Saturday, July 28, 2007
The agent did get back to me the next day with a very polite, sorry (praised writing here) but I didn't feel the connection I needed to take you on as a client. She offered suggestions and I moved on to the rest of the agents who either had my work pending or who had given me very helpful rejection letters.
By the end of the day, I'd heard from one of them, who had given me an "oooh, this was a tough decision, but I have to pass" letter. We emailed back and forth, and she offered to do a few things for me whether or not I was her client.
After a few more email exchanges, I opted to sign. One of the major contributing factors to my decision was the way she deals with people who are submitting to her. Normally, you send something off and wait. And wait. If agents post response times at all, often they are vague, or they're not met. It's the way of the business, like it or not (and I don't) but I can understand the priorities they have to set. Prospective clients aren't making them a dime, so they're going to be dealing with their authors first.
However, this agent gave precise response times, and the steps to follow if they weren't met. She promised a 48 hour confirmation of receipt of a submission, which she did. At that point, she promised a specific turnaround on reading a requested partial, including the actual date one could expect a decision. When the date came and passed, I wasn't surprised, but when I got an apology email the next day with an explanation for the delay, I was. Very. And within 48 hours, I had her answer, including a line edit of the chapter I'd given her, and a grammar guide with the most common 'mistakes' and the things she looks for when she's reviewing the technical aspects of the writing.
She's also got a quirky sense of humor, which might seem off-putting to some, but it matches my personality perfectly. As a matter of fact, I sent her a snappy reply to one of her emails last night, and she responded with, "Ha, finally, a client worth my wit..."
So, I can now say those two words I've been wanting to say for so long: MY AGENT.
How did it make me feel, to make the commitment and sign those papers? Honestly, not the way I'd expected. There was little happy dancing, probably because this was kind of a back-door entry. But what I did feel was an amazing sense of relief that someone else would now be in charge of the 'hard" stuff. I have someone who will speak for me and who knows the language and correct behavior. And a call or email from her has a lot more clout than one from me.
I cranked out over 1000 words yesterday evening, and they flowed. (Of course, I have to read them again this morning to see how many are keepers).
Friday, July 27, 2007
What I'm writing: Chapter 4 -- or is it 3? No hard and fast lines yet.
I've spent much of this week making career decisions. For someone who has trouble deciding what to eat for breakfast (and often skips it as a result), this has been a challenging last few days.
Several months ago, I found myself in the classic elevator pitch, although I had no clue I was pitching. I was at a mystery writer's conference, and the icebreaker to open conversations while waiting for elevator, or at the bar, or anywhere was, "what do you write?" I think I'd said something about just having come from an agent appointment, mentioning I was a little out of my element since my works were technically romance, but that I was enjoying learning more about the mystery side of things. Now, at a romance conference, I'd have suspected any male was likely to be in the agent/editor category, but half the attendees at the mystery conference were men.
When he responded with the typical question, I told him I wrote romantic suspense. He asked me for a few details, and as the elevators were very slow in coming, I gave him the "it's a Pollyanna Meets Delta Force kind of novel. He asked for little more, and when the elevator arrived, he handed me his card and told me to look for him in the agent appointment room the next day.
I did. He gave me the publisher's flyer on their romance line and we chatted for a couple of minutes between his appointments. He told me to send him the full manuscript. I hadn't even considered pitching to his house, since I'd already decided what I needed was an agent who would know where my work belonged.
But, because he'd asked, and because he wanted it electronically, I did send it after I got home, figuring that would be that. When I went to RWA, I was still pitching that novel, and had another request for the full based on my pitch appointment.
So…fast forward to Tuesday morning, after a Monday from hell changing web hosting, email, and dealing with our normal internet outages, when I see an email from elevator publisher offering a contract on my book. But it's written in legalese, so I decide I need to find an agent.
Having an offer on the table isn't a guarantee of representation. At least not an offer with a small advance. My first call was to the agent who had requested a partial at RWA. She was very nice, and offered to move my pages to the top of her pile and get to them that day...
to be continued.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
What I'm writing: Chapter 4
On Monday, our dependence on technology, notable the internet was brought to the top of my awareness list. Yes, I know I spend hours at the computer both for my 'day job' and my writing, and I keep in touch with family and friends, as well as shop, research, and ... see what I mean. So, when I decided that it was time to change my internet web-hosting service, I was a bit apprehensive. It wasn't broken, but there were more features using another host.
