Tag: getting published

My lesson in “$h**t happens.”

So I’m still pretty behind the ball these days, but I wanted to take a moment to stress a point that was stressed to me before I got my first writing contract: prepare as much as you possibly can, because once you have deadlines, sh**t WILL go wrong to keep you from meeting them.

All the seasoned writers who gave me that warning? You folks were right. Boy, were you ever.

Because even though people told me–lots of people–I didn’t quite grasp it. So here’s the deal. KING of DARKNESS comes out in mass-market paperback in February and I am super-mega thrilled, but there’s been a lot of hurry up and wait in the process. All the way back in January of 2011 I signed the contract with Sourcebooks, and it wasn’t until…I want to say late May that I finally had a lovely talk with my editor (Deb Werksman, who I just LOVE) and she told me very nicely that she felt I needed to re-conceptualize a fairly juicy chunk of the novel. Ideally, in about 3 weeks.


But, “Okay, no sweat,” I said. It seemed tight, but doable. I am the at-home parent to 3 kids, but those kids were in preschool part-time, and hubby would help if he could on the weekends. We had a sitter who came a few hours a week. So we’d work it out. Well, then our air conditioning died, so for a week I got nothing done because it was too hot to stay in the house, and the kids couldn’t sleep. Then, the preschool was closed for a school holiday. The babysitter got food poisoning, so there went my childcare help during the weekdays for awhile. Hubby had some work issues that ate up the weekends. Ugh! Oh, yeah, and I was rear-ended by a Lexus SUV while driving my friend’s Honda Civic and then sitting to type was painful due to getting banged up in the fender-bender. I mean–seriously?? If it could go wrong in those three weeks, it did.

But I did make my deadline. Not easily, and not without losing a lot of sleep. Not without swallowing a lot of ibuprofen. But I searched every nook and cranny I could for people who could help me watch the kids, and when my babysitter was back on her feet after my manuscript was in, I paid her to come watch my kids so I could SLEEP. I thanked my lucky stars that Amazon delivered coffee straight to my door. A LOT of coffee.

And I prayed that I could still deliver a good book, despite all the insanity.

So what else could I have done, in retrospect? I would have lined up some backup babysitters, for one thing. Maybe asked the preschool if they had any extra enrollment days once I knew what the deadline was going to be. There might not have been much, but there *were* things in retrospect that I could have done to be more proactive. Ah. Well.

So…planning, folks. It’ll save ya a lot of anguish.

I’ll know for next time. Though God willing it’s not another car accident. Or the central air.


Guest Blog: FOREIGN CORRESPONDENCE By Therese Gilardi


By Therese Gilardi

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to visit foreign territories and write about my discoveries.  As a girl I used to page slowly through my mother’s “TIME” magazines while waiting for Peter Jennings to report live from London in his khaki trench coat and silk pocket square, reassuring me that there were new lands, customs, cultures and foods waiting out there, somewhere, for me to devour. Until that day came, I decided I would entertain myself by composing stories about everything and everyone I encountered. I believed I had to imagine everything that wound up as part of my long, descriptive tales – I was certain, living in a semi-rural township with lousy weather and no sidewalks, that there was no drama around me, let alone in my life. I based my stories on people and settings I’d learned of as I read my way through the shelves of our small township library. When I wasn’t reading or writing, I suffered my way through school, never fitting in, never finding my stride, hoping I was one of those “late bloomers” talked about in my mother’s magazines.

I never realized, since I spoke with very few others – one doesn’t encounter a lot of companionship eating alone in the school bathroom – that everyone didn’t create dialogue and back stories all day long, or read every word they encounter,no matter how mundane.  (If you want to know the difference between the back of a bottle of Prell shampoo and Herbal Essence, I’m your woman.) With the exception of a few English teachers along the way, no one ever seemed to think I had any extraordinary ability – in fact,no one seemed to think I had any great aptitude at all.  “Does not live up to her potential” was the most frequent comment on my report cards.  I shared the sentiment; I harbored no illusion I could be like my heroine Dame Agatha Christie, who wrote mystery, other genres of fiction and an account of her life on expedition with her husband.  I had about as much chance as being a writer like Dame Agatha as I did of becoming the next Peter Jennings.  I was certain, since I wasn’t in some exotic locale, that I was having any adventures about which anyone would wish to read.

