Category Archives: path to publication

Where I’ve Been and What I’ve Been Doing

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Been a long time, kids, but I can assure you that the work I wasn’t doing on the blog was more than made up by the hours and tears I spent on the latest iteration of my WIP. I can honestly say that I never have I ever worked harder – and more emotionally – on any piece of writing.

It all started a few months ago when I finished my latest Southern Humorous Contemporary Romance and sent it to my agent, the brilliant Allison Hunter. Allison liked it, but she made a suggestion: why not rewrite it into an Inspirational Romance?

Now, on the surface, that seems like a fairly straightforward idea. When you write about the South, you are going to be writing about religion. They don’t call it the “Bible Belt” for nothing. And as a believer myself, I always incorporate religious matters in my stories. To me, a fully-developed character has to have beliefs and practices, even if they aren’t a major discussion point. It’s background information that informs their actions and reactions throughout, just like their educational level, emotional outlook, and life experiences. So all I need to do is bump up the characters’ church attendance, tone down the love scenes, and lose the profanity, right?

Oh, yes, so you would think. But y’all know me, and you know that I can make a tempest in the tiniest of teapots. And, to tell the truth, theology is not a tiny teapot to folks here in the South. We take our religion seriously, and we don’t have much tolerance for opposing viewpoints. My parents’ church, for example — it never had much more than 100 active members, and usually had far less. But I can name at least three other churches in the area that were formed by breaking off from that congregation over theological arguments. That’s why, as you drive through the Deep South, you will find a church every mile and a half. We keep splitting and merging, like some kind of weird chemistry project, until we find a church that agrees with us on all the important points.

I grew up hardshell Baptist in the pine woods of North Florida. If you’ve ever been to a public event here in the Panhandle, you’ve probably run the gauntlet of the teenagers giving you Gospel tracts and inviting you to their church. That was me growing up. At certain times, with certain preachers, our church didn’t allow girls to wear pants, and teenagers were not allowed to swim with members of the opposite sex (a.k.a. “mixed bathing”).

I grew up, went to college, and did a lot of questioning. I married an Episcopalian and quite happily converted. Wear pants now without a second thought, and haven’t worried about mixed bathing in years. I am still, to my mind, a devout person, but my beliefs are miles and years away from my Baptist childhood.

So being asked to write an inspirational romance gave me visions of myself in heavy lip-liner and bouffant hair, with my mascara streaming down my face in the best Tammy Faye tradition. If I mentioned Elmer Gantry once, I mentioned it a hundred times. I just couldn’t see myself writing inspirational romance. I was ready to quit altogether. And several people close to me said that I should do just that — that anything else would be selling out.

So finally, I sat myself down and asked myself, “Self, what exactly is the problem here? You are a believer. You pray, and attend church, and you feel the presence of God in your life. Why can’t you write a novel where the main character does too?” And I answered myself, “Well, sure, I can do that, as long as the characters don’t have cheesy, mealy-mouthed beliefs that would offend me in real life. I can write someone who struggles with the whole good-and-evil issue, someone who wants to believe but has questions. I can write someone like me and my friends.”

And then, I started writing. As I wrote, I had to reassess all my beliefs. Why, in light of everything I see in the world, do I think God cares about us as individuals? What is the purpose of living a Godly life? For that matter, what is a ‘Godly life’? I couldn’t understand my characters and their actions unless I knew what they (meaning I) believed.

This was the hardest writing I’ve ever done in my life. Harder in a more personal way than any of the legal briefs and memoranda I’ve written, harder than any essay question on any exam. Every word in every scene was important, and each one had to be part of a cohesive belief system that I could live with.

It’s done now, and I’ve sent it out into the big wide world to sink or swim on its merits. I hope it will sell. I think it may be the best writing I’ve ever done. It’s certainly the most heart-felt.

I won’t deny my hopes for this book. I’d love for it to hit the NYT bestseller charts, and be a movie starring Keira Knightley and Henry Cavill, who would take me out for drinks before we hit the red carpet for our premiere. I’d love to go on Good Morning America and tell Robin Roberts (another good Southern girl) all about it. But even if none of that ever happens, I’m happy.

I wrote a book that people told me I could never write. I wrote it in a way that maintained my integrity. I used it as a springboard for examining my beliefs in a way I never had, and I am satisfied with the answers I found along the way. So whatever happens, I win.

(But a nice, 6-figure, 3-book deal wouldn’t hurt…..)

