Saying Goodbye To #AdPit & #KidPit

You may have heard that November 7th is bringing about #AdPit & #KidPit again. What you don’t know is that it will be the final one for both of them.

It’s a bittersweet day for me, but they’ve had a good run. They’ve helped many writers find homes for their work with small presses, or literary agents to get them started on their amazing writerly success. They’ve helped connect writers to other writers and even made some friends along the way. Hosting these two contests has been a very rewarding experience for me, and when I looked back at how long I’d been doing it I was shocked.

The first #AdPit blog announcement was over five years ago; September 24th, 2013 to be exact. #KidPit wasn’t added until later; still, the first ever #KidPit was May 4th, 2015. #AdPit was the flagship contest that I created way back when there wasn’t but maybe four other contests. I know #Pitmad and #PitchMAS existed then but I’m unsure of when some of the other pitch contests began. So it’s hard for me to say goodbye to #AdPit & #KidPit.

So why am I? Because, well, Life.

I’ve run both of these contests mostly alone since their conception. I’ve had assistants come and go, but with the exception of Athena Greyson, who has assisted me valiantly the last couple of years, they haven’t stuck around. So, it’s been mostly me. I’m not complaining – please don’t think that. I just no longer have the time that is required to organize, run and host them.

My own writing career is evolving. I have one novel on a revision draft with my literary agent, a whole passel of short stories, one screenplay in drafting, and another screenplay in the revision stage before I can shop it around for a literary manager. As a music producer, I’m also preparing to drop a music album of my own work in the near future. I also have family duties and sometime I’d like to take a long overdue vacation.  🙂

So, if you have been sitting on the fence about participating in #AdPit and/or #KidPit next week, consider this; you’ll be able to take part in the final pitchfests of my creation before the sun sets on them both. There are plenty of other pitch contests on Twitter, and a whole lot of people keep running tabs on them on their personal blogs. You’ll find a new one or a dozen to participate in after my two are shuttered.

Good luck to those that are participating! I hope that hearts rain down on your pitches next Wednesday. Thank you to those faithful enough to stand by and with me throughout the years of making writing magic happen!

In case you need them, here are links to the rules for the final pitchfests next week:

#ADPIT

#KIDPIT

Onward toward the next adventure of Life…

Heidi

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What if…Part One of My Life with Anxiety

What if… Two words and my worst enemy.

My thoughts on this life I live with a severe anxiety disorder. This is the first post in a series (I’m shooting for three; it may be more) as I express my thoughts on living with an anxiety disorder.

What if I could have just one day? One day without it. One day when I wasn’t anxious about well everything. Let’s explore this…

  • One day without worrying about the 1%. Those things that have a one percent chance of EVER happening, but still I worry. What if it DOES though?
  • One day being able to just ‘not worry about it.’ What if the person that told me that is wrong?
  • One day to sleep soundly all night long without a panic attack.
  • One day to hear a click in your tire on your commute and not worry about how you can’t afford to fix a flat, even though you know it’s just a rock caught in the tread of the tire. What if it isn’t? What if my tire warning light clicks on?
  • One day that I can just enjoy my kids and not worry about what will happen to them ten years down the road when nothing is wrong with them. What if they do inherit the gene for some godforsaken disease, I’ve never heard of?
  • One day that I can not worry about spending five bucks on something because what if I need that five bucks for something unseen tomorrow, or next week, or next year.
  • One day when I can use my creativity and imagination for good, and not for dreaming up all of the things that could go wrong (even those things that have a chance of about one in a five billion chance of happening – I know they probably won’t, but what if they do).
  • One day I don’t have to worry about whether the pain in my chest is my heart or just another panic attack. Nevermind that I can’t breathe, and what if I’m wrong? What if I think it’s just another panic attack, but I’m dying of a heart attack?
  • One day that fear doesn’t grip me when the phone rings because what if something terrible has happened to someone I love?
  • One day when I can send an email and forget about it, but what if it didn’t go through?
  • One day where I can just put on my shoes and go for a walk, instead of having to spend several minutes determining if I have everything I may need. Because, what if something bad happens? A dog attack? A cattle stampede? Stark, raving mad hyenas jump me?
  • One day when I can just live in the present moment and not worry about if I’m wasting my time sitting on the porch with my family because I should be doing something else because something may happen tomorrow that I can’t see yet. What if it’s bad? What if it’s good? How should I really be spending this hour?
  • One day when I can be free of the fear of uncontrollable events. What if someone drops a nuke? What if someone tries to break in? What if I trip and break my leg?
  • One day when I can see an open door and not worry about what could have come through it. What if it’s a rattlesnake that’ll bite my kids in their sleep? What if it’s a serial killer? What if it’s a rabid raccoon?

