Archive for the '"The Call"' Category

The Sekrit Handshake
by Jessa Slade on May 10th, 2010

Currently working on: Still unpacking from the RT Booklovers’ Convention
Mood: Awash

Last Monday, when I was supposed to be blogging here, I was flying back from Columbus Ohio after the RT Booklovers’  Convention, where more than a thousand women — and a few men — gathered together for a solid week of book lovin,’ Mr. Romance-ogling (I did mention there were a few men), drinking, and more book lovin.’

Highlights of my trip:

  • Whiskey shots with Joe Konrath, author of WHISKEY SOUR (see, those shots were networking)
  • Scoring Jeri Smith-Ready’s newest, SHADE, a paranormal YA, before she sold out at the book fair — mine, all mine!
  • Four nights of dancing in person with online friends

Lowlights of my trip:

  • The DJ who, when I asked if he had any Bollywood dance music, responded that, well, he had Molly Hatchet — er, not quite
  • Forgetting my tiara for the prom-themed dance party
  • The flight home from Ohio to Oregon via New York — don’t ask

Back to the highlights though.  I got to mingle with all sorts of people, from voracious readers to aspiring writers to famous authors.  (Is that Charlaine Harris?!  OMG OMG!  I adore name dropping!)  What an amazing, fun, savvy, dedicated group it was.  For a newer author like myself, it was a wonderful opportunity to talk with a wide swath of book people and contemplate, “Geez, who let me in here?”

Turns out, there wasn’t a sekrit handshake required at the door.

Oh, I knew there wasn’t really a sekrit handshake, but when I was racking up rejections in the early years of my writing (uh, and in the later years too) I desperately hoped there was a large, Raybanned, cross-armed bouncer guarding a NYC office building with “Publishing” somewhere on the letterhead who could be bought off with the right open sesame.  In many ways, it seemed easier to imagine a trick than to think of all the hard work.

After all, ”work hard” just isn’t an inspiring call to adventure. 

But one theme I heard repeated at RT time and again was the value of perseverance, the stubborn dedication that goes with hard work.  I talked to a multi-published author whose number of rejections quadrupled mine.  I met writers in all stages, from “I have this idea” to just receiving a request for a complete manuscript from an editor attending the convention.  I had dinner with a reader who drove ten hours after work through the night to make the convention, blowing a tire in the process.  “I need chocolate,” was her only complaint.  They all wanted the same thing: books.  Lots of books.

Can you be clear eyed and starry eyed at the same time?  I think so.  I saw that at RT, and it reminded me, the door was always open.  I just had to get there.

The RT Booklovers’ Convention is in Los Angeles next year.  Maybe I’ll see some of you!

How to Get Published When You’re In Denial
by Sharon Ashwood on January 7th, 2009

I am living proof that slackers sometimes do stumble into success. If there was a prize for Author Most Unprepared, I’d have won it.

I’m deadly serious about the quality of my writing. Absolutely. All hail the excellent phrase! But the business side of publication …. Not my thing. I ignored it for as long as possible.

I mean, really, who plans to get published? I knew how hard it was. I had years of real-world non-fiction articles to my name and all the cynical indifference that comes with …. Well, never mind. I didn’t have a clue. I also didn’t have any rejection letters because I’d never submitted anything. I wasn’t sure what an agent did, but never bothered to ask for details. It sounded complicated, and I was busy.

A while later I entered a contest because it was my chapter contest and entry was free. I won. Cool! And I forgot about it.

Then one of the judges started pestering me. So, because I felt guilty, I bundled my winning chapters off to the editor in question, along with a few breezy statements about other books. And I forgot about it. I mean, nobody really gets a contract out of these things, do they?


I finally got the call one afternoon when I was at work. For a split second, I actually ran down the list of my mischievous friends and wondered who was having a laugh at my expense.

I don’t recall most of the conversation. My editor was patient and kind and spoke in slow, brief sentences about percentages, rights and other arcane mysteries. (so THAT was what agents looked after! I instantly wanted one!)

Lots of people talk about squealing and bouncing for joy when they get the call, but not me. I was going to be published, and I had to get with the program. And I knew nothing about what I was supposed to do. I was shocked and panic-stricken.


My boss, one of the truly good people on this planet, hugged me and told me everything would be fine. She was right. It was.

In truth, there has been a very steep learning curve. I think it’s going to go on like a twisty roller coaster for the rest of my writing career because publishing is an ever-changing industry. I’ll never have the chance to get bored, and that’s the biggest push to stay creative.

The moral of my story? Never say never. Fate loves to tease a cynic.

Oh, and to all those aspiring authors out there—trust me, it pays to do your homework! Don’t make my mistakes!

The Difficult Road
by Annette McCleave on January 6th, 2009

Back in 2005, I naively thought publication was just around the corner. I had finaled in several contests, including the prestigious Golden Heart. My fellow finalists were selling in droves and I honestly thought, ‘this is it’. But 2005 came and went without an agent or a sale. Then 2006 … and 2007. A veritable drought of success.

I began to wonder if publication was a pipe dream for me. But I never stopped writing, and in the fall of 2007, I completed a new manuscript just in time to enter it in the Golden Heart. I actually entered two manuscripts in that contest, firmly believing that my chances were best with my older, more seasoned story, not the new one.

In February of 2008, my father was called back from a vacation in Arizona because medical tests done just before he left proved ‘concerning’. All thoughts about writing contests fell by the wayside as I escorted my dad from doctor’s appointment to doctor’s appointment in an attempt to determine the state of his health. The day the Golden Heart calls went out, I was in the hospital with my dad as he endured a marathon test.

When I returned home and saw the message light on my phone blinking, I confess it never occurred to me it was the RWA calling to say I’d finaled. With the newer manuscript! It was a terrific boost, to say the least.