Murphy's Law seemed to reign. There was a delay in getting the domain name switched to the new provider, so my site was down. Eventually, I got my email switched and the domain name was activated. Then, there was the elusive phone number for the 24 hour help desk, which ended up being a 12 step telephone tree. Once I reached a tech (in India is my guess), he was the one who had to look up every answer in his manual and proceed to read the answer to my questions.
Of course this was also the day that our overall internet service was up and down, which didn't make things any easier.
I have MOST of my site working. The basic framework is under my son's care, and if I understand things correctly, I must have an older version of the home page on my computer, because I've lost some images. If you're visiting the site, please be patient. It'll get fixed.
On a totally different note, I've signed up for Google Alerts, and today I discovered that What's in a Name? and Finding Sarah are listed as "hot new reads" on Amazon.ca. Now, the books don't even have their cover images up yet, but they're number 39 and 40, and there are some "big names" lower on the list. What a kick!
Saturday, July 21, 2007
What I'm reading – Books from RWA. The Secret Passion of Simon Blackwell, by Samantha James
What I'm writing – cover blurb copy for my new short story, Hurricane Breeze.
After almost a full week home, I think I've returned to my routine, not that I really have one. I've decided I need to work on my organizational skills, especially after someone in a writing chapter dragged out a 2004 article Roxanne St Claire wrote on staying organized. Remind me never to invite her to see my environmental chaos. However, I've found that when I look at everything that had to be done after returning from Dallas, I was overwhelmed at where to start.
I remembered a method I used when my kids were small. Three of them sharing one bedroom full of toys from doting grandparents meant the mess appeared overwhelming. I used to write numbers on slips of paper, and they'd each draw a slip and put away that many toys, or articles of clothing. The first time we tried it, I was amazed that they kept wanting to draw another slip. Well, I don't need slips of paper, but dealing with things instead of tasks seems to work for me. It wouldn't work for Rocki, I'm sure, because you can't really cross anything off you list, and it might take a little longer to get everything done, but I'm all for the less-stress.
So, rather than even attempt I deal with one thing at a time. So, if I wandered through the den, I'd pick up an item or two from the pile of clothes I'd dumped out of my suitcase and deal with them. Then maybe I'd take some papers from my desk and deal with them. Fold the sheets. Put away the shoes (there are always shoes). One thing at a time. I always have time to do one thing.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
What I'm writing: Not much -- back to Book 6
Saturday was another busy one--workshops, where Susan Elizabeth Phillips shared six magic words for creating a best-seller. Keep The Reader in the Story. Of course, she had lots of advice on how to do it, but it helps explain why there are so many books out there that seem to break the "rules" we're told about. Readers (myself included) will forgive a lot if they want to know what happens next. Of course, she also points out that you should leave out the boring parts.
Alesia Holiday shared tips for dealing with sub plots, and I went away with an understanding of how all the sub plots have to be balanced, what weight to give each, and how to make sure you're not overdoing a sub plot in favor of your main story.
Virginia Kantra's workshop dealt with developing the romance, and she included a lot of basic biological foundations as well as giving guidelines for the way attraction develops, beginning with the physical awareness, through emotional conflicts and making sure we write the scenes that develop emotional intensity. I'm pleased to know that all the eating scenes in my book fit right in.
Lisa Jackson was keynote speaker at the luncheon, and I had virtually the same steamed vegetables as Thursday. The hotel loses points again. I was probably brain dead by this point, because I have no recollection of Lisa's speech. If it comes to me, I'll post it. Or someone will read this and comment, with every right to hit me upside the head. I do remember it was fast-moving and interesting, but for the life of me, I can't pull any quotes from my tired brain.
I actually left the hotel for dinner with one of my critique partners and her roommate, then changed for the Golden Heart/Rita ceremony.
I was delighted that Roxanne St Claire won the Rita (double nominee, even) for her novella, and there were a lot of Floridians represented in the ceremony. Congrats to all the nominees and winners.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I went to a workshop on turning points given by Robin Perini and felt gratified to discover I kind of understood what she was talking about, and covered these points when I wrote, but since I'm not a plotter, they kind of appear by instinct. At least my instincts seem to be working correctly.
