Musings on the Writing Life

On See Jane Publish: A Reject’s Lessons Learned

rejectionThe Janes are discussing rejections all this month and today it’s my turn. Head on over to See Jane Publish to participate in the discussion of how to learn to live with rejections and what constitutes a good rejection.

In the writing world, rejections are so common that Dictionary.com uses “The publisher rejected the author’s latest novel.” as an example for how to properly use “reject” in a sentence. In other words, if you want to be a writer, you have to learn to handle—or at least live with—rejections.

It took me a long time. I wanted people, specifically people in the publishing world, to love my stories and characters as much as I did. They didn’t.

The thing is, I’m stubborn, but for the most part open minded. I will keep banging my head against the wall, but I’ll also listen to anyone suggesting a better location on which to smack my forehead, or a better method of walloping my head against hard objects.

I finally sold my first book just last month. This particular book was rejected forty-seven (47!) times by editor and agents. I had fifteen full requests that ultimately ended in rejection.

It is the third book I’ve finished, and queried the heck out of those two other books as well. So yes, I’m familiar with rejection. I also know that there are good rejections, the kind that teach you something new, or give you invaluable advice on how to better position your book in the market.

On Bark: “Make Me Beautiful”

I’m hanging out on Bark today, discussing Esther Honig’s amazing social experiment “Before and After.” She sent a picture of herself without makeup and with her hair pulled back to graphic designers all over the world with the simple request: “make me beautiful.”

The images she received in return are astonishing and allowed her to examine how beauty standards varies across cultures and countries. Here’s an example from Germany, to the right of the original picture:

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Photo: Esther Honig

Some of the pictures are so radically altered, you can’t recognize Honig in them anymore. Hop on over to Bark and join the conversationWould you consider yourself more beautiful if you had a different eye color? Different shaped face? How much of your appearance could be altered before you would no longer recognize yourself in the image?

 

Free Book Day: Sail the High Seas with Shana Galen and The Rogue Pirate’s Bride

rogue-pirate-200It’s been a while since the last one, so it’s about time for another Free Book Day!

I’m still on an adrenaline high after selling my first books to Sourcebooks. It’s such an incredible honor to work with a company who publishes some of my favorite writers. Among them is Shana Galen and to celebrate my new contract, I’m giving away a signed copy of her The Rogue Pirate’s Bride. Here’s the blurb from Ms. Galen’s website:

The Marquis de Valère escaped certain death in the French Revolution and is now an infamous privateer. Out to avenge the death of his mentor, Bastien discovers himself astonishingly out of his depth when confronted with a beautiful, daring young woman who is out for his blood…

Forgiveness is unthinkable, but it may be her only hope…

British Admiral’s daughter Raeven Russell believes Bastien responsible for her fiancé’s death. But once the fiery beauty crosses swords with Bastien, she’s not so sure she really wants him to change his wicked ways…

Can’t you just see the sexy swashbuckling about to happen between these two?!

I love pirate books, but am always disappointed when the hero sets out on high seas adventures while the heroine stays on shore, waiting for him to get back—or worse, rescue her. Not so in Shana Galen’s novel. Raeven Russell is quite capable of, and very determined to, fight her own battles, using swords if she has to.  The Rogue Pirate’s Bride reminds me of a comic series I read in my pre-teens.

From 1967 to 1972, Jerry and Halle Skelly wrote and illustrated the marvelous comic strip Captain Kate. The strip was expanded to full comic book adventures and syndicated to Sweden a decade after it ended in the US. I devoured Kate’s adventures and imagined myself high in the look-out of her trading ship, the Wind Song. Kate was not a simpering heroine waiting to be rescued—like the pirate romance novels of that time—she clashed swords with pirates, outwitted misogynistic bullies, and fought slavery, while sailing the seven seas with her loyal crew. Her love interest, US Navy Captain Nathan Royal, loved Kate for her beauty, brains, and fighting skills.

I loved Kate for showing me that a girl could be strong and capable and go on her own adventures.

CaptainKateSmallStrip

The Rogue Pirate’s Bride brings me back to how much I enjoyed pirate adventures as a girl. The novel delivers high stake adventures, a sassy heroine, and steamy romance. What else could you possibly want in a book? Oh yeah, pirates. Well, it has that too. :-)

Growing up, which were your favorite adventure tales? Answer in the comments below and I’ll draw one lucky winner on Friday July 11th at 5 pm PST.