Guys, this is the short list. There are so many things that I worry about, and though you may read this and think I’m joking or trying to be funny; I’m dead serious. I am aware that many of my fears are completely and utterly unfounded, but that doesn’t make me better. People telling me to ‘just forget about it’ or ‘you’re being stupid’ or simply laughing at me, doesn’t make me better.

Yes, I’ve been in counseling. Yes, I’ve been on medication. Yes, I still have a severe anxiety disorder. There is no cure. There are only helps and assists, but nothing makes me better. Some days are worse than others. Some days I feel almost ‘normal’. Those ‘normal’ days I cherish because I know they won’t last forever.

Oh, I can wear a mask. I’ve learned how to do that. A mask that hides who I really am from society. I’ve learned to swallow most of my fears and not speak them aloud. I’ve found things that help me, like Tai Chi, Qigong, meditation, and writing. They don’t heal me, but they do make things manageable.

If you are reading this and are like me, please know that you are not alone. If you ever need to talk, find someone to talk to.

If you are reading this and aren’t like me, please know those like me still love you but we handle the most mundane of tasks in weird ways sometimes. For example, I’m terrified of taking my car to have the oil changed, because what if they find something wrong with my car? What if I don’t have the money to pay to fix it? Or, what if one of the mechanics isn’t kosher? What if they steal some important document from my car and steal my identity? Again, these are unfounded fears (and most people are good and honest) but still, I worry. Just be patient with us.

In part 2, I will discuss treatments that I’ve done and what’s helped and what hasn’t. Thanks for reading!

On the need of sensitivity readers…

If you follow me on Twitter then you may have seen me have a mini-meltdown yesterday. If not, I’ll summarize it.

I’ve been reading this book written by a New York Times Bestselling author and thirty pages, give or take, into it I was disgusted. This author proceeded to write in such a manner that promoted the idea that Wiccans and Pagans were considered serial killers and reviled by their towns/cities of residence simply because of their religious beliefs. Furthermore, Wiccans and Pagans should hide who they are and their beliefs.

Guys. NO!

I’ve been a Pagan Wiccan for over twenty years, though I choose to follow a pantheon other than the Celtic, and that’s something else. Pagan and Wiccan are not synonymous. Yes, all Wiccans are Pagan, but not all Pagans are Wiccan. There are MANY DIFFERENT TYPES of Pagans and Wiccans. Some call themselves Hedge Witches, some will identify simply as Witch. Some follow the Celtic Pantheon, others the Greek or Norse or Aztec or even a mixture of several. One of the biggest turn-ons about Paganism is the opportunity to ‘self-style’ your beliefs. Even within Wicca, there are tons of different paths for a Wiccan to take.

Pagan and Wiccan paths are as individualized as the person that makes the decision to practice these beliefs. However, there is an underlying current, or rule if you will, that doesn’t really change regardless of the pantheon or path that is walked. Mostly it can be summed into …

‘An’ it harm none, so shall it be.’

This is the foundation of the Three-fold Law of Magick. You see, we believe that whatever we put out into the world comes back to us times three. So, think about that. Why would we send out a curse or mutilate another person or murder someone, if we believe that it will come back to us three times? I’m not saying it isn’t possible. It is, but it’s rare. Take Gray Witches, for example, they aren’t afraid to do the magick that’s needed. Chaos Magick hinges on much darker magick too.

I could go on. I could write a whole book, but this isn’t the whole point of this blog post. The need for sensitivity readers is, so moving along.

I am aware that society sometimes feels like Paganism is dead. That Witches aren’t actually a ‘thing.’ That’s dangerous. Because we are. There are real people that practice witchcraft and magick. Real people that identify as Pagans and/or Wiccan. These real people have feelings. They can be hurt as easily as Christians, Muslims, Hindus or any other religious group.

