Tuesday, October 26, 2010


So, a while back, I decided that, in addition to entering The Indian Princess into a couple of contests, I was going to trot out the latest book I'd finished, The Wannabe Cowboy. It had only been through my mom (Hi, Mom!), Mary the Grammar Goddess, and my critique partner, the Lovely Laurel--no one else had read it. But hey, it's contest season, and I wanted to see if it got enough positive feedback that I could feel good about entering it into the granddaddy of all contests, the Golden Heart (more on that later).

When I first started this crazy journey, I entered a whole bunch of contests without a whole lot of thought. (This, if you're just joining this career in process, is how I pretty much went about everything back at the beginning--the throw a bunch of stuff against a wall and see if it sticks method.) And I got a whole lot of helpful comments--and a whole lot of really bad scores. But those contests were good for me--all those judges who suffered through that first book of mine really helped me see where the (major) holes in my work were.

I didn't enter another contest for a year, and when I did, I took second in the Chicago-North RWA's Fire and Ice contest for a book no one actually liked, Warrior, Lawyer. (It's on a shelf somewhere, gathering serious dust.) They were so nice to me that I wound up joining their chapter.

I then got it into my head that I was going to sell a book VERY SOON--and stopped entering contests for another year and a half. I also didn't sell a book in that year and a half.

Which brings us back to the present. I decided I needed some independent readers, and hey--being able to say "Finalist" wouldn't hurt, either. This time, however, there was a method to my madness. This time, I've learned the secret to entering contests. It's not the contest so much, but who's judging it.

As you may (or may not) remember, The Indian Princess was a finalist in the Golden Rose contest a few weeks back. I entered the Golden Rose because the judge is an editor for Special Edition--one of possibly four lines where my books would fit at Harlequin. I've already entered Princess in the Golden Heart--and had an editor express interest in it.

I picked the Hot Prospect contest from the Valley of the Sun RWA chapter because the judge is an editor for Harlequin American, which specializes in American-set stories--and features a lot of good-looking men in cowboy hats on the covers. So when Linda Andrews from Valley of the Sun called and told me I'd finalled, I assumed she meant Princess.

But I was wrong. She meant both.

So, if you'll excuse me, I must now go forth and dance around the house with The Kid and the dogs (Gater loves to dance!) and then do a little bit of revision before I send Wannabe back for the finalist judges--and off to the Golden Heart.

I'm feeling lucky.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

All At Once


So, on Monday, I received a phone call from a lovely lady named Paula Gill, who was with the Rose City Romance Writers (up yonder in Portland). In a delightful conversation, Paula informed me that my book Indian Princess had been named a finalist in the series category in their writing contest, the Golden Rose.

I have to tell you, it's been months, if not longer, since the last bit of Authorial Good News. But suddenly, I'm a finalist with a decent shot of not only winning a one-of-a-kind handcrafted rose pendant for being first in my category, but also winning a real gilded rose if I'm the top scorer. Top it off--an editor for Harlequin will read my entry.

Needless to say (but I shall say it anyway), I was thrilled. Hyper thrilled. Dancing around the house with The Kid thrilled. After a long, demoralizing drought of nothing happening--the kind of drought that makes a girl question what she's doing and why she's doing it and if maybe she wouldn't be better off doing something else--I suddenly felt Authorial again. I am a real author, and I write real books. People--three judges, to be specific--said so. One judge, God bless the woman, gave me a 149 out of 150 and her comment was that the book was "ready for the bookshelf!" I love that woman, whoever judge #16 was. LOVE HER.

So that was exciting. I felt better about the world and my Authorial place in it. Then, unexpectedly on Tuesday, I got an email from Laurie McLean of Larsen/Pomada. She'd gotten Indian Princess in front of an editor--and miracles of miracles, this editor loved it. She totally got my story.

After a year and a half of searching and sending and hoping and praying, an editor gets it. I had to call the neighbors and apologize for all the screaming coming out of the house.

Nothing is set in stone right now--nothing. The editor wants me to make a few changes--nothing so major as killing a character or moving the sex scene to page two or anything--but she wants to see how I handle the revisions, both personally and in terms of writing. Then, if she likes what she sees, she'll present my book to a senior editor with the intent of selling it--and maybe more. Laurie is handling this negotiation, obviously.

So, right now, I'm revising (and I mean that in a literal, time-based sense). This offer could fall through; it could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Part of what happens next depends on me and my ability to revise and handle myself in a professional manner (which means, basically, that I have to stop jumping around and yelling at the top of my lungs long enough to do some rewriting). Part of it is out of my control--the senior editor could pass. (But I hope she doesn't.)