When I arrived at college, still unwilling to claim my identity as a writer, things improved.  Living with a fellow literature lover and studying English and French, I met others who saw reading as a privilege and shared my love of the written word.  Though a few of my professors tried to encourage me to write more creatively, I still wasn’t ready – creative writing was not for the likes of me. The closest I got to allowing myself to surrender to my secret desire to write was the submission of a few mediocre articles to the college newspaper.  (I must say, though, that I should give myself credit for the creative writing I did on my computer science final, in which I managed to convince my professor to give me a high grade after a blue book full of impassioned arguments about why I could not grasp the difference between various computer languages.)

I continued to drift aimlessly through early marriage and motherhood, happy but haunted by the fact something intangible was missing from my life. I stalked the library at every opportunity and bored my son stiff with his insistence that he listen just one more time to one of my impromptu made-up stories.  Until one afternoon, as I sat in my quiet little house in New England while my young daughter slept, surrounded by more gallons of homemade applesauce than we could eat in a year, I realized I would go mad if I did not find a creative outlet. I picked up one of those free hotel pens my husband had picked up on one of his many trips and began recording my impressions, frustrations and lamentations about anything and everything.  Accounts of my days, thoughts about motherhood … anything was fair game. No one else would see my lined canary pages of poetry, short stories and confessional essays not even my husband knew I stored in the bottom cupboard of my grandmother’s old maple china hutch.

At least that’s what I thought.  Until the day we moved house, and I came across my mover, hunched over in my rose-colored wing chair, my sheaf of yellow pages between his freckled fingers. When he looked up, I could see it looked like he’d been crying.  I remember being numb with shock that my writing could affect anyone like that.  For weeks afterward, I pictured him, his forehead furrowed, his shoulders shaking. I knew it was a sign – I was meant to be a writer, no matter that I still didn’t live anywhere exciting or lead a life that was anything other than pedestrian.

I purchased a copy of “Writer’s Market” as well as a thick book that contained encouraging essays by Frank McCourt and Maeve Binchy and a list of publishers willing to accept submissions from beginning writers. I polished a few personal essays and a short story, sent them off for submission to small magazines, and had the misfortune of achieving publication.  I’m kidding of course; I was elated that my words were appearing in print, and I could acknowledge to myself and others that I was indeed a writer, reporting on my life just like I was Peter Jennings. I am, though, serious when I say that immediate validation of my work gave me a gross misconception about the business of writing. I was certain, given the fact that I had never succeeded at anything else before, that I had found my niche, and that writing would be an easy gig.

I know you’re laughing right about now, and you should be. Obviously writing is not the high-stakes profession of the first responder, pilot, or ER doctor. But stringing words together until I can make you see, hear, taste, smell and feel what is in my heart is a lot more challenging than most people realize. Over the nine-plus years I’ve been writing for publication I’ve been surprised to find that the submissions I thought had no chance of publication have appeared in the pages of prestigious magazines, while essays and stories I’ve been certain had hit their mark have never  been invited to leave the cover of my top desk drawer.

I’ve found writing to be a funny, fickle business. Ironically, my personal life over the past decade and a half has also been surprising and unexpected.  Somehow Peter Jennings, rest his soul, must have tossed me some fairy dust across the universe as I followed in his footsteps, living for many years in Europe, where I worked and traveled among many foreign people whose lands,customs, cultures and food provided fodder for my writing. My experiences living abroad gave me a lot of material for my work, for which I am grateful.  However, the more I’ve left the comfort of home, the more I’ve realized that my early perceptions were wrong: with the exception of travel writers and restaurant reviewers, most writers need never leave the comfort of their armchairs in order to create charismatic characters, heart-stopping settings, and sensational stories.  Those of us old enough to read and write need only worry about applying what life has taught us – life itself is the great creator, the ultimate writer with the unforgettable tales.  It’s the job of the writer to act, like Peter Jennings, as life’s correspondent.

Therese Gilardi is a poet, essayist and novelist who lives in the hills above Los Angeles with her husband, children and numerous pets.  Therese’s poetry and short fiction can be found online at “Literary Mama”, “The 13th Warrior Review”, and “The Dirty Napkin”, as well as in numerous print publications and the books “Knowing Pains” and “So Far and Yet So Near: Stories of Americans Abroad”.  Therese’s paranormal romance “Matching Wits With Venus”, about a Hollywood matchmaker and the Roman god Cupid, will be released by Astraea Press in mid-April.



Query Letters and Hair Pulling by Kristin Molnar

First of all, I’d like to thank Elisabeth for having me guest blog.  This is my first guest blog appearance, so I’m feeling all professional today.  My name is Kristin Molnar and write mostly dark paranormal romance.  What’s not to love about sexy vampires?  Though I do tend to throw in a bit of murder and mayhem too.