I’ve read books that project Wicca and/or Paganism in a favorable manner, so it isn’t every book. Yes, I’ve even read books that fantasize witches and pagans, but they don’t do it in a hurtful manner. I love the movie HOCUS POCUS; it is a terrible example of true witchcraft, but it isn’t offensive.

Most of the offensive books I’ve read are from authors trying to outright villainize contemporary witches for the sake of their plotlines. Need a mystical-type death – Cool! I’ll make the killer Wiccan, cause that’s the modern word for witches. Then, I’ll make up some stuff about pentacles, candles, herbs, because that’s something I glanced at once in a book in the bookstore’s metaphysical section. Then, I’ll make the murder look ritualistic for an added OMG! to the plot.

No. Please don’t do this.

Also, for the record – Wiccans don’t believe in Hell or Satan’s existence. Pentacles and pentagrams (aren’t the same thing nor are they interchangeable) are cast for protection from negative energy. Candles are used in esbat and sabbat rituals, but the colors are important. Herbs heal the ill and wounded. I have never killed a single thing for any of my rituals, nor do I know of any other Wiccan that has. Wicca and Paganism are about BALANCE. Balancing Nature from all of the causes and effects of the positive and negative energy forces. Wicca and Paganism are about HELPING, not hurting.

Seriously folks, the witchhunts ended in the seventeenth century. Let’s not revive them, okay? A lot of innocent people were hanged, or in Europe burned alive, and for what? Simply because of misunderstanding and the fear that misunderstanding stirred up.

Both Paganism and Wicca teach acceptance, so isn’t it time we were accepted as we are too? If you elect to write a story or book on these belief systems, and you don’t understand – for the sake of the Goddess; ASK. We don’t bite. That’s where a sensitivity reader will be your best friend. We understand, and we can help you. We want to help you and end the vicious cycle of misinformation and misunderstanding.

Thank you for reading. I’ve got a Yule sabbat to prepare for, so I’ve got to scoot. Tomorrow will be here in a flash.

A Blessed Yule’s Eve to all!

 

 

Tidbits on #AdPit and #KidPit…

Let me start by saying that everything included below can (and does) pertain to both #AdPit and #KidPit. The only thing that separates these two pitchfests is the age range. So allow me to clarify that now:

#AdPit is for NEW ADULT and ADULT manuscripts only

#KidPit is for YOUNG ADULT, MIDDLE GRADE, CHAPTER BOOKS, PICTURE BOOKS, and every other type of children’s books imaginable.

It is YOUR job to pick your manuscript’s age range and pitch to the correct contest. Don’t waste your time pitching to the wrong one, because the industry professionals (pros from now on) frequent the pitchfest for the books THEY represent. You don’t want to have your six middle grade pitches in the #AdPit feed because it’ll be skimmed over.

Now, on to more tips and tricks…

Graphic novels and any other author/illustrator books are welcome to add art to their pitches.

If you are part of an author team (co-writers) of a single title both authors should not post six pitches each. The number of pitches is FOR THE MANUSCRIPT not the author. FOR EXAMPLE — Say my #KidPit assistant Athena Greyson hand I co-authored a young adult horror manuscript, then we would ONLY be allowed six total pitches for the novel. 

I cannot verify the authenticity of favorites you may receive. The pitchfest is open invitation which means word will continue to spread throughout the publishing pro world and the pitching writers world up to and through the end of the pitchfest. Not everyone has writers’ best interests in mind. It’s poop, I know. But it’s true. There are ‘fake’ pros out there that will prey on writers’ dreams like a vampire on virgin blood. My advice is to research any favorites you may receive BEFORE you send anything to them. NEVER, EVER send anything out unless you are sure. It’s not being obsessive or unprofessional, it’s being careful – and it’s YOUR writing career that may be in danger. Not just a book – but your entire career.

The fact that these pitchfests are open invitation is also why I cannot post a list of participating pros. As word spreads through the professional world, more and more will show up to browse the pitches. As word spreads through the writer world, more and more writers will show up to pitch too. Neither do I like to make the pros feel obligated to attend. Sometimes things happen and even if they planned to be there, it just may not be possible. I do try to ReTweet/Quote Tweet/or otherwise announce when I see pros coming into the feed. Again, it isn’t always possible because the feed moves super quickly, and I sometimes miss them. If you are pitching and you spy one that hasn’t been RT/QT’d feel free to do it. There’s just the two of us and lots of tweets for us to monitor.

