Sunday, July 31, 2011
A few weeks prior to that day, I'd seen in the RWR that Sourcebooks was a newly approved publisher and they were taking erotic and paranormal romance. I just so happened to have a manuscript that fit that description, the book I'd wanted to write ever since I was a kid watching Star Trek. Back then, it was called The Rescue. I printed it out, wrote a query letter to go with it, and sort of kissed it goodbye, figuring it was off to get trounced and rejected, just as all those other manuscripts I'd sent out had been. This one was different from the rest, and not simply because it wasn't a contemporary romance. It hadn't gone to an agent or a publisher before, mainly because, at the time, no one seemed to want paranormals, and this one was more paranormal than most because I had the audacity to write about hot, sexy aliens instead of werewolves, witches, or vampires.
My most recent contemporary effort had just been soundly rejected by Virgin Books, (sort of prophetic when you consider the title of my latest book, Virgin, isn't it?). That editor told me to rewrite the book in third person--which I have since done and self-pubbed as Sex, Love, and a Purple Bikini--but at the time, as I'm sure you will understand, I was feeling rather low.
On the day in question, I'd had a helluva night in the ICU. When I finally dragged myself out of bed that afternoon, I found my dear Budley in the kitchen, flipping through the mail on the table.
"How come you're home so early?" I asked.
"I had some stuff I needed to do in town." He looked at me with a rather mischievous gleam in his eyes. "And then this publisher called..."
I cannot recall my precise reaction to this news, but I'm sure I was appropriately ecstatic. And also a bit shocked. "Which one?"
His recall was accurate enough for me to at least figure out which book was involved. "She seemed very interested. But she insisted that I not wake you up."
Now, of all the things for which a writer wouldn't mind being awakened during the middle of what is, for me, the middle of the night, this one topped the list. Unless, of course, it is to be informed that you've made someone's bestseller list. That hasn't happened yet, but I'm sure I'd be willing to lose a bit of sleep to hear it, whether I was scheduled to work again that night or not.
Anyway, I sent the complete manuscript in via email and waited. Deb liked it, but had some "editorial concerns" and wanted me to call her. I could only guess at what she meant by that, so I called. Suffice it to say, her first concern was with the size of the hero's appendage. Since this was in no way one of the things I thought would be a problem, I began laughing hysterically. After I recovered, I listened to the rest of her suggestions and said I'd work on it and get back to her.
Not long after that, I received a rejection letter and my submission returned to me in the dreaded SASE. Hmm... I thought, what part of "I'll work on it and get back to you" didn't she understand?
Well, as it turned out, Deb claims to have hung up the phone figuring she'd never hear from me again. Guess cracking up wasn't the best tactic, but you know how it is when the stress of writing and submitting gets to you.
At that point, I figured I'd go ahead with the revisions and send it to her. What I forgot to include was my phone number. So, when the REAL call came, I was awake, but Deb, having returned my manuscript, didn't have my phone number. So she emailed me. Before I saw the email, she found my number somewhere and called me. The Rescue then became known as Slave.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
I ended up with a book I called Jedis, Wookies, and Other Men I’ve Dated (later The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Men I’ve Dated). At the same time my agent was submitting Jedis, I also managed to final in the Golden Heart (a contest for unpublished authors sponsored by the Romance Writers of America) with an historical I called The Rake (later When Dashing Met Danger). Yes, I knew historicals were deader than a door nail, but I was a glutton for punishment.
The final judge for the Golden Heart was May Chen of Avon Books. Meanwhile, Jedis sat on Erika Tsang’s desk, also of Avon.
I was teaching 6th grade English in Houston’s inner city at that time. I wasn’t supposed to have my cell phone on in the classroom, but I had forgotten to turn it off when I stuck it in my desk that morning. Imagine my surprise when it rang in the middle of 4th period. At first I thought it was one of the kids’ phones, and I was giving the whole class my you-are-in-big-trouble-now look. And then some helpful little girl said, “Miss, the ringing is coming from your desk.”
Now, I was the one in trouble (kids love to tell you when you’ve broken the rules, don’t they?). I should have ignored the phone, but I decided to go to my desk and turn it off. When I saw my agent’s name on the screen, I forgot all about the kids and answered the call. He asked if I was sitting down, and I sat. The kids by now were in heaven—throwing paper, talking, and getting out of their seats. I didn’t care.
