Jeanne: My First DNF (Did Not Finish)

censorship-3308001_640So I got a note from an old friend and former co-worker the other day, saying they couldn’t finish The Demon Always Wins because it was too scary. Pressed, she admitted that she never actually started it–just the idea of demons freaked her out.

I was sorry she couldn’t enjoy the book, but I didn’t really take it to heart. It didn’t feel like a rejection of my work so much as a rejection of the genre. Since I have no expectation that I’m going to convert anyone who doesn’t like paranormal over to reading it, I wasn’t upset.

What felt a little more personal was the lady at the gym who declined to read it because of the cursing in the first chapter. I pointed out that only the bad guys curse, but she wasn’t swayed. Cursing makes her uncomfortable. Continue reading

Justine: Seeking Out Rejection to Overcome It

Are you sitting on your finished MS, dying-but-hating to send it out to the A-list of agents and editors you met at a recent conference? Perhaps you’ve signed up for a mentor program, but you’re anxious about putting your 60,000 word baby in the hands of someone else. Or, you found a great new critique partner, but you keep putting off sharing your chapters because “it’s just not quite right yet.”

You’ve got a rejection problem…or really, the fear of it.

Cue Jia Jiang, an entrepreneur and educator who formed an early association to rejection anxiety when he was six years old. Watch in this humorous TED talk as he explains how exposing himself to rejection for 100 days actually lessened the anxiety he felt about being rejected, and actually opened up opportunities he otherwise wouldn’t have had. It’s a lesson we can all learn from (although I don’t think I’ll be asking for “burger refills” at the local burger joint).

What is your worst rejection moment? Your best? What lessons can you share with writers who are afraid to put their work out there?

Jeanne: The Ship to Tarshish

WhaleI intended to make today’s post a review of the 2018 RWA Conference in Denver that I attended last week. I have plenty to talk about–my first ever shot at giving away swag to promote a book, the great workshops I attended, my second experience as a Golden Heart finalist (though not, I’m sorry to say, as a winner this time).

But then I got to thinking about Jonah and the Whale, so we’re going to talk about that instead.

For those of you who weren’t frog-marched to Baptist Sunday school as impressionable children, God called on Jonah, a well-known prophet, to go to Nineveh and tell the Ninevites that they were screwing up, and to knock it off or he’d smite them.

Jonah didn’t think the Ninevites would be open to hearing this corrective feedback, so he hopped on a ship to Tarshish and high-tailed it in the opposite direction. Continue reading

Jeanne: The True Heart of the Golden Heart®

dragonfly-3469873_640Elizabeth’s post last week on the future of the Golden Heart® got me to thinking about my own experiences with this RWA tradition.

As you may know, I was a finalist in 2015 for The Demon Always Wins, my debut paranormal which will be released on September 1st on Amazon. It was a thrill to final, and an even bigger thrill in July, when the book went on to win its category. But the greatest win I received from the contest wasn’t delivered until the next February.

In January, 2016, after a routine mammogram, I was diagnosed with invasive ductile breast cancer. I was very fortunate because the mammogram and follow up ultrasound caught it very early–I think my tumor was 4 millimeters–about the size of the tip of your pinky finger. In March I had a lumpectomy and did a course of radiation and I’m happy to report that I’ve seen no recurrence.

But in between that January diagnosis and my March surgery, something pretty amazing happened. One Saturday morning in February, I did a quick check of my email before heading out to go hiking at a nearby nature preserve, as I usually do on Saturdays. To my surprise, in my inbox was a $5 Amazon gift card from on one of the Dragonflies, as my Golden Heart® class had chosen to name themselves. I was a little befuddled, but I had to meet a friend at the preserve, so I decided I’d figure out what was going on when I got home.

When I returned, around 10 a.m., there were two more gift cards in my inbox, also from Dragonflies. All day long, my inbox pinged with new arrivals as my Dragonfly sisters used their wings to carry me aloft. When I reached out to thank them and ask what they were doing, they said they wanted me to feel like I was getting little hugs all day long.

