Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I Won! I Won! And a Recipe for You

I'm the lucky winner of two book giveaways! How did I get so lucky, you ask? Well, I entered.
I won Tracey Devlyn's Checkmate, My Lord on the Romance University blog. It looks wickedly fun.
And then! I won Mia Ross' A Gift of Family on the Harlequin Board's Open House giveaway.

It's that time of the year - ah, comfort food. Is there anything better? Why does food taste better when it's cold outside? Don't ask me why, but it does. This is a low fat comfort food soup which is filled with flavor.

Spicy Black Bean Vegetarian Soup

1 can of black beans

2 cups of chicken broth (use the light sodium, you won’t miss the salt)

½ cup salsa (you decide if you want hot or mild)

Cilantro sprigs (this is optional, as my sister will tell you not everyone likes cilantro)

Crushed tortilla chips (be gentle)

Puree half the can of black beans with the 2 cups of chicken broth in a blender. Add mixture in a pan with the remainder of the black beans and ½ cup of salsa. Let simmer for a few minutes, and let the flavors get to know each other. Remember that cooking, like love, can’t be rushed. You’ll know when it’s ready. I trust you.

Serve in a bowl garnishing with sprigs of cilantro and crushed tortilla chips on top because every soup deserves a little dressing up.

This makes a nice light lunch on a cold autumn or winter day. Serve with half a sandwich or a green salad or all by itself.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Christmas Miracle ... sort of

Speaking of the journey toward publication, here's the journey of a Poinsettia. I bought two Poinsettias last year at Christmas time. By April 2012, I was impressed enough to take a photo where you can observe their new growth (and still red leaves).
In July all the red leaves are gone, replaced by bountiful green - but see how well they are doing! In JULY!
Finally we see them full circle in December - still hanging in there, still green. No more red leaves but they're alive.
You have no idea what this means to a notorious plant killer like myself. Yes, it's a Christmas miracle ... sort of.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sometimes it can feel like I’m spinning my wheels so I created this list

Writing is a lonely business, and I tend to complain a lot.

It’s the end of the year and for once I’m getting a head start. After all, the challenge of October of 2010 by my writing partners at the time was: just finish ONE of those many books you’ve started but never finished.

Challenge accepted!

Fast-forward two years later. Whew. So it may have taken me more than a year, but in January of 2012 I completed my first book (through many revisions, of course). This is a goal I was proud of on its own merit – I’ve been writing since 2004 and never finished anything but a few short stories. Novels seemed to peter out at about 18,000 words when I became overwhelmed with the enormity of the process and moved on to something else.

I blogged about this before but I’ll tell you a secret: I don’t think the first novel was any good. There, I’ve said it. But there is a steep learning curve in writing fiction, and I’m grateful I have the eyes to see when something I’ve written (my very own baby) isn’t quite “ready”. Ouch.

Yes, that novel was rejected in May of 2012.

So in recap, this year:

I finished (January) and submitted (February) my first novel to Harlequin Love Inspired and received my very first rejection (May)

Entered Mills & Boone’s Fast Draft for Medical Romances with a synopsis and first chapter and was rejected (June)

Participated in Love Inspired Pitch and received a request for synopsis (June) My synopsis received a request for a partial (July) My partial received a request for a full (October) and is still under consideration

I received a request for Revise and Resubmit from Everyday Fiction for my short story Among the Living (June) and after changes a firmer Rejection (October).

I revised the entry for M&B and entered the first chapter into the Golden Palm contest (August)

I revised my original novel and entered So You Think You Can Write (October)

I become a Pro Pin member of the RWA (November)

I entered the Golden Heart contest, the Rolls Royce of the RWA (November)

I completed Nanowrimo for the first time (November)

When I review the above, I don’t feel so bad. I’ve been working hard, writing and subbing and entering contests. If effort equals reward, something should bear fruit in the reaping. Or so I keep telling myself.