Over the din of thirty 12-year-olds, I heard my agent say something to the effect that Avon wanted to offer me two two-book contracts. One for my historicals and one for my chick lits. I was speechless, especially when he told me how much they were willing to pay. It wasn’t a lot, but it was more than I’d expected, and it was times four books.
I looked up at my unruly classroom and wondered if I could quit right then.
Five years later I got another first sale call—at least it felt like a first sale to me. See, what most people don’t realize is that as hard as it is to get published, it’s even harder to stay published. In May 2009 I hadn’t had a book out since November 2007. Avon and I had parted ways. My agent and I had parted ways. Chick lit had died a bloated, overstocked death. Historicals were still hanging on, and not everyone was claiming they were dead anymore.
I had a new agent and a new historical series. All I needed was a new publisher. After school—by then I was teaching 7th grade English at a better school and always turned my phone off during class—I got a call from my new agent. Sourcebooks wanted to buy my three-book historical romance series.
As excited as I was to sell those first books, I was even more excited to sell the Sons of the Revolution series. There’s nothing like having something you want taken away to really appreciate it. And there’s nothing like having the opportunity to write the book of your heart, knowing it might never sell but writing it anyway because at that point, what did I have to lose?
In September my 10th book, Lord and Lady Spy, will be published by Sourcebooks. It's a fast-paced historical romance and a book of my heart. I guess the historical isn’t dead after all. I’m sure glad I didn’t give up on it!
What about you? Have you ever had a dream and been told it’s as good as dead?
Friday, July 29, 2011
But if you're ambitious enough to endure the road to publication, "the call" will probably give you a brief (and admittedly stunning) moment of satisfaction--and then it will open up more vistas you want to explore. Once you get published, you'll want to stay published. You'll see a spot on a bestseller list looming up ahead, and you'll want to reach that peak, too. You'll have to survive the biting winds of reviews, the misty, uncertain path of promotion, and a million other stumbling blocks along the way.
The goal only leads to more goals. And that's the way it should be. Goals keep us moving forward, whether we're plodding toward a peaceful Sunday morning with the newspaper or charging toward glory on the battlefield.
But it's important not to lose sight of the real goal, which is to do good and meaningful work. If you're an engineer, you want to build structures that last. If you're a scientist, you want to set knowledge on a new path. And if you're a writer, you want to write stories that enrich people's lives. It's the work itself that matters.
I'm thrilled that my stories are in print, but I'm even luckier to have found what I was meant to do. The writing itself is uniquely satisfying, and the characters I create are good company. I'm never bored, because if the real world gets dull I can always turn to the fictional one. And since I started writing, I see everything in a new and richer way. Every incident is a piece of a story. Every minor episode in life has endless possibilities. I pay attention, I listen, and I remember and record.
In religious circles, they say a preacher has a "calling" and is drawn to the ministry. I think creative "callings" are much the same. There are things you were meant to do in life. If you've found your talent, if you sit down and the words flow and time flies, you've found your purpose--and no call, no contract, no royalty check, is going to be more rewarding than that.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The very first time I pitched to an agent, she asked me if there had been any interest in my story. I was so green I had no idea what she meant and had to ask. She said, “Have you queried any editors who wanted it?”
I probably tipped my head and frowned in confusion as I said, “I thought that was your job.”
Out of the mouths of 40 year old babes…
After submitting my partial, I didn’t have to wait long before I received a rude rejection, twice, for the same book—even though I hadn’t resubmitted it. Needless to say, I never submitted to that agent again.
Years later, the very situation that first agent was hoping for arose. I had sent my proposal to an editor and received “the call!” She wanted to offer me a contract…not just a contract, but a series contract for three books!
Naturally I did exactly what they tell you not to do. I screamed, said, “Yes, oh yes, oh yes!” I was lucky I stopped short of offering to pay her an advance.
I had e-published several books successfully without an agent so decided to save myself the 15% and negotiate the deal myself. I had the wonderful editor send me the fifteen page contract and realized I was in trouble. I thought I was fairly intelligent, so why couldn’t I understand the damn thing? Parts were in legalese (which I do not speak) and other parts were downright counterintuitive.
