Welcome to the Writer's Journal of 

Year 2000 was a turning point in my life; that year, I completed not only my first, 
but also my second-ever novels, both contemporary romances (yes, that's what I write!) 

The manuscript for my very first novel, TRUCK STOP, took 
First Place
in the Undiscovered Writer II Contest, sponsored by Rendezvous Magazine and Love Designers Writers' Club, a chapter of Romance Writers of America.  TRUCK STOP is now e-published by SynergEbooks and received a four-star review in Feb 2002 Romantic Times magazine, as well as some other very excellent reviews elsewhere! (Check out Truck Stop's Reviews)

This particular webpage is Just For Fun, I'm having a great time with it!  It's also not so bad for an confidence boost when I start feeling down with all these rejection letters pouring in  <chuckle>  I figure it's just as well that I *do* get depressed about it now and again... I mean, Heaven Forbid that I should develop an EGO! <laugh>

Many thanks to Caroline (Aelis10) and Janice (SarahStNy), fellow writers on AOL, for editing my early chapters, and showing me the finer points of writing!  It was Caroline who told me about Brenda Hiatt's "Writing the Romance Novel" class, and urged me to take it.  I did, and it was one of the best investments in myself that I have made!  I look forward to taking more of Brenda's classes this year.

 

To Scott:  You were always my inspiration, my one true hero.
Although you never knew, it's because of you that I understand what real love can be
"Think of me, think of me waking silent and resigned.
Imagine me trying too hard to put you from my mind.
....There will never be a day when I don't think of you."

--Christine, "Think of Me,"  Phantom of the Opera

 

Diary of An Aspiring Novelist

The History of Truck Stop, or, How I Got Where I Am Today:

For anyone interested, here is the whole story... this is very long, and is probably only of interest to my close family & friends, and other beginning writers :)

Early last year (2000) I discovered AOL's writers forums.  Talk about a kid in a candy shop!  Finally!  Other writers!  REAL writers!  I'd been writing on and off all my life, and never ever met another writer.  In the process of finding out everything that was available on the Writers Club forums, and anything else on writing, I discovered that many Romance Writers of America chapters (and other organizations as well) regularly sponsor writing contests.  So I joined RWA and did some comparative browsing and, taking a deep breath, chose the Undiscovered Writers II Contest, sponsored by the Love Designers Writers' Club/Rendezvous Magazine, to enter.

February 2000.  They required the first chapter and synopsis.  Yeah.  Okay, well.....  I had several dozen story lines (112, to be exact, carefully numbered A-Z, AA to ZZ, and so forth up to HHHHH) that I'd come up with over the last 40+ years , most of them no more than a couple of sentences of premise and maybe a scene or two written.  A few... very few... have as much as a 2-3 chapters.  Out of those few, I chose Truck Stop, pretty much at random and because it was the one that appealed to me just then... totally subjective :)  

So I started to "get it ready."  Mind you, I had three scattered (not consecutive) scenes and a basic idea for the main conflict.  That's it.  And about a week before the deadline for the contest.  I'm not sure where the idea for the opening scene came from, presumably right out of thin air.  I guess my Muse decided to kick in just then :)  So I wrote one chapter.  Then I needed a synopsis, about three pages.  Oh yuck.  Geez, *I* didn't know three pages worth of what the story is going to be!!!  So I spent a day brainstorming and came up with something.  More like, I hammered out a story line from almost nothing, with lots of mental anguish and an overdose of caffeine!  And when I was done, I was actually feeling pretty pleased with myself.... after all, I'd never written a synopsis in my life!  And it actually looked to shape up to be a pretty good plot as well.  I had the pleasant feeling of having surprised myself :)   

So I stuck the whole thing in an envelope, took a deep breath, and trotted out to the mailbox.

May 8, 2000  Here comes the old SASE manila envelope.   Now, I know the manuscript is going to have been judged, and maybe critiqued.  I stared at it, wondering if my self-confidence level was really ready for this.  Oh well.  Being a glutton for punishment, I ripped it open.  There's a letter (parchment, even!) in the front and I pulled it out.  The first thing that met my eyes was the big caption:  

C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S!

Ohmigod.  I.... WON???!!!!  <<<palpitations>>>   I read the letter.  I reread the letter.  I re-read the letter.  And let me tell you something.  Reading it for the hundred-and-fifteenth time, six months later, it feels JUST as good as it did the first time!  LOL!

Now, the PRIZE for this contest, was to have the winning manuscript read by a Senior Editor at Silhouette.   According to the letter, they'd already notified her of the winning manuscript and author, and she'll be expecting me to contact her.  ZOWWIES!  (Folks, this is SIX months later that I am writing this, and I'm sitting here looking at their letter in front of me,  reading it over and over and over again and crying and laughing out loud!)  Oh, I digressed.... where was I?  Right, the editor.  So I called her--I figure that's okay because she already has my name from the contest.  I got her right away (Wow, a Senior Editor answers her own phone?  Way cool!).   She knew my NAME, as soon as I said it!  Yes, she has the letter from Rendezvous right in front of her.  Do I have a complete manuscript?  No?  Well, just send her what I've written so far then.

Well (ahem), all that I had actually written at that point was the one chapter.  And a couple of scenes from various points farther along the plot line.  Remember, I hadn't *expected* to win the contest!  I'd just wanted to see what would happen if I entered!  I didn't tell her that, of course.  I told her I had three chapters, and she said to send them.  So I wrote off two more chapters real quick and sent them in.  My synopsis had taken some heavy criticism from the contest judges, so I got out my (newly acquired) copy of Writers Market 2000 and looked up the section on synopses, and re-wrote that before sending it in with the three chapters.  Even to my inexperienced eyes it looked MUCH better!

June 12, 2000.  There's a letter from Silhouette in the mail.  It's thin, obviously just one sheet of letterhead in there.  My first rejection letter.  <<<palpitations>>>  Okay, I told myself.  I expected it.  Heck, I even cleared off a wall in my office to hang them up on (I figured I could always take up darts as a hobby).  Still... I'd never quite managed to quench that dim spark of optimism, of hope.  I reminded myself that NOBODY gets accepted the first time around.  How many times did Margaret Mitchell have Gone With the Wind rejected?  Something like 24?  And John Grisham 77 times, I'd heard.  Not that I even pretend I'd ever be a Mitchell or a Grisham.... or Anne McCaffrey or Dick Francis, for that matter.... Oh, on with the story.  So anyway, I carried the envelope around in my purse for a couple of hours, steeling myself.  Lunch.  That's right.  I'll take it to lunch and open it there.  I'll have a good book along with me, one of my old tried-and-true favorites that never fail, and after I read the letter I can just stuff the letter back in my purse and lose myself in the book.  I can stop on the way home and buy some darts.  Great plan :)  

Only, it wasn't a rejection letter.  "Dear Ms... Congratulations on winning the Undiscovered Writers...." yada yada... "We would be interested in seeing your completed manuscript."  WHAT???!!!!!  <<<palpitations>>>   The only thing is, the letter wasn't from the same editor that I'd contacted previously, and to whom I'd sent Truck Stop.  It was an editorial assistant.  Hmmm.  Now I'm confused.  Did she happen to get a cc of the letter from Rendezvous and is not aware that I'd sent the partial to the Sr. Editor already?  Or did the Sr. Editor read the partial and pass it on to her?  Or did the Senior Editor NOT read it, and pass it on to her?  I floundered a bit between being ecstatic (maybe they'd READ it and wanted more!) and not knowing what to think at all.

So once more I decide to call.  This is, you understand, completely against ALL the rules, as I understood them.  One does not call editors.  Period.  I hoped that the excuse of not being sure who she was, would make it okay.  So I called the Editorial Assistant who'd sent the letter.  She answered the phone on the first ring.  I gave her my name... and I didn't even get as far as telling her the name of my manuscript, when she (bless her heart forever!) broke in:  "Oh!  Oh, yes, I know who you are!  You wrote the story about the truck stop, that won the Undiscovered Writer contest!"  <<<palpitations>>> (As you can see, writing creates a lot of stress on the poor cardiovascular system.)   She loved it, she said!  She'd read the first chapter that Rendezvous had forwarded to them, and had wanted to read more.  Then I sent the three chapters to the senior editor, which she'd also read, and she wanted to read yet more!   She wanted me to sit right down and finish writing it!  I explained that I was just in the process of packing to move to Arizona at the end of the month, and she graciously allowed that yes, that would be difficult to write when you're moving, but as soon as I was moved I was to get seriously writing.  As you can imagine, my frame of mind when I hung up the phone was rather... elevated!  I was practically levitating, LOL!

