I wrote this for the December LARA newsletter. Hope you enjoy it!
My first publishing deal
September 29, 2015 is a day I will always remember. That was the day when I received an offer from Samhain Publishing to publish the first book in my Elementals’ Challenge series titled “Fire Danger.” I was in my office showing a new employee how to do something in one of our systems when the long awaited email came through from Jennifer Miller, the editor I’d pitched the series to. I paused, my heart pounding, looked at my employee and said “I’ve got to read this.”
It’s hard to describe what I felt when I saw the welcome words “we’d like to extend you an offer of publication.” I danced, I sang, I twirled…internally, of course. Someone else in my office, after all. Six months after I had pitched the book to Samhain, they wanted to publish it. It was everything I had been working toward and here it was in front of me.
This series had no easy genesis. I started it nine years ago and eventually bogged down due to the complexity of the politics involved. I didn’t know how to fix it and tossed in the towel. When I went back to it 2 ½ years ago I was confident I had fixed that problem. My original intent had been to do what I have done with six other novels, and that was to self-publish it, but a little genie inside me said that this was the one to try and get traditionally published (that genie had have taken the form of my brother, who told me right from the start that this was the book that was going to be my breakthrough).
I sent it around to five contests a year and a half ago. When the first one told me it had failed to final I went through the same crisis I always go through of “you suck, it sucks, why did you think you could write?” That lasted for twenty-four hours until I got word that I had finaled in the second contest, which was the Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers. Of the remaining three contests I finaled in one more. Out of five contests “Fire Danger” finaled in two, placing second and third in those contests. An agent wanted to see it after my placement in the First Coast Writers Beacon Contest but I never did hear back from her. Those contest wins, with the ego boost they gave me, kept me going on.
In researching possible publishers for the series I wound up focusing on Samhain. When I found out that they were taking pitch meetings at the California Dreamin’ Writer’s Conference it seemed serendipitous. When I got the pitch meeting I wanted, I was elated. Then I was terrified.
When Jennifer Miller heard my pitch she was intrigued although I am sure I did not present it as well as I could have. Nonetheless, I got the green light to send it. Six weeks later she wrote me back and said she liked my world building but was lukewarm on my heroine. Was I willing to rewrite it and strengthen Rachel? I thought about it and realized she was right. Rachel needed to be more responsible for her own destiny. I changed it up and sent it back. Then, the fateful September day came.
I thought that would be the end of the story, but the truth is that it is just the beginning. Just as putting “The End” on your manuscript only means that you have finished the tip of the iceberg, so it was with traditional publishing. There were forms to fill out and questions to answer. Who do you think your writing style is like? What do you want to see on a cover? It seemed as if there were a never ending series of questions. I struggled to articulate my vision of what was so clear internally and translate it to paper so someone else could interpret it. In this I succeeded. The cover that Jennifer sent me is so powerful it made my heart dance.
Then…edits. That was where the real fun began. I had been through it several times, and put it through an online program as well as had it professionally edited. The book still looked like a Christmas tree had vomited on it when I got my first round of edits back from Jennifer. I went back to my default thoughts of “you suck, it sucks, why did you think you could be a writer?” Then I dug in. We went through four rounds before it was done.
Hard part is over, I thought. But…no. I’m in the middle of another round of edits, this time tackling some of the world building problems I thought I’d covered off. They are in my head and I just have put them on paper. As much as I was dismayed to see how much work there was left to do, I am ultimately grateful. I’ve heard horror stories of editors who miss obvious things and seem lackluster in their review. Samhain has gone through my story and challenged me to make it better. The story will be tight and compelling when it’s done. That was something that I had to learn in this process. I can refuse to make changes to my baby, or I can absorb the critique and, as the phrase goes “kill my darling.” Or at least maim her. All in the name of art.
When I was twelve and writing fan fiction this is what I wanted. When I was in college and inhaling Harlequins and writing my General Hospital fan fiction and rock star stories this is what I wanted. When I was writing a variety of stories ten years ago, convinced that Harlequin would accept my story the minute I sent it to them, that’s how brilliant it was (spoiler alert: they didn’t), this is what I wanted. It’s been hard work and a lot of wrong turns, but here I am. It’s not what I expected, it’s better. Sometimes I just smile. I have a publishing deal! Whatever happens next with this series and a whole lot of other books I have in various stages of readiness, I have achieved my lifelong dream. It’s an amazing feeling.