Suddenly I needed an agent.
But where to find one at a moment’s notice? I had given up on the very idea of agents and had no one in mind. Fortunately when I turned to my RWA chapter for help, someone who had an agent she could heartily recommend said she’d put in a good word for me.
I received a good news/bad news email shortly after that. Her agent’s stable was full (bad news) but she worked with another agent who was looking for clients. (Good news. Great news!)
I sent off a query, mentioning the contract offer along with a blurb, my qualifications, and contact information.
Right after that we had the ice storm of the century. Our power was knocked out for a week. I had a cell phone, but as luck would have it we lived in a dead zone. Terrific.
I couldn’t call her. Couldn’t email. And I couldn’t get my 2 wheel-drive convertible to cooperate and let me out of my 550 foot driveway. I didn’t know if I’d find power out in the big, wild world anyway. Usually when we have storms like that, the entire Northeast gets buried.
A couple days later, my husband managed to buy a precious generator. The roads were clear enough for him to go to work, but it was still Monkey Island up here and I had to babysit the generator so no one would steal it. (Yes, there were generator thefts in usually civilized New England.)
My husband managed to reach a dear writer friend of mine long enough to give her a message from me, asking her to call the agent and tell her that if she was trying to get in touch with me, I was cut off from civilization, but I’d get in touch soon! Really, I would.
Somehow communication got scrambled and she gave the agent (who had been trying to call) my cell-phone number.
As I said, I live in a dead zone. Well, to be precise, half of the house gets spotty reception, the other half is dead, dead, dead.
I was taken by surprise when my cellphone actually rang one day. I grabbed it and charged to the spotty side of the house, just knowing it was the agent calling. It was. I jumped over furniture and the cat, rushing to the south-facing window. All we managed to say to each other was “Hello” before we got cut off.
I thought I was going to burst a neck vein.
The following day, my husband chained the generator to a lally column in the garage so I could leave the house and get to a donut shop with electricity and free WiFi. I plugged in my elderly laptop and was relieved when it whirred to life. I emailed the agent, explained what had been happening and didn’t care if I had to sit there all day. I was going to wait for an answer.
Fortunately, she understood and still wanted to represent me! Yahooooo! My terrific, patient agent Natanya Wheeler not only explained the contract to me but negotiated the fine points a bit here and there. She more than earned her percentage and continues to.
So, doing things backwards isn’t always a bad thing, i.e. getting an editor first, then adding an agent to the equation. It worked for me. If you live in a warm climate, it might even be easier.
www.ashlynchase.com Strange Neighbors series. Book 3 The Vampire Next Door to be released August 1st!
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
What does Robin’s sale have to do with mine? Well, Deb hung out with us a lot during National. I got to know her; she got to know me. I had already submitted a time travel to her so that was sitting in her queue. She got to it a few weeks after National, sadly, rejecting it. But that was okay.
Flash forward to October 2007 at the New Jersey Conference. Deb was there. We chatted. She sat at my table for lunch and I proceeded to drag pitches from everyone at our table b/c I knew Deb wanted to hear them (this is why you need to work on that “elevator pitch”/high concept thing so you can do it at a lunch setting). I happened to mention that In Over Her Head was probably going to end up in the Top 5 of the Gather.com First Chapters Romance Contest. Deb wanted to know why I hadn’t submitted it to her and I said I couldn’t, according to the rules of the contest, but if it didn’t make it to the Top 5, I’d send it along. It made it to the Top 5.
Life got hectic when it was in the Top 5. I worked that final into agent interest, garnering multiple agent offers (the winner of the contest was guaranteed to be published), and accepting the offer from Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates.
Something to note: one of the final judges for the contest was Sue Grimshaw, Romance Buyer for Borders at the time. I introduced myself to her at a conference after the contest was over (and I hadn’t won) and Sue proceeded to give my story such praise that it stunned me into silence. (If you know me, you’ll know that this feat doesn’t happen all that often. Maybe twice before in my life. Seriously.) She gave me some advice to make the book marketable and I made the change.
I then saw Deb at the Long Island Luncheon where we, again, sat next to each other and I dragged pitches from everyone at the table for her. I also mentioned to someone at the table that I had two partials of the next two Mer stories ready and waiting. Deb jumped – “It’s a trilogy?”
