I’m on the cusp of a big change, one that I’ve been dreaming about for a long, long time. Change is always difficult and more than a little scary for me, and this new phase I’m about to enter is so big, it’s extra scary. My debut novel VIKING WARRIOR RISING releases on November 3!
On one hand, I can’t wait for this to happen. On the other, I’m very, very frightened. I’m looking forward to the release party. My mom is coming over from Sweden, friends are driving over from Seattle, and geographically closer friends all plan on being there to celebrate the occasion. After November 3, I will have taken the big step from writer to published author. What if I flop? What if people hate the book? Those questions are why I’m also looking at November 3 with trepidation.
I like routine, I like the familiar, change is scary and intimidating. But I also know it helps me grow.
As much as I have a hard time to adjust to my new role, I’m looking forward to my release day. I completed my very first novel in 2006. I didn’t sell until I’d written two more, so it was a long journey before I signed my first publishing contract. After I’d polished that very first novel, I headed to my very first writers conference in 2007 to network with other writers, and also to pitch my project to agents and editors. The 400+ participant conference overwhelmed me, so I took a break during one of the workshop sessions and went to the hotel restaurant for some food. There was only one other person there, a friendly woman who also wore a conference badge. She asked me to join her and it was easy to talk about books and writing. She asked me what I wrote and when I described my novel, she recommended I’d check out Romance Writers of America (RWA).
This professional writing organization ended up being a huge part of why I finally sold a novel. I learned craft and business processes through its workshops and classes. I researched and vetted publishing professionals at its conferences, which is how I found my dream agent and editor.
I also joined my local chapter and this weekend I had the pleasure of donating a basket filled with books written by my fellow Inland Empire Chapter writers for the Passport to Romance Reader Appreciation Event in Seattle. The basket contained an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) of VIKING WARRIOR RISING. The very first copy of the book that I signed as an author. Guess who won the basket? That same lovely woman who told me about RWA eight years ago, the talented author and editor Christine Fairchild.
As much as new adventures scare me, I realize the familiar continues with me on the next steps in my journey. And I look forward to many more magical encounters as that one time in an empty restaurant when a scared and intimidated new writer took who had stepped out of her comfort zone to go to a writers conference all by herself met a gracious and generous stranger who gave the best advice ever and also became a friend.
Happy Writing! And Happy Halloween! May we all have the courage to step into the scary and unfamiliar so we can experience amazing adventures!
Ps. If you’d like to learn more about Naya and Leif’s adventure in VIKING WARRIOR RISING, it’s available for pre-order at any of your favorite book retailers including these: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and BookDepository.com (Great retailer for international orders. They ship out of the UK and deliver free all over the world.)
För mina Svenska vänner och familj så har Bookus.com den Engelska versionen. Jag vet inte ännu ifall mitt Amerikanska förlag tänker sälja översättnings rättigheter.
Every year, I make variations of the same three resolutions; lose weight, get out of debt, and write an entire book. Every year, I wonder why I fail:
…I have tried positive reinforcement (The RWA Conference is in NYC this year!)
…I have tried negative reinforcement (Where’s a quarter jar?)
…I have made goals with vague outcomes (Write Anything!)
…I have had goals with measurable results (Write 500 words a day)
Like with all the crazy diets out there, I have tried them all. One of my favorite spins on resolutions was the year of visualization. A lot of life coaches, especially connected to sport athletes, spoke of the importance to image your success. The point was to see yourself getting from this spot to the point of success. The part that hooked me was that they encouraged visual aids. Yippy!
As a new writer, I believed success and status came to those who won the RWA Golden Heart contest. The dream seemed a bit more attainable since I actually know some of the finalists and previous year winners like our very own “Jane” Asa Bradley. But instead of investing in more writing courses, giving up TV time to write more in the day or doing anything that would actually assist me in getting words on the page, I went shopping and bought a dress, which I couldn’t afford and can’t fit into, to wear to the RWA awards banquet.