Following Robin's plotting-based approach, I went to hear Allison Brennan's "No Plotters Allowed" workshop. She addressed how to deal with those moments when you're not sure where your story is going without having to plot the whole thing out in advance. Some hints include what is probably something I should take to heart: "If the scene doesn't come to you, it doesn't need to be written."
There's no right or wrong, because there are massively successful authors on both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between. Allison does very much the same thing Robin does, but AFTER the scenes are written.
I had to duck out of the chat with Suzanne Brockmann because of my editor appointment. Aside from the fact that the room was kept at meat-locker temperatures, the experience was very well orchestrated. We were herded through the room like so many sheep, delivered to our appointment desks, and had precisely ten minutes to pitch.
I relied on my notes, which were nothing more than my standard query letter. At least I memorized my opener for my Pollyanna meets Delta Force novel: "When someone asks single mother Frankie Castor to clear a room, she'll smile and find a vacuum cleaner. Ryan Harper uses a gun. Can they work together when their lives depend on it?"
I will admit, being able to introduce yourself with, "I have three novels and five short stories published" is a great way to feel more at ease.
After I half-read, half-recited the rest of my query, the editor smiled and said, "ok, send it to me," gave me his card, shook my hand and that was it. Took two whole minutes. I got back for more of Suzanne's talk.
In the afternoon, I went to a panel called "Body Bags and Toe Tags" and again had to leave early, this time for my agent appointment. We spent the whole ten minutes talking, and I left with a request for 100 pages. Stumper: "How would you describe your voice?" But she seemed to think my character driven stories are coming back, so we started talking more about that. I don't mind talking about the writing, but when I have to talk about "ME" things get tough.
Another workshop, Novel Dissection 101 given by Scott Eagan, an agent who had made himself very accessible during the conference and was willing to answer questions away from the dreaded 'appointment' proved interesting. He showed us ways to analyze the depth of our writing, and suggested studying the houses we plan to target, as each has a unique 'voice.'
That evening, I had the pleasure of putting some faces to names of an assortment of Wild Rose Press authors as we attempted to find each other in the hotel's bar area. We ended up in two groups, but managed to unite before the pre-arranged time frame was over, so it was like two separate parties. I ended up having to leave with my wine so I could finish that ugly "real life" work I'm expected to keep up with.
Monday, July 16, 2007
What I'm writing: Revisions of When Danger Calls for submission
I know I'm late with these reports, but things were busy and my employer seemed to think I'd be using my spare time to WORK. I attended a fascinating workshop by Karen Rose, whom I'd missed TWICE at chapter meetings because I had to be elsewhere. She filled her hour with wonderful hints and guidelines--things to think about in order to create mystery and suspense.
The keynote luncheon featured Lisa Kleypas. Her talk was inspirational, although probably my favorite line was "working her ass ON". That's the truth -- we sit in front of a computer all day, bolstered by chocolate. Minor grumble -- normally, I'll order a vegetarian meal, not because I'm a vegetarian, although I like veggies a lot, but because in a huge banquet setting, the odds are greater that someone has paid a bit more attention to your meal, and the alternative is all too often "rubber chicken" (which I was told was the case). However, someone needs to tell the chef that vegetarians might not eat meat, but they eat, and a little protein would have been nice. A plate of steamed veggies wasn't exactly banquet fare. The cheesecake was good, though! My vegan friend had a much more substantial meal, for some reason (but no cheesecake).
The afternoon was spent at the controversial Annual General Meeting where RWA set forth new guidelines for publishers, for PAN, its Published Author Network. Emotions were high, especially where it concerned whether or not a publisher had to pay an advance, and if so, how much, in order to attend the conferences at no charge. Poor wording probably created a lot of the heat. Promises were made to clarify. Bottom line is that most small presses give small advances, if any, and most e-publishers give none. However, e-publishers pay very high royalties, so authors, especially those who write erotica, are often making as much or more than some of their print counterparts. Are their publishers less "legitimate?"