Now, you know, we all hear to only pitch one book. Will an editor really take a chance on three books by a debut author? Here I had an editor asking me about all three when she already had book 1 in her queue. The books are stand-alones, but contain characters that you hear about in the other books, so I mentioned it. She wanted the partials.
My agent sent everything out, and then Deb emailed me to let me know she was taking it to the Editorial board with the recommendation to purchase. She told me the date and the time.
Not a good thing to do to me because of course I was obsessing all day at work that day.When it hit 3 pm and I knew she was in that meeting, I had to do something to keep myself occupied or I'd go nuts. (NO comments from the peanut gallery on the state of my usual mental faculties, please.)
So what did I do? I went shopping. If you know me, you'll know that I actually must be out of my mind to go shopping. I LOATHE shopping, almost as much as I hate the heat. (I must have been reading something really interesting when the proverbial "they" were handing out the shopping gene.) Anyhow, so off I go to the one store I can manage to stand for an hour or so. I have no idea if I bought anything because the rest of the evening kind of mind those few hours a blur. I do remember, however, that when I came out of the store and got in my car, I looked up to see the person in the parking spot across from me almost back into my car. For some odd reason, I glanced at my clock, saw that it was 4:19, and was about to lay on the horn as he/she pulled away, but got a glimpse of their license plate:
I sat there, stupefied, knowing that the Universe Was Telling Me Something.
Sure enough, I got home, ran in and opened my email. There was one from Deb with the subject line: We Want To Publish You!
It had been sent at 4:19.
Monday, July 25, 2011
And then two years after THE CALL, I got a letter that said that the YA line was being closed down, and none of the books were being released, that I could keep the partial advance they'd paid, and that my rights reverted back to me. Ghostly Liaisons was already, and still is, listed on Amazon under my maiden name, Terry Lee Wilde.
But it was never released.
And I was no longer a published author after two years of anticipating that first release, which was one month away from when it was to be released!
Still, I wouldn't give up. If I could get one CALL, I could get another, right? So I kept at it, kept writing, revising and submitting, and getting rejections--many of which said I was close. And you know what that means!
Close, but no cigar. Although I can't imagine anyone wanting a cigar.
And then I got THE CALL that truly changed my publishing status!!!
But I thought it was a telemarketer. I was writing away as usual, and I'd stopped maybe five times that day to answer the phone only to get some telemarketer who wanted to sell me insurance, or check out sales at some store, or whatever.
I didn't hear the first part of what Deb said, so the first thing I asked her was, "Are you trying to sell something?"
A lengthy pause followed.
Then she said, "Actually I might be interested in buying something."
I told her I had been inundated with telemarketers, she said let's start over again, and after that--she said she had only read half of HEART OF THE WOLF, but wanted to know was it still available to buy?
But she hadn't read the rest of the story. What if she hated it?
Was the story original? Yes. I love creating new worlds of my own, and had done a lot of research into the world of wolves.
What was the market like out there? At the time, I had read 3 werewolf books while judging contests, but they had everything in them--vampires, fairies, you name it. Or their wolves were strictly like the old werewolf tales and beasts when they shifted. And there were a number of historical werewolf stories on the market.
She said she'd get back with me in a couple of weeks to see if the rest of the book was as good as the 1st half.
I was on pins and needles, still writing, but hopeful that this was it!
Then another CALL. Well, not it yet either. She loved it!!! Wanted to take it to the board and see if they'd buy it. Two weeks, she said.
Two weeks stretched into three because the board didn't meet and I was again on pins and needles figuring okay, they didn't buy it.
Then I got THE CALL! This was it! I sold Heart of the Wolf, and what else did I have???
Not only did Heart of the Wolf get a great review in PW, but it ended up being 1 of 5 mass marketed books that was named Publishers Weekly's BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR!
My advice to writers is always to keep writing, keep revising, and keep submitting, because you never know which story will be THE ONE. And also, write the book of your heart, because you never know when THE ONE will become several!!! Ten are already written, three more are contracted in the wolf series, and three jaguar shifter books are coming.
