Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How To Become A Romance Author

How did I get here? Contrary to popular belief, I did not wake up one morning and decide I was going to write romance novels for Harlequin. If anything, the opposite happened. Let me walk you through my patented* steps to arriving at a career as a Harlequin Author, results guaranteed*!

1. Decide to write a novel.
2. Get busy for the next 20 years with schooling, jobs, marriage, family, and home-ownership.
3. Picture a scene with two people arguing. Wonder who they are.
4. Figure out who they are. Wish they would stop talking in your head.
5. Give up trying to get the imaginary people to be quiet. Decide that writing down what they say will get them out of your head.
6. Write a 537 page novel. Decide it's brilliant and New York Publishers will be crawling over each other to get to it first. Envision six-figure advances to honor your awesomeness.
7. Realize you have no idea how to alert New York Publishers to your awesomeness. Discover things called 'query letters.' Start writing them.
8. Get your first rejection. Rationalize that that person wouldn't know literature if it bit them on the tush. Send out more query letters.
9. More rejections. Conclude that, while your novel is brilliant, query letters are hard. Dig a little deeper into what goes into a query letter.
10. Discover your supposed to know what genre your novel is. Realize you have no freaking idea, because you haven't read a full-length fiction novel since you burned out on 70 of them in three months as a part of your Masters defense, and those were all Victorian novels, anyway.
11. Figure since your brilliant novel has people who fall in love and live happily ever after, you might be somewhere near a romance novel.
12. Refuse to label your brilliant novel as a romance because everyone knows romances are trashy, crappy things passing themselves off as literature.
13. Finally settle on 'women's literary fiction with strong romantic elements.' Decide that sounds serious and literate, just like your book.
14. More query letters. More rejections. Rationalize that if someone would just read it, they'd see its awesomeness themselves. Write different query letters.
15. Meanwhile, as this process has taken more than a year, also continue to write other novels. Three, to be exact.
16. Enter a contest with your first novel--contest wins will get your work read by agents and editors!
17. Come in dead last in your category. Read the comments and sob hysterically.
18. Decide to put that first novel away. Rationalize that, when you're rich and famous, people will want it then.
19. Write a novel in six weeks because it was so much fun. Because the characters are different, they wind up having a lot more sex and saying funnier things.
20. Have your readers tell you they actually ENJOYED reading this novel.
21. Decide to skip sending out the middle two novels and go straight to the one people seem to like.
22. Get a request for the full within three months, followed by a request for a partial three days later.
23. Get really, REALLY excited. Finally--someone is going to read your writing and discover your awesomeness! Go back to envisioning six-figure advances.
24. Get the partial rejected.
25. Get the full rejected, with the comment "I normally love western romances, but the characters just didn't work for me."
26. Realize you write westerns. And romances. And there's nothing wrong with that, because you like them and you have good taste, so they can't be bad.
27. Send that novel back out.
28. Find an agent who loves it.
29. Sign with the agent. Begin to think about what you're going to do with that six-figure advance.
30. Struggle for a year and a half with editor rejections on two different books.
31. Decide to write a category book to 'break in' and 'establish your brand name.' Sure, categories tend to be a little trashier--not that you know from first-hand experience, because you haven't read that many. But everyone knows that, so it must be true.
32. Read some categories. Discover a few stinkers--but a lot of them are really good, and easier to fit into your busy writing schedule because they're shorter than full-length novels.
33. Write a category. Embrace a feminist point-of-view that because romance novels focus on a woman's happiness and sexual satisfaction, they are dismissed as being 'unimportant' and 'sleazy.' Briefly feel bad for having once thought the same thing, but get over it.
34. Find an editor who loves it. Win and place in several contests.
35. Feel a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction with writing a book that you like and other people--people who are not your mother--also like.
36. Realize that, while you won't be seeing any six-figure advances any time soon, you're being paid to write novels, and it only took three and a half years!
37. Celebrate!

*not really

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snow Day Clues for the Clueless

Now, I know that some of you out there are not parents. You may have decided that Mom-and-Dad was not for you, you may be looking for the 'special' someone with the right combination of genes and income, or you may be six months pregnant (Hi Leah!). Whatever the reason, you're an adult who's a long time removed from snow days.

