Tag: contests

A Little Birthday Advice To Rev Up Your New Year


No, it’s not a national holiday, and no one famous has died (at least I hope not). It’s just an ordinary day. The second to the last day of 2016. BUT it is my birthday (and LeBron James’). It’s also “No Interruptions Day.” So excuse the interruption, but this entitles me to share a few thoughts, right?

You see, I’ve picked up a bit of wisdom this year, what with writing and publishing a book and all. I figured today would be a good time to impart a gem or two to whoever is reading this post. YOU!

Consider this your lucky day.

Don’t Give Up (Too Soon)
I read a recent blog post encouraging the reader to toss out anything in their life that doesn’t make them happy. Stuff like their job that’s less than satisfying or a spouse or a friend who never gives back. It’s all about focusing on yourself the writer urges. Hmmm. Seems a bit…I don’t know…selfish?

The truth is the job is not always going to be satisfying even if you love what you do for a living. As I wrote in a previous blog post, I don’t like to write. Writing takes hard work and discipline. I have to force my butt in the chair, day after day, month after month, year after year. I have to suffer through gobs of rejection from readers, critique partners, reviewers, editors, agents, friends, family or anyone else who has an opinion. More often than not, writing sucks.

But then there are those precious moments, few and far between, when the long days of writing, critiques and bouts of insecurity reap dividends. Like the moment I wrote the last word of my 86,000-word manuscript or the time I won a writing contest or the day I saw the cover of my published novel for the first time. The high during these moments can’t be bought or manufactured. Their worth is measured directly by the effort I devoted to achieving them.

People will fail you.
Whether it’s your spouse or family or friends, they’re bound to disappoint. The easy choice? Dismiss those people who annoy you, hold you back or cause you pain. Why not? Won’t that make you happier? Maybe. But maybe you’ll miss out on some of the most satisfying relationships life has to offer.

After twenty-five years of marriage, I’d be lying if I told you there weren’t moments when I wanted to strangle my partner. There are times we can’t see each other’s point of view no matter how hard we try. There are moments of resentment and anger when it seems we argue about the same stuff, like we’re trapped on an endless merry-go-round spinning in circles.

We could jump off and save ourselves the pain and nausea. Or we could stay on the ride and work together to bring it to a satisfying end. It’s a choice we make. Walk away or hang on tight. We choose to hang on tight. The ride isn’t always easy or fun, but it’s now bigger, better and more exciting than we could have ever imagined starting out.

Don’t get me wrong. There are instances when no amount of hard work can keep a relationship alive. But if you give up at the first sign of stress, how will you ever know the heart-warming laughter of a deep and abiding friendship? The friends I have who go way back–back to college and first jobs–are some of the most enduring, loyal and truest friendships I possess. These are the friends who made a choice to stay during life changes or arguments. They’ve put up with me, offering a rare and precious gift I’ll treasure forever.

Don’t be afraid to try something new
Fear is a thief, robbing us of future joy. Often it’s easier to stay in a situation we know is not good for us or allow ourselves to be placed in a role that doesn’t fit. We grow beyond the role or situation but are afraid to move for fear of failure. We let other people’s view of us define who we are.

Stop. Now. Today.

Don’t do what I did. It took me forty-six years to drum up the confidence to focus on my writing. I made dozens of excuses to keep me in the same place. I let others opinion of me and my fear of the unknown guide my thinking.

The last two and half years after I took a giant leap into the unknown have been the truest, most productive and satisfying of my life. I only wish I would have made the jump sooner.

A few weeks ago, I met a local Cleveland author who survived cancer twice. She wrote about her trials and what she learned from them in her book, A Beautiful Journey. She told me she’s now living for a higher purpose. It took a dreaded disease to shake her from her comfortable life and move her into a profession of blogging, speaking and authoring books.

Sometimes we need these life events to shake us up and show us what truly matters. But you don’t have to wait for something tragic to happen.

So do it. Follow your dreams. But work hard, stay disciplined and don’t give up on yourself or others too soon in the process.

As my birthday buddy, LeBron James has said, “You can’t be afraid to fail. It’s the only way you succeed.”