Just two of us – @AthenaGreyson is my assistant with all things #KidPit and many times with #AdPit too, so keep an eye on her Twitter too, if you don’t already.

Pitching stops at 3:00PM Central Time. I do this to stop the feed from moving so pros that have been lurking and waiting can have all of the pitches in one place so they can easier search through them. That does NOT mean that if you have no favorites by 3:00 that you’re doomed. You’re not. Pros often stick around AFTER the pitchfest ends to make requests. Sometimes it takes them days to make all the requests that they want. You have to be patient and remember that the pros already have clients and work to do. They are volunteering their time to participate, so respect that.

That searching the pros do – that’s one reason the genre hashtags are so important in your pitches. If you want to see who else is pitching books similar to yours, all you have to do is type #AdPit or #KidPit and the genre hashtag into Twitter’s search bar. It should look like this: #AdPit #Cozy #M. That would show me ALL of the pitches/tweets in the #AdPit feed that are cozy mysteries or mysteries. This is helpful if you would like to find pitches that work/don’t work, or maybe to find fellow writers that write in the same genre as you. You can even find beta readers and critique partners this way. You may even make some new writer friends.

By not following the rules you may be hurting your chances to get favorites. For instance, the rules state that pitching ends at 3:00 PM but you continue to pitch past then, the prowling pros may choose not to favorite your pitches because you are unable to follow rules and they may think you will be a difficult client to potentially work with. This isn’t true of ALL pros but it is for some, so don’t give them a reason to say no before you have the chance to dazzle them with your book.

What to do if you receive a favorite from a pro that has already seen your work or that you have just queried them with traditionally? It’s easy. Tweet them, ask them for clarification. Ask them if they want you to re-query or not. I know that a ton of writing advice websites tells you not to tweet at pros but in the instance of pitchfests, it is acceptable.

What to do if you receive no favorites at all? Don’t panic. It has nothing to do with your writing. A lot of reasons factor into why your pitch was missed, so relax. It’s not the end of the world. However, consider searching for other pitches in your genre/age range. See what worked for them, and what didn’t. See what pros favorited their pitches, and research that pro yourself. If you think your manuscript would be a good fit for them too, then double check that they are open to submissions and query them old school. Remember, all you need is that one yes.

I mentioned genre hashtags before, so I just wanted to add a quick note to say that I will be posting a media post on Twitter to clarify which genre hashtags I recommend that you use.

Concerning the allowed media pitches – at the last pitchfest in July, I had an agent remark that a lot of the media pitches were really hard to read, so he/she skipped over them. To stop a pro from skipping yours make sure they are easy to read, concise, and use a more basic font. Remember, there are a LOT of pitches to scour through. Make yours easy to read, and it’ll be more likely to be read. They scroll through quickly, give them a reason to slow down to read yours.

For the record –

Both #AdPit and #KidPit pride themselves on being open to diversity of all types (disability, POC, religion, sexual orientation etc…) if I find any pitchers that are trolling the feed with hate speech of any kind YOU WILL BE BLOCKED and REPORTED. And I hope that any other participants that discover any types of discrimination, misogyny, hate, phobic behaviors etc… that you will alert me so that we can take action against the account(s) at fault.   

As always, I’m just a message away if anyone has any other questions. Good luck to everyone. Let’s get out there and make book magic!

 

,

Six years ago today…

I had a second majorly invasive spine surgery. Six years ago tomorrow…was the day I nearly died. Six years ago Friday…was the day I learned how to walk for the third time in my life.