So, you may be wondering, 'Gosh, there's four inches of snow outside. How can I tell if it's a snow day, versus just a day with a lot of snow?' Have no fear. In my capacity as Authorial Mom, I've come across a few key things that will tip you off to the mythical snow day in action.

1. People who do not normally watch the morning news are glued to the television at 5:42 a.m.
2. Youthful, exuberant shouting fills the air at 6:02, usually immediately preceded or followed by a phone call.
3. Several hours of silence as children normally enthralled by their daily lessons either go back to bed or watch an amount of cartoons only seen on summer Saturdays. (Tip: The age of the youngster in question will dictate this. Older youths will go back to bed. Younger ones will demand one more Phineas and Ferb.)
4. Around approximately 10 a.m., the doors to homes will fly open and creatures vaguely recognizable as children--only lumpier and with more colorful heads--will emerge like a Picasso butterfly from its snow cocoon. This beautiful scene will be marred by whooping, hollering, and, in the case of the youngest revelers getting a snowball in the kisser, sobs of "Cold! COLD!"
5. Children will throw snow--sometimes in ball form, sometimes just by random handfuls--at anyone and anything (including inanimate objects) that happens to be in line of sight. Occasionally, if the precipitation has occurred at just the right humidity levels, they will construct things known as 'snowmen,' taking far more pride and care with this 'man' made of snow than they do any of their studies. They will demand perfectly good licorice sticks and chocolate-covered almonds for use in constructing facial features for this 'man.' They may even name him 'Snowy.'
6. Exhausted and finally aware of the bone chilling cold that has you shivering in your Snuggie, they will trudge back indoors to demand marshmallows lightly steeped in cocoa that is not hot, but is not cold.

Yes, this are the classic signs of a snow day. But wait! Say you live in sunnier climes, such as Texas or Florida, where snow dare not grace the ground. How can you tell if it's a snow day up where your siblings have chosen to whelp their offspring? Look for these signs:

1. Telephone your sibling and listen for key clues, such as, "This is the last time I'm telling you, Timmy--get out of the dog's crate and stop eating his food!" or "No--DON'T drink the sea-monkey water!" or even, "Wait--where are you going with those eggs? Put them back this instant!" all while you are attempting to ask your sibling if they have a snow day.
2. Instant Message, Tweet, or Facebook said siblings and watch for vital clues that may include text such as, "WHY DON'T WE HAVE SCHOOL TODAY! THE ROADS ARE CLEAR!" or "THESE KIDS ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY!" or the dead-giveaway, "WHAT? 6 more inches tonight?? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
3. Call your mother or grandmother and ask if your siblings are at home today. Even if they don't know, these senior ladies will be more than happy to do a little 'reconnaissance work' on your behalf, with the added bonus of you not having to listen directly to disturbing shouts of "I said NOT to lick the chair!" in the background.

Yes, with just a little leg-work and the powers of your keen observation skills, you too can deduce if there is a snow day going on near you or your loved ones.

Or you could look outside, watch the news and check the web like everyone else. This isn't rocket science, people!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We Have a Winner!

Big News!

I WON!! Not only that, but I also took Second and Third!!

Maybe I need to back up.

Way back on October 14th, back when there was no snow on the ground, the trees were clinging to the last of their leaves, and I could send The Kid and The Dogs outside for the entire afternoon without being deemed a poor mother, I was notified Indian Princess had finaled in the Golden Rose, which I wrote about here. The next week, I got word that both Indian Princess and The Wannabe Cowboy had finaled in the Hot Prospect contest, which I'm sure you read all about here.

So, I just bet you were wondering how that turned out, huh?

I found out that Princess had gotten second in the Golden Rose a few weeks ago. No one-of-a-kind, handcrafted gold rose pendant; no gold-plated rose. Not even an editor request. I consoled myself with the fact that I had actually sold this book a week before the announcement. Oddly enough, this fact was quite consoling. I took my second place and called it a day.

I was going to blog about it, because I know that you, loyal reader(s), like to, as my mother says, "Wallow in the good news." (Or maybe that's just her?) I had every intent of blogging--but I was going to wait until I got the Hot Prospect results.

