As far as I know, there is no definitive manual on how to be an author. There are hundreds of books about the craft of writing and dozens of places to go for advice on how to write a good query letter and synopsis. You can take a course on everything from nailing that first line to marketing your backlist. But there are still surprises. There are aspects of being an author that you’ll only figure out after you’ve been doing it for a while.
It’s like raising a kid. You’ve heard a rumor you might be up at three in the morning cleaning pink vomit off the carpet on the stairs, but you didn’t think it’d happen until it does. There wasn’t really supposed to be pink vomit, was there? Not when no one had eaten anything pink.
This is my list of things I sort of (definitely) wish someone had told me.
I’m having trouble processing the fact we’ve just embarked upon a new decade. This might have something to do with the fact I still haven’t accepted the fact we’re twenty years into a new millennium. When? How?
Despite having a hard time with the math, however, I have done a lot over the past ten years and I’d like to take a look at that before I plan forward. Continue reading “2020”→
Last month I promised my newsletter subscribers a story. Here it is…
Publishing is a journey that requires a lot of patience. Books have to be written and revised, submitted, accepted (hopefully), revised again, edited to within an inch of their precious lives, and then, finally, made available for purchase. For me, on average, eight to eighteen months can pass between typing “The End” and seeing my book in readers’ hands.
Then there are the books that take a more circuitous route to publication.
Shortly after my first book came out, I submitted a second book to my publisher, one I thought was much, much better than the first. They declined it. I was understandably hurt, but not truly devastated, as I was still new to publishing, and figured that because my first book hadn’t been that big a seller, the publisher might not have much confidence in me. Besides, I had a backup plan. Jenn and I were writing something fun.
In the spring of 2014, Jenn and I sent a manuscript and series pitch to Carina Press, which they accepted, and you all got to meet Felix and Zed in the five books of the Chaos Station series. Buoyed by the success of our ragtag crew and their rust bucket of a ship, I submitted a book of my own to our publisher, only to have it declined. This time I was a little more devastated because I LOVED the book I’d submitted. So I contracted a freelance editor, revised it, and sent it to Dreamspinner Press. They snapped it up, and you all got to meet Max and Jake in Block and Strike, which will forever be the book of my heart.
A few months after the release of Block and Strike, I submitted a proposal for a three book series called This Time Forever. I’d already written the first book, Building Forever, and I loved, loved, loved it (I love all my books). Although science fiction will always be my first love, I adore sweet contemporary romances that take ordinary people and challenge them to find love. In every way, Building Forever felt like a natural follow up to what I’d started in Block and Strike—more opposites attract, more family dynamics, more struggles with identity and purpose, and more sweet romance. The book and series were declined.
Enter the darkest period of my publishing career to date. Rejection happens for all sorts of reasons, many of which are beyond an author’s control—or scope. But it still hurts. And the more you love a book, the worse it feels. But despite my propensity for flailing and entirely useless panicking, I’m actually a very optimistic person. When things start to darken, I’m the first to look for a new source of light. So I did a lot of soul searching and then sketched out three options.
One was to self-publish, two was to send the proposal to another publisher, and three was to seek representation with an agent. After talking all three options over with family and friends, I decided to go with option two and sent my manuscript and proposal to Riptide Publishing. They loved the book. Tweeted about it the day they got the proposal and called me with an offer seven days later. I was absolutely elated, as I had previously considered Riptide Publishing beyond my reach. I had the idea my writing might not be good enough, and that my audience might not be big enough.
While hammering out the details of my contract with them, I mentioned that I was currently writing more science fiction (To See the Sun) and they literally contracted that on the spot. Then March happened.
I was horrified by the revelation of what had been going on behind the scenes at Riptide and once again had to consider the direction of my career, and the fate of a book (and series) that I felt was my next big step. After much back and forth, I decided to honor my contracts and stay with Riptide. You can read my post regarding that decision here.
So here we are—over two years after Charlie first spoke to me through a mouthful of Cheez-Its—on the eve of the publication of Building Forever. I’m enormously proud of this book, and I hope you all enjoy meeting and spending time with Simon and Charlie as much as I did, and that you go on to meet Frank and Tom in Renewing Forever (November 12), and find it in your hearts to give Brian a chance in Chasing Forever (December 11) as he pursues my wounded hero, Mal.
I’m not entirely sure what’s up next for me, but getting these three books out into the world has been an incredible accomplishment! I feel like these are my best books to date and I’m proud of the fact I was able to knuckle down and write each one despite various challenges. I’ve been exhausted and many, many times I’ve felt like quitting. But over and again, when the darkness threatened to descend, I kept looking for a window… and kept finding one.
If you follow me on Facebook, you know that my husband and I just bought a bagel shop. So far, the upside of the venture (and there is only one right now) is that I’ve been so busy learning how to clean the bagel kettle and baking oven that I barely have time to fret over the ratings and rankings of my books. Although I’m exhausted in a different sense, this has been a really cool development. I’ve been trying for five years now to care less. I want to love my books—as they are—and be able to release them to others who may or may not love them, and to be happy with that. Now, I’m too tired to worry about it for the most part.