*What’s following is a shortened version of a part of my autobiography I’m writing titled WHEN CICADAS CRY. No, I don’t necessarily ever expect that this (or any part of the whole manuscript) will ever see a printing press. I’m writing this as a ‘note’ to myself and my kids (or any grandkids or family members) for later. I’ve been around enough cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s to know that if I am ever stricken with either of these memory-snatching diseases that at least there will be a record of my life for anyone who is interested in it. But this has nothing to do with today’s anniversary or this week’s anniversaries.*  

So back to it… Why I hate the word disabled…

When I was fourteen years old, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. I’d never heard of it. My family had never heard of it. That’s strange. I should have. After all, scoliosis is a hereditary disease. But in my case, if I inherited it then I don’t know where it came from. And trust me – I have searched, researched and searched some more, but I can NOT find any reference to scoliosis in my family’s history on either side. I finally learned that this little doozy of a disease can lie dormant for years…even centuries. And unfortunately, once it appears it can appear sooner again, or possibly never again for a few more centuries. That’s troubling, isn’t it?

Here, add this to what I just said – my scoliosis isn’t even normal. Nope. It’s an abnormally aggressive type of the spinal deforming disease. For most people that I’ve found and even met and talked with; their scoliosis was corrected by one surgery in their early to mid-teen years. Sure. Many of them had to wear back braces too. A lot of them didn’t.

*I want to add a note here that many scoliosis cases can and are fully treated by wearing back braces alone, or by chiropractors. I actually drove a chiropractor nuts once arguing with him when he made the statement at a health fair that ‘all cases of scoliosis can be easily treated by his methods.’ In the end, I got him to retract his statements and he started saying many instead. I’m focusing on the cases that require surgery for this post.* 

  Back to those one surgery cases…

Those cases usually involved a rod that’s about four vertebrae long, and four accompanying hooks or screws to hold the rod in place. Those screws are placed on the dominant side of the spine’s curve.

That’s what my first surgery looked like. Except for me, it didn’t last. I was fourteen years old when I had that first surgery and subsequently learned how to walk again. Like most other people who had this surgery, I thought I could get back to life like normal. I had no lasting ‘issues’and even went on to register as an NPC professional bodybuilding figure competitor. I got my personal training certification, went to college, eventually got a ‘real’ job as a legal assistant, had my two kids, and so on… I thought I was cured too.

I knew my scoliosis was worse than others because I had an S-shaped curve even then. What’s an S-shaped curve, you ask? It’s easiest just to look at it like this – my spine looked like an S. My lower spine (lumbar region) curved sideways to the left at 45 degrees.  My upper spine (thoracic region) curved sideways to the right at (then) 15 degrees.

My first surgery was done by a nationally recognized (then at least; it’s been a few years) orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Christofersen said all was well after it took me nearly a year to get back my pre-surgery mojo. He said by stabilizing the lower curve, the upper one would be frozen in place. He said I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. He was right for about ten years.

Ten years passed. I had a cushy legal assistant job, was a single mom of two amazing kids, and smiling at my twenty-fifth birthday when things, if you’ll pardon my cliche, went to hell in a handbasket. My health took a nosedive.

It took me six years to find a doctor that would see me. I found a general practitioner that grudgingly took me on after about four years, and it took him two more years to find a neurosurgeon that would see me. People, health insurance is not a friend to single parents with pre-existing conditions. (No. I’m not getting into this long-windedly, but even with the advent of Obamacare (or ACA) my battle to find doctors to see me is still one I have to fight constantly. Maybe things are different where you are, but for me out here where there’s more dirt and grass than concrete; it sucks.)

Anyway, at the age of 31 – scoliosis came back with a vengeance. I found myself undergoing God knows how many invasive tests with this neurosurgeon, Dr. McGirt at Vanderbilt University Health Center. By this time, I was having to use a cane to even get around with on days that the pain was bad. I was 31 years old and having to walk with a cane – yeah, you read that right.

I wasn’t surprised when the doc came back one day and said, ‘You’re going to need another surgery.’ Remember, I was supposed to have been ‘cured’ some fifteen years before. I didn’t take the news really well. I mean I took it like a champ sitting there in his office, but I fell apart on the way home. And then, I just went cold. After a lot of talking with loved ones and the doc, I finally made the decision to go for it. So, I did.

Surgery was scheduled for September 19th, and I went into surgery with no problems. My second surgery was such a rare case that Grey’s Anatomy (yeah, the TV show) came and filmed it. The episode aired in season six (I believe-I can’t remember as I write this) with my surgery, they, of course, did the Hollywood thing and fictionalized it. But here in the real world, I came out of surgery with a nice long titanium cage encasing most of my lumbar spine and fourteen screws. The old hardware they left in, they had to, or it would have just been ten screws since the orthopedic surgeon fused those four vertebrae with chunks from one of my ribs that he cut off. Things looked fine until…

September 20th.