Once I got moved and ready to start writing, I had by this time (being involved in several writers forums on AOL), discovered more about contracts.  NO way do I feel ready to tackle that kind of a thing, should it be necessary.  I decided this was the time to start trying to find a literary agent... *before* Silhouette made me an offer ...and if Silhouette rejected it once I'd submitted the finished manuscript, then I'd have an agent ready to go looking.  Either way, I was covered.   I got out all my RWA magazines and my Writers Market, and carefully scanned each and every entry for a possible match.  Another consideration was that, besides Truck Stop, I have several more stories immediately in mind, and any number beyond that, but not all were necessarily within the same genre within romance, so that if my stories really are salable, I needed someone who could handle the several types of romance that I would be hoping to write.  And to be really honest, I'm not quite sure if category romance is the best way for me to go.  What if I sold it as category, and found out later that I *really* should have gone for single-title?  I figured an agent would know, and be able to advise me.  In the ensuing months, I'm a little more confident that category romance *is* where I want to be, but there is still the contract (assuming I get that far)... and all those other non-category romance novels I want to write.  Assuming I can sell Truck Stop in the first place, of course <grin>  I'm not being over-confident; planning what I want to do and what I want if I should sell it can't possibly hurt me, and it will keep me from selling myself short if an offer does come in.  The fact is, I don't honestly believe that I *will* sell it... it's too much The Impossible Dream for me to believe it will ever happen... but am having a LOT of fun thinking about it :)   Obviously :)

July 14, 2000.  Out of all the agents and agencies, I came up with two top choices and another half dozen possibilities.  Taking a deep breath, I chose one of the two to send my first-ever query letter to, and mostly, you know, because I just liked the way she had worded her comments about what she was looking for, and also (so sue me) because she accepted email inquiries.  So I sent her an email query letter, and had a response the next day!  I have to admit I sat here for five minutes staring at her name on the "From" list in my inbox, wondering if I should wait a little while, or just get it over with <laugh>  However, it turned out to be an  (initially) positive response!  But she wanted at least the first 100 pages, and all I had was the three (short) chapters, totaling about 40 pages.  Maybe less.   In my new home in Arizona, in the meantime, I had just moved in and was still unpacking, plus suffering along in a heat wave with no cooling except for two small fans, with the indoors temperature running in the high 90s.  Not the best atmosphere for creativity.  However, three days after I'd heard from the agent, my landlord brought over an old, beaten-up looking air conditioner that worked like a real trooper.   It took him a couple of hours to install it, but by 10 that same evening I had begun writing.  And by noon of the fourth day of writing, I had 102 pages completed!  So off it went, Priority Mail.   

This, however, didn't have a happy ending.  When I  heard back from the agent, she says sorry, she is not interested in category romance.  Huh?  I'd told her right from the get-go that it was aimed at category romance... so why did she even bother asking me to send my ms in the first place?  And besides that,  I'd very been clear that I was *also* interested in pursuing the single-title market, and was in no way committed to writing for category.  Who knows what she was thinking.  Maybe she felt my work was contemporary quality and not single-title quality, although she didn't say so in the rejection letter.  Okay, back to the starting gate <sigh>  On the bright side, I now have about 60 pages more than I did before I wrote her!  LOL!  There's a silver lining in every cloud :)

August 28, 2000.  Next on my list.  I decided heck with this... I chose the top FIVE on my list and sent out the queries.  I did have a favorite, above and beyond the rest, but this was only the query letter anyway.  So I sent her a synopsis (as per her guidelines in the Romance Writers' Report, RWA's monthly magazine).  And barely a week later, she CALLED me!  She said she didn't want to wait to write, she was very enthusiastic, and encouraged me to keep writing, saying that she wanted to see the completed manuscript as soon as I'd finished it!  YEAH!  Two weeks later, I got another call from another of the agents whom I'd queried.  She left a message on my voice mail stating that she, too, wanted to see the completed manuscript and would I please send it!  

Still acutely aware of my novice status, and not feeling like I really knew what I was doing (let's face it, just because you DO write, doesn't mean you know HOW to write!) so I had heard about Brenda Hiatt's "Writing the Romance Novel" , an online class.   I signed up for that, and completed it.  This is a marvelous class and I learned a lot, and not only that, with Brenda's encouragement, being in the class was a wonderful inspiration.

September, 2000.  Right about this time, I heard about the "Book In A Week" challenge... it's a mailing list and you set a goal for yourself at the beginning of the week... everyone does that.  Then every day, you write in to report on your progress (or lack thereof), and send and receive congratulations (or condolences, as the case may be) from others on the list, who are also posting to the list their own progress or problems.  It gave me great incentive (even with all the positive feedback I'd gotten so far, I would look at the 50+K words that I still needed to finish the novel, and my heart would quail).  In that week, I wrote 37 pages!  

By this time the story had started to pretty much write itself, and not only words but ideas were flying at me thick and fast.  

And on October 10, 2000, I wrote The End

I was so excited.  I called my best friend, in California.  And as soon as she answered the phone.  I started bawling.  Panic in her voice, she asked what was wrong.  I managed to sob, "Nothing!  I finished it!"  I then proceeded to cry for the next five minutes.  Then I started laughing uncontrollably.   Then all of a sudden I felt really sick to my stomach, I mean, I just sat there clutching it and wondering if I was going to really... (you know).  I didn't (you know), and it eventually went away.  More or less.  My stomach churned nervously for the entire next two days!

October 12, 2000.  So now I've just finished doing a full read-through on hard copy and making red-pen changes, editing here and there and making sure there are no loose ends, and that every single word is just what I want it to be, that every single sentence conveys what I want it to.  Then I'm printing it out, taking it to Staples to have copies made, and will send it out... hopefully I can do all this by tomorrow.  I'm sending this to Silhouette, of course, and to the first agent who responded to my query; she is also my FIRST CHOICE and I am praying hard she will like my novel!  Anyway, I want to hold off sending to the second agent who requested the full ms, to give the first one a shot at it.  Not that I know diddly squat about either of them <laughing> but I like the way the first one represented herself in an article she'd written, and then she validated herself as My First Choice when she called and was so terrifically enthusiastic about my synopsis and query letter back in August :) :)  I guess there's just something about getting positive feedback that makes you really *LIKE* the person giving it, you know???   <g>

This next part gets really nasty.  You know how some events, or sequence of events, are only funny in retrospect?  Well this was one of those times... trust me, this was NOT FUN!  Read it carefully, however, and learn from my mistakes, so you don't have to go through this yourself!!

October 16, 2000, Part A.  Oh man.  What a day. Last night, halfway through printing the second copy of the full manuscript (323 pages each, one for the agent, one for the editor), I ran out of paper. No problem, I still had a 1" stack of the old paper.  But I forgot, the reason I switched brands is because my printer doesn't like the old paper. It doesn't grab it right. So I waste as many sheets as I get good copies. About the time it becomes clear that I'm now not going to have enough paper to finish printing the manuscript, I also run out of black ink. It was after midnight, so I just went to bed.  Tomorrow's a new day <g>

This morning I tooled on into town to Office Max.  By the way, I live rurally, some 15 miles from town.  I pick up 3 reams of paper (buy 2, get one free) of the kind of paper my printer *does* like, plus two black ink cartridges, one big, one little, and a big stack of Tyvek envelopes to use for the manuscript returns (which of course I hope won't be used!). My credit/debit card declines the purchase. Stupid thing.  So I run across the street to Safeway. Yep, the money is there. Weird. So I get cash out, and back over to Office Max. I go to pay for everything. The total is HOW MUCH? WHY?!  Because the big ink cartridge is not $19.95, it's $37.99.  Hells bells. No wonder my card declined it the first time around, the total came to more than I had available! (yes, it serves me right anyway for not  asking the price, and also for not looking at the total on the cash register in the first place). Well, I gotta have it. So I ditch all the other purchases and just buy one ream of paper and both ink cartridges; I'm not sure that I need the small ink cartridge,  but I'd better get it anyway, just in case. I'll come back and get the envelopes and more paper when I come back into town to mail the manuscripts, later today, when my paycheck will have hit the bank.