Heart of the Wolf (Book 1), Destiny of the Wolf (Book 2), To Tempt the Wolf (Book 3)
Legend of the White Wolf (Book 4), Seduced by the Wolf (Book 5), Wolf Fever (Book 6)
Thanks to Deb, Dominique, Danielle and everyone else at Sourcebooks, the editors and wonderful cover artists who make every book a success!!!
But forever I will remember Deb's call as the telemarketer that wasn't!
Have telemarketer problems??? I don't know why it's allowed, but the politicians who have callers are the worst now. Three of four times a day when they running for office I get calls from people I don't know or care to know about! How can that be allowed??? I certainly wouldn't give them my number to call me, and you know what? For all the harassment, I won't even vote for them. What about you?
"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
My story of "the call" began with me coming down with a cold. I had planned to go to the 2008 Emerald City Writer’s Conference but I got sick, of course. Doesn’t that always happen when you plan a trip? I was feeling cruddy so I figured I might as well cancel. Sure, there were going to be opportunities to meet with editors and agents at the conference, but no one ever sells from one of those appointments – right?
I was at the point of cancelling, but I had actually finished my first manuscript. I had taken Cherry Adair’s “Write the Damn Book” challenge and had my shiny new manuscript all ready to go. The amazing Cherry gives tremendous support to up-and-coming writers, which is why she was awarded the RWA 2011 PRO Mentor of the Year! I knew if I went I would get a certificate (now framed on my wall) for completing my manuscript, and that more than anything else got me to pack my tissue box and head out to the conference.
At the conference, I pitched my manuscript to editor Deb Werksman from Sourcebooks and agent Barbara Poelle from the Irene Goodman agency. They were excited when I said I had a Scottish medieval and both asked for a full manuscript. So exciting!
I sent the manuscript out and went on with my life, fully expecting the obligatory letter, you know the one that starts, “Unfortunately we have to pass on a lot of good projects…” Instead, Barbara Poelle actually called me and offered representation. Oh wow! I mean, oh WOW! I’m pretty sure she said some other stuff too, but that’s all I heard.
A few days later I woke up and found I had missed a call on my cell phone. It was from Barbara Poelle. My heart sank. Barbara must have realized her mistake. No doubt she was calling to say she had accidentally offered me representation, she had meant to call that other Scottish medieval writer.
I made the call dreading the inevitable let down. Barbara said she had just talked to Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks and they wanted to publish it! At this point I was so confused I don't think I could make intelligible speech. My novel sold? You mean it really sold?! I thought that never actually happened to real people.
I was completely unprepared, utterly shocked, and totally stunned, but for all that it was pretty darn good! The Highlander's Sword was published spring of 2010, and is now available on kindle for only 99 cents!
The next year I sold two more Highland novels, and I was once again shocked speechless. I guess I'll always be surprised when someone wants to put my novels into print, but I can learn to live with it!
So what was your best surprise?
Friday, July 22, 2011
Jodie: I was sitting at home, watching TV with my family and my cell phone rang. I looked at the number and noticed the area code was outside NYC. So I began to panic before I even answered. I rushed out of the room, yelling over my shoulder at my then husband, telling him it was a publisher. Then I flew into my room and tried to very calmly answer the phone, hoping I didn’t sound out of breath. Deb Werksman was on the other end and gushed about A Certain Wolfish Charm. I wish I could tell you all of the wonderful things she said… but I can’t. I didn’t hear them. My cell phone kept cutting in and out and I kept missing words here and there. But I didn’t want to ask her to repeat anything, because that seemed strange. I started pacing around the whole top level of my house trying to find a “clear” signal, and though I didn’t hear every word she said, I heard enough to know she wanted that book and was excited about the other two in the series.
Then I called Tammy…
Tammy: And I heard the phone ring, cringed, and decided to pick it up anyway. (I hate the phone.)
And Jodie said: You’re not going to believe who just called.
Tammy: I’m afraid to ask. But tell me, anyway.
Jodie: Deb Werksman.
Jodie: (Very slowly as though I was slightly addled.) Deb. Werksman.
Tammy: (She had my complete attention.) What did she want?
Jodie: Book one, evidently. And two and three, if she likes them when she reads them.
Tammy: That is so not funny.
