That I miss her?”

            “Tell her. Say it to her,” Vivian urged.

            “I love you, honey-bunny. I miss you,” Richard said to Arnaud.

            “It’s time to let go,” Arnaud said. “Take that big dive in the beautiful blue pool. Oh, and one more thing. Stop with all your cursing. You don’t sound hip. You sound like an old fogey.”

            “That’s what I told him,” Deanna said.

            “Good girl,” Arnaud said. He shuddered and began blinking violently. “She is fading, fading . . .” Arnaud stiffened again, his voice returning to his normal register. His hair stood straight up. “Someone . . . someone is pushing, pushing Mary away. Someone is here for Vivian.”

            “Well, push back, dammit,” Richard said. “Don’t let her go.”

# # #