I am in the query letter stage of trying to get published.  It feels like I spend most of my day slumped over the computer, researching agents.  No one wants the same thing.  One agent wants nothing but my query letter.  That’s easy, I can do that.  Another wants query, synopsis, sample chapter, a bio, and rights to my firstborn child (not really but sometimes it feels that way).  And yet another wants a synopsis and a bio.  I have spent countless hours making charts to keep track of who wants what and what I’ve sent who.  My charts are organized, but my head still wants to explode when I look at them.  I think I’ve sent out over fifteen query letters.  Not that many, in the scheme of things, but it feels like a lot.  I’ve received a few rejections, some of them form some of them personalized.  I’m not so much discouraged by the rejections as I am the sheer amount of information needed to keep going.

There are books, blogs, workshops, facebook pages, and twitter accounts dedicated to agents and query letters.  Not a single one of them will tell you the same thing.  I’m starting to feel like I’m playing Russian Roulette with agents.  Spin the wheel, cross my fingers, and hope my query ends up on the right person’s desk while their in just the perfect mood to hear about my novel.  Agents are busy, busy people, and somehow I have to come up with one hell of a pitch in 250 words or less.  Some days it feels impossible.  Then I check my email, and I see that someone else in RWA or FF&P (Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter) has gotten an offer from an agent or publisher.  I might be a little bit jealous, but mostly it reminds me that this really can be done.  By busting my hump, writing like a tempest, and doing my research, I can get there too.  

Every day I feel lucky to know what it is that I want to do with my life.  I might not be selling anything yet, but at least I know.  Some people go their entire lives and don’t even get that far.  As writer’s we are gifted and cursed.  We have to let these stories out, and then we have to work even harder to get it out there for the reader.

Kristin Molnar

Twitter: @KLMolnar

You Can Cut a Can With It, and STILL Slice a Tomato!

What was it John Lennon wrote? “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans,” or something? Feels especially true this week.

So I had a lot of grandiose plans, like getting caught up on my writing workshops and submitting some query letters (you know, the whole journey toward getting published?), writing about romance, and vampires, and manlove (even all three at the same time!) until my inspired little fingers cramped, and writing some articles, and doing the hokey pokey and turning myself around. Counting and organizing the many bags of marshmallows in my pantry, etc.

I got…well, almost none of it done. Which really pisses me off. Especially given my recent bouts of insomnia, wherein I am JUST awake enough not to be able to sleep, but still tired and lacking in lucidity enough that productivity is elusive. I try to work, but I wind up either just staring at the page and drooling, or…well, usually its the drooling thing. Plus I wrecked the car on Wednesday, at which point I just kind of threw up my hands and gave up on trying to do anything at all, and instead immersed myself in the latest from KA Mitchell.

In fact, I was so the opposite of productive, I wound up slicing apples with this massive Miracle Blade knife of my husband’s – the one where they cut like a piece of lead pipe on the infomercial and THEN they throw a pineapple up in the air and cut it in half with the same knife – because I was SO behind on doing dishes I didn’t even know where any of the other knives were. It was a little like trying to tweeze my eyebrows with a sledgehammer.

The Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter of the Romance Writers of America is currently having a “60 days to success” sprint. Kind of a light-the-fire-under-your-ass-and-get-some-stuff-accomplished-for-a-change thing. You know, you set some goals that you’d like to achieve, give ’em a deadline, yaddah, yaddah. So my big one was to get hopping on sending out query letters. I got as far as having someone critique my query letter, I made a couple of changes, then fizzled out. Bah.

Well at least I did SOMETHING, I guess. I made a plan, to have a plan. Or something.

Oh, one teeny bit of good news. I just put on a pair of jeans I haven’t worn since before I was pregnant with my oldest kid. Now, they once upon a time were my baggy jeans and they are NOT baggy now, but it’s progress! W00t!

Pardon My Language! (Writing Workshops, Part Deux)

Whew! August was a God-awful month, not only was it hotter than Hades over here in Northern VA, but I accidentally signed up for more writing workshops than I could shake my proverbial stick at, and it was a real bitch trying to keep up. Despite that, I learned a TON. So here’s the 411 (And for my previous workshop rundown, click here):