I had pitched to Deb at RWA Nationals and she was my top pick during the submissions process because I liked her so much. Between Dominique’s enthusiasm for the business and Deb’s quiet way of making you feel like she’s really listening to you, it was a no-brainer for Jodie and me. What seemed odd was that we’d literally made the submission just days before. And there was Deb, telling us she was interested in the whole series.
Looking back on it, we both probably sounded like complete idiots. (Sorry, Jodie, for including you in my idiocy.) But it was so exciting having her call, having the feedback on the work Jodie and I had only started two months before. She compared our first book to one written by Loretta Chase. And I remembered one of our local RWA chapter members mentioning how much she loved Loretta Chase. So, I was floored, to say the least.
That’s what getting “The Call” was like for us.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
My call story is a little bit unusual so bear with me, it should all make sense in the end. One would hope, at least.
I was lying in bed late on a Saturday morning, which is very unusual for me. You see, I was alone in the house for the first time in about eleven years. My husband was away on business in Florida, my daughters were spending the night at the neighbor’s, and my son was spending the night at his best friend’s. So there I was lounging around, still in bed at 11:00 on a Saturday morning. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
The phone rang and I checked the caller ID. It said Tennessee. The only person I knew in Tennessee was my brother-in-law, and since he only calls on his and my husband’s shared birthday, it would only make sense that he was calling to tell me some terrible news or that it was a telemarketer. I answered the phone with great trepidation since I knew my father-in-law had been ill, and I really didn’t want to talk to a telemarketer on the first day I had to lounge around like a slug in over eleven years.”
“Is Robin…” The woman on the line butchered my last name, not that I could really blame her, because it took me over a year to figure it out myself, but it was a definite sign of a telemarketer. I was soooo not happy.
“Yes.” I spat.
“This is Trish Milburn from RWA, and I’m calling you to inform you that Romeo, Romeo has finaled in the Golden Heart.”
I was in a state of shock. I entered the Golden Heart hoping to break into the top fifty percent. I never in my wildest dreams expected to final. Hell, I hadn’t even paid attention to when the finalist would be announced—obviously. All I could say was, “Thank God no one died!”
Trish and I have since had a good laugh over that. I’m sure it was the strangest conversation she’d ever had while calling finalists. When she asked if I was going to the RWA’s national conference, I told her I hadn’t planned on it, but since I finaled in the Golden Heart, I’d find a way.
I knew I needed two things to go to Nationals, a really cool evening gown since the awards ceremony was black tie, and a new cell phone. Thank God that was 2006 and the iPhone was being released. I was one of those crazy people who waited in line on the first day the iPhone came out, which was a much more enjoyable experience than buying the dress, believe me, but that’s a whole other blog.
Boy am I glad I got my iPhone because the day I arrived in Dallas for the conference, I received an email from an Deb Werksman, an editor from Sourcebooks, saying that she’d read Romeo, Romeo, “LOVED IT,” and wanted to talk to me about it.
I called Deb right back and we set up a time to meet. See, I told my husband that I needed the iPhone and of course, I was right. Don’t cha just love it when that happens?
The next day I met Deb and we grabbed a bite at the restaurant. Since it was so cold in the hotel, we both ordered a bowl of soup and Deb explained that she had been one of the Golden Heart final judges and had requested my manuscript from RWA and then shocked the heck out of my by proceeding to quote her favorite lines verbatim. Seriously. I thought she was either crazy or she really, really liked the book. Thank God it was the latter. That’s when I told her I’d completely revised the manuscript. Deb’s face paled. After assuring her I had kept a copy of the original, I explained the changes I made. When she found out I had added an external conflict, she declared me I was a genius. That’s when I took out my new iPhone and asked if she’d call my mother-in-law and tell her that, since, unfortunately my mother-in-law was blissfully unaware. Deb laughed, told me she’d send her an email, and then offered me a contract, all over a bowl of matzo ball soup.
Oh, and a few days later I was happy I had gone through hell buying the perfect dress, because I won the Golden Heart and had to give an acceptance speech in front of 2000 people. I knew I won when Rachel Gibson, who had practiced saying my name and did a great job when reading off the finalist said, “And the winner is…Oh God, I have to say that name again!”