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The Long Road to Publication: How I Got An Editor to Say ‘Yes’ to My Manuscript


It seems like a dream to post this blog entry.

Two years ago, I took the plunge. I spent nine months writing my first book, a paranormal romantic suspense novel called Mind Waves. Whenever I thought about quitting, I reminded myself that I also want to quit running but that doesn’t mean I should. There are huge payoffs when I exercise regularly and the same is true of my writing. Without steady writing, I can’t finish the book, and I certainly can’t improve. Without steady exercise, my overall health suffers, and I gain weight.

My waistline and I are both happy to report that we kept running and writing. By April 2015, I had written an entire manuscript. I can still remember the utter joy and astonishment I felt when the last words hit the page. It mirrored the moment I saw each of my three babies for the first time in childbirth. Although nothing can match that excitement, finishing my book was a close second.

In fact, as I wrote in this post back in May, in many ways writing a novel is like birthing a child: you carry the story around with you for nine months, while you painstakingly nurture it, and then before you know it, the big day arrives, and you are showing your baby off to your friends and family.

A Slew of Rejection
What I wasn’t quite prepared for was the first year of my manuscript’s life. Although I had heard all about the pitfalls of rejection, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get the attention of an agent or editor in such a crowded marketplace. Since the advent of self-publishing, the number of books hitting the world has swelled from 600,000 a year to some 3.3 million. In fact, I read somewhere that every five seconds a new book is posted to Amazon.

Saying there are a large number of query letters landing in agent and editor inboxes at any one time is an understatement. Although I don’t know the exact number of aspiring writers submitting manuscripts, I can tell you there are so many, that it takes months to get a response (if you even get a response) to your query. And most of the time, these responses are cold, impersonal rejection notices.

“Thank you but your book is not quite right for our list,” or “While an interesting premise, I’ll have to pass.”

Editor Extraordinaire
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I got a lucky break in May 2015, when I joined the Northeast Ohio Romance Writer’s Association (NEORWA) and learned that their annual conference would be held at the end of the month. I signed up and managed to pitch one agent and two editors, all of whom asked for my manuscript. One of those, Ms. Laura Kelly with the Wild Rose Press, took the time to provide me with specific feedback. While she didn’t feel my manuscript was up to Wild Rose Press’s standards, she did provide suggestions for improvement and the titles of a few books on self-editing.

I took her suggestions to heart. Bought the books and read them. I’ve never been much of a “book-learner,” though, preferring to learn by doing. So I continued to seek critiques and tweak my manuscript, while jumping back into the fray of pitching and querying.

Contests Generate Feedback…and Wins!
I started entering contests and kept this up throughout the year. Right off the bat, I was runner-up in the Music City Writer’s Pitch Contest, so I knew then my storyline had merit. More importantly, I found contests to be the best source for gaining professional feedback from other writers.

By August 2015, I had been awarded second place in the paranormal category in the 2015 Central Ohio Fiction Writer’s Ignite the Flame Contest and had rewritten the story painstakingly several times. I felt it was improved enough to resubmit to Laura Kelly. Shortly after Thanksgiving, she let me know she liked the story but felt certain plot changes would need to be made. If I was willing to make the changes, she said, she would look at the story again.

I felt her suggestions were sound, so it was back to revising. I spent the next two months reconstructing the plot. During this time, I also joined a critique group. The willingness of other members to provide constructive feedback was invaluable.

In January, I resubmitted the revised version. Laura Kelly responded immediately to tell me she would review and be back in touch by May.

Meanwhile, I learned the story received a bronze medal in The 2015 Rudy Writing Contest. For kicks in February, I decided to participate in a Twitter pitch contest, where publishers could favor pitches they liked. My pitch was favored by seven publishers, who after reading the initial chapters, all asked for the full manuscript. Five of these publishers eventually offered contracts, putting me in a quandary–should I accept one of the offers or should I hold out for the editor I wanted, Laura Kelly?

Final Pitch
After some internal debate, a flurry of emails and some googling, I decided to notify Laura Kelly about one of the contract offers, asking if she had had a chance to review the manuscript. She had not, but requested a week to take a look.