That was the day I nearly had a massive heart attack and died. You see what happened was, I had an incompetent charge nurse in the ICU who (even though Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) knew I had terrible reactions to pain medications previously prior to surgery) took it upon herself not to, apparently, even READ my medical record. That being said, she proceeded to pump me full of pain medications that I couldn’t handle – that my body couldn’t handle. The result; I was essentially in a drug-induced coma, but not hardly.

I was cognitive enough to know about some of the things that were going on around me. I remember the charge nurse from hell coming in and pumping my morphine button every four hours like clockwork, and then her blaming me for it when the floor physician questioned her on why I wasn’t waking up. I remember him coming back in and studying my heart monitor, and yelling some more because my heart rate was nearly 300. I remember he ordered transfusions to try to calm my heart down. To this day, I believe I owe my life to that floor doctor at VUMC. The nurse…

Yeah her. While the doctor was trying to stop my heart from exploding, she called my mother at home and told her that she was going to call in VUMC psychiatrists because was being difficult. I guess she thought I was somehow making my heart pump like a geyser just to spite her. I remember them coming in, both of them. I also remember I wanted so badly to talk to them to try to get them to get me off the damned nurse’s floor before she killed me, but because she continued to pump me full of drugs I couldn’t even make my tongue move. So, they just left me in there, with the demon nurse.

My mother’s reaction was better. She came to VUMC and the floor doctor released me into her home and my general practitioner’s care. The damned nurse wanted to send me to a nursing home because after all, I was the one being difficult. When that didn’t work, she tried to make the floor doctor send me home with a permanent catheter. That didn’t work either. I was released after three days and zero physical therapy. I came home with a back brace and a walker. I taught myself how to walk again making trips up and down the hallway of my mother’s house using that walker and back brace. In a few days, I was even able to go out and sit on the back porch. And once I got away from Hell Nurse, my heart calmed down.

I went back to see the neurosurgeon a couple of weeks later and was told I was permanently disabled. I had crummy range of motion, still do. There’s no fault in that, just that with the cage around my spine it doesn’t allow it to flex. I was told to never lift over 15 pounds. I was told a whole lot of never do this stuff. Which I haven’t done in the last six years.

The United States Government denied my social security disability case when I applied after fighting them for a trio of years even though their neurosurgeon and doctor agreed with Dr. McGirt and my general practitioner that I was in fact – disabled. In the long run, I now believe it was a blessing.

Knowing that I was going to have to fend for my kids and myself even with my health issues, propelled me into hating the word DISABILITY. I’m not disabled. I’m dif-abled. I may not do things like others do or would, but I can do them. I just do them differently. The words disabled and unable are synonymous to me.

So instead of thinking/saying, I am UNABLE to do something, I find a way to make it happen even with my mounting limitations. I can’t go out and work at a job for forty hours a week. In fact, there are whole weeks when I can’t get out of bed and/or off the couch. Yet, I still need to be able to provide for my kids and myself. So, I found a way – differently. First as a virtual assistant, then that morphed into virtual assisting AND copywriting, and now it’s virtual assisting, copywriting, AND translation. And, of course, my writing. Obviously, I can’t rely on the government to help me. I don’t even qualify for state assistance. None of this means my limitations are gone. They aren’t.

It’s been six years today since my last surgery, and today I’m writing this looking at the upper curve in my back. It’s a slow-ticking time bomb. On that last visit to Dr. McGirt, he warned me. He warned me that in five to ten years more I could possibly be facing more surgery. This surgery would either be required to stabilize my upper spine or to fixate my pelvis when my lower spine decides to kink around my tailbone. In the long run, I’m looking at a probable wheelchair-bound life.

But…

I’m still not disabled. I’m simply dif-abled.

 

 

 

That magical connection…

Of course, I’m talking about finding that elusive literary agent. I found mine! I signed the contract on July 20th, 2017. I know there are lots of people that are still looking, so I thought I’d write the obligatory — How I Found My Literary Agent — post. My story is a bit wonky but hang in there.

It was a dark and stormy night….

Yeah, no it wasn’t. Gotcha! Here let’s do this thing correctly.