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I wasn’t quite sure how receptive people would be of my book. After all, it’s rather off the wall with some slapstick moments. What do you expect from someone who grew up watching Mel Brooks films? So, I would send a query here and there. Most of the editors and agents I’d queried had sent polite rejections. But a friend of mine suggested I send my manuscript to Deb Werksman and that Sourcebooks liked funny and quirky books. Finally in December, I sent Deb Werksman my manuscript and query.
In the meantime, I also sent out a query to one of my dream agencies. A couple weeks later, I was delighted to receive a request from one of their agents for the first three chapters of of what is now known as Demons Prefer Blondes. That request came on January 27th. As usual, I’m a procrastinator, so I decided to sit on it for a couple days until the weekend, when I had more free time.
Then January 28th rolled around. It was a Thursday night. I worked Monday through Thursday with a long weekend. Gosh, I loved having Fridays off. I was nearing the end of my shift and had just taken a call from a customer who needed some assistance using a website. While she was busy typing some things into her computer, I decided to check my email. Then I saw it. A reply from Deb about my submission. Great, I thought. She’s going to reject me. What the heck? I clicked open the email and read. Oops! It wasn’t a rejection. It was an offer. And I still had a customer on the phone. Double oops.
I don’t remember much of that particular call. I was too giddy over the other call. I stumbled my way through assisting the customer and apologized for my bumbling behavior. I’m pretty sure I gave the customer a lame excuse but she was friendly anyway. After I hung up with the customer I think I jumped out of my chair and did a dance around my cubicle. I'm sure my co-workers thought I was a fry short of a combo meal. Then another customer called right before the 8PM cutoff. Because my car was in the shop, my mother was picking me up. Oh brother. My cell phone rang. It was my mom wondering where I was. I quickly explained everything. I think my words were, "Someone wants to buy my book and I have a customer on the phone." Finally, after a half an hour, I was able to help the man solve his problem. Karma, I guess. My mom decided to take me out to dinner and bought me a drink to celebrate. Gotta love my mom!
Then the agent search began. I new I needed to keep my options open, so I queried the agent who requiested the chapters along with a bunch of other agents. One agent didn’t love the story. Another agent said she already had a succubus series but thought the book was great. The original agent I queried replied and laid all my options on the table. I was rather impressed with her response. Also, a friend of mine spoke highly of her. So, I made my decision and signed with my agent.
So I learned several things from this experience. No matter how many rejections, it only takes one person—or two—who likes your writing for a sale. Oh, and the other thing? Don’t open emails from editors while on the phone with a customer. It was the most awkward call ever.
Monday, July 18, 2011
I started writing dark, angsty viking romances for Leisure Books with the fabulous Leah Hultenschmidt as my editor. I wrote three books as Diana Groe, then asked Leah if it was ok for me to try adding a bit of humor to the 2nd book in a two book contract. She gave me the green light, but when I turned in my manuscript, she said it was so different from my previous stories, I was likely to give my readers whiplash.
Emily Bryan was born. Under this light-hearted alter-ego, I wrote 5 stories. Things were rolling along. My work was winning awards and was translated into 7 different languages.
But change is the one constant in publishing and another came my way when my agent sold a proposal of mine to Kensington. My new editor, the lovely and talented Alicia Condon, loved the premise of my Touch of Seduction series, but since these new stories had a touch of paranormal in them, she asked that I take a new pen name.
I became Mia Marlowe. Trust me, I'm a firm believer that the third time's the charm. When I go to a signing, I'm always afraid of having a "Whoopie Goldberg Moment" (Remember in Ghost when she had to admit "I signed the wrong name!")
Now I'm balancing between paranormal and historical in my adventurous sexy stories and loving the freedom it gives my storylines. But wait! My multliple call story isn't quite done.
I'm also part of a collaboration with NY Times Bestseller Connie Mason! We're bringing you two new books in 2012. Things have come full circle for me and I'm working with Leah Hultenschmidt again on Sins of the Highlander (Jan 2012) and (would you believe it?) another viking romance called Lord of Fire and Ice (August 2012). I'm so excited about this opportunity to write with a romance legend like Connie Mason. We've had a wonderful time with our alpha heroes and their sexy exploits.