Friday, October 12, 2012

So You Think You Can Write Voting Ends

So You Think You Can Write Global 2012 ended yesterday. All that's left is to count the votes, determine the top twenty-five by popular vote, and await the decision of the judges for the three "wild card" picks.

A few have opined that it will be interesting to see who the wild card picks are and compare to the popular vote. Will you agree with the editors or with the popular vote?

Things that make you go hmmmmmmmm.

The editors will be contacting finalists starting Monday. Twitter is abuzz as writers chew off their fingernails. Waiting is difficult,if you think you might have a chance.

But the wise writer will keep busy - writing!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I'm Glad I Waited

This might be viewed as controversial and I want to be careful not to step on any toes. Please excuse me while I walk on eggshells.

After I wrote my first novel and it was rejected by Harlequin Love Inspired Lines, I briefly considered publishing it myself. After all, everyone seemed to be doing that. Instead I finished the second in the series I’d envisioned, and then another novel in a completely different genre. I didn’t look at my first baby for close to a year.

I’m glad I waited, and here’s why.

As with a lot of firstborns, mom needs to step back and gain perspective. We hear this told time and time again, but sometimes we don’t listen. We get defensive. We find published novels that are far worse than ours and rail at the injustice. We wonder why a publisher wants a novel to fit into that little round hole.

Sometimes we give in to vanity publishing or the ever popular Indie publishing. None of these things are horrible and I’m not here to say that they are.

But I’m glad I didn’t do it.

After some time and distance I picked up my first again. Guess what? It turns out it’s not my best work. It’s not horrible, but it’s far from the best I can do. And then again, it is entirely possible that my writing has actually improved in the last year.

Nothing can take the place of practice. I now understand the all important scene, GMC, character and world building. In my first novel, every period and comma was well placed. I had an editor look it over and she did a great job. Unfortunately it’s not all about grammar, as much as we love to hate the Indies that appear to have been published without so much as a proofread.

Our story has to grab the reader from the very first page and draw them into the world you’ve created. Ground them in the perspective of your hero or heroine and let them see inside their soul. Not an easy thing to do.

I’m still working on it but I’m happy to say I’ve made progress. And my first isn’t going anywhere.

But this begs the question: what if it's not your first novel? What if it's your tenth?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pitching - Part Two

Most romance authors pitch for the first time at Nationals. I’ve never been fortunate enough to attend the National RWA Conference (next year, baby – Atlanta- hoo wee). Apparently you have to do this in person and the editor and agents are right there in person looking at you. So you better wear something nice and hopefully have a good hair day.

I figure there are some advantages to pitching online.

Advantages to pitching online:

No one can hear your knees knock, see your sweaty palms or smell the results of your sweating.

If you’re a writer, you might do better with writing than speaking.

Misspellings can be excused as typos.

You can wear your PJs and fluffy slippers and no one is the wiser.

Some disadvantages:

No one can see you smile, and some people have a wonderful smile.

No one can hear your lovely speaking voice (assuming you have one, ahem).

It’s hard to exude warmth from behind a computer screen.

Some authors are technologically challenged.

Thought you might like to see my 99 word pitch too, so here it is:

A runway model turned café owner is about to lose her home to foreclosure. She won’t accept charity and won’t sell the café, the only thing that’s ever been truly hers. A ski contest with a sizable cash prize could be the answer. And she won’t let the fact that she hasn’t skied in years stop her. The deputy sheriff is a new Christian and wants to make up for his bad boy, checkered past. But the woman who needs him the most won’t trust him, even though he could show her everything she needs to be truly happy.

I’m still a student of the pitch and the query. It’s an entirely different skill set. It’s clear that pitching is important – while we learn our craft, we’ve also got to learn a little bit about marketing. The “pitch” is that all important marketing tool – the “back of the book blurb” and if you've done it right, it may actually sell your book.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My First Pitch

In late June 2012 I was privileged to be one out of one hundred authors who pitched to Emily Rodmell, one of the editors of Harlequin’s Love Inspired Line. The event was titled, “Speed Dating with Editor Emily”.