But going to the RWA National conference was out of the question. More tests finally confirmed what my family had been dreading—my father’s prostate cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and his bones. His diagnosis was terminal. We were devastated, having lost our mom to cancer two years before and having just supported our sister through aggressive treatment for breast cancer.

Needless to say, my final in the 2008 Golden Heart—although a huge personal validation—did not remain top-of-mind. But it didn’t disappear, either. That’s because, to my delight, one of the judges in the GH requested a full. Then, my query letters started to gain me some requests. Then an agent emailed me to say she loved my book and wanted to represent me.

Around the same time, my dad’s health began to worsen. Living next door to him, I naturally became his primary caregiver. By the end of July, he was barely able to walk. It seemed like every piece of good news was accompanied by bad.

On August 3rd, my cell phone rang in the middle of the night, and my heart raced. My first thought was my dad. But to my intense relief and absolute amazement, it was my friend Sylvia Day calling from San Francisco to say I’d won the Golden Heart for Best Paranormal Romance. I cried.

The next day, I broke the news to my dad that I’d won. His face lit up like a candle, his eyes twinkling, a huge grin curving his lips. He jumped out of his chair and gave me the biggest hug ever. He was so proud of me he told everyone he met that day.

As if that weren’t magical enough, six days later my agent called to say we’d sold my Golden Heart winning manuscript in a three-book deal to NAL.

My dad passed away September 11th. It won’t surprise you to know that the look on his face when I told him I’d won the Golden Heart is one of the memories I’ll treasure forever.

When I got “The Email”
by Jessa Slade on January 5th, 2009

Currently working on: Clearing my office of mealworm beetles
Mood: Creeped out — emphasis on creep


Various lessons of questionable value you can take away from my limping, snowblind journey toward publication

The deadline for my RWA chapter contest was looming. Lesson 1: Embrace artificially imposed deadlines. They can stand in until you can proudly proclaim that you are “contractually obligated” to freak out under deadline pressure. So I put the polish to a partial on a paranormal I’d been working on for a couple months and sent it in because the final round judge was from NAL, a publisher that didn’t accept unagented submissions.

Lesson 2: Don’t be a contest slut; be a contest courtesan. A slut gets drunk on cheap words and enters any ol’ contest just ‘cuz. A contest courtesan wisely chooses her contests to further her education, enhance her allure, gain access to otherwise elite circles, and hopefully, eventually, land the perfect sugar daddy.

That was the summer of 2007. Finalists wouldn’t be announced until October, but I figured I better finish the book. You know, just in case. Lesson 3: Waiting is a bitch, and there’s a lot of waiting to be done in this business. Use the time. Finish stuff. Start new stuff. Whatever. As painful as waiting is, make every minute of it count. Sad fact: In case anybody told you different, staying busy does NOT make the time go quicker.

I finally got “An Email” from the contest coordinator telling me I finaled. I received my scores, and it turned out one of the three judges HATED my story. Hated as in gave me 3’s and 4’s out of 10. Lesson 4: Judges in contests — like reviewers, readers and my grandma — have their own ideas about what makes a good story. Their opinion can lift you up or dash you. Just remember the chair in front of your keyboard is pretty much always in exactly the same place, altitudinally speaking. Take what you can use of others’ feedback and move along.

Luckily, the point spread on my scores was wide enough to earn me a discrepancy judge who did like the story, and my manuscript was going to NAL! Not only that, I ended up being the grand prize winner! Yay me! Kermit dancing! My prize was a 24-karat gold-dipped American Beauty Rose! Where’s my tiara?!? (Not that I recommend Kermit dancing while wearing a tiara — corneas can get scratched that way.) I am a grand prize winner and I am soooo cooool!

Lesson 5: Nobody cares about grand prize winners. My query letters to agents — which included 24-karat gold petals ripped from the 24-karat gold-dipped American Beauty Rose — were rejected with all the cool alacrity of my earlier queries. Review Lesson 4.

A month later, the final round scores came back. The NAL editor placed my manuscript first and asked to see the complete.

How tragic I didn’t have the complete.

Lesson 6: Have the complete.

A few weeks later, I had the complete and off it went. Review Lesson 3. Then the editor sent me “Another Email” saying she kinda liked the story. Then she asked if I could make it better.

Lesson 7: The correct answer to any question asked by The Guardian to The Portal Leading to Your Soul’s Destiny is “How high?” Some people will say “Yeah, but what about your artistic integrity, your death grip on the story you nourished from a wee little brilliant idea that nobody else could possibly understand?” My answer is “How high? No, really, how high are you anyway that you’d even ask that question? Sheesh.”

After a nerve-wracking number of few more revisions to tighten the pacing, motivate the characters, up the stakes, explain the world, and get the romance out of my head and on the page, the editor said she really liked the story. I also — finally! — found an agent who saw the potential. Lesson 8: In the end, compelling is more important than perfect. I’m not saying my story is compelling (Obviously I think it is, but I’m not a credible witness) but I know damn well it wasn’t perfect, and this despite the fact I am a perfectionist by nature. Your story will never be perfect either, but if you make it compelling, no one will notice the hero and heroine never technically actually said I love you. (Yes, I fixed that! Review Lesson 7.)

5/15/2008: I got “The Email”: “I’m thrilled we’ll be publishing SEDUCED BY SHADOWS and the second book in the series.”

And that, as they say, is history. Or I guess, really, the future, since SEDUCED BY SHADOWS comes out October 2009. No doubt I will learn many lessons before then and more lessons thereafter. I’ll happily share them with you, but if you have any suggestions going forward (or revisions to my past lessons) feel free to comment now.

Leave a comment anytime this week for your chance to win Allison Chase’s prize.