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A Dream Deferred

One on my favorite poems, by the great Langston Hughes:

A DREAM DEFERRED

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Skipping Midnight with Laura Kenyon

Good morning, all! I’m chatting with Laura Kenyon over on her Skipping Midnight blog today. Why don’t you pop over and see what we’re up to!
(And you might win a free book!!!)

http://laurakenyon.com/2014/02/19/arabella-stokes-lawyer-by-day-romance-writer-by-night/#more-1592

Just Keep Swimming!

I had a rough day yesterday – I got exactly what I asked for, and I whined like a two-year-old when I actually got it.

I’ve finished a book. Well, finished in the sense that I made it all the way from “Chapter One” to “The End”. The writers amongst you will understand that now the real work begins.

I sent my little ms out to my crit partner, aka The Book Midwife. She is one of the most insightful readers I have ever met, and she pointed out exactly what was wrong with my story. Indeed, a lot of her comments were things I knew, but was refusing to acknowledge, hoping that readers wouldn’t notice. (Yeah, right.)

So when my darling DeAnn gave me her thoughts, I thanked her and buckled right down to work, right? Oh, kids, y’all know me better than that!

I pouted. I cried. I stomped around the house swearing that I was done writing. (As if the people in my head would allow that.). I misbehaved badly.

And then a friend – one who knew nothing of my tantrum – posted the quote below. I think it was a sign from God, the universe, the Force, or whatever you conceive the higher power to be.

I’ve apologized to DeAnn, and I’m doing so again now. I’m sorry that you gave me exactly what I asked for and needed and I was too childish and self absorbed to take it graciously. I wish I could promise it will never happen again, but my capacity for childish behavior exceeds all bounds. I can say that I deeply appreciate all the work she did, I value and agree with her comments, and I will TRY to be better in the future.

And as far as my writing, as Dory told Nemo: just keep swimming!

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Thursday Thought: First Drafts

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Thursday Thought: Anais Nin

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You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing.

Cover Story: The Girl on the Golden Coin

GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN: A NOVEL OF FRANCES STUART

Once again, I’m here to introduce you to one of my incredible crit group ladies. Today it’s Marci McGuire Jefferson, who has written an absolutely lovely book about one Frances Stuart, who served as the model for “Britannia” on years and years worth of British coins.

I’m not going to waste your time babbling; I’m just going to turn today’s blog over to Marci and let her tell you all about her book!

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Marci Jefferson’s first novel is about Frances Stuart, who rejected three kings and graced England’s coins for generations as the model for Britannia. The book will release February 11, 2014 from Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press. But pre-order this week and comment on Marci’s blog (link below) for a chance to win a pair of sterling-silver pearl-drop earrings like the ones Frances wears on this elegant cover (be prepared to present your receipt).

http://marcijefferson.com/category/blog/

MORE ABOUT THE BOOK

Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war.

Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.

On the eve of England’s Glorious Revolution, James II forces Frances to decide whether to remain loyal to her Stuart heritage or, like England, make her stand for Liberty. Her portrait as Britannia is minted on every copper coin. There she remains for generations, an enduring symbol of Britain’s independent spirit and her own struggle for freedom.

ADVANCE PRAISE

“In her wonderfully evocative debut, Girl on the Golden Coin, Marci Jefferson recreates the fascinating story of Frances Stuart, whose influence over England’s Charles II became the talk of a nation. As vibrant and delightful as the woman it’s based on, Girl on the Golden Coin is a jewel of a novel!”
—Michelle Moran, New York Times bestselling author of The Second Empress and Madame Tussaud

“Beauty is not always a blessing, as young Frances Stuart finds out when her lovely face pits her between the desires and politics of rival kings Louis XIV and Charles II. Frances makes an appealing heroine, by turns wary and passionate, sophisticated and innocent, as she matures from destitute young pawn to the majestic duchess whose figure would grace Britain’s coins for centuries. Her struggles to support her loved ones, uncover her family secrets, and somehow find a life of her own amid the snake-pit courts of the Sun King and the Merry Monarch make for lively, entertaining reading in this lush Restoration novel by debut author Marci Jefferson.”
—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Rome

“Girl on the Golden Coin is a fantastic novel. I couldn’t put it down. The plot is fast-paced and compelling, with intriguing characters, lush settings and captivating narrative voice. Jefferson’s debut paints an intriguing portrait of Frances Stuart, a novel worthy of the determined, golden spirit of the woman whose face became the model for Britannia herself.”
—Susan Spann, author of Claws of the Cat