I change the big ink cartridge on the printer. It still doesn't work (printing is faded, fairly light, only borderline acceptable). So I change the smaller ink cartridge as well, although that one was new yesterday morning when I started printing and should NOT have run out yet. That doesn't work either. Same thing. I try bolding one page... EEEYUCK! really gross looking. Just before chucking the printer through the window (it's tempting! very, very tempting!) I try changing the settings, telling the printer that the paper is plain paper (which it's not) instead of ink jet paper (which it is). Mind you, this is the exact same brand paper I used an entire REAM of yesterday, bought just yesterday at the same store as I was at today, and it printed just fine. Anyway, telling the printer that this is plain paper, works. Very strange.  So I've got everything printed out and everything is hunkey dorey.

Everything is all ready to go except the letter from the editor that she said I should enclose a copy of when I send the completed manuscript. I put it in my scanner and tell it to scan. I get a black window. huh? I scan it again.  Still a black window. I put a picture in to scan in color, just to see if it will work, and get a black window. <sigh> I unplug and disconnect the scanner, and turn the computer off. Reconnect and plug in the scanner and turn the computer back on. Same thing.  So, I reinstall the program. Nope. Okay, time to get out the big guns. I UNinstall the program and turn the computer off. Turn computer back on. Reinstall the program again. Black window.  grrrrrrrrrrr hissss phffftttt.  I know it's not the cable going bad, because my printer cable is hooked to the scanner, and my scanner is hooked up to the printer port on the computer. If it were the cable, my printer wouldn't work either. Well, the printer has its problems but it at least *works*. <sigh>

So now, I have to get the letter copied, as well as get envelopes for SASE, before I can go to the post office.  But, I can't run to town just yet because I've only got an hour before my daughter gets home from school. <banging head on edge of desk>

On the bright side, after 6+ weeks of waiting, U.S. West FINALLY showed up this morning and hooked up my second phone line! hurray! he also said he's going to try to get me a discount off the hook-up charges, since I was kept waiting for so long. I'm not objecting! :) I can now work and surf at the same time! And at long last, my mother can call me!!!! :)

October 16, 2000, Part B.  All ready to go, so off to town with my daughter.  The supermarket didn't have any envelopes that are big enough for the entire manuscript, and there's no time to get to the office supply store and back before the post office closes, so okay, I'll buy the SASE envelopes at the post office.  Ugh.  They are the big padded ones... no Tyvek.  Do I have a choice?  Nope.  So I am rushing to fill them out while the long line at the post office is moving fast.  Have YOU ever been to the post office when the line moved fast?  No?  Well, me either.  Until this Monday!  I was flustered, besides being jittery and frazzled anyway by the time we got to the counter.  I think the clerk was hugely entertained.  He was patience itself.  I took the letters to agent and editor out of the boxes so they wouldn't get rumpled when we stuffed the SASE envelopes into the Priority box with the manuscript (I made a mental note to go to Office Max immediately and buy some Tyvek envelopes for the next time!), then put the letters back in, and off they went!

AWRRRIGHT!  I did it!!!!  Christina and I high-five each other as we leave the post office, and once we're safely in the car, I let out a scream to rival a banshee.... Yaaaaahooooooooo!  We pull out of the parking lot.  We go to dinner to celebrate.  We're parking in front of the restaurant  when it suddenly hits me.  I didn't LOOK at the boxes when I put the letters back in!!!  Two boxes, two letters... I just slid a letter into each box!  The agent and the editor might get each other's letter instead of the right one!  <groan> Furthermore (since I'm flailing myself, might as well wallow a little), I forgot to get the letter from the editor copied to accompany the ms!  aaarrrgh!

I decide there isn't anything I can do about it now, so I put it aside.  We have a great dinner, and wind up brainstorming my next novel, "Dancer."  Christina came up with some really good ideas for plot twists, and also makes a great sounding board, and between us we managed to hammer out a basic story line, as well as added some characters and decided on their roles in the story.  Waaaay cool!

October 17.  I decide to call the editor and agent.  I'd been undecided before about whether to call... after all, I talked to the editor only once back in June, and the agent in early September.  I'd pretty much decided not to... I didn't know the protocol about that, but in general they say you're not supposed to call, and the last thing I want to do is become a pest.  But now, there was NO way I was going to let my manuscript arrive at their desks with possibly the wrong letter enclosed, and NOT let them know in advance.

So, heart-in-throat, I pick up the phone and call the editorial assistant.  I started off saying my name and was just about to launch into a (brief) explanation of who I was, when she said, "Oh yes!  You are writing Truck Stop!  How's the manuscript coming along?"   I think I broke my jaw dropping it on the floor.  She not only knew my NAME instantly, but the name of my manuscript!!!  And it had been four MONTHS since we'd talked!  Like .... Zowwies!  So I tell her that it's in the mail, she is excited for me, we chat a bit.  I confess about having been really nervous/flustered about sending out my first manuscript ever, and the possible mix-up with letters.  No problem.  I get off the phone feeling VERY good!

Time to call the agent.  I say my name and she says, "Oh yes.  You're writing about the truck stop, about the runaway girl and the truck driver..."  <gulp!>  It's been six weeks since we talked, and she spends her days (presumably) reading truckloads (no pun intended) of manuscripts!  Furthermore, I hadn't even sent her any chapters, all that I'd sent so far were the query letter and the synopsis!  And she REMEMBERS me, AND my story!!!!  oh, MY!

October 18.  7 a.m.  The lovely, nice, darling agent calls :) :)  She's gotten my manuscript (already?! zowwies!) and the RIGHT letter was in the box!  Well, hallelujah! :)

So all's well that ends well... for the moment!  The agent said to give her at least a couple of weeks to get back to me, the editor at least a couple of months.

November 8.  I still haven't heard from the agent, and it's been three weeks.  Despite what she said on the phone, I know that it can be two to three months before I hear anything.  On the other hand, she'd sounded so enthused about Truck Stop.  On the other hand (I'm going to run out of hands here real quick), she hadn't actually read any of my manuscript; just the synopsis, which is all that I'd sent with the query letter.  The way things seem to work, only good news comes via phone; the rejections come in the mail.  So maybe she did read my manuscript and didn't like it, and it's on it's slow way back to me via slow boat to China (aka fourth class mail, which used to be "book" but is now called "media" rate).  

Thinking very very hard, and really agonizing about it, I try to decide what to do. I finally revert to the old tried-and-true flip-the-quarter:  heads I wait, tails I contact the other agent who is waiting for the full manuscript (I've gotten form rejections from two of the other five I'd initially queried, and one still outstanding).  Tails.  So I call her (her secretary, actually) and tell her I've finished Truck Stop, are they still interested?   Yep.  Way cool! When I tell her that I have 50K words done to date on Dancer (see below), and hope to finish it this week, she says to include the first chapters of that as well.  Oops!  I've never done a synopsis on Dancer, I've been too busy writing it!  So I spent all morning printing out Truck Stop and writing up the synopsis for Dancer.  But, I got it all out in the mail today!  I figure it will be 2-3 months to hear from her, since it's a huge agency, and I'm sure that before then I'll hear from My First Choice... one way or the other!  <<<PLLEEEEZE let her like it!  please please please!!!>>>

December 22.  Okay, this is dumb.  Really stupid of me.  I am definitely losing my mind.  RWA has started a new Special Recognition Program, RWA Pro, for writers who have finished their very first manuscript and *submitted it* (very important) to an editor or agent.  (no, this isn't the part that's stupid.... keep reading)  Anyway, the writer gets a pin from RWA, in recognition for having achieved a tremendous milestone (and it is!).  So, I called the first (my fav.) literary agent and asked her if she could send me a letter stating that she had received my full manuscript of Truck Stop, for me to send to RWA as part of the proof they require.  Noooo problem.  That was a couple of weeks ago.  I've been working really hard at two jobs, plus getting ready for Christmas, and my brain is shot.  Face it, I can hardly remember what I did yesterday, and in fact spent all day yesterday thinking it was Friday (it was Thursday).  Anyway, so yesterday I went out to the mail box, and there... <gasp!> is a letter from the agent.  Just a thin envelope.  Ah, heck!  She's sent the rejection letter first class (surely an acceptance wouldn't be just one sheet of letterhead) and the manuscripts are wending their way back at book rate.   <<<palpitations>>>  I rip into the envelope, and can see right away that there's only one teensy paragraph.  It's gotta be a rejection.  I knew it.  I just knew it.  Then I read the thing.  It's the letter that *I* had asked her to send, stating receipt of my manuscript, for me to send to RWA!!!!  do I feel REALLY dumb???? oh yeah!!!!!!  aaaarrrrgghhhhh!