  • Social Networking for Unpublished and Published Authors with Beth Barany – Okay, Beth is awesome, Y’all. I’ve taken a handful of social networking/PR type workshops, and I thought they were all good. Some of them were a little high-level or a little jam-packed though and instead of actually doing any of the stuff suggested, I filed it away and vegged out in front of youtube instead. 😛 So Beth keeps the focus primarily on Twitter, Facebook, and Blogging (with a smattering of other stuff like LinkedIn), which of course are the biggies and thereby helps steer us all away from confusion. She helped with specific technical questions, and was infinitely patient with those of us who were all “Umm, where do I click to make that thing do the thing you said it’s supposed to do?”. The workshop had a vast array of experience levels and it seemed like everyone was able to learn something. I, for example, got over my fear of Twitter and discovered its many magical joys (like being able to follow Adam Lambert’s tweets). Ahem…Beth also does creativity coaching for writers and offers tons of services like one-on-one coaching, in-person workshops, and has tons of informative articles on her Writer’s Fun Zone blog (I love the name of her blog, btw – good medicine for those of us who get all angsty and up in our heads about writing). So Beth will probably be hearing from me again, when time and money is available, because she rocks. AND best of all? She’s generous with her time and super sweet! I recently took a workshop from a writer who I will not name, who I felt got a little…harsh with some of us in the workshop, and it made it hard for me to learn and enjoy, so I probably won’t go back to her again for help. I know some authors feel that they should help thicken us pre-pubbed writers’ skin, but I feel like I get enough of that stuff from the agents I query.
  • Public Relations with Marcia James – Apparently I had PR on the brain when I signed up for stuff last month. This was a great workshop, though I admit I was a little overwhelmed by all the material. As a pre-published author I felt like some of it was premature, talking about SWAG and book signings kind of went over my head, but I still felt that this workshop was very worthwhile. First of all, Marcia was great. Funny, nice, very responsive. She was even good enough to check out each participant’s web site and make individual suggestions. There were (I think) something like 16 lectures crammed into a 2 week period, her suggestion was to just print them all and save ’em for later, which is what I did because a few days in my head was spinning. The lectures were all by guest lecturers in the industry though, so I found that the various perspectives were helpful, and as part of the class Marcia offers a 300 page file of various PR options, everything from blogs to visit and where to get cheap business cards to where to get your book reviewed.
  • Prose And Contests: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Writing Contests But Were Afraid To Ask by Amy Atwell – If you enter writing contests or have been thinking about it, this is a REALLY great course. I entered a couple this year, and I see there being a few really big pluses: you get your work critiqued, you get potential exposure with agents and editors, and potentially something cool to put on your resume. Unfortunately, I felt totally confused so after entering two I stopped, not wanting to waste my time and money on something I was pretty sure I was doing wrong. Some chapters just don’t give much in the way of guidelines, either. Amy’s course went into great detail about contests, everything from how to format your entry to interpreting your scores and all the stuff in-between. She’s teaching the course again next month and then not again until next year (click here for her workshop schedule) so strike while the iron’s hot!
  • Nuts and Bolts of Publishing with Misa Ramirez – Misa teaches a variety of workshops, this one covers the publishing industry in a kind of broad way, but she starts off asking what specific questions the participants had about the industry so she can tailor the material and that was nice. She also covers some helpful topics like web presence, author bios, and was nice enough to critique anyone’s bio who asked.
  • Deep POV with Jill Elizabeth Nelson – Personal opinion, improving your skills with deep POV is one of the best things you can do to make your writing stronger. Jill’s workshop format was old-school to me in a good way. She’d give an example, then homework exercises, then a critique, kind of like back in grade school. A lot of people learn really well with this style and I got a great deal out of the workshop. She also does a critique of a small passage of everyone’s own work at the end. My only issue (and this was ME, not Jill) was that I felt a teensy bit uncomfortable sending samples of my work, salty verbiage and all, to a Christian writer, and I kept feeling the need to apologize for all the bad language. She was extremely gracious about it though. I also took a deep POV workshop with Carrie Lofty and it was great too – different teaching styles, both very good.
  • The Book Factory with Kerri Nelson – This one is all about how to amp up your productivity and produce multiple novels a year. Kerri is a super mom and super writer, plus she does a bunch of other stuff like one-on-one critiquing, with three kids roughly the same age as my own three, so I figured I could learn a lot from her. I was right! I am still having a little trouble implementing her methods but I already feel that I am getting more done, and her teaching style is friendly and straightforward. According to her workshop schedule she’ll be teaching this one again in January. I took Kerri’s pitching workshop earlier this year and loved it as well (and her technique is effective, I got a full submission request from the pitch I developed in her workshop).

September is shaping up to be another busy month, more workshops I signed up for and then forgot about, including one on Erotic Novellas (my last MS was 100,000 words so I am VERY excited about this one) so stay tuned!!