So the point of this post is that calls to new opportunities and adventures come to us all multiple times. I'm so thankful for each one of mine. I'd love to hear about when a chance to do something new came to YOU! Won't you tell me YOUR Call story?
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I've really enjoyed reading everyone's big break into the publishing business.So many fascinating roads leading to an utterly unforgettable moment. Just goes to show you that even in this we have our own style.
As for me, I queried my agent and Sourcebooks within a few days of each other in March of 2010. Both requested a full manuscript. Almost exactly a month later, I received an offer from both Deb and Don. That’s, of course, the short version.
The long version? I’m not sure I can adequately convey the crazy roller coaster ride of emotion I experienced from April 21 – April 22, 2010, but I’ll give it a shot.
During the day, I work as a Human Resources Manager for an environmental agency. One of my responsibilities is overseeing our large volunteer force. Every year, we have a volunteer appreciation dinner to recognize our volunteers’ efforts and to give them a fun evening.
Guess when I got the call from my editor? Yep—the night of our appreciation dinner, April 21.
At the time, only two ladies at work knew of my “second job” and the struggles that entailed. My two confidantes were at my side when the call came, making the moment extra special. Well, I could have done without the blubbering part. I’ll get to that soon.
All three of us were sitting around a helium tank, blowing up balloons and tying them off. When my phone rang, I had a balloon stem wrapped around my two index fingers, so I couldn’t answer it. To this day, I don’t know why my heart started pounding in my chest at the sound of Bach blaring from the depths of my purse. There was really no reason to suspect that it was Deb.
But, as soon as I knotted the helium-filled balloon, I snatched my phone from my purse and looked at the caller ID. I didn’t recognize the area code. Again, no reason to believe it was anyone of importance. I receive wrong phone number calls all the time.
All the same, my heart raced faster. I could hear the blood throbbing in my ears and feel the heat spreading into my cheeks. I listened to the message on the voice mail, and started trembling. I garbled some incoherent nonsense, and my friends thought someone had surely died. Finally, I managed to tell them, “She wants to buy my book!”
The banquet folks probably thought we were a bunch of loonies, because much laughing, jumping, shouting, and blubbering ensued. As I mentioned before, I could have done without the blubbering.
You see, I don’t cry prettily like our heroines. My face and the whites of my eyes turn a nasty shade of crimson. I snort, I shake, I drool from my nose. Not. Pretty.
We finished decorating the room, and I went down to my car to call Deb. Being the optimist I am, I had been carrying around a file folder full of questions for editors and agents. On the way down to the parking lot, I called my husband and one of my critique partners.
By the time I reached my car, I had myself in an emotional tizzy again. After several deep breaths and a quick read through my questions, I pressed the redial button. Deb answered right away, even though it was nearly 7 pm her time. We chatted for a while, and then I mentioned that two agents were currently reviewing the full manuscript. As gracious as ever, Deb asked when I would have an answer. With great trepidation, I requested a few days. She agreed, and the call ended. But not before more blubbering commenced. Good Lord, I was a mess.
When I got home that night (Wednesday), I shot off an email to the two interested agents, letting them know I had a 3-book deal on the table…and that I needed to get back to the editor by Noon on Friday. If you’re thinking that’s a short amount of time to give them, you’re absolutely right. I have no idea what logic was spiraling through my mind during this process, but thankfully it all worked out. I spoke to both agents on the phone. One agent liked my voice and really wanted an historical author on her list, but she was still on the fence. The other agent spent an hour letting me know what he could bring to the table and how much he loved my fresh approach to the historical subgenre. By 5:30 pm on April 22, I had an agent.
So, within two days, I received two fabulous calls. I’ll never forget April 2010. Ever.
What moment in your history will you never forget?
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Tracey Devlyn writes historical romantic thrillers (translation: a slightly more grievous journey toward the heroine’s happy ending). She's also a co-founder of Romance University, a group blog dedicated to readers and writers of romance.
An Illinois native, Tracey spends her evenings harassing her once-in-a-lifetime husband and her weekends torturing her characters. Her debut novel, A LADY’S REVENGE, hits the bookstores April 2012 (Sourcebooks, Inc.).
For more information on Tracey, including her Internet haunts and details on her upcoming novels and contests, please visit her website at http://www.TraceyDevlyn.com.