Monday, May 31, 2010

Last Chance to Get It Right

Carina Press has been keeping me busy. I had a very tight deadline to finish up my revisions for The Sevenfold Spell, which I met. For some reason, I do well when given a deadline. I've met some tough ones, so they don't scare me anymore. Now I'm just hoping they'll like my revisions.

This was my last chance to get it right. And that does scare me. Once we're done with the tweaking, that's it! Other than copyediting, the next judges will be the readers. It's a pretty gulp-worthy feeling. I think it would have been easier to have my first pub be for a magazine, which would have had an automatic readership, and where the success or failure of the thing wouldn't all be on my back.

Anyway, Carina said they were interested in seeing more fairy tale retellings, so I'm working on another one and I'm almost 2000 words into it. The working title is Switched and it's based on Cinderella. My overall concept with these fairly tale retellings is that it is focused on innocent bystanders who are caught up in the magic. I have at least three stories in mind.

Finally, I've decided to start an email newsletter about my writing news. If you'd like to receive it, please go to and use the sign-up link at the top of the toolbar.

Thanks so much for following my ramblings on writing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

On 23 Years of Rejection - A Retrospective

I asked my husband when he thought I started writing seriously and we agreed that it was some time in 1987. I did make an attempt in high school, working on my old toy (but perfectly functional) typewriter to write a time travel novel. I soon gave up, having come to the conclusion that writing was hard, and that I need to read more quality authors.

My first submission was a story called, "Lady Forest Maid", and I sent it to a then-new fantasy magazine. It was definitely an apprentice-level effort. The rejection was so brutal and cutting that I never sent anything there again. I always wondered why the author/editor saw fit to type out such an awful letter. It was my very first rejection.

But I did continue to send to other places, where the rejections were bland and inoffensive.I didn't write short stories very often -- I was working on my trunk novel -- but when I did, I dutifully sent them off. The only non-form letters I ever got (until very recently) were from Fantasy and Science Fiction. I have a nice stack of personal rejection letters from them. Some of them said, "nice writing, but . . ." But not very many.

During this time, I read a great many classics. I figured that they were the people to study if I wanted to become a successful writer. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the writing styles people used back then weren't in use today, and the books I really needed to be reading were current bestsellers. I also hit upon the idea of reading debut novels, because I figured the novel that got an author noticed must have been pretty good. So my reading time wasn't entirely wasted, and the foundations of storytelling can still be gleaned from the classics.

In the early 90s, I made my first nonfiction sale, to the first editor to whom I pitched an idea. I made a hundred and fifty dollars. And then I went back to school and writing went on hold for a while.

After I finished school, I finished my novel. It took me ten years to write (including some non-writing gaps), and ended up 230,000 words. I sent it to one agent, who rejected it with a brief note. I then trunked it. It was a mess. I had a terrible time writing the synopsis because the story wandered in all directions without reason, and the synopsis made that glaringly obvious.

Then, I had a baby. While she was little I did a bunch of nonfiction work for the Bathroom Reader. I wrote articles with titles like, "Port-a-Fortress", "The Cosmic Speed Limit", "Good Vibrations", "In One End and Out the Other", and a bunch others. It was all work-for-hire without a byline. But it paid good. They used the articles in subsequent editions for years.

I started querying again with my second novel, Forging a Legend, in late 2006. I started querying Starcaster in 2009. Rejection, rejection, rejection. I had a few short stories that I was circulating. Rejection, rejection, rejection.

That's right. Not a single sale. I only went for the top markets (which included quality semipros like Weird Tales), because the one time I strayed from that restriction, I had an almost-published story with a fledgling magazine that only operated for about six months. It was never rejected, but the editor at one point (and after much prompting) said that she had it on her table of contents for the next issue. Which never happened. That almost-published story was "Spin", an early version of The Sevenfold Spell.

And over the years, I've come to realize that writing a salable story is hard. Damned hard.

I set a deadline for myself:  if I had not sold any fiction by the time I was 45, I would shift my focus to nonfiction and freelance writing and pursue a much easier writing career there. I am now 44.

I would have written this retrospective no matter where I had sold my first story. I sent The Sevenfold Spell off without any real hope that they would want it. One gets so inured to rejection that one is utterly shocked when it fails to happen.

Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me. Have you sold a story? If so, how long did it take for you to make the sale?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My First Fiction Sale!

Exciting news! Carina Press called me the other day, and offered to publish The Sevenfold Spell. The call came totally out of the blue (they always do, I'm told), since my submission had not even been out a month. I had a LOT of questions, and I'm afraid I pestered the editor quite a bit. I wanted to understand everything and feel comfortable with the terms, and she was very patient.

This is my first fiction sale. I have learned that it is much easier to break into nonfiction than fiction. I published a nonfiction article with my very first try. I started submitting short stories in the 80s. The 80s! Marion Zimmer Bradley sent my first rejection letter!

The fabulous Lisa Nevin read the manuscript just after I submitted it, and she suggested the exact same revisions that Carina Press proposed! Lisa, thanks for being such a great beta partner. Superwench and Carole McDonnell also critiqued a very early copy, and J. G. Paine, who is the pseudonym for another critique partner, is the one who inspired me to expand it to e-book length and send it to an e-publisher. Thanks for your help, everyone!

The tentative publication timeframe is the fall of this year!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Back to Writing!

East of Yesterday won the inspiration contest and I'm writing like mad. I'm making heavy use of my Neo, which is great for distraction-free typing. I've got Brad the Jerk seamlessly woven into the novel, and I decided to throw Henry, Adele's (changed her name from Ashley) love interest from the past, into a scene where they run into gypsies on the time road. It worked out great because I'm able to use a lot of fun time-travel twists.

I'm thinking I need to seriously read The Time Traveler's Wife, just to make sure I'm not using some of the same concepts.

In other news, I'm waiting on some submissions, plus a request for a full, and a referral. Both of the latter have been out for a while, but I know to be patient by now.