About ten years ago, I wrote this terrible book. Of course, I didn’t think it was terrible then. I thought it was sure to earn me lots of agent offers, a television deal would surely follow, and I’d become a millionaire within a year. None, and I repeat NONE, of those things happened. I finished it and I queried it. It all came to nada.

In fact, over the course of the last decade, I have written six books. Five of which I have shelved after months (painful months) of rejection. I was almost ready to give up, but there was one more story idea that popped back up in my mind. It was an idea that I’d had about three years ago but had never written more than an outline for. So, I started prowling through my basement (this is the partial book, outline, story idea notebook graveyard in my house) to find that one elusive idea that just wouldn’t leave me in peace. Pieces, yes. It definitely left me in pieces, but not peace.

I finally found it. The outline and three different chapter ones that I had written by hand before deciding three years ago that I was WAY out of my wheelhouse to try and write this cozy mystery. I read it again. Yes, all three chapters were still poo. I tossed them all, but the outline wasn’t half bad. So I started tweaking it. Soon, the main character’s voice became louder and louder. Then, I had a good outline, beginner’s synopsis, and even a chunk of a decent query.

I moved to my laptop after deciding to give the first chapter one more attempt. It wasn’t terrible. The main character and her secondary characters started ‘talking’ to me, and I kept writing. Fourteen days later, I had a completed first draft. FOURTEEN DAYS! Yep, you read that right. It only took me fourteen days to complete the first draft. So, I tweaked, added words, fluffed up bits, and then I realized I was done. Within one month, I had completed a submission ready manuscript.

Annie Bomke of AB Literary is an agent that I followed on Twitter. She was always super kind, and we had some great non-writing related conversations prior to now. One night we even talked about the possibility of tree monsters when I tweeted that one of my neighbors was felling a tree with a chainsaw at nine o’clock at night. These tweets were public, so I don’t think she’ll care that I’m sharing this story now. She was just one of those people I enjoyed ‘talking’ with (if you want to consider that talking involves tweeting on Twitter back-and-forth). I had even queried Annie before with various other submissions, but she’d always gracefully (and super nicely) rejected me. I knew she liked mysteries though, so I decided to give it one more try.

To be rather blunt, I made a list of agents to query with this new, shiny cozy mystery, and she was one of the top three (She was the first one on the list, I willfully admit it.). I sent out those queries and I waited. I sent out those queries on June 21st, 2017. On June 22nd, Annie emailed back asking for the full manuscript. My heart stopped. I couldn’t email her back right away because I had never in my ten years of querying agents EVER gotten a full request for any of my other books. I was in a bit of a pickle too, because I was going to be away from my computer for the weekend. So, when I finally got a grip on myself, I emailed her to let her know that I was away from my computer for the weekend but would it be okay to send the full to her on the following Monday. She said yes. I will swear to each and every one of you that was the longest and most panic-stricken weekend of my life.

Finally that Monday afternoon, June 26th, the requested full manuscript went to her mailbox. Then, I settled in to wait. We writers are good at that, aren’t we? Being all patient and waiting and stuff. Yeah! I had resigned myself into a nice long wait, but it was for nothing. On July 19th, my cell phone rang. Some number that I didn’t recognize from California. IT. WAS. HER!!!!

I had done a bit a research on THAT CALL, you know the agent/hopeful writer call, but I forgot absolutely everything that I knew when I answered and she said it was her. It was okay though. We talked around some, but eventually, we got to my book and the best sentence I have heard yet to fall from a literary agent’s lips – I would like to represent you. I think my heart actually stopped for a quick three count. I got teary eyed after we hung up, and I didn’t sleep at all that night.

I was able to accept her offer immediately because, during the course of sending her the full manuscript, the other two agents had declined. One did so after requesting a partial, the other was one of those no reply means no agents, and the time limit had passed.

It was an easy decision for me to accept her offer, because I felt like we had the same vision for my novel, and basically my career. We got along well (our phone call lasted for right around three hours – yeah, that’s how well we got along), and Annie was my dream agent. She represents the kind of stories I discovered I had to write.