Getting a Yes after 47 Noes

SnoopyHappyDanceNo matter what Jim Hanas says about writers being caught up in the lottery of “rejection porn,” I love reading about successful writers who made it after a gazillion rejections. I’m a sucker for lists that tells me how many times authors like J.K. Rowling, Louis L’Amour, Dan Brown, and C.S. Lewis were rejected.

Why? Because knowing others found success after rejections is what kept me submitting my manuscript even though I gained a total of forty-seven rejections. Fifteen of those were on full requests. And, to make things worse, it wasn’t the first book I queried and pitched. I had two other books out there gaining noes. But I kept going.

I persevered because as I went from form letters to personalized to editorial suggestions rejections, I measured each little step in that chain as progress. And because I once heard a professional writer say that the only friends of hers who didn’t publish after receiving their first partial manuscript request were the ones who stopped writing and editing and stopped querying.

I kept going, but I also kept revising based on the feedback I received from editor and agents. Maybe I queried too early on the manuscript, but I figured it was submission ready after it placed second in the On The Far Side contest and the editor judge said she didn’t request it only because her pet peeve were stories that mixed sci fi with mythology. So, I figured all I had to do was find an agent and editor who didn’t mind a mix of those two elements.

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And I did–two years later. Here’s my crazy journey from query to signed contract:

-I finished the book as part of Cherry Adair‘s Finish the Damned Book (FTDB) challenge in late 2012 and received favorable comments from the editor who read my first three chapters. This is also the year I was a finalist in the On The Far Side. After numerous rejections, I did a major overhaul of the manuscript in early 2013, sent the book to the Golden Heart contest and continued pitching and querying–and receiving rejections.

-October 2013, I pitched to agent Sarah E. Younger at the Emerald City Writing Conference. She requested the full manuscript and rejected me about a month later through a very nice note that encouraged me to query her on any future projects.

-Early December 2013, I submitted to Sourcebooks through their general submission system, a confirmation message said I should hear back within 8 weeks.

-Sixteen more rejections happened, six of which were full requests.

-March 20, 2014, Cat Clyne of Sourcebooks emails me. She loved the manuscript but thinks it needs a lot of work. Her email includes some editorial suggestions and an invitation to resubmit. She also wants to see an elevator pitch for the series as a whole, short blurbs for the first three books, and a synopsis of book 2.

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-March 26, I the call letting me know VALHALLA’S KING was Golden Heart finalists. Yay! One of the congratulatory emails I receive is from Cat, who says “it’s well deserved.”

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-First weekend of April, I attend the Desert Rose conference in Arizona. Sarah is one of the agents attending. She too congratulates me on the GH and asks if I’ve done any revisions to the manuscript. I explain I’m revising for Cat, and she asks me to send it to her again, plus a romantic suspense project that finaled in the conference contest. I also pitch to two other agents and two editors.

-Through the month of April, I touch base with agents who are currently reading the manuscript to let them know about the GH nomination and interest from a publisher. I also query some more agents. All of this result in 5 more rejections.

TinaFey

-Late April, I see a submission call from another publishing company asking for manuscripts related to fairy tales and/or mythology. I send them VALHALLA’S KING.

-Mid May, I finish the revisions for Cat and send the manuscript, plus blurbs and synopsis of second book.

-May 21, An email from an editor at the other publishing company arrives. She loves the manuscript, but would like some minor changes to the story line. I complete those and send her a rewrite a week later.

-June 2, The other publishing company offers me a three book contract. I happy dance for a while, then panic and call a published friend to see what to do next. She says to email Sourcebooks and any agents reading the manuscript. I ask the other publishing company for some time and do exactly what my friend tells me. Sourcebooks asks for a week to finish reading and take the project to an acquisitions meeting.

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-June 4 – 9, I chat with agents on the phone and end up with three offers of representation. A completely surreal experience.

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-June 10, I sign with Sarah and am super happy.

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-June 12, I’m on vacation in Washington DC and outside the Museum of Natural History when I receive a call from Cat Clyne at Sourcebooks offering me a three book deal. After we hang up, I email Sarah immediately. She asks me to call her and I talk to her in the shadow of the Washington Monument. (DC has a very special place in my heart now.)

-June 13, Sarah and I talk over which publisher would be the best fit for a debut author building her career. We lean mostly toward Sourcebooks, but it’s a hard choice because the other publisher is awesome and everyone I talk to loves the editor. In the end, a print deal with an advance wins over an e-book only deal.