“Girl on the Golden Coin is a sexy, exciting tale featuring vivid characters, rich historical detail, scintillating court intrigue, and a complexly rendered heroine in Frances Stuart, Maid of Honor to the Queen of England, who will capture the reader’s heart — as will the man she loves, that rascal King Charles II.”
— Sherry Jones, author, FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS

FIND IT HERE:

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/girl-on-the-golden-coin-marci-jefferson/1115382442?ean=9781250037220
IndieBound

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250037220
Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Girl-Golden-Coin-Frances-Stuart/dp/1250037220

Goodreads

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17261011-girl-on-the-golden-coin-a-novel-of-frances-stuart

Dorothy Parker, Hating to Write, and Arabella’s 100 Challenge

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When you are a bright yet less than drop-dead-gorgeous girl growing up in the South, you have to develop the talents you do have. I was good with words, and my father’s family was blessed with a multitude of natural-born comedians and storytellers, so I worked with what the Good Lord gave me and became a specialist in snarky humor.

But one must give credit where credit is due. Back in the dim dark ages when I was in high school and dinosaurs roamed the earth, I ran across a poem by the Undisputed Queen of Snark, Ms. Dorothy Parker herself. You know the one, because all tragically misunderstood and literary-minded teenage girls know it: Resume. And I quote:

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.*

Whenever my heart got broken (a fairly frequent event), I would slope around the house, sighing like Ophelia on Valium, lamenting the fact that even suicide was too much trouble. Then I’d eat some potato chips and feel better.

Then, not long after discovering Resume, I ran across a copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker at DuBey’s Bookstore — that’s it pictured above. I can still remember the day I bought it; it was a life-changer. Not only snarky poems and epigrams for fashionably-depressed teenagers, but really beautiful, lyrical writing about women’s lives. I read that paperback Portable til the cover was all ragged and fuzzy around the edges. I still have my original copy, and every year or so I take it down and reread it from cover to cover. If you have never read Dorothy, do not delay — go get a copy now, and read it immediately. You will thank me for this. (To make it easy, here’s a link to buy it. Alas, I can’t find it in e-format, but it’s a keeper, so buy the hardcopy. Go to http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/portable-dorothy-parker-dorothy-parker/1103267365?ean=9780143039532)

And after getting my babies through their childhood and establishing myself in a dayjob career, I finally got to do what I had always wanted — I became a real writer, just like Dorothy. Her stories and essays about the writing life took on a new meaning for me, and I fell in love with her all over again.

But there is one major point about writing that dearest Dorothy and I agree on. To quote her again, “I hate writing. I love having written.” I love making up my stories. I love playing with words, making them jump through hoops and do their little tricks. I love thinking up fresh hells to visit upon my characters on their way to a happy ever after. But sometimes, when it is actually time to sit my butt down in the chair and put my hands on the keyboard, I feel that old teenage depression again. Dear God in Heaven, I dread it sometimes!

But you know, once I start, I realize that I, like Dorothy, absolutely adore seeing my shiny little stories taking shape on the page/screen. And then I can keep going until my DH comes out to the den and tells me “It’s 3 am, don’t you know you have work in the morning?” It’s the starting, not the writing, that I really hate.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to the point of today’s post — Arabella’s 100 Challenge. I will give credit for the idea to the fabulous Vicky Dreiling, who is one of the finest Regency Romance writers working today. What Vicky came up with is the best cure I’ve found for a procrastinating writer like myself. Here’s the deal:

You must write 100 words a day. Every day. No less than 100. Even if the well has completely run dry and your muse has stopped speaking to you. I will admit to having one very bad day where my heroine actually listened to the radio, and I got my 100 words by quoting song lyrics. (That scene was, fortunately, cut from the final manuscript!) If you write to 100 and want to quit, you quit. In the middle of a paragraph, in the middle of a sentence. You did your 100, and you were a success. That’s all that’s required.

But if you are anything like me, you’ll find that the only problem was the starting. For every time that I’ve quoted 100 words of Elton John songs and stopped mid-sentence, there are dozens where I’ve looked up a couple of thousand words later and realized how much fun my characters and I are having. I credit Vicky’s 100 Word a Day process for my last two manuscripts.

So, dear readers, who else needs a kick in the pants to get started? I’m throwing down the gauntlet — Starting August 1, we go 100 days of 100 words. You can report your progress on my handy-dandy Yahoo group I set up for the purpose. Remember, you don’t report how many words — this is not a oneupmanship adventure. It is a binary question — Yes, I did my 100 (or more) or No, I didn’t.

At the end of 100 days, the member with the most 100-word days gets a $25.00 Barnes and Noble gift card. If there is a tie (because I’m sure everyone will have made it all 100 days), we will keep going until there is one member left standing.