January 18,  2001.  I have gotten both good news and bad news.  The bad news first... I got rejected by an agent... a "real" rejection, not a form letter that they probably didn't read past the query.  But what a rejection!  Okay, so she didn't like my premise.  (I'm still trying to figure that one out.)   But!  BUT!!!  She said:  "There's no question of your ability.  I think you have a very fluid, commercial style which is remarkably polished and self-assured... I think your writing has a lot of commercial potential..."  And then, she said if I hadn't found an agent by the time I finished another manuscript, she'd be happy to take a look at that!  Waaaay cool!  I've been more celebrating than feeling bad, LOL!  To top that off, some writers whom I'd asked about the rejection told me that this particular agency is top-of-the-line and rarely take beginning writers at all, that they frequently turn down *published* writers, so that I could pat myself on the back because she'd invited me to submit to them again... and Lisa Craig, in Colorado, wrote:  "Sometimes this takes years of writing to generate a rejection letter of this quality!"  One member of Desert Rose turned out to be a client of this particular agent, and said that agents don't have the time to make polite meaningless noises; if she invited me to submit something else, she *meant* it! So, taking heart from all this.... I will keep on submitting!

July 16,  2001.  A mere two days before I left for New Orleans, I got a rejection letter from Silhouette on Truck Stop. I was less surprised than I was disappointed, but in fact I'd pretty much expected it, given Teri's age throughout 90% of the book, and so I didn't allow the rejection to diminish one jot of my enjoyment of my first conference! :)  Since it was Bennett's Story I wound up pitching at National, see the journal down under that title for the story of my pitches there, and how I came home with FOUR requests for the manuscript! :)

August 16,  2001.  An ePublisher, SynergEbooks.com, contacted me on rosedog.com.  She'd seen my excerpt of Truck Stop there and invited me to submit to them.  After looking over their website and scrutinizing their excellent contract carefully (in marked contrast to the awful one I was offered by PublishAmerica), I decided to go for it, for various reasons of my own.

August 29,  2001.  Truck Stop was accepted!  It would be out in October 2001 as an eBook, and it would also a bit later be available as POD (print-on-demand) paperback.  I started working with the cover artist on cover art, and also got a bio written up to the publisher, etc.  As it turned out, we used the cover art I'd had all along for my "inspirational" binder cover for Truck Stop... a picture of Kenworth's T-2000 truck, scanned from their catalog and used as cut-out letters in text art for the title.  I called all over the country a few times, before finally getting hold of someone from Kenworth's Public Affairs office, who had me send her the graphic, and then sent me approval to use it on the cover of my book!  I was so thrilled that they let me do this!  I put an acknowledgement to them in the book, and plan to send them a copy when it comes out in print!

October 9,  2001.  Truck Stop was released on SynergEbooks' site.

October 19,  2001.  My first serious set-back; I heard from the the very first reviewer I'd sent Truck Stop to, and she said (after having read it) that she wouldn't write a review because (for reasons which she stated but were less than clear), it wasn't acceptable as a romance.  Huh?  I gotta say, this shook me to my toes!  I was just about to send off the money to have an ad (with Rising Stars of Romance) in Romantic Times Magazine, as well as a review, and if they felt the same way, they were going to not just write a pithy note back to me, but were going to publish their opinion for all the romance world to see!!!!  With MANY more butterflies than I'd have had otherwise, I went ahead and sent in the money and the manuscript for review.  

January 12,  2002.  At 11 p.m. I logged onto the Romance-Central message board, to be greeted with:  "Allie's Book is in Romantic Times!!!"  Followed by a second message, that it'd been awarded FOUR STARS!!!  Ohmigosh!!!!  (Vindication with a vengeance!)  Waltzing upon the air, the rest of that day and the next was pretty much a bust ***laugh***  Would you believe it, though?  NOBODY that I knew was online, it was too late to call my friends on the East Coast, and my mom and best friend in California weren't home!  arrrrgh!!!  You can't believe how awful it is to get that kind of news, and have no one to share it with but five vastly indifferent felines. I did wake up my daughter to tell her, but all she did was mumble "Great," and pull the covers over her head.  Teenagers! 

February 17,  2002.  I got the word... Truck Stop was released as a paperback!

March 7,  2002.  My first copies of Truck Stop arrived.  Christina and I went to the Outback Steak House for dinner to celebrate!  Yes, okay, I cried!  I admit it :)   It's hard to explain... I knew they were coming, I expected to be pleased and thrilled... I even knew just what they were going to look like (after all, I'd designed the cover myself).  But I was in no way prepared for what it actually felt like to open the box and see that first book cover gleaming at me.  Well, it just defies description... even for me *grin*

March,  2002.  As an interesting aside, the owner of a soon-to-be-open website, Romance At Its Best, contacted me to see if I'd be interested in having a review of Truck Stop, and/or be interviewed for the website, which was opening April 12th.  Naturally I was thrilled *laugh*   However, a few hours later, I was even more thrilled when the owner, Jessica, emailed me again.  She said she had been to this webpage of mine, my diary/journal, and wanted to know if I'd be interested in having a monthly column for her website!  Wow!  How exciting! Anyway, so Allie's Novice Nook has come to be and my first column was on "Promoting Your Book."  I'm also their Spotlight Author for May :)

 

 

About Dancer:

Dancer is a contemporary romance written in first person.  Yuck, you say.  I agree.  I personally don't care for romances (or anything else) written in the first person (unless it's Anne McCaffrey, of course!).  I'm not even sure why it came to me to write it in first person; none of my other (100-something) premises and half-plotted (or even half-baked!) stories are in first person, and in fact I have never even considered writing one in the first person!  But somehow, that's just what happened.   The characters, the *voice* of the whole novel, demanded it.  Who am I to argue with them?? LOL!

Now that I've started writing classes and forums on AOL, everybody... but everybody! ...tells me how totally unsellable (is that a word? I don't think so) first-person romance is, and that I should rewrite it in third person.  Well.  Ahem.  NO.  Besides changing completely the voice, the entire face of the novel, it would be a betrayal, on my part, of my hero and heroine.  For some reason, this must be written in the first person.  When I first started, I thought, well okay, I'll write it in first person, and when I'm all done, just as an exercise in writing I'll rewrite it in third person, and see how it is.  But the further into the story I got, the less that became an option.  It's a wonderful, wonderful story (if I do say so), and if I can't sell it because it's in first person, so be it.  More than any of all my other stories, plots and ideas... this story is for ME.  To have written it, is enough.  It may well have to be <grin>

What got me initially started on Dancer, is all those dumb contemporary romances with Arab men as the hero... utilizing every lame, sorry stereotype available since E.M. Hull's "The Sheikh."   At least that has the redeeming quality of 1) not being contemporary, and 2) great characterizations.  Not to mention, a plot.  Mostly with these contemps I get nauseated and toss the book across the room in disgust before I get halfway through.   (Exception:  I absolutely *adored* Iris Johansen's Sedikhan men! but she doesn't write those any more... I am just sick that she's moved away from mainstream romance to romantic suspense  {sniffle}).  Anyway, I decided to write a novel with an Arab hero *myself* and he was NOT going to be some macho sadistic JERK that any woman would have to be some kind of masochist (or have serious codependent issues) to fall in love with (if that's what you want to call it).  I've stopped buying them myself, but I hear the horror stories from my writer friends online who do read them as they come out.  

EXCEPTION! EXCEPTION!  I just ran across a wonderful "sheikh" story, by Day LeClaire, "To Marry a Sheikh" from Harlequin Romance, October 2000.  It's still available from the online bookstores, so either check out Day's site, or my Allie McCormack bookstore :)

As for myself, I have lived for a year in Cairo, Egypt as an exchange student, and 10 years later I went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, working there under contract for a year.  This happened to coincide with Saddam Hussein's (Marquis de Sad-dam) invasion of Kuwait, and the resulting events.  I also speak (or at least, used to) fluent Arabic, although I remember more than I think I do when I'm with other Arabic speakers.  The hero of Dancer, Khalid, comes straight out of my dreams <sigh>   I've also added a sprinkling of young Saudi men and women, students at the university where Khalid is a professor.  These are not based on any particular Arabs that I have known, but instead are culled from my general experience from living within the Middle Eastern culture, and are portrayed as true as I could make them.