Isn’t it beautiful? I hung it against my door as my visual aid for the rest of the year. Then the following January happened, without the completion of the book, so the dress was bitterly shoved to the back of the closest, never to be revisited until I wrote this blog. But as a silver lining, due to this post, this dress finally served as a reason for getting actual words written on the page.
So what is this year’s trend for New Year’s Resolutions? I believe we have reduced it to its bare essentials by eliminating full thoughts and details and replacing it with the pursuit of a single word. The idea is to pick one word that encompasses your resolutions; love, money, happiness, freedom, etc. If nothing else, it should eliminate feelings of failure because it’s your definition of your single word so you decide if you accomplished your goal or not.
Want to give it a try? What is your New Year’s Resolution word?
Mine is PURPOSE.
The RWA Golden Heart contest is the award that all new authors covet and daydream about winning when they should actually be writing. Some of us might have even bought a dress that they would wear for the day they win the award (It’s a gold floor length gown and it will go fabulous with my Golden Heart). Our own Mary Oldham was nominated in 2012 and Asa Maria Bradley was a finalist this year for her novel, Valhalla’s King. But my friend, Lenora Bell, traveled all the way from Bolivia to accept her 2014 Golden Heart award. To join in her celebration, let me share her story.
Lenora Bell writes fun, sensual Regency-set romance novels that feature strong, sexy heroes who can only be reformed by the most extraordinary heroines. Past careers include sultry lounge singer, vintage store owner, and, far less romantically, salmon cannery grunt. Lenora has lived and worked on five continents and currently shares a home in Bolivia with her carpenter husband, cranky twenty-one-year-old cat, and precarious piles of books.
What story did you submit to the Golden Heart?
My Regency-set historical romance manuscript CHARLENE AND THE DUCHESS FACTORY. It’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Bachelor. It’s part of a three book series and the next two books are inspired by Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz.
When did you complete this story and has it been submitted/won any other contests?
I thought of the title for CHARLENE AND THE DUCHESS FACTORY before I started writing. It just popped into my head one day in a used bookstore that had no romance section (I know, WTF!). I was thumbing through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I thought, hmm…this is kind of like a romance novel plot–a rich, successful, powerful guy who needs an heir to his empire.
I started the book then set it aside to write a different project. I came back to it a few months before the Golden Heart entries were due, polished the first fifty pages, and whipped the rest into a semblance of order. I’ve never entered it in any other contests, and this was the first time I entered the Golden Heart.
What were you doing when you found out that you were a finalist?
I don’t think anyone ever forgets exactly what they were doing when they received the Golden Heart call. I live overseas in Bolivia, so I knew the stateside phone number I submitted wouldn’t work. I kept obsessively refreshing my email to see if there was anything from RWA. I was also lurking on the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood site because they were blogging about the Golden Heart finalists all day. I heart the Rubies!
When I received the email from RWA asking for an alternate phone number because they couldn’t get in touch with me, my pulse started racing. I’m pretty sure at some point my boss asked me to track down a document and all I did was grunt. Nothing, and no one, was going to separate me from my landline phone. Because it was going to ring. Any moment.
It rang. The RWA angels sang. And life hasn’t been the same since.
How far did you travel from to attend the ceremony? Why was it important to you to attend in person?
I actually traveled all the way from Bolivia to attend the RWA Conference. But I was lucky because one of my best friends planned her wedding in Alaska the week before the conference. So I could justify the writing conference because of the wedding. Romance all around!
I really wanted to be there in person because I had a Golden Heart nominated manuscript to pitch, and I wanted to catch up with all of my amazing writer friends. I met Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan back in 2006 during the Avon Fan Lit contest, and we became friends and critique partners. They are my inspiration!
How are the Golden Heart finalists treated at the RWA Conference?
Being a Golden Heart finalist has lots of perks, including a pretty golden heart pin and silk ribbon to place on your conference badge, the chance to attend The Golden Network’s retreat the day before the conference starts (totally worth it!), and VIP seating for the awards ceremony. You also have the exciting opportunity to mingle with all the fantastic RITA finalists. There’s one more huge perk and that’s the built in community you find with the other finalists. This year’s group, The Dream Weavers, is full of such talent and passion.