Before the week was up, she emailed to let me know she liked what she had read. Although only half way through, she was sending it out to a preliminary reader. Within a few days, I received a notice that it had passed the preliminary reader and was being forwarded to the senior editor for final approval.

Another week passed, while I tried not to worry about the outcome. Meanwhile, Laura Kelly wrote to tell me to relax over the weekend as I probably wouldn’t get a response until the following week. Easier said than done, but I made dinner plans with some old friends and managed to forget about it for a moment or two. Of course, it was while sitting in the restaurant that I received the email from the senior editor,  Ms. Amanda Barnett. Her email titled, “Contract for Mind Waves,” was enough to make me gasp and nearly fall off my chair. Instead, I did the next best thing and ordered dessert.

It’s a Wrap
I didn’t spend a long time reviewing the contract before signing. The Wild Rose Press has a certain reputation as an author-friendly outfit. They’ve been listed by the well-respected Preditors & Editors (P&E) website as “Best Book Publisher” seven years in row. Laura Kelly herself was voted the number one book editor at P & E three years in a row.

It has been long road to publication, but I am thrilled to be entering the final leg of the journey.

Now, it’s time to think about planning a book launch party (or parties!). Although I’m still working out the details, one thing’s for certain–you’re all invited!

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Five things I didn’t know until I wrote my novel

imageIt’s only been a little more than two months since I finished writing my first novel, but I have learned a lot of BIG ideas in that time. Here they are, in no particular order:

1.) Writing the book was the easy part — I am naïve. I thought that I would write the book, send it off to a few agents and editors and someone would express interest in reading the manuscript. Not so. First, comes the pitch, which is your query letter. Your query is a cleverly crafted, succinct summary of your book, free of grammar errors, marketing fluff and cheesy lines. It must describe the plot, the hero, the heroine and the hook — that special something that will draw the agent in and make them want to sell your book. It must not be too long or too short — opinions vary widely on what the proper length is, but if it can be kept to one page, that seems to be about right. Expect to rewrite it dozens of times before you get it right and even then, it may not be right. You’ll know because you’ll send it out to a dozen agents and half will not write you back. The other half will write you a nice form letter rejection. Develop a thick skin. Most would-be authors can expect to be rejected 100 times before getting a bona fide offer.

2.) You must be social media and computer savvy — Worldwide, more than 2 million books will be published this year. It is a crowded marketplace. Publishers rely on authors to market themselves to increase sales. That means you need to develop a following before you have published the book. This seems contrary and intimidating for a new novelist but is a necessary part of the process. If you don’t have a personal website, author Facebook page, and Twitter account at a minimum, you’d best get busy developing these tools. It doesn’t hurt to use other apps like Pinterest and Instagram to post photos that lead to your website, too.

3) You must go to conferences — I did not get any offers to read my manuscript until I went to my first conference — then I got three. Pitching a book in person is A LOT easier than pitching your novel in a query letter. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and showcase skills, such as your ability to be articulate and sell your novel. The agent/editor can get a sense of your personality and whether they might enjoy working with you. Plus, at conferences you can talk to other writers, hear from interesting speakers, take workshops, and buy books. The time spent is well worth the effort and beats the cold query any day.

4.) You must enter contests — Being able to state that you are a contest winner in a query letter is golden. Since agents can get up to 500 queries in any given week, you can use the extra credit a contest win provides to stand out in the slush pile. Plus, entering a contest requires your manuscript to be judged, which means it will get read by other authors, agents and editors, and you will get feedback. Getting professional feedback on your manuscript can help you improve your writing, which will eventually lead to a publishing deal.

5.) You must be patient — Some time ago I completed an exercise in a book called StrengthFinders. It identified my top five strengths based on 40 years of research by Gallup, which analyzed and recorded the traits of highly successful people. When my results came back, I was a little surprised by my number one trait: Activator — a person impatient for action. There’s no worse project for a person with activator in their makeup than writing a novel. The whole process is a lesson in patience. It’s a lot of hurry up and wait. I guess I’m still working on this one.

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