So here's my premise:  HE is a Saudi, teaching Middle Eastern studies at UCSB (University of California, Santa Barbara).  SHE is a belly dancer (using the stage name Cassandra) at a local ethnic restaurant.  That sets up a nice conflict, don't you think? :)  He pursues her determinedly, but she believes he is only interested in the belly dancer, and not the shy social worker behind the glittering costume.  Here's an excerpt from the first chapter:

     "He still hadn't recognized me after all this time, but in fact I was getting a bit tired of his continued presence.  Like many American girls, I had dreamt of Rudolph Valentino acting as my valet or, conversely, crossing the great Nefud by camel at the head of a huge bedouin army in company with Omar Sharif.  Therefore, I naturally had no great objection to being ridden off with across the saddle-bow, whether horse, camel or Mercedes (as Arabs these days appear to be fond of driving). And let me tell you, this guy could have given old Omar a run for his money.
     But I had always dreamed that such a romantic figure would be wanting me, not someone else. And that's who Cassandra was: Someone Else.  It was Cassandra that Khalid wanted, and he was apparently prepared to spend both a great deal of time and money to pursue her.  But he was, frankly speaking, panting up the wrong tree.  I was Sarah, and Sarah was about as far removed from Cassandra as it was possible for two persons to be."

November 10, 2000.  I am currently working hard on finishing Dancer.  I am participating in Painted Rock's Book In a Week challenge (the week of November 6 to 13) and am up to 50,000 words.  My goal is to finish Dancer in time to enter it into RWA's Golden Heart Contest.  I have to send in the entry form and fee by November 15th, so if I can get within 50 pages of being  complete by then, I will enter it, as the manuscripts are not due to RWA until December 10th, giving me time to edit and polish.  So far I've written 101 pages  and have only 32 pages to finish the novel, at least for the minimum length.  <<<nerves>>>  Actually, I'm very pleased... I've never written more than 37 pages in one week before, and that was in the last BIAW in October, and I've already surpassed that in the first three days!  Waaaaaaay cool, as my daughter would say!  Unfortunately I got sick (flu) right in the middle of week's  BIW, but I'm still hoping to hang in there for another 20-30 pages.

For every novel, I find one picture that is my inspiration, the embodiment of the feelings I want to portray, the voice... something that moves me and that just looking at it puts me in touch with my story, my characters.  For Dancer, it is this picture that I found on the web.  It is an Israeli bellydancer, a beautiful young woman named Lilach Gavish.   I have written her to ask permission to post the picture, which you see here, but haven't heard back from her yet.  Do visit her page, it's terrifically interesting, as is she!  And if you get the chance, go to see her dance!  I know that I'm going to!

While we're on the subject, do visit this marvelous website I found for "The Sheikh" with Rudolph Valentino (I've never actually seen the movie, myself... will have to check eBay!), which I stumbled across while searching Yahoo to make sure that E.M. Hull was indeed the author.  Okay, so yes, it's been a couple of decades since I've read the book... you caught me <guilty grin>  But I daresay I'd like it just as much now as I did back then... more than the (ahem) that is being written today!  

November 24, 2000 9:00 a.m.  I have FINISHED Dancer!!!  All 307 pages of it!  HURRAY!

November 26, 11:45 p.m.  I have just spent two days editing/polishing the manuscript, and this morning I started printing it out for the Golden Heart.  One copy of the full manuscript, and six copies of the first 55 pages.  Ugh.  It's taken all day!  

November 27.  I'm not so terrifically happy about Dancer anymore.  I feel like it needs more.  Yes, the STORY is all written... but I feel like there is so much more I could have written.  More about Fatima and the other Saudi women, more with Sarah and Khalid.  I'm not sure if I'm going to do anything about it.  I'm not going to send out Dancer yet, however (with the exception of the Golden Heart), unless one of the agents does call me back about Truck Stop and agrees to take me on as a client.  In the meantime, I'm going to "sit" on it and give it some time, and add more if it really seems like I just can't rest without doing so.

December 10.  After finishing Dancer, I wasn't going to write any more until the New Year.  Well, I made it this far.  Everyone I know said, "I knew you couldn't make it to New Years!"  *laugh*  I've started working on Behind the Clouds, a novel that I began over 15 years ago, when I was in college and pregnant with my daughter, Christina.  Despite the fact that I started this long before I even thought of Dancer, it's going to be a spin-off of Dancer, starting some six months after Khalid and Sarah are married.  The heroine, Lisa, will have met Sarah in Dancer and become fast friends, and both she and the hero, Jesse, are students of Khalid's. 

December 13.   I was talking to the editorial assistant at Silhouette, and mentioned that I had started on my third novel.  She said, oh, did you finish the second one?  I said well yes, but I hadn't told her about it since it was in the first person.  She said not to worry about that, Silhouette is just starting a new line, Red Dress Ink, and they are accepting first person submissions!   She told me to send it to her right away for consideration, even though they hadn't entirely finished working up the guidelines for the new line yet!  Zowwies!  I was up ALL night printing out the new manuscript!  you bet!

January 8, 2001.  I had posted an excerpt from Dancer on www.RoseDog.com and today I got an email response from Five Star Romances, a small publisher of romance novels and women's fiction up in Maine.  The editor had written inviting me to submit Dancer!  waaaay cool!  They are recognized by RWA, btw.

January 22, 2001.  I just got the guidelines for Red Dress Ink in the mail.  I don't think there's any way that Dancer fits into that.  Oh well.  So on that basis, I went ahead and sent the manuscript off to Five Star.  Just in the general way, Silhouette doesn't allow multiple submissions, but I have no qualms about sending Dancer out again, as it's only a matter of time before my rejection letter arrives from Silhouette; even if they *like* it, Red Dress Ink is the only line which accepts first person, so it's not like they're going to refer it over to Special Edition or something.  (Too bad, huh? <grin>)

I am, however, definitely going to do some more writing on Dancer.  It's about 79K words, and it needs to be 90-100K words to be marketed as a single-title.  This isn't actually a problem, as I'd been feeling all along that more needed to be written.  It's just a matter of brainstorming what and where to add :)  I've already added the parts introducing Jesse and Lisa into Dancer, I can expand on that a bit.  And I have a couple of other ideas as well, I just need to let them "simmer" a little more.

February 26, 2001.  I finished bringing Dancer up to single-title length, finishing at about 95,500 words.  I added some GREAT new scenes and did some polishing, and I'm much more pleased with it than I was before.

March 6, 2001.  Ack!  I called Silhouette, since it had been a couple of months since I'd talked to them, to see where Truck Stop was.  Parenthetically, I mentioned that I had had some nibbles on Dancer, and was going to send it out since I knew it didn't fit in the Red Dress Ink line.  She told me, no, don't!  She said that it had been read, and although not suitable for RDI (which I knew), it had been recommended for Special Edition!   What??!!  B-b-b-b-ut, Special Edition doesn't do first person.  Well, she says, it's been recommended and is under consideration, and in the process of moving through the system.   aaackkkk!!!!  I'm so happy I'm all but levitating!  I never, EVER thought for an INSTANT that it might be considered for Special Edition!  Are we excited?  OH yes!

March 18, 2001.  Another zowwies!  Five Star Romances has written to ask me to send the full manuscript of Dancer!  Okay, now what?  I'd sent them the partial on the assumption that Silhouette was going to reject Dancer out-of-hand... which they haven't done, obviously!  And Silhouette doesn't permit you to submit to other publishing companies at the same time as they have it.  Decisions.... *sigh*  At any rate, I've got it all printed out and ready to go, I think I'm going to hang onto it until I hear something definitive, one way or the other, from Silhouette.  I think.  You know... this "business" of writing is harder than the darned writing, and practically takes more time!  I wish I could just *write* and not have to worry about all this.  Geez. Not that I'm not having fun *grin*  

July 17, 2001.  I went to New Orleans, to RWA's National Conference, my very first time!  Look below in Bennett's Story for a chronicle of events, since it was Bennett's Story that I wound up pitching, rather than Dancer.

November 6, 2001. Today in the mail came the full ms "Dancer" back from Silhouette... with a REVISION letter!  While I know it's nothing like an acceptance, still it was a BIG DEAL to me, LOLOL!  Basically she said, these particular things don't work, fix them and send it back to me.  I called her immediately and practically screamed in her ear, "Ohmigosh, you sent me a REVISION letter????!" and she was laughing at me and saying yes, it's a revision letter, and she'd have sent it sooner if she'd known I was going to get this excited over it <laugh>  So we went over a couple of specific things she'd had in her letter, and she was still laughing when we got off the phone.   