Sadly, this little thing called 'the holidays' happened, derailing contest announcements until everyone had gotten tipsy off of eggnog (seriously, who drinks that stuff?) and finished the panicked last-minute stuffing of Christmas Cards with the wrong year on them (not that I did that!) (Okay, maybe I did. I'm, uh, wishing you holiday greetings a year in advance!).

Finally, last week, word came down: Indian Princess had not only won its category, but it had been named the Grand Prize Winner! I get STUFF! A book trailer, active banner, and static banner from Firebird Web Designs! I'll be talking with Carol of Firebird some time today (assuming that The Kid having a snow day doesn't derail my every waking thought, because very little writing happens with The Kid spinning in my office chair).  Leanne Morgena of Wild Rose Press invited me to send in a partial, but again--I've already sold this book. I'll have to pass.

I don't want Wannabe Cowboy to feel bad--it did get third, and there's nothing wrong with that. Actually, I kind of like being able to say I got First, Second, and Third!

Next up is the Golden Heart, which is the national contest through the Romance Writers of America. I sent both Princess and Wannabe off, as well as my single-title book, Mystic Cowboy.

I'm even more excited about this at the moment because I just got my judging packet in the mail today, and the first entry was pretty good. In every contest I've judged, I've had a finalist entry--Elizabeth Essex and Heather Snow. Both sold soon after. I've become friends with both. It's exciting to think there might be another kindred spirit in my packet, just waiting to be read. Or that someone else has my stuff and is thinking the same thing.

Will I final in the Golden Heart? With which book? Will the dress I'm going to be wearing for my sister Leah's wedding work for the reception ceremony? Will I have a winner? Will any of my friends be finalists with me? (You know who you are, Laurel and Rebecca!)

Can I wait the three months to find out about finaling? And the six month to the awards ceremony???

What was that New Year's Resolution? Oh, yeah.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Preview of 2011

Hi! How was your break? Crazy? Mine, too! It's been a while, so let's do a super-fast recap of 2010 so you, loyal reader(s), are all caught up.

1. I sold my novel, Indian Princess, to Stacy Boyd at Harlequin. It'll be out sometime in 2012.
2. She'd like me to do three or four books a year.
3. I'm going to be busy.

Yes, it was a wild n' wacky Authorial year around here. In other Mom news:

4. The Kid started kindergarten and lost three teeth two weeks before Christmas. I think he grew about four inches, developed a serious fascination with art (and an artistic flair for drama), and discovered superheroes in a big, bad way.
5. My sister Leah got pregnant and is due in three months; my sister Hannah got her adoption paperwork approved. The Kid is ecstatic about forthcoming babies he can play with.
6. My husband's company relocated 'global headquarters' to Philadelphia. We spent about a month wondering if that meant we would have to relocate, too. The answer appears to be no. For now.
7. Jake the Three Legged Wonder Weiner got older. He's now on regular medications to keep his poor little three legs working. Beat the alternative, though.
8. Gater the Four Legged Mutt got mellow(er). Things get chewed in our house at a significantly reduced rate.

Yes, 2010 was a special kind of crazy. Will 2011 be any different? A Preview:

1. The Kid will struggle and resist learning to read and write. And after the hysterics have passed, he'll demand I read him a story. He will also refuse to learn to tie his shoes or ride a bike without training wheels. No word on if he'll figure out how to use his inside voice while actually inside. He will, however, master memorization and the use of gauche as a medium. He's weird like that.
2. I'll go to lots of baby showers and hopefully meet multiple babies. My sister Leah will also get married to a swell guy. The family parties will be loud and fun, and Thanksgiving next year will be a whole new world.
3. The whole family will load up in the car for a road-trip to New York City for a family vacation/RWA Conference. I hope, hope, hope to be a finalist in the Golden Heart Contest, which will give me the chance to wear my bridesmaid dress a second time (see #2 above).
4. I'll write at least two more books for Stacy Boyd. Maybe three.

So, as you can see, 2011 will be its own special kind of crazy. Part of what makes it fun is people like you. I hope you'll keep making this journey with me!