Harlequin may be under fire lately, but in my experience no other publisher gives unpublished authors as many opportunities. The resources and education on the Harlequin Board are priceless, and they’re free.

In preparation for our online pitch with Emily, we were all treated to an online mini-class with author Winnie Griggs on how to refine our pitch down to 100 words. Winnie gracefully worked with each one of us. Another great resource, this is still up and available to anyone who wants to learn how to tighten their pitch. There is a bit of an art in this.

We were each assigned a time slot in which we would show up in the chat room online. Emily was in a separate chat room and we gathered in a separate room together, and each went into Emily’s chat room alone at our appointed time. We typed (or cut and paste) our 100 word pitch to Emily and she responded in one of four ways:

I'll cry if you don't send me your manuscript (requested full)

__I'd like to get to know your manuscript better (requested proposal)

__I'm not sure if there's a spark between your manuscript and me, but I'm willing to give it a chance to convince me (requested synopsis)

__There's just no connection between your manuscript and me (no request, but isn't it great to know the idea won't work before you spend time writing it?)

My answer was the requested synopsis. While I had hoped to be asked to send my proposal, I sent my synopsis off immediately and within two weeks heard back that she would like to see my proposal – the first three chapters. I took a few days to polish those and sent them off in mid-July. Part Two tomorrow ...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How the Romance Genre Picked Me

One of my critique partners is trying to decide what genre to write - since she reads and enjoys all of them! I started thinking about how I decided to write contemporary romance so I thought I would add my two cents.

This is probably not the best reason, but honestly I decided on romance because certain authors made it look "so easy". Prolific writers like Danielle Steele, and Debbie Macomber. I read their stuff, so incredibly popular and mainstream, and I started to think "I can do that."

Now when I would read the thriller/mystery/suspense genre (Lisa Gardner among my faves, who actually began in category romance) I would think: How do they come up with this stuff? I can't do that!

So I started with what was (cough, cough) "easiest" for me. And guess what? It hasn't been easy. But for me to dip my toe in suspense/mystery when my brain is already thinking "too hard" wasn't going to work for me. So I took the easy way out (still coughing here).

Now my family is after me to write a mystery. Why? I spend most of my TV time glued to true life crime shows like Dateline, 48 Hours, Investigators, and all the stuff I can find from the I.D. channel. I absolutely love it. It drives my family nuts. But I don't think I could write it!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Took a Picture of My Baby Before It Left For NYC

I finished my first manuscript, first and second revisions, in January 2012.The whole endeavor from start to finish took approximately 14 months.In late February, I sent that baby off to the slush pile in New York City. I'm such a nerd I took a photo of the envelope.I'll see if I can post it here.
You know how it is with your baby - you wonder if it will make it all the way there, if it will get torn or thrown around on the way. And it was winter - I had no idea if my baby would get wet and arrived shriveled or twice its normal size. But you have to let these things go. I heard back from the Editor, the wonderful Emily Rodmell, on May 2, 2012, a short two months later which in publisher-speak means "immediately". I sent Emily a proposal - sometimes called a partial - the synopsis and three chapters. I targeted Love Inspired contemporary. I received a nice letter from Emily on May 2 - it was my first "R" rejection and it has the place of honor on my desk in a nice frame. It was short and lovely, and I quote in part:
... while there are appealing aspects to the story, it does not ultimately meet our present needs. Because we have a romantic suspense line in addition to a contemporary romance line, we try to keep the two completely separate and reserve any suspense plots for Love Inspired Suspense. Your story had too much danger/suspense to work for Love Inspired but not enough for work for LIS.
That was my bad - I did know that, but hadn't realized that the lines were so set in stone. Learning lesson! Shortly thereafter, I linked in to the Harlequin ecommunity - a wonderful place for budding romance writers. If you're a romance novelist, especially an unpublished one, I can't recommend a better place.