The very same day, I also got her letter asking me for the full ms of "Bennett's Story" ...talk about your double-pleasures day! 

February 11, 2002.  I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to realize that it's been exactly a year and a day since he died.  I wrote myself a "Declaration of Freedom" and determined that I was going to stop stalling out, and go forward now.  I even went as far as reading through the printed manuscript, to get back "in tune" with the characters and story line, and pouring over Silhouette's suggested revisions.  Mostly, though, when I went in to start trying to write, I just stared, clueless, at the last lines of the scenes I was trying to rewrite :(

April 5, 2002. I finally got my act in gear, and finished the revisions on Dancer.  I don't really know what it was that finally made the difference; perhaps seeing Truck Stop in print, perhaps the local truck stop ordering copies of it, perhaps the feedback coming in from complete strangers who'd read it.  I just know that, one morning I woke up and decided to sit down and write the revisions... and I did!  Once I got started, the words just began to flow!  It took me all of two days, and wound up with another 3,000 lines, to just 98K! Then another two days to pour over it, line-editing for errors, and then I printed it out, packed it up and shipped it off to Silhouette.

...and forgot to enclose the SASE  ***laugh***

April 16, 2002.  A literary agent has invited me to submit to her!  She requested partials of both Dancer and Bennett's Story.  I stayed up all night printing them out and getting them packaged.  Okay, well, not all night... but I had to go over them again and make sure there were no errors or the "silly" kinds of mistakes a spellchecker won't catch, like their/there/they're, that sort of thing.  I'm usually pretty good about not making those kinds of mistakes...it's practically second nature for me to catch them as I type them... but I've discovered that under the stern influence of my Muse, sometimes I *do* make those kinds of little mistakes that I wouldn't ordinarily.  Anyway, I shot them off to her first thing in the morning, of course!

April 22, 2002.  Ulp.  I've heard from the agent already... she wants to see the full manuscript of Dancer!  This is where things get nerve-wracking for me. I can send out query letters and receive return-mail form rejections til the cows come home <laugh> without getting bent out of shape about it.  But when someone asks for the FULL manuscript... she's going to READ my story, all of it! ...yep, now's when I get nervous and start pacing the floor and having butterflies in my stomach and lay awake at night with my brain doing the "will-she-won't-she" mantra.  It's not the rejections that are the hard part...it's the WAITING, once my hopes are up.  You'd think I'd know better by now, wouldn't you?  Still... all it takes is one person... the *right* person... to read it, and like it... one person to believe in me, one person to think as she reads, "hey, we've really got something here!"  Someone who is NOT my mom, LOL!  (Sorry, Mom... no offense! <smooch>)

July 10, 2002.  Well, that agent rejected me, but another asked to see the ms.  This is a strange world :)  In the meantime, I've decided, upon consultation and long deep thoughts, to attempt to write Dancer in the more traditional (and acceptable) third person.  I have, of course, saved the original in a separate file, as well as on CDROM.  This is just an experiment.  Funnily enough, once I'd *decided* to make the attempt, ideas for how I could write this-and-that scene in Khalid's or Sarah's POV came flying at me.  So I sat down and rewrote the first three pages, the opening scene... and it was GOOD!  Really good!  So I'm going to continue on, cautiously, and see how it goes.  I'm not willing to sacrifice the essence of the story and characters in order to sell the book, so if it seems not to be working out, I'll scrap it and stick with the original.  But I think it's going to, and I'm definitely looking forward to writing more of this first chapter in third person!  It definitely has its own seduction.....

Sunday, October 20, 2002.  I finished the third-person rewrite of Dancer, and I couldn't be more pleased with it.  I'm going to start querying some of the agents who'd rejected it in first person.  I've got a really great scene in the middle, in Khalid's POV, when he's in Saudi Arabia at Bennett's bedside in the hospital, and he gets a call from his sister Nadia telling him that Magda's claimed to be engaged to him, and no one can reach Sarah to tell her differently.  It's a fantastic scene, gives me chills up my spine to read it, besides hyperventilating with anxiety (his), and was something I couldn't have written in the original first person version.  Once the idea for the scene came to me and I sat down at the computer, it practically wrote itself!  I did it all in one sitting, back in July right after that first chapter rewrite, and I've gone in to read it over and edit it several times since then, and it just doesn't need any editing at all.  It came right off the tips of my fingers just the way it's supposed to be!  Hah!  I wish ALL the writing was like that! LOL!

 

February 10, 2001. I got the worst of bad news today.  My own Hero, the man I've been in love with for 30 years, has died.  How can I write romance when my hero is dead?  How can one write happily ever after, when he's no longer here?

May 2001.  I've been trying to work hard on Bennett's Story... I've gotten a good halfway through, but to be honest, I'm seriously thinking about taking a break from it and working on Into the Storm instead.  I started it right after I finished my major revision of Dancer, and frankly, I'm finding it's hard to get the distance I need from Dancer, to concentrate on Bennett and Tanya.  I'm still too in love with Khalid *laugh* and too hurting from the death of my own hero *cry* ...since this novel takes place in Khalid and Sarah's home, it's a little hard to ignore him.  sooooooo.... taking up a completely different story might be a good idea.  To be honest, I'm having trouble writing anything at all, but I'm hanging in there and trying as best I can.  Especially as I know that this is a phase and that I'll get past it, and then I'll look back and be sorry for any opportunities I missed while I was dealing with this grief and utter despair, so I try to keep on going forward.  It's hard, though, and I'm starting to worry if the chest twinges I'm having are from the devastation I feel at his loss, which I'd assumed they were, or actual heart problems, since they had begun resulting in near-blackout episodes. 

At the same time, I'm looking forward to going to RWA national conference in a couple of months and I'd like to have either finished, or reasonably near finished, manuscript that's a bit more marketable than Truck Stop and Dancer.  Truck Stop is problematic because Teri is so young, and Dancer because it's written in first person.  So I'd like to have something a little more mainstream, which leaves me deciding between Bennett's Story and Into the Storm.  My critiquers, when asked their opinion, *strongly* encouraged me to go with Into the Storm; as one of them said, it "...has a riveting opening... is very trendy in that it's suspense/intrigue... exotic, exciting hero at the outset... gutsy heroine who puts herself on the line for him in the first chapter..."  Goodness, I was so impressed!  I hadn't thought of it in those terms, myself, LOL!  Hmmm, maybe I should hire her as my Marketing/Promotion Manager?  :)  So anyway, I've given myself until June 4th to dilly-dally and hem and haw, and decide which of my two half-finished WIPs I'm going to concentrate on for the next six weeks.

July 10, 2001.  I finally gave in and went to the ER.  I spent an anxious 3 days in the hospital while they ran every test known to man, looking for first heart disease, which they ruled out quickly, and then for a suspected pulmonary embolism (because of the chest pressure and vision changes).  Fortunately (or not, depending on how you look at things), they didn't find anything at all except slightly low potassium.  Basically they said I need to find some grief counseling.  It didn't help that my hospital room had a lovely large picture window, and a window seat, and if you looked far in the distance you can almost see the cemetery where he's buried.  I spent most of my time sitting on that window seat, with my IV lines trailing along behind me, wishing I could join him there.

However, with a clean bill of health, and an admonition to eat bananas and drink fortified orange juice, there was nothing to do but look forward to my upcoming trip to New Orleans.  I determined to make the most of that, and to use that to raise my emotional state, and get me re-motivated to write, and then afterwards to hang onto that forward motion and not let myself fall back into the abyss once I got home.

July 18, 2001.  I went to RWA's National Conference in New Orleans, where I had a COMPLETE blast, enough so that I have four separate webpages just devoted to pics from that.  I met such notables as Nora Roberts, Linda Howard (who was gracious enough to sign my old, tattered favorite of hers, "White Lies," Merline Lovelace, Maggie Shayne, Suzanne Brockmann, Vicki Barrett, and so many more I can hardly remember! I also had editor and agent appointments, and came home with four... count 'em, FOUR! requests for "Bennett's Story."  Now, you haven't heard previously about Bennett's Story.  It's the sequel to Dancer, and not quite done yet.  I agonized over what to do, since you're supposed to have a full manuscript to pitch at National, and I had already pitched Truck Stop to everyone via query letter and had it rejected.  Silhouette currently had Dancer, but Silhouette likes to have exclusive submissions.  It occurred to me though, that it would be an exceptional editor who was interested in a first-person novel by a first-time author, so I decided to first offer them my completed manuscript, Dancer, and be ready to pitch Bennett's Story if/when they declined hearing about Dancer.  And that is exactly what happened!  