-June 13 – 23, Sarah and Cat negotiate until they’re both happy with the terms. I mostly happy dance and annoy my husband with tons of questions he doesn’t know how to answer. I’m on the verge of exploding from not being able to talk about what’s going on.

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-June 19, Sarah finally gives me permission to announce that I have signed with her.

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-June 24, Sarah and Cat says it’s time to announce the deal. And a day full of celebrations begins!

JackKarenHappyDance

My persistence in submitting VALHALLA’S KING in a market where paranormal romance became a super hard sale is a sign of either perseverance or craziness, but I did write another book during these two years and I sincerely hope it will be a much easier sell. :-)

I Get By With A Lot Of Help From My Friends

gh2014One of the things that continuously amazes me about the romance writing community is the support and encouragement the writers give other writers. Meganame bestselling authors take the time to mentor wanna-be-newbies. Peers congratulate the competition when they receive an award or win a contest. This is not what I experience when I go to non-romance writing conferences. Sure, I see established writers encourage new writers there too, but the ego-less, unselfish, genuine support romance writers give each other is unique.

I couldn’t write without the help I receive from friends and family. And it would be a drudgery, uphill, bleak journey without the many writer friends I have made along the way. Since the Golden Heart nominations were announced, that writer-to-writer support has poured my way through a magnificent flood with a humongous current.
One example of this is the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood hosting me on their blog earlier this week. The Rubies are the Golden Heart Class of 2009 and their blog is a treasure of writing advice and resources. Through the years, they’ve built up a large following and I have been a subscriber to the blog for a while. Many of its members are my favorite authors. It was such an honor to be featured on the blog. The interview focused on the amazing support group who buoys me through the writing rejections and accolades.

The most inspiring parts of the interview were the comments from other writers about what has inspired, encouraged, and supported them through their journey. Check it out at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood and become a subscriber of the blog, it is well worth it.

Profiled on Jillian Lark’s Blog with Fellow Paranormal and Romantic Suspense 2014 Golden Heart Finalists

gnlclbjqThe Romance Writers of America sponsors two incredibly prestigious writing awards: the RITA® for published writers and the Golden Heart® for unpublished writers. This year I was one of the lucky finalists who got “the call,” letting me know that my VALHALLA’S KING manuscript was a finalist in the paranormal category of the Golden Heart.

Around 1,200 romance manuscripts are entered in the Golden Heart each year. The project has to be completed and longer than 20 000 words. The preliminary judging is done by RWA members and those entries who earn a 90% or more advance to the final round. Five acquiring editors from romance publishing houses judge the final round and your highest and lowest score is thrown out. Anyone averaging 90% or above on their 3 middle scores are named finalists. The winner is announced at the RITA and Golden Heart award ceremony at the RWA National Conference.

There are no words to describe how honored I am to be one of the 2014 finalists. To be recognized this way by my peers and publishing professionals is such a huge validation of my writing. And when I look at the other nominees, I feel even prouder of my and their accomplishments. You can read what being a Golden Heart finalist means to the participants in the paranormal and romantic suspense categories today on Jillian Lark’s (2014 historical finalist) blog and also check out the blurbs for our books.

The Golden Heart class of 2014 is an amazing group of writers. The support I have received from them and finalists from the previous year has been beyond expectations. I am so proud to be one of them.

Cognative Surplus: How LOLcats will Save the World

lolcat

(x-posted on Bark)

Back in the late 90s, I worked in a software company that hired  full development teams to other technology companies. We provided expertise that our clients might not have in-house, which meant we usually worked with new technology on cutting-edge projects. When the internet opened up to e-commerce, the company signed up new clients at record speed. One of the marketing managers explained to my coworker Angela and me that the internet was finally useful now that people could use the web to make a profit. After that meeting, Angela created a secret slogan that we would sometimes whisper to each other while working on projects that had no purpose other than making crazy amounts of money: “Use the internet for good, not for evil.”

This weekend, I listened to author, professor, and social media guru Clay Shirky on the TED Radio Hour. The program focused on collaboration and Shirky talked about a concept he’s coined “cognative surplus.” According to his estimates, the world has over a trillion of hours of free time to commit to shared projects. Some of that time we—the people of the world—use to do things like watch TV or create memes that we share on the internet. But even if you use your time to create LOLcats instead of inventing cool apps to do crisis mapping (one of Shirky’s examples is the creation of Ushahidi, the software that election information after the disputed 2007 Kenyan presidential race), you should still feel like you’re contributing to the good of the world:

“The stupidest creative act is still a creative act….The gap is between doing anything and doing nothing.”