You’re on your honor here, kids. I mean, it is so easy to type a recipe or a poem if that is all you can come up with, and there is no reason to cheat. If you don’t do it, climb back in the saddle and get going again. Because, at the end of the day, the real prize is that bright, shiny new manuscript you will be making. And like dearest Dorothy, you know you love having written.

If you’re in, go to http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/Arabella100/ to sign up. All standard exclusions apply, void where prohibited, wash, rinse, repeat, do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

Let’s get writing!!!


*Dorothy Parker, “Resumé” from The Portable Dorothy Parker, edited by Brendan Gill. (1926)

Writer Wednesday – Candi Wall and Agent/Editor Shop

As y’all know, I am now an agented author. (cue applause) But that’s pretty recent, and I sure know what it feels like to be out there in query hell. Which is why I love my friend Candi Wall so much — she didn’t just endure the torture that is the submission process, she set out to find a way to make it better.

So today I’m turning my little blog over to Candi to explain what Agent Shop and Editor Shop are all about:

As if the question ‘Wanna pitch to an agent or editor’ isn’t enough.

Hello! A huge thanks to all my wonderful hosts as I run all over cyberspace talking about Agent/Editor Shop at the Musetracks blog.
In this crazy world of easy access to information, it’s also easy to miss huge opportunities, or forget! Because I get so many comments that writers either forgot, or didn’t know Musetracks did pitch sessions, I asked a bunch of fellow writers, bloggers and readers to help me spread the word.
For those of you who don’t me, I’m Candi Wall, one of the authors who co-contribute to the Musetracks blog. Jennifer Bray-Weber, Marie-Claude Bourque, and Stacey Purcell are my super smart co-contributors and goodness knows where I’d be without them!
I’ve been hosting acquiring Agents at Musetracks for almost two years, and only recently, we decided to add editors as our guest. We’ve been lucky to have agents like Melissa Jeglinski, Jessica Alvarez, Mollie Glick, Becky Vinter, Kevan Lyon, Scott Eagan, Lois Winston, Jill Marsal, Michelle Grajkowski, Kimberley Cameron, Emmanuella Alspaugh (now Morgan), Laura Bradford, Jenny Bent, Sara Crowe, Weronika Janczuk and Stan Soper.
Our guest editors thus far have been Rhonda Penders w/ The Wild Rose Press, Jennifer Miller w/ Samhain Publishing, Debby Gilbert w/ Soul Mate Publishing, Beth Walker w/ Secret Cravings Publishing, and the editors at Books To Go Now have booked three dates in the future!
What we offer is a ‘Pitch Day’. I only take 30 pitches, and only the first thirty VIABLE pitches that come in on pitch day will be seen by the agent or editor. And I will warn you, I’m a stickler for following guidelines. If you don’t include exactly what is in the rules… I delete without prejudice. And I delete quite a few. (And yes, I receive plenty of hate mail.)
You can find us here:
Musetracks and there is a sidebar with Agent/Editor Shop dates and attending professionals
You can find the rules for pitching here:
Musetracks Agent/Editor Shop rules Please read them carefully!
I’ve also created a Yahoo group so writers can sign up to receive Agent/Editor Shop updates. I only send messages with agent/editor attendance updates, reminders of pitch dates, and any information about the contests we run on pitch day. Usually a giveaway or a chance to comment for the Top Pitch Slot. You can request to join here:
Editor/Agent Shop Newsletter Group
Easy as pie! We welcome every stage of writer and at Musetracks, we strive to help other writers, the way we were all helped when we first started out, and the way we are supported today.
Hope to see you all at a pitch day, and if not, feel free to pass the word along to others.
Happy reading and writing!
~Candi

A little about Candi:

Candi Wall is an author of contemporary romance, and YA.
Her début novel PRIMITIVE NIGHTS released from Samhain in Jan 2013, and STAY, the first in the Changing Tides series releases from Samhain on Aug 6th 2013.
She’s a mother of four (21,17,12,9), a rescuer of six (4 dogs & 2 cats), proud auntie of too many to count, a soon-to-be grandmother and great-auntie, a retired Cub Scout leader of 16 years, an avid animal lover/protector and ex-animal control officer. Oh yeah, and wife.
You can find her here:
http://www.candiwallbooks.com
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads
Musetracks

Exactly What Hemingway Said

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The first draft of anything is shit.
― Ernest Hemingway

(It’s good to know that Papa would say my WIP is exactly what it should be at this point.)