I truly did.

By the end of the day, I had amassed around 40 gift cards in varying amounts, totaling almost $300. In my mind, that money is earmarked for buying, at a minimum, every Dragonfly debut novel, so that I can read it and leave a review and, in some small measure, pay them back for their support during what could have been a lonely and frightening time.

So, RWA® Board if you’re listening, that’s what the Golden Heart® is really about. To my mind, we shouldn’t be looking for ways to dismantle it. We should be looking for ways to spread this kind of sisterhood and camaraderie throughout the organization.

Jeanne: Bloody, but Unbowed

Sailboat

On Sunday, Justine posted about her decision to publish independently.  One of the factors, she said, was watching me win the 2015 Golden Heart® for Paranormal Romance, only to fall short on getting a publishing contract.

Just for the record, I have to confess that I sent out a grand total of 12 queries. That included two requests for full manuscripts that I received via contests I entered in preparation for entering the Golden Heart®. From conversations with other GH finalists, I gather 12 queries constitutes a pretty lame effort. One of the 2015 group told me she made over 400 queries and/or pitches before she secured a contract.

Four. Hundred. Attempts.

By that standard, I gave up without a struggle. Continue reading

Jilly: Cold Start Case Study

This week the Ladies have been discussing cold starts, sharing their tips and tricks for finding their way into a scene or story when inspiration is nowhere to be found. As you’d expect, their recommendations are as different as their personalities and writing processes.

Michaeline talked yesterday about the excitement of bashing two or three different ideas together to generate story sparks, and then using her own memories and experiences as kindling for those sparks.

That sounds like fun, but I’m not usually looking for story starters. When I commit to a character, I like to spend lots of time in their world. I’m like the worst kind of nosy neighbor: I want to know everything about everyone in the whole community. For Alexis’s epic I have at least five major areas to explore and a tentative series end date of some time in 2020.

I’m not a detailed planner like Nancy. I know roughly where I’m headed and who will join me on the journey, but until I start to write I don’t know the details. I have to cold start the beginning of each book, and I usually hit more icy patches as I’m writing.

I find that my writing troubles usually stem from my characters. If the story goes cold, it’s because I haven’t challenged them, or I don’t know them well enough to figure out how they’d react, and why.

Momentum helps me. If I spend quality time with my characters on a regular basis, they’re top of my mind and I learn a little more about them every day. If I take a break from them, I lose that proximity and have to spend time getting to know them all over again. Just like real people—if you don’t see someone for a month, or a year, it takes a while to get back into the swing of the relationship.

Right now, I’m the poster child for cold starts. Since my mum died in mid-January I’ve had neither the time nor the inclination to write. Add in some family downtime over Christmas and New Year, and I reckon it must be two months since I really got to grips with Alexis. I want to get back to work, but my story brain is feeling sluggish and unresponsive.

I decided to try Continue reading

Kay: Getting There!

From homeofservice.com

The Ladies have been writing this blog for five or so years, and we’ve all made significant progress in our writing and publishing careers. Despite life changes, major events, illnesses, accidents, day jobs, volunteer work, writers block, and the demands of family, many of us are nearing the goals we set for ourselves when we embarked on this path. Just in the last few days we’ve heard from Jilly, Jeanne, Justine, and Nancy about major milestones. Reading their thoughts on edit reports, blurb writing, and revisions is a good reminder that it takes a lot to put out a book.

I thought of our collective efforts recently when I listened to a podcast by Mark Coker of Smashwords. He talked about best practices of booksellers—and he meant people like us, people who write books and publish them independently. I enjoyed it particularly because he discussed the things we’re doing, and he put them in context, and he included data that Smashwords has gleaned from analyzing the sales of the half-million or so books that authors have published on that platform. There’s a transcript as well as the link to the podcast here. But these are his major points. Continue reading