The talk is well worth the 13 minutes it takes to watch. I especially find Shirky comparing our relationship with media and technology during the 1900s to the 2000s inspiring. The last century taught us how to consume. We’re still excellent consumers, but with new media tools like the internet and mobile phones we also show that we like to create. And share. And collaborate.

According to Shirky—and I really want to believe him on this—human motivation, new tools of collaboration, and our cognative surplus allow us to do “truly incredible experiments in scientific, literary, artistic, political efforts.”

In this new century, we’re finally using the internet mostly “for good, not for evil.” Angela and I are very happy.

On See Jane Publish Today: Sail Like a Viking

The Janes picked research as our theme for the month of May and today it’s my turn on the blog. Hope on over to See Jane Publish and read about my visit to the amazing Viking Museum in Roskilde, Denmark during last summer. The museum houses five original Viking ships from the 11th century. These ships were used in a blockade in a sea channel close to Skuldelev, which is 20 km north of Roskilde (the capital of Denmark during the Viking age). During the scrimmage, the ships were purposely sunk and not excavated until 1962, when they’d disintegrated into thousands of pieces. Each timber fragment had to be conserved and then painstakingly puzzled together to recreate the vessels. Each ship is a different type and together they give a unique insight into Viking shipbuilding techniques and skills.

Sail Like a Viking

One of the best things about being a writer is that when your friends worry about your obsessions, you can explain that it’s really just research for your current book.

Working on my 2014 Golden Heart finalists VALHALLA’S KING, I immersed myself in Norse mythology and revisited all the favorite stories and history lessons I learned while growing up in Sweden.

The book is the first in a series about Vikings and Valkyries sworn to protect humanity from Ragnarök, the final battle of the Norse gods that leads to the end of the worlds, for both gods and humans. Here’s a short blurb:

Hiding from black ops agents, cyber-security expert Naya works on the shady side of the law to finance a cure for her dying brother. When she inadvertently saves the life of immortal Viking king Leif and triggers an ancient Norse handfasting bond, she enters a world of primeval forces locked in battle for an eternity. To save her brother, she must risk her heart and trust the king in order to defeat their common enemy and prevent the end of the worlds—for both gods and humans. 

Read full post on See Jane Publish.

 

 

Learning the Deep Yes

Last week, I was on Bark talking about how I had to learn to say no to others in order to say yes to myself, and to writing. My friend Sarah set me on the right path when she sent me Justine Musk‘s list of 25 Badass Ways to Say No.

People have contributed wonderful comments, obviously I wasn’t the only creative person struggling with making time for my art without feeling guilty. The conversation is still going on. If you’d like to join us, head on over to Bark, or comment below and it will be like we’re talking about the same thing in two parallel universes. :-)

Justine’s blog is a marvel of inspiration and insights. She also did a TED Talk recently that is more than worth the fifteen minutes it takes to watch it. Enjoy!

A Brave New World: Finding Your Path to Publication in Today’s Market

GetLitTree

April is my favorite time of year in Spokane. Not just because spring arrives, but because it’s time for Get Lit! During this amazing literary festival, authors and readers worship the written word. The festival began in 1998 as one full day of readings and was sponsored by Eastern Washington University. Now, more than ten thousand people come to the yearly event to enjoy a week of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction literary events.

I’ve been a festival volunteer every year, since I moved to Spokane. This year, I’m moderating a panel featuring three amazing authors: Rebecca Zanetti, Danica Winters, and Shoshanna Evers. If you are going to be in the Spokane area this Saturday, join us for:

A Brave New World: Finding Your Path to Publication in Today’s Market. 

Never before have authors had as many options to get their prose into the hands of readers as they do in today’s market. But how do you know which publishing model is right for you and your writing? Join authors Rebecca Zanetti, Danica Winters, and Shoshanna Evers for a frank and honest discussion of the benefits and disadvantages of current publishing options. Together, these three successful and multi-published writers bring expertise on just about every path to publication you can imagine, including small presses, digital firsts, traditional big 5 houses, self-publishing, and hybrid models. Bring your questions! Moderated by Åsa Maria Bradley.

Time: 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Venue: Spokane Convention Center
Room: 205

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