How I Got Published: Thelma Mariano


Thelma Mariano began writing fiction in the confessions field, where she sold over 40 stories to women’s magazines (such as True Story, True Confessions and True Experience) put out by NYC publishers in the days of mass readership.

She also freelance edited at the corporate level of a major multinational and published dozens of articles in the self-development field, primarily on the Web. For ten years, she worked as a life coach and motivational speaker to help people overcome limiting beliefs and go after their dreams.

Fiction, though, is what makes her heart sing, both as editor and author.

She recently launched a website to offer her services as a Freelance Editor for writers of women’s contemporary fiction. She enjoys working with other writers to help them strengthen and improve their characterization, fix plot holes, and increase story tension. She values what wants to be expressed, whether working with another author or writing her own novels.


For Night Cries, I was offered representation by First Books, Inc., a Chicago-based literary agency, in 1994. They said they could sell it as “women’s mainstream” in the mass market but asked me to cut out two of my subplots and reduce the point-of-view characters from 4 to 2. At the time, I balked at the changes and put the book on the back burner. Twenty-three years later, I looked at the novel with fresh eyes and saw they were right! By then, the publishing world had gone through a sea change and self-publishing was a viable option. So I made the necessary revisions and put my novel in the marketplace.

For my second novel, ConneXions, I was represented by reputable literary agents in London as well as NYC. They told me that publishers wanted a focus on “the hunt for the serial killer” but I preferred to tell the story from the viewpoint of the potential victims he targeted.

It hasn’t been out on Amazon that long but has been selected as a Reader’s Favorite and given an excellent editorial review.

My third novel, SeaStruck, is a paranormal romance (mermaid story) that first came to me in a dream.

For many years, I sold my copyright to publishing companies who bought my stories and published them without a byline, because that was “the deal” in the confessions market. With self-publishing, I feel I am taking my power back by maintaining control over my own material.  I decide on the covers and the content and keep my work on the market as long as I wish.

You can visit Thelma here and here.

38 thoughts on “How I Got Published: Thelma Mariano

  1. Such an interesting publishing story/history. I understand about seeing more clearly much later–with a fresh eye. But how did the story hold up over that much time? Did you have to change much to update it or did you date it “back in the day”? Excellent that your second was selected as a Reader’s Favorite!!!! Yay!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Luanne.These were complete rewrites for Night Cries and ConneXions. Most of the characters remained the same but I modernized everything, and like you wrote, “seeing it with fresh eyes” helped me to make some improvements. It’s amazing how a little distance helps us to see our writing in a clearer way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It must have been such a cool experience to get that much distance from your “rough drafts” and be able to view them with more objectivity. That sounds fun, really.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Luanne, the objectivity really helped, and most of it WAS fun, even if grueling at times. Which proves that if you have a work-in-progress that isn’t going anywhere, you can always come back to it at a later point and pick up the thread. Some projects just “die” but others can be re-worked to take on new life.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree. I rescued a couple of old stories and reworked them and published them in lit magazines. But if I don’t move forward with my memoir it’s going to be an old story that has to be rewritten haha.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Always interesting to read about other authors’ publishing experiences, especially when they’ve traded traditional publication for the independent route. Having full control of your work must certainly have its perks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Carol, thank you so much for this introduction to Thelma! 😀😏 Congratulations on the publication of your books – it’s interesting the different routes you’ve taken. I like how you came back to your first book after two decades to make the changes suggested! I see another blogger has also asked if it had dated much and did you have to change the story too? Wow! Congratulations on being specially featured on Amazon. Did you still stay with the agents in spite of the varying opinions of POV? It sounds a gripping read! Oh, I love the sound of your final book, inspired by a dream! I reckon quite a few books come to fruition through the subconscious. The covers of all your books are superb btw!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comments, Annika. What spurred me to come back to my novels was starting to work as an editor. I felt I needed to “walk the talk” and revise my own work, even if it was two decades old. No, I am not currently agented. SeaStruck is my most cherished book and also my most recent, but they all contain strong elements of drama. Thanks for the compliments on my covers – courtesy of Rae Monet, Inc.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Good experiences–thanks for sharing this. There are lots of positives to working with agents but I’m with you. For me, self-pub does what I need. I like the control and I can hire experts in the important areas.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carol, I want to thank you for showcasing my work in this post. What I want to also say to everyone here is: don’t give up on your dreams. If one door closes, another may open farther down the road. Write from your heart and give it your best, and you will have the satisfaction of having done it. I also believe that when we live and breathe our characters & stories and then release our work into the world, they exist energetically as well as physically. The value you give to your writing will help it to be valued by readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: How I Got Published–Thelma Mariano–Carol Balawyder: | By the Mighty Mumford

  7. Wonderful to read about Thelma “taking back her power”! I felt much the same with my second book being self-published as I got to have control over the book’s title, cover, etc. etc. Great feature here, Carol.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Carol, I liked your last post and never figured out if you had comments somewhere for Judy Penz Sheluk. I really enjoyed your summaries!

