Several months ago, I got back the rights to my own book.

This book, Don’t Mean Nothing, is collection of short stories based on my time as an Army nurse in Viet Nam in 1969-1970.

The book is somewhat bloody, and full of dark humor. Its only bad review, from Kirkus, called it “M*A*S*H, with lots more sex and cursing.”

The book is not patriotic. It is about a war we lost. It came out in hard cover the month after the 9/11 attacks.

It was not a best-seller.

In the old days, one’s first book did not have to be a best-seller. Agents and editors figured the second might make it. Or even the third.

This is no longer true. Now, an author must succeed or die.

As must an editor.

On the same day that my fine editor announced he’d sold my paperback rights to UMass Press, he also told me he’d been “downsized” by Ballantine/Random House.

He became an agent. My book was published by UMass in 2004. It stayed in print until early this year.

I now have the rights, and a small press out of New Jersey, Serving House Books, just re-published it in paperback. They re-included two stories Ballantine and UMass had dropped. I carved and polished those two stories like diamonds-or maybe cubic zirconia-and I believe they improve the book.

I’m proud of my “new, expanded edition” of Don’t Mean Nothing.


There is one major problem with republishing a book through a small press: Marketing.

No matter how “expanded” the book is, it’s considered old. Nobody reviews old books. No bookstore stocks old books. And a small press doesn’t have money to flog it.

Thank heavens for on-line bookstores. The publishing house sends them information, and Hey, Presto: everything’s set to go.

Or not.


My new editor told me my “new, expanded” edition was up on

I put the title in Amazon’s search engine, and up it popped: the UMass Press edition, which has been there since 2004.

I searched diligently and found my new edition cowering in the site’s darkest corner. It was naked and alone; the page had no link to earlier editions, none of my old reviews.

I wrote to Amazon through their Author Central page and asked them to put the newest edition first in their search results. And please link this to the older editions. And add my old reviews to my new book’s page.

A tech wrote back to assure me they were on it.

A few days later, my new editor told me the page for Amazon’s Kindle edition of my new book was up.

I searched, and found it mewling in a deserted nursery. An orphan, linked to no one and nothing.

I wrote to Amazon and asked if they could link the Kindle edition to the new page.

A tech wrote back to assure me they were on it.

I got an unrelated note the next day from Amazon’s Author Central that told me they were discontinuing the blog on my Author page.

Author Central was set up a few years ago to help authors market their books. With a click, a reader could move from a book’s page to one that had the author’s bio, a picture, lists of other books if she had them, and a blog. Last year, they stopped archiving our blog entries, so readers could no longer find the earlier stuff. Three entries at a time on the page; add a new one, the oldest disappeared. Poof.

So I wasn’t really surprised when they discontinued our blogs altogether.

However, when I clicked on my name on my book page (the UMass Press page, the only one that appeared when I searched) I was surprised to find my entire author page gone. No bio; no picture.


I wrote to Amazon and asked, What the *!#%???

A tech wrote back to assure me they were on it.


And so, the dance.

One day, when I finally found my new page, I discovered my old reviews there.

I wrote to the techs that I was thrilled. Now, could they please put the new edition first in the search? Connect the older editions? The Kindle edition? Find my Author page?

A tech assured me he was on it.

The next day, I searched again. Omigod! It was the new edition. Omiomiomigod! There were links to my older editions.

I got a note from a tech assuring me my newest edition would be first forever and ever. He even included the ISBN number. I forwarded the note to my editor. You see? I crowed. I’ve solved half the problem!

My editor congratulated me. But, he said, the ISBN number was for UMass Press.

Uh oh.

I alerted the techs at Amazon to the erroneous number: Please do not put that edition first.

A tech assured me that the newest edition would be first. As for the Kindle link and the author page: they were on it.

Three days later, my new edition disappeared.

The dance accelerated, Andante to Presto. Frantic emails zinged through cyberspace. I got the same tech twice, three times. Have patience, she told me.

We’re on it.


A week passed: The UMass Press edition was still foremost. The “new, expanded” edition cowered in its corner, buried in pixel dust. The Kindle whined for Momma. I remained anonymous.

I begged my tech: I would send her homemade cookies. I would sing at her wedding. Just please, please make it all work.

She replied that my newest edition was the first listed.

I was pouring sarcasm into Author Central’s reply form when I noticed a button next to it that said: Click to call Amazon.

I clicked and dialed.


There is a goddess in eastern Washington State. She is tall and graceful and clad in a breastplate of silver. She wears a plumed helmet on her golden hair. She wields a sword encrusted with rubies and a shield of starlight. I pile her altar with roses. I light joss sticks and sing hymns to her name.

Michelle. That’s her name.

Michelle reached through the telephone that day and handed me a Magic Key. “Hmm,” she said. “Have you noticed the publication date on your new edition’s page is wrong? It says 2001.”

Holy *!@$! My “newest edition” was first. Sort of.

Michelle said she would command the technical department to change the date, to put that edition forward, to link the Kindle edition, and to find my Author page.

One day later, all was accomplished. All except the date correction. But Michelle assures me she’s on it.


High on my success, I searched my title at

My UMass Press edition came up.

I found the “new, expanded” edition in the laundry room. It was clad in a tattered 2001 publication date, unlinked and unreviewed.

I swear the picture on the cover stuck out its tongue at me.