The cocktail hour provided a lot more sustenance than the luncheon, and since the next event was the "Death by Chocolate" party with the Daphne du Maurier awards, I considered that dinner. I'm new to the business, but I know 3 of the authors who were up for the single title category--Allison Brennan, Michelle Perry and Roxanne St. Claire. Rocki was the category winner, but the competition was stiff all around. Oh -- and the chocolate desserts were wonderful! I suppose it was a good thing I'd had veggies for lunch.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Lunch was a fun time--Raelene Gorlinsky of ECPI treated her authors to lunch. Meeting people you know only by name on emails was a delight. Most of my mental images were way off.
For me, the big event was the book signing. I think there were 450 authors present, and I was seated right in the middle of a row in the middle of the room next to Brenda Novak. Her charity auction raised over 140,000 for Juvenile Diabetes, and she has a huge support base.
But most of all, I got to see my books for the first time! I even sold some! And spelled my name right when I signed them, although on a couple I forgot to put on the "autograped copy" stickers I had actually remembered to bring. Ah, well.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Registration was excellent, and after being given a complimentary toiletries kit, I found the bar. Numerous calls to the baggage service department's automated phone message center finally located my bag -- these bags have computerized bar codes on them, yet it took 4 hours to figure out where my suitcase was. And it was a nonstop flight. One bag made it, and I violated my own rule about packing everything into checked luggage, but I didn't want to have to carry a lot of stuff on the plane. Never again.
The bag finally made it to the hotel 12 hours after my plane landed, but at least I had it for the day's tour.
We were bussed to Fort Worth to their police department training center with lectures by officers in crimes against children, homicide, cold cases and forensics.
I'm not sure if this was set out as a joke or if this really was typical fare for their center:
Very much like what I learned in the Civilian Police Academy at home. Lunch was at a local Mexican restaurant, followed by a return to the hotel where 3 SAR dogs and their handlers were waiting to tell us all about search and rescue.
I'm planning to catch up on sleep tonight, and am looking forward to my book signing and seeing my books in print tomorrow for the first time.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Sunday, July 08, 2007
I know I'll be coming home with a lot of information, lots of new friends and getting to meet the names on spines I admire. My brain will be overloaded, I know, from all the workshops and activities.
I'll post when and if I can. Meanwhile, I'm still dealing with packing, which is one of my least favorite things to do.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
What I'm writing: Chapter 2
A quick correction to my "Two Books in Print" post:
I'm learning as I go here. I wasn't aware that they give books new ISBNs for print versions. They're both available from Cerridwen Press, although they maintain two separate websites: one for digital and one for print. They are linked, so with a little judicious clicking, you should be able to order direct from the publisher via the web.
But if you want to nag your local bookseller, here are the print ISBNs:
ISBN: 9781419907821 (digital)
ISBN: 9781419956515 (print)
What's in a Name?
ISBN: 97814199-08545 (digital)
ISBN: 9781419956522 (print)
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
What I'm writing: Revised opening scene and Chapter 2
Wishing everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July. We usually have a quiet day. It's too hot to spend time outside, and besides, we can step into our driveway and watch theme park firework displays for free. In honor of the holiday, I've posted a short story about a special birthday party on my Free Reads section of my website. It's written from a child's point of view, something different for me. There's a new contest for July, too.
Speaking of point of view, after re-evaluating my opening scene for my next book, I decided (ok, both my critique partners suggested and my editor agreed) it needed to be written from Sarah's point of view, since she's the character with more at stake in the scene. Randy just wants to get laid. That meant the second scene wasn't needed, so it was one of those days where you write and end up 100 words behind where you were the day before.
Monday, July 02, 2007
I'm also tickled to death that Cerridwen Press has changed its pricing structure, so although these books are still trade paperbacks, they are priced competitively with mass market books! No more shelling out hard cover prices.
It will take a while for them to show up on Amazon.com, or the Barnes & Noble list, but Cerridwen Press assures us this will be happening soon.
In the meamwhile, you can see (and order) my new print releases here:
If you want to hound your local bookstore to carry the book (I know Barnes & Noble will carry Cerridwen titles), the ISBNs are:
ISBN: 9781419907821 (digital)
ISBN: 9781419956515 (print)
ISBN: 9781419908545 (digital)
ISBN: 9781419956522 (print)