I didn't have any pitch ready before I went to National... in fact, I had no clue how to make a pitch.  But my first editor appointment was for Friday afternoon, and on Friday morning, Patricia McMahon was having a workshop on Turning Your Novel Into Your Pitch.  I took copious notes all through the workshop, then fled to my hotel room, where I spent the next several hours on my laptop, hammering out not one, but two pitches... one for Dancer (just in case) and one for Bennett's Story.  Since I didn't have a printer, I had just enough time to jot down the pertinent points of my pitch before heading downstairs for my editor appointment.  

How did I get four requests for my manuscript, when I only had one agent and one editor appointment?  Well, when I arrived for my editor appointment Friday afternoon, the editor hadn't shown up yet for her several appointments.  This was not just disappointing, but fairly crushing, given my marathon race to work up two pitches, the heming and hawing for weeks over just what to wear, the bundle of nerves that'd been keeping me company since I left my room, pitch in hand.  The girl at the appointments desk said she'd try to find someone else who might squeeze us in.   Half an hour later, she told us that an editor from another house had agreed to see us after her own appointments, and with thankful sighs of relief, the some half dozen of us settled in to wait.  However, it seemed that this second editor had in her turn forgotten some other assignations she'd made elsewhere after her stint seeing writers, and had to rush out, but she left us each her card, requesting us to send a partial.  Some of the other writers were then satisfied, and left. But doggone it, I'd come all this way to SEE an editor, and I wanted to see one!  A couple of others felt the same way, and the gal at the appt. desk managed to find each of us another editor.  I wound up seeing an editor from NAL who said she was interested in seeing someone with a contemporary to pitch.  She seemed a little dubious about my premise at first (I was pitching Bennett's Story, after she'd declined interest in the first-person romance), and seemed half inclined to let her attention wander, so I switched gears from the pitch as I'd started it, and launched into another aspect of the story, and wound up catching her interest enough that she was asking me questions, and in the end she requested not a partial, but the full manuscript!  I walked out of the conference room on Cloud Nine, my cup of joy full!

My cup was to overflow.  The appt. desk lady told me that the editor I'd originally had the appointment with, had shown up. She was not, in fact, late at all.... months before she'd called RWA to reschedule her appointment times, and they hadn't made the appropriate changes in scheduling.  She was a little put out, to say the least, at being thought to be late!  (and who can blame her?)  Anyway, since she was from a publishing house that did not accept queries from unagented authors (which is why I'd chosen her for my appointment), I asked the appt. lady if I could just stick my head in the door, so to speak, and introduce myself to the editor and say "Hello, I'm sorry to have missed meeting with you."  Well, not only that, but the editor asked me to sit down and chat, as she had a few minutes before her next appointment came in. She was terrifically nice, and asked me about my book (also eschewing the first person) and gave me her card and invited me to send a partial!  YESSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!

August 2001.  I came  home on Cloud Nine, determined to finish Bennett's Story.  I edited the first three chapters like mad, and the synopsis, and shot them off to the two editors and one agent who'd requested partials.  Then September 11th happened, and I fell off-track, like everyone else.  I never did get that full manuscript off to the editor at NAL who'd asked for it, and still haven't finished it yet, either, as of this writing (April 2002).  By the time it's finished, I should imagine it'd be too late to send it to her.

November 6, 2001.  The editor at Silhouette requested the full manuscript of Bennett's Story!  In the same mail, however, also came the revision letter for Dancer. When I called her that same day, she said she'd rather have the revisions first, so I've put Bennett's Story aside while I concentrate on Dancer.

April 2002.  I've just finally finished and sent off the revisions of Dancer.  Now back to Bennett's Story.  I'm doing Painted Rock's Book In a Week, and although I only wrote 10 pages (pretty sorry, huh?), I also got a lot of other editing done, of the kind that doesn't necessarily add to the length.  I now have chapters 1 through 14 in a continuum, having added to several incomplete chapters to make a transition to the next chapter.  I'm just over 71,000 words, so I still have a ways to go, but it's looking good, and I'm feeling positive about it.

May 1, 2002.  Anyway, now that I'm a quivering mass of nerves, with at least several weeks to get through before I hear anything definitive from the literary agent on Dancer, and I'm back to working on Bennett's Story.  Christina's going to be gone to a competition in California with her high school choir for four days over this weekend, and I'm going to take this opportunity to write... I'm rearranging my work schedule so I don't work those four days, and I plan to really dive into my story.  I've only got about 16,000 words to go (minimum), and I know what's happening in the plot, so I shouldn't have that much problem with it... just a matter of doing it.  And listen... if I can write almost all of Dancer in *five weeks*, I darned well ought to be able to pretty much finish up 16k words in four days!  So tomorrow I'll start brewing up gallons of iced tea, and throw together a few casserole dishes so I don't have to worry about such mundane things as cooking while I'm on a roll.  I'll clean off my desk and polish it (Pledge Wipes), and get a BIW daily progress form made up to keep track of my page count as I go, print out the updated outline and post it on my wall, chose some fresh candles to burn (for the ambience), get my favorite hand lotion to keep on the desk.... hey this is going to be FUN!  I'll take a nap tomorrow afternoon, and then after I come home from seeing my daughter off on her bus trip to California (at 11:00 p.m.! good grief!) I plan to dive right in, and write all night... just to get a good start on things :)  I'll use this long weekend to kick-off a Book in a Week challenge starting the 6th :)

 Keep reading to see what *really* happened! <LOL>

May 2-6, 2002.  Or... "How Real Life Gets in the Way of Writing."

Thursday nite, May 2nd.  11:00 p.m.  I come back from leaving Christina at the high school, and drop into bed, exhausted.  I'll write in the morning!

Friday, May 3rd.  I slept in.  I'm meeting a writer friend for lunch, so I know not to get so deep into my novel that I can't get out, but this is no big deal... I have 14 chapters already written, and I wanted to go over them anyway, first for editing, and second to pull me back into the storyline and the characters.  I do that until I meet my friend, and we linger over lunch and conversation for 3-1/2 hours.  I come home and start checking my email, ready to dive into Bennett's Story.  The phone rings.  It's another friend who wants to meet for dinner.   UGH!  I'm still full from lunch!  I start thinking of ways to politely decline, when she tells me her husband got a super-duper new job, they just got the first check, they're celebrating.  Since she's the friend who more or less held my hand all through this last year while I mourned, and celebrated my publication of Truck Stop with me, now it's her turn... of course I want to be there for her when her good fortune arrives!  So we go out to dinner and spend several hours talking and laughing and so forth.  I got home at 10 p.m. and fell into bed.  I'll write in the morning! 

Saturday, May 4th.  I got up at 7 and found that my 16-year-old cat, Gloria, who had a stroke a few weeks ago, suddenly had what I think may have been another stroke.  I'll spare you the long details, but she could no longer control her tongue to be able to eat.  By 10 a.m. I had made the difficult decision that NO pet owner wants to make, and took her to have the Dreadful Deed done.  It was the right thing to do, she was beginning to suffer, but... I imagine you'll understand that I spent all the day and into the night crying.  Anyway... I'll write in the morning.

Sunday, May 5th.  The weekend may not be a total loss for writing.  I operate on the 24-hour/overnight rule... when something awful happens that knocks me off my tracks, I allow myself 24 hours to get over it.  That is, I get to fall apart (whether it's anger or sadness or whatever) all day; then go to sleep at night, and when I wake up in the morning, I get up out of bed and go forward.  But I give myself that one day to, as Wellington said, "tie a knot" before I go on.  I wrote two pages.  Yuck.  It took all day.  It drove me crazy, because I know I'm capable of writing 20 pages a day, so what gives with this 2 pages stuff??? grrrrrrr....

Monday, May 6th.  With lots of sitting staring at the computer screen all day, I wrote another 3 whole pages.  Bennett just was NOT cooperating.  Nor was my Muse.  Still... I have 5 pages more than I had on Thursday, so I guess that's something.   However, Monday night I kept waking up all through the night with ideas, and I woke up on Tuesday rarin' to go.  Of course, now my vacation is over and I have to work.  Arrrgghhhhh!!!!  I also got yet another form rejection letter for my file folder.  Actually, it was a postcard.  Took me a few minutes to realize, I thought someone had sent my query and partial back without anything at all, and I didn't even know who it came from!  Then the postcard fell out, so at least I could mark them off on my list.