It was, hands down, one of the more insane, eventful, action-packed 18 hours of my life.

Now, I know--this is Thursday, where I normally blog about the Mom part of the Authorial Mom, so to tide you all over until my head comes down out of the clouds, I am including a photo of Pooh Bear, wearing his Halloween costume--he's dressed as 'Alvin the Munk'--while he plays battleship with The Kid:

There. That's better!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"World's Finest Chocolate"

I'd like to offer my many thanks and simultaneous apologies to all the friends, family, and neighbors who graciously took part in our school fundraiser these last few weeks. By purchasing some "World's Finest Chocolates," you helped my kid get the bribe--er, prize--of a free ticket to a magic show while scoring some supplies for our favorite kindergarten teacher. Trust me, that wonderful woman needs all the help she can get.

Did you notice the quote marks in that title? In case you didn't, I'll repeat it. "World's Finest Chocolate." Yep. Normally, misplaced and misused quote marks are my major grammatical pet peeve. (Yes, I'm dorky enough to have a grammatical pet peeve.) Here, the only people being quoted here are cynical marketing people who were charged with test-marketing brand names. This chocolate is, in fact, not only not the world's finest chocolate, I'd hazard to say that it's not even in the top twenty.

Frankly, I'm surprised to discover that it's even made with actual, real chocolate. I thought for sure that it would be made with "chocolatey favored" ingredients. Yes, it's just that "good." (Who am I quoting? That's marketing for you!)

Why "World's Finest Chocolate"? I get a flower catalog that advertises bulbs for school fundraisers. I could sell the HELL out of bulbs. I would personally buy enough bulbs--300-500 bulbs every fall--to win that kid every prize they had. But no. "World's Finest Chocolate." At least we got caramel. That seemed to help.

This school fundraiser has been a challenge for me. A long time ago, in a place far, far away--Missouri--my mother (Hi, MOM!) was president of the PTA. And she got it into her noggin that, as PTA president, she needed her adorable children to be the top-sellers of fundraising merchandise. Not that I, personally, sold any of the junk. Mom was all about twisting the arm of everyone in the world. And she got results. I won a bike. And a year later, my sisters split the top prize. While I loved that bike, the pressure Mom put on herself wasn't a lot of fun.

The Kid's school had a lot of cool prizes The Kid could win for selling "World's Finest Chocolate." I had to break it to him that he wasn't going to win the remote-controlled cars or any of the other fun toys, because I'm not going to spend two weeks of life pushing subpar chocolate onto the world. But if he sells one box, he gets a free ticket to a magic show. (Parents must purchase their own, so we're still out). So we sold a box.

But we had an unexpected ethical dilemma crop up. Two wonderful people--my sister Hannah and our neighbor Donna--bought large amounts of chocolate--$7 and $5, respectively--and then refused to take their chocolate. They told us to keep it for our own uses. Which is sweet and thoughtful--or it would be if the chocolate were really worth eating. The Kid, ever resourceful, wanted to resell the chocolate at a direct profit. Perhaps we should stop telling him bedtime stories about Warren Buffet and Daddy Warbucks. But, ethically and morally, that's kinda wrong. So we aren't. If we have any of it left by Halloween, some "lucky" trick-or-treater will get some "World's Finest Chocolate" in their treat bag.

I may have missed my "calling" in marketing.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pitch or Publish?

So, I'm almost done reading my grandmother Goldie's manuscript for Eleanore Gray. And I'm not sure what to do with it. It's a lovely book, about 83,000 words. In book language, we call that 'single title.' Goldie captures the poetic beauty of the world in sentence form in ways that make me jealous. For example:

"The leaves that had ornamented the hillside with inspiring jewel colors faded and dropped to the ground, spent and weary from artistic labors."

Wow. That's just beautiful. This isn't really surprising--Goldie was a nationally recognized poet. Still, when I reach a sentence like that one, I'm floored by it.

The plot is a little slow to develop, and the characters don't have much internal monologue. My first question is, How much should I change it? Should I edit to make all point-of-views consistent? Should I try to speed up the plot developments? Should I get into each character's heads more during the emotional turning points?At what point do they stop being Goldie's words and start being mine? It's not a romance novel--if I start adding things, will it come out as overly-romantic, since that's my strength?

Regardless, it's a beautiful book, and I'm going to publish it. The next question is, How? Eleanore goes to the Ozark hill country and in her quiet, Christian way, works to save some of her neighbors. I don't know if I should take the time to pitch this to an inspirational, Christian publisher, like Barbour Publishers, or just go ahead and do it myself.

I'm open to suggestions here. What do you think?