Tell us about the Awards Ceremony?
The Awards Ceremony is very glamorous. I really felt like I should have found a dress with more sequins because everyone was so sparkly. YA author Simone Elkeles was the emcee and she did a fabulous job making us all laugh, cry, and sing along to Journey.
They announce the winners of the Golden Heart first, and then the RITAs. When my photo showed up on screen, I sat there, stunned, for fully five seconds. I never lost that dazed, is-this-really-happening-to-me expression the entire night. I just couldn’t believe it.
In my acceptance speech I gave Eloisa James a shout-out for being my gateway drug into mainstream romance. After my speech, she came up and had her photo taken with me and said it was a thrill for her. For her? Oh my sweet lord. That entire evening was the craziest, most exciting joy ride of my life.
What is it about the Golden Heart that is so special?
RWA’s Golden Heart contest is an unparalleled opportunity for unpublished romance writers. There are no guarantees of success in this business, but having that Golden Heart final at the beginning of your pitch ensures that your submission will at least float to the top of the slush heap. And winning the contest is a big part of the reason I found my amazing agent, Alexandra Machinist with ICM Partners.
Wait, what? I have an agent? I still can’t believe that this is my life right now. Thank you, RWA!
What are your plans for the future?
Finish revisions on CHARLENE AND THE DUCHESS FACTORY, send to my agent, and cross my fingers, eyes, toes that an editor falls in love with Liam and Charlene’s story!
Thank you for allowing me to share Lenora’s story with you. Do you feel like you know her well enough to play Two truths and a lie? Take a guess and the answer will be revealed tomorrow.
- Lenora got married in Bangkok.
- Lenora has never read Fifty Shades of Gray.
- Ethan Hawke came backstage to say hi to Lenora after she was the lead in her high school musical.
Tomorrow we—as a nation—will celebrate ultimate victory. We’ll blow shit up in honor of the birth of a free nation. Tyranny’s defeat. The start of a despotic campaign to subjugate a native population under the guise of progress and freedom. But do we Janes want to talk about that? Hell no. We’d rather talk about pain and misfortune, aka REJECTION.
I’d love to tell you that I handle rejection with grace and aplomb but most of you already know I’m a big, fat, hairy liar who gives Pinocchio a long, hard run for good money. So for the sake of you, my dearest reader, I’ll stick with truth—straight-up bourbon-infused truth.
Rejection sucks wind harder than a one-nostriled asthmatic marathoner with emphysema. Rejection blows worse than a cheap hooker with rusty braces. Rejection feasts on the precious pearls of love and wisdom that drip from our curled…well, you get the picture.
It hurts. I used to think sad panda was just a cute emoji but I’ve discovered it’s an actual and factual emotion. Sad panda sucks sweaty jock ass. But after sad panda abates—with the love and encouragement of excellent friends and copious amounts of booze—it’s time to read WHY rejection happened.
I’ve been rejected a few times now and only once did I shout, “Alright!” and fist pump the heavens. That first rejection meant I could go PRO in RWA and it’s the only rejection that felt good. I highly recommend it to all of our new chapter members. If the pin was better, I’d demand they go PRO just to sport it.
But I digress. I’ve been rejected by three publishers in various ways. Silence was my least favorite. They even said in the confirmation e-mail that no news was the news if they didn’t like it. The second house was via a form letter—professional but gave no clue as to why. But my third—and the publisher I am fixated on—gave me feedback. Actual someone-took-the-time-to-tell-me-there-were-issues letters. I LOVE those letters. They give me hope. They tell me if I’d like to address said issues and rewrite the book, I can RESUBMIT! Holy crap, honest-to-goodness HOPE wells in me when I read those words. And it keeps my ass in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard.
So to sum up, rejection is no one’s end game but it is a big part of the game. A long con instead of a quick shell game, if you will. Keep writing, finish books, submit to agents or editors and repeat. Over and over until finally, CONTRACT.
And now it’s time to share: Tell me either your worst rejection or your funniest.