This is not the end of my writing career, however, only a much needed slow down as I come off of editing four books back to back and promoting five to publication in the space of five months. Next up I’m treating myself to a book I’ve been thinking about for three years. I’ll be returning to my first love, science fiction, and combining it with elements that pop up in nearly every book I write: a journey to self, unexpected attraction, and lots of adventure.
Given the pattern established in my career, I’m understandably nervous about submitting another book to my current publisher (:D), but I do have an outline for a follow up to To See the Sun, and plans to publish it sometime next year by any means necessary.
And, of course, I have more contemporary ideas brewing. Obviously I’m going to have to write a romance set in a bagel shop at some point…
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I hope I’ve inspired other writers to keep going, and readers to keep reading. ❤
Charlie King is doing fine. Sure, he’s a widower raising a teenage daughter who just got her first boyfriend, his book series isn’t writing itself, and he has a crush on his new neighbor — the guy next door. But everything’s just fine.
Simon Lynley is doing better. He moved to Bethlehem to fall out of love and rebuild his career. An affair with his neighbor isn’t part of the plan, but the attraction between them is too hard to ignore.
But when Simon’s ex follows him to Pennsylvania seeking reconciliation, and Charlie’s life starts to feel like a video on repeat, everything comes apart. Charlie worries that he’s failing as a father, and Simon is a distraction he can’t afford. Meanwhile Simon doesn’t know if he could survive being left again, and he hasn’t come all this way to make the same mistakes. But despite their fears, it’s only together that they’ll find the strength to slay old foes and build the forever they’ve been waiting for.
Preorder Building Forever at Riptide Publishing for early access—meaning you can start reading at midnight tonight (EST). The book will be available everywhere else on Monday.
If there is one thing writing has taught me, it’s how to let go. It’s not an easy lesson, and out of all the lessons of the past few years, it’s the one I struggle with most—probably because it’s just so important. It affects every stage of the writing process and has value in other areas of my life.
I haven’t blogged much this month. I’ve been busy writing a book! It’s nearly done and I’m going to post a teaser for it next week and blog about the process of writing it. The knockdown, drag about fight I had with my copy edits for Block and Strike yesterday prompted this post. I wrote Block and Strike over two years ago. I revised it last year and rewrote a significant portion of it this year. Right now, it’s that book. The one I’ve invested a lot of self into. And yesterday, I finally had to let it go. Continue reading “Letting Go”→
Honestly, I’m surprised to note it’s only the nineteenth of August. As fast as my summer has disappeared, I expected it to be later. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and that’s certainly true. It also slips by unnoticed when you’re busy. What about when both coincide, when you’re working hard and enjoying it? It’s no wonder I seem to have lost two and a half months.
What have I been up to? Well, I’m so glad you asked.
At the beginning of the summer my husband and I visited a couples resort. He won a two night stay there in a raffle. The previous sentence is a disclaimer, because he and I are not really couples resort people. We…laughed at the pool. C’mon, it was heart-shaped, and not recessed into the Lido Deck of the Love Boat. The hot tub in our room was heart-shaped, too. We laughed when he switched on the lights and pink spots highlighted the bright, crimson colour of the tub. The bed was round and had its own light show—a scatter of star lights across the black tile ceiling. The black tile ceiling struck me as kinky.
The resort just kinda blew my mind. I honestly didn’t know couples went away to places like this, en masse. No kidding, there were hundreds of rooms here and the place was hopping. AND EVERYONE HELD HANDS. Creepy. In fact, it was so weird that we felt like we were visiting a cult, and by the end of our two days, we felt compelled to hold hands. We did not dare go anywhere alone, because that seemed to be against expectations—which were probably being fulfilled in some of the champagne glass hot tubs in the super premium rooms. Oh, yeah, we stayed THERE. But not in the room with the champagne glass. Those aren’t for the certificate winners, those are for folks who don’t mind pressing their bare arse against thick Perspex, in full view of the front door of their suite.
To be fair, we did actually have a good time. Between snickers and giggles, we made use of all the facilities, including my favourite new pastime: shuffleboard. I like it because I’m good at it. I beat Husband twice. The food was pretty good, too, and our stay included a ticket to see comedians and SNL alumni Rob Schneider and Jon Lovitz. Schneider had me in stitches, wiping tears from my cheeks.
Upon my return from the Crazy Cult of Coupledoom, I learned that Carina Press not only liked the manuscript my writing partner, Jenn, and I had submitted, but that they wanted to sign the entire five-book series. Publish it. There’s little news better than: I’m getting published! All right, I know getting married (and coerced into spending weekends at couples resorts) and having kids are pretty big deals. But:
I’M GETTING PUBLISHED!