    Thelma is a really experienced writer and it takes talent to write quick reads in magazines! I actually tried, as did my Mom a high school teacher, writing True Confessions stories. 😊

    🙂 I like the sound of the three books, Thelma! Your first book would be poignant, “Night Cries.” The second, “Connexions,” sounds fascinating and current with dating services. Your dream fantasy book with a mermaid’s true love sounds lovely in “Sea Struck.” Good luck with all three and thanks for your summary of how the self publishing business is working out for you. 💐 🌺

    Liked by 1 person

    • Reocochran, thanks for your feedback on my novels. It’s true that writing short stories is often more difficult than writing in a longer form – it’s like everything has to be stripped down and then perfectly fitted to work. Good luck with your own writing!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh, Thelma, this was so kind of you to write me a response. Thank you!
        I admire how you have unique details in your stories, creating intrigue and interest. 💐
        I actually am a blogger who likes illustrating and making pictures for children. I usually paint “baby name pictures” as gifts but have also drawn pen and ink pictures of historical homes. Writing is something I do to stay in touch with other people, as well as keeping my mind active. Smiles, Robin

        Liked by 1 person

      • I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my comment, Thelma. I think that writing short stories does require encapsulating quite a lot in a small amount of words. It takes creative thinking and incorporating unique details and creating intrigue as Carol mentioned you do! 💐
        I am on WordPress mainly to have fun, create connections, and one day possibly choose to work on a long ago, adult mystery or one of my four (unpublished) children’s books.
        There are so many great people here to keep my mind active as I have a physical job. Smiles, Robin

        Liked by 1 person

      • Reocochran … I just saw both your posts of today’s date. Four unpublished children’s books? I am sure you will one day go back to your dream of getting them out there, probably with your own illustrations. Meanwhile, all the things you do (including the gift items) are keeping your creative juices flowing. It’s all good!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Many thanks to you both, Carol and Thelma. I really enjoyed hearing Thelma’s process, and how many aspects morphed along the way. Also appreciated Thelma’s uplifting comment about not giving up. Great post and much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jet, thanks for your comment & good luck with your mystery novels. I think when we truly love the process of writing stories, “giving up” is not an option.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. This is fascinating! I definitely prefer the control I have with self-publishing. I also prefer to listen to my Beta readers in what they like in a book I’m working on, and what doesn’t work. I’m less likely to make changes that a young underling in a publishing house suggests- and I definitely don’t want to write a book because the publishing house wants more “child kidnapping” or “more vampires,” etc. Thanks for this great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Roughwighting, the point you made about traditional publishing houses is something I have always rallied against. I cannot “force” myself to write another novel in a series if it’s not what I want to do – life’s too short and I’m not a fast writer. If we let the market dictate what we do, we end up writing dead fiction. (But for those who ENJOY writing series novels, it’s the way to go! They are certainly easier to sell.)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, you understand (and agree) exactly with how I feel about our writing. If we believe in our fiction, if we share it with ‘beta’ readers and get good reviews, GO FOR IT. My self-published books have reached so many readers who, if I’d waited, would probably still be waiting. I love having control over MY OWN CREATIVITY. Go for it!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Thelma, congratulations on your publishing achievements. Your reasons for self publishing mirror the very reasons I self publish. Control! It feels good after having endured the non-negotiable demands of a large NYC publisher. No wonder Janet Jackson smiles when she sings “Control!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ann. “Non-negotiable demands” really sums it up. I heard a few horror stories about publishing contracts where they keep digital and other rights, too. We really need to pay attention to the fine print. Self-publishing may come with its own demands but we get to decide how we want to do it. Best of luck with your writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hey,

    As posts get lost in stampede on WordPress, I am building my email list to inform my readers about important updates relates to my book(s).

    I don’t plan to do hard-core email marketing and spam your mailbox and will only be emailing you about availability and promotions that would be 3 to 4 times a year, max. Promise!
    Would you like me to add your e-mail address please?

    Thanks 🙂


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