March 22, 2004: Spring is in the Air


Ah. Sprigtibe id the Northwest. Achoooo! Beg pardon. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago I was looking forward to everything blooming? Well, be careful what you wish for – the flipside to buds in bloom is hay fever. If you’re still sloshing through snow, maybe that’s not such a bad thing

Well, as for my Damsel, I received the cover flats last week. ( If you haven’t seen the cover yet, please take a look at my website. The computer screen doesn’t do it justice – the lettering is metallic and embossed – very nifty.) I was fortunate to have a cover artist who really put some personality into the cover and I’m really pleased. Cover flats, for those of you who don’t know, are simply the printed book cover before it’s folded and glued to the book (my understanding is, the book itself hasn’t been printed yet). Authors can use cover flats as promotional items, distributing them in goody bags at conferences, or offering them to book stores as handouts. Along with those, I designed and made bookmark/refrigerator magnets (with my computer and my Xyron 850 scrapbook crafter thingie) that shows a graphic of the cover and release date info. Closer to the release date of the book, I’m going to have a contest and giveaway some of these items, so please stay tuned.

As for the ARC contest last month, winners were Martha Lawson, Nicole Provost, and Angela Tate. Congratulations! and thanks to everyone who entered the contest. I was very pleased and excited by the number of entries.

Attention writers who get discouraged easily:
This is for those of you who are struggling in dealing with criticism. You’ve written something you love, and then somebody critiqued it. Yikes. Or you entered a contest and scored lower than expected, or the judge made some remarks you disagreed with. Ouch. Well, it happens to published writers, too. I was working on my third manuscript (Claire and Present Danger) and was ripping along at a fine pace. The day came to get approval from my editor on the synopsis and first three chapters (you don’t get the next part of your advance until the editor approves what you’ve already sent her). Much to my shock and chagrin, she didn’t love it. No. In fact, she wanted me to change some things. Her changes would required some rethinking and reworking of what I’d already done. Egad. She didn’t love it? Oh. Well. What to do?

After I sat and stared at my computer screen for a bit, went and got a latte, fiddled with my hair, and basically felt like somebody had just let the air out of my lungs, I wrote to my agent and asked her about it. Did my editor hate what I’d done? Did this kind of thing happen often? The answer came back No, and Yes. No, my editor didn’t “hate” what I’d done, she just wanted to make it better. Well, I’m all for that. And Yes, it happens all the time. Okay, I can live with that, too. So, I got to work, rewrote the synopsis, told her what changes I was going to make and sent it on. Bingo. She loved it, and now we’re back on track.

Note to aspiring writers:
Never fall in love with your own words. There isn’t anything you or I could write that couldn’t be improved, and if you’re fortunate enough to have an editor who forces you to do better, swallow your pride and make the fixes. You think contest critiques are tough? Wait until you get an eight-page revision letter from your editor. Your beautiful words and scenes may have to be sacrificed for the sake of the book, and that’s a very hard thing to accept. Sure, you may disagree with the editor and fight to keep those things that are important to you, but you must be willing to accept what you’ve written isn’t perfect. You need a healthy ego, and cannot react to criticism as though your words were etched in gold on the clouds. They’re not. Publishing is a business and everybody wants to deliver the best “product” they can. So, when this happens to you (and it will), take a deep breath, feel a little sorry for yourself (it’s permitted), grumble if you want, then get on with it. You can do it.

Can you say Hollywood or Bust? Boy, I sure can!
So, here we are, just about four months from the time my first book hits the shelves. And what do you think? I received an e-mail this morning from my agent, who has partnered with Deidre Knight, an agent who deals a lot with the movie folks and has sold many books to Hollywood. And guess what? She likes Damsel for a project, thinks it’s “hot” and is going to push it out to producers.

Well, I don’t know if your jaw dropped open, but mine sure did! A couple of weeks ago, Pam (my agent) asked me for a blurb on the book to send to Deidre. It had to be short, descriptive, and it had to compare things producers may already know about with what I’d written. I checked out the samples she sent, and here’s what I wrote:

“It’s ‘Cape Fear’ meets ‘Foul Play’ with a touch of Neil Simon, as adorable Betsy Tremaine, a small town literary critic, pans a book by hunky big city cop J. Soldier McKennitt, a hot shot detective-turned-author. It’s loathe-at-first-sight when they meet at a Seattle writers’ conference, where she discovers it wasn’t just her imagination – she is being stalked. When their number one suspect turns up face down, it’s humor and homicide as Betsy and Soldier try to solve the puzzle and catch a clever killer. An action-packed romantic mystery with a little sizzle and a lot of snap.”

Not perfect, but it was, after all, my first effort. Honestly, I felt a little awkward hyping the book like that, but I felt for the blurb to do any good at all, it had to stand out to catch anybody’s attention – and apparently, it worked! I had already sent copies to Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, and Kelly Ripa in the hopes one of them might like it (all they can do is toss in the recycle bin, right?). One of the things you have to do when you first publish is find ways to promote your book. It’s kind of hard, and a little awkward, but unless you hire a publicist, you have to do it yourself. A website helps, and absolutely anything else you can think of. You never know what’s going to attract a reader’s attention.

So, please keep your fingers crossed. I think Damsel would make a great movie, but I’m not going to obsess over it. If it never happens, it never happens. No need to obsess. Okay, maybe a little.

I have heard from several gracious readers that this journal has helped them stay motivated in their own writing, and that pleases me no end. The original purpose of this journal was to educate and entertain, and I hope I’ve been successful. The Journal Journey will end in July, so we have only four more installments, and I’m going to miss you when it’s over.

Once again, thanks for sticking with me. I wish you a wonderful springtime filled with blue skies and blossoms; here’s looking Achoooo!


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