Wednesday, May 8, 2002.  I'm still writing... so far 3 pages a day.  It's not 20 a day, but it's steady, a definite improvement from this last year's zip!  I'm going to have to add to my Affirmations page something about being happy with 3 pages a day, instead of kicking myself for not writing more. 

Sunday, May 12, 2002.  The end of BIW.  From the 6th to the 12th, I wrote 28 pages... just over half of the 54 I need to hit my 340 page (85k) minimum!  Am I thrilled???? OH yeah!  26 pages to go... and counting!  If I can keep up the momentum, I can be done... or at the least, reach my minimum word count... by the end of this week.  Here's hoping!

Saturday, Aug. 10, 2002.  I finished Bennett's Story today!  It's Painted Rock's August BIW, I wrote 36 pages this week, for a Grand Total of 393 pages (98,250 words).

Sunday, Aug. 11, 2002.  I've just been going through and editing.  I don't know how I managed to do it... presumably because I started writing this so long ago, and the problem stayed with me all the way through, but I discovered that my top and bottom margins were set at 3/4ths and 1/2 inch, respectively... supposed to have 1" margins all around.  I had to go into every chapter (all 25!) and change the margins, grrrrrrrrrrr!  However, that increased my Grand Total to 406 pages (101,250 words).  I also finished one scene that I hadn't ever been quite happy with, which added another 4 pages to the above.

Wednesday Sep. 25, 2002.  I finished the edits of Bennett's Story, and got the full manuscript off to Silhouette, as well as almost a dozen queries to agents.  Now I just have to sit back and let the rejections roll in, LOL!

 

Sunday, Aug. 11, 2002.  I've just finished Bennett's Story and have picked this one to do next.  Over the last years, I've written just a little bit of this...four pages of the first chapter.  It's not much but hey! it's a start!  First though I have to finish editing Bennett's Story and get that out, and then rewrite Dancer in the third person, because I really, REALLY want to enter both of those in the Golden Heart this year.  I'd like to enter this one too, but the chances of my finishing it in time (December) are slim, and I want to make sure I have both the other two ready to go, since they have the advantage of being completed.  

 

I just heard about NaNoWriMo.... or, National Novel Writing Month, which is November.  They've got a website where writers can sign up.  Your goal is to write 50,000 words of a new novel.  I'd like to do Into the Storm, if they won't mind those first four pages I wrote a few years ago... I'd promise to leave those out of the required page count!  But if not, I'll work on the next Al Mansour brother, Michael.  I've been brainstorming that one already (just in case), and it has its own page ready to go, A Wife For Michael.

 

November 2, 2002.  Okay, forget all that!  I'm writing on Wishes in a Bottle which has it's own NaNoWriMo page here on my site... click over to keep an eye on my progress, which I'll be updating as I remember and/or get time and/or can tear myself away from my writing to update it, LOL!  This is the paranormal romance... the hero is a Jinn (or Genie) trapped in a magic spell of his own making (as in, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it!).  

November 8, 2002.  Okay, you're not going to believe this.  I'm no longer writing Wishes in a Bottle, but "A Gift of Jacinth."  Jacinth is a female Jinn who made a sudden appearance in a scene in Wishes in a Bottle.  Immediately she began to take over my brain cells, and wanted her own story.  Which is fine, I put her in line to write next.  But she wouldn't STAY there, she kept rudely interrupting, and not allowing me to concentrate on my major characters.  Bowing to an irresistible force, I'm writing Jacinth's story.  And it's GREAT!  I couldn't be more pleased with how it's shaping up so far!  I zoomed off 11 pages in just a couple of hours, the first evening that I gave over to it!

December 10, 2002.  I've also cancelled my epublishing contract with SynergEbooks.  Long story.  Anyway, I've been toying with the idea of revising it to single title size (about 20k more, to 100k words), and make it more acceptable to mainstream romance publisher, and maybe trying to do something more with it later.  Much later ;)  Right now my goal is to go forward on the WIPs I have currently lined up, so this is sort of a back-burner type project for the long-term.

 

January 8, 2003.  Well.  I've *almost* got an agent, and I've *almost* got an offer from Silhouette.  (And my daughter said, "Wow, Mom.  I'm *almost* excited for you."  LOL!).  Here's the story:  New Year's Eve day, I got email from an agent, who asked to see the full ms of Bennett's Story. She said I could call with any questions. She'd already rejected, last year, Dancer in the first person. Bennett is the second in that series, and she was interested in the whole series, which seemed like a good indication, right? She said she thought Silhouette was a good match for me, and asked me to look up their guidelines on the web and get back to her with what I thought.
I decided to wait until I'd talked to the editor at Silhouette who has Dancer. I was supposed to call her on Monday the 6th and she'd tell me if she was going to reject it, or pass it up to the senior editor with a recommendation. However, on Monday she sent me email saying she didn't have time to talk, and she'd call me on Tuesday. Which figures, since it's the first day back after a two week vacation.  So I went ahead and called the agent. We must have talked for an hour. She remembered Dancer, and said she'd LIKED it (yessss!), she just didn't think she could sell it in first person, so she was pleased that I'd rewritten it in third person, and also that I had a "genie" paranormal in progress. By the time I got off the phone with her, I had (unofficially) an agent, and I was to report back the results of my talk with the editor.

On Tuesday afternoon, the editor from Silhouette called. She definitely wants Dancer, and almost certainly Bennett's Story, as well as the two in the series following, and mentioning the possibility of two two-book contracts. She liked Dancer, and told me: "I want this." She said (I took notes, LOL): "You do have talent, and there is potential in your story. You obviously know what you're doing." The *problem* is where to put Dancer, which doesn't quite fit into any of their lines exactly. She thinks it would work best into Desire, I think fits better into Special Edition. The end result is, I'm going to cut it down to SE length (it's currently at 102k, because I wrote it for single title originally) and send it to her next month after Silhouette relocates to their new home, and we'll take it from there.

I called the agent back on Wednesday morning to report on the conversation. Once I have the revisions on Dancer made and back to Silhouette, that's the point at which she'll step in to represent me; there's nothing she can do now, since Silhouette has both mss and I have revisions to make. I'm supposed to send her everything, and she already has the partial of my "genie" paranormal, A Gift of Jacinth, and she pulled that out of her inbox to look at right away. Once she gets the full mss of Dancer and Bennett's Story, we'll talk after she's read them and can give me her input on which imprint she thinks Dancer is best suited for, and where we go from here.
So how's that for ambiguous (but really great!) news?

March 19, 2003.  Um. Wow.  The most interesting things happen when I'm not expecting it, LOL!  I've been contacted by an audiobook producer, wanting to negotiate the audio rights to Truck Stop!  WOW!  Just when I'd decided to walk away from it for awhile, wham!  I guess it's not meant to be on the back burner!  Am I excited???!! Oh yeah.... just look at all the exclamation marks in this paragraph, LOL!  I've talked with him and he's going to email me a copy of the contract to look over.  He has his marketing and distribution already in place, he supplies audiobooks to libraries and all the major chain bookstores, and in addition to that, he has vendor contracts with 85-90% of the truck stops across the U.S. and Canada!  This is definitely exciting!

June 2, 2003.  I got an email from the editor at Silhouette.  She will be sending the manuscripts of both Dancer and Bennett's Story on up to the senior editor in charge of the new HQN single-title imprint!  Yesss!!!!  No, it's not a guarantee of a sale... but it's the closest I've gotten so far.  VERY close, in fact.  I'm hoping, because HQN is a new imprint and they've got a publishing schedule to fill right away, that she'll be reading most everything that crosses her desk pretty quickly (especially as it's already been read and vetted), and that I'll hear... one way or the other... within weeks, not months.  Oh, I am hoping SO hard!!!!  I'm also trying NOT to hope quite so hard, so that I won't be terrifically let down if they're rejected.  But as they say in the Disney song, "though hope is frail, it's hard to kill."

 

Send me Email!  I'd love to hear from you!
Or look me up, CatWhoWalksAlone, on AOL

 

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Index of Allie McCormack's Website

Allie's Bio Allie's Main Page Diary of an Aspiring Novelist
Other Novels in Progress Other Novels in Progress NaNoWriMo-current
All About Truck Stop
Excerpt - Opening Scene   Reviews & Interviews
 

Excerpts from Completed Manuscripts

Castles in the Sand Dancer Into the Storm
  A Gift of Jacinth  
 
     
     
  A Momento of Desert Storm   Links

 

  Page last updated on 04/25/09

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