Regular visitors to my blog will know I already have a book out there. It’s a science fiction romance novella called Less Than Perfect. Click through to read all about it. This new deal is for a five book science fiction romance series co-authored by my best bud, Jenn Burke, and I. The first book is tentatively entitled Chaos Station and is tentatively scheduled for release in March 2015. Carina Press is a digital first imprint of Harlequin Enterprises. What this means is that we have the backing of an experienced company and the attention of a specialized team. Needless to say, Jenn and I are both wildly excited to be working with Carina and cannot wait for the world to meet our “boys”. Watch this pace for updates.
Much as I’d like to talk about the book deal (like, forever), I have more summer to cover. Oh, yeah, this is going to be a long one. With the ink drying on our deal sheet with Carina, Jenn and I flew down to San Antonio, Texas, to attend the 2014 Romance Writers of America conference. I’ve attended a fair number of conferences and conventions, but never as a professional. Okay, actually, I did attend a series of luncheons that were somehow related to me being a director of my father’s company, waaaay back before the turn of the century, but I mostly went for the food. This time I went to network and boy, did I work it. I met so many authors, but the surprising thing was, being there as an author meant that these women were just as delighted to meet me, even if they’d never heard of my li’l old novella. They were excited to meet a new author, a fellow writer and someone who not only read, but wrote romance. And it wasn’t weird, not like the Cult of Coupledoom weird. These women were so genuinely enthusiastic about their careers and so willing to help their fellows succeed. I willingly drank the Kool-Aid.
I met a lot of authors I admire and idolize at RWA. I tried not to gush all over them, but it’s hard not to enthuse about books and characters that you adore, and I’m sure authors are delighted to know people enjoy their books. Right? Robyn Carr was lovely. I told her which book in the Thunder Point series I had enjoyed the most and she mentioned another I’d probably like because of the similarities of character, who happened to be one of her favourites. Can’t get a better recommendation than that! I danced near Nora Roberts at the Harlequin party—an amazing event that I felt so privileged to attend—and sought out Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Claudia Welch and Linda Francis Lee after attending their seminars to tell them how helpful they had been. I also have autographed copies of their books. In fact, I came home with thirty-five pounds of books. Had to buy an extra bag. I also attended a Carina Press breakfast, where I had a chance to chat to Jeffe Kennedy and the Entangled meet-up where I stood amazed as Robin Covington talked and talked and talked to me and Jenn about her writing process, as if we understood. Which we did—do?—of course, but, who knew all these bestselling authors would have time to talk to little old me? I met a ton of other authors, and also the Editorial Directors of both Entangled Publishing and Carina Press. One of the best aspects of all this meeting and greeting was putting names to faces.
I still haven’t cracked open my notebook from all the workshops I attended at RWA. I plan to do that this week. I took a lot of notes with two particular manuscripts in mind. I’m eager to get to work on both projects—just as soon as I finish drafting book three of the Chaos Series with Jenn. (Book three!)
A week after my return from Texas, I tested for and received my brown belt in Kiryoku System of Self Defense. This was a great milestone for me, representing five years of work.
I was on the road again, this time to Mississippi to meet family. Instead of a week on the beach, this year, our family decided to road-trip it. We had a great time. Over the course of three days, we followed the trail of the Civil War from Gettysburg, through Harrisonburg to the Tannehill Ironworks and on to Vicksburg. We detoured through the war of 1812 in New Orleans, at the Chalmette Plantation (Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815) and ended up at the World of Coke a Cola in Atlanta, where one can follow the history of the war between Coke and Pepsi—and taste sixty flavours of carbonated beverage from around the world.
Our trip had two highlights. Actually, it had many more than that. As a family of three, we’re very close-knit and we really enjoyed our ten days of close proximity, which is a wonder, it really is. Tempers only started to fray toward the end, and even then, we had a common goal: home. First highlight was our visit with family in Mississippi. I covered that in a blog post a couple of weeks ago. The second highlight was our first visit to New Orleans. I’ve seen it in the movies, I’ve read about it in books, now I’ve finally visited and it lives up to the hype. The French Quarter looks exactly as it should; the food is amazing—I think we all gained ten pounds in two days—and there is always music playing. And it’s HOT. Next time we visit, we’re not going in August. The air was like soup. Hot soup. We toured some historical sites, but mostly we shopped. We pawed through a lot of local arts and crafts, bought a couple of trinkets and then dropped two hundred dollars on voodoo dolls. Yep.
So, that’s my summer. Between the traveling and the writing, I haven’t had time for much else. Ironically, I always read less in the summer, as I’m usually outside taking advantage of the sunshine. This summer has marked the first serious lag in my blogging, however, which I’m going to chalk up to being overwhelmed with writing commitments. Jenn and I have three more manuscripts due, with actual deadlines, and then five to edit before publication, and that’s just for our co-written series. She also has a book due out later this year with Entangled’s Covet line, and I have two contemporary romance manuscripts to edit.
If you made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading and I hope you had a fabulous summer, too! Pictures below are from my travels.