You see, I’ve learned in the last decade of writing what the industry is about and what it isn’t about, and I had it wrong. Once you find your genre, you’ll find your voice. Once you have those two tools in your writer’s toolbox, everything else seems to fall into place. And, it’s okay that you have to write a lot of stories and books in genres that wind up not being YOUR genre because the more times you discover what doesn’t work, the sooner you’ll figure out what does work for you. So, keep on writing, writers! After all, that’s what we do best!

If you’re one of those statistics and charts people, below I’ve written out my journey from just writer to agented writer.

  • June 21st – Queried Annie Bomke of AB Literary

  • June 22nd – Annie requested the full manuscript

  • June 26th – I actually sent the full manuscript

  • July 16th – Annie called me to offer representation

  • July 20th – The agency contract was signed

Time to write the first draft: 14 days

Time to revise and edit for submission: 1 month

That’s it in a nutshell, and now I get to work with the fabulous ninja agent Annie Bomke of AB Literary to make a book and a beautiful writing career.

Keep on, writers. The next agent you query may very well be YOUR version of Annie.

A Book Birthday! …and do you have what it takes?

My book recently released to the wide, wide world via my publisher.

While this is excellent news and I’m over the moon excited about it, I’m also scared to the point of being terrified.

So very many thoughts ricochet around in my head constantly that I can barely make any sense at all of what’s really going on up there in my gray matter. The most paralyzing fear I’m having is what if everyone hates it. What if it’s a horrible book? I’m sure there will be trolls, and how will I deal with them? What if I never sell any copies? What if it’s just some sort of dead literary weight there floating around for the entire length of its contract with my publisher? How much more of this can I take before I need to sign myself into the funny farm?

I guess this is one of the biggest problems with deciding to go indie or choosing a small publisher. Unless you’re a marketing goddess, you’ve probably bitten off an awfully large bit. I’m good at marketing. I worked in marketing departments even of small presses before, but the problem isn’t that I can’t market it. It’s that I can’t market MY book. I feel like I’m begging. Please. Please. Please. Buy MY book! 

I’m not a beggar. I’m just not. I’ve gone so far as to turn down state financial assistance because I just can’t accept it. I’ve always been the one to say, ‘Thank you, but no. I’ll find another way.’ There was a time in my life when I had no choice but to use state assistance and I felt dirty for even having to do it. I’m not saying that state assistance is a bad thing. I’m saying that I just can’t ask for it because that too makes me feel like a beggar. The only reason I even filed for disability was because I was told to do it. Sure. I needed help, but to be honest, when the government told me no, I was actually happy about it.

What does any of this have to do with a book birthday?

Maybe nothing. But, maybe a lot.

I’m shy. I’m an introvert. I’m also stubborn. I can schmooze when I need to. My entire personality is like oil and water. I overthink. I worry about things that have less than a millionth of a chance of actually happening. These facts are what’s making even working out a marketing plan; difficult. People suggest contests, but I’ve hosted critique contests in the past. I’ve hosted a giveaway where people stand a chance of winning an entire bookshelf of brand new books from Scholastic Publishing. And no one even entered. I have loads of people participate in my #AdPit and #KidPit contests and that makes me deliriously happy but any other sort of contests I host, I get nada. So, that begs the point, how can I get my book in front of readers? How can I get it out there in a manner that will draw people in and not cause me to have a stroke from anxiety?

So with my birthday on May 15th came my debut novel’s birthday on May 18th and a whole slew of new issues and problems for me to work through. I’m a fighter, always have been, and I’m sure that somehow I’ll figure all of this out. Until then, if I ever go missing you might want to check the nearest looney bin. I’m sure I’ll be sitting there having a carrot with Bugs Bunny and sharing a therapy session with Wylie Coyote.

However here’s a couple of things to consider for yourself as a writer.

1.)  If you’re considering going with a small press with your manuscript, do you have what it takes? Take time to be honest with yourself, before you make your decision. Because something to consider here it that:

a.) Small presses tend to have smaller marketing divisions, and you’ll have to really step up.

b.) Small presses tend to have smaller editorial divisions, and you’ll have to be really comfortable with the oxford comma and all the other nuisances of grammar.

c.) You’ll be going at it alone. You won’t have the support a professional can give you, like a literary agent. You either need a lawyer buddy to talk to or be somewhat proficient with contractual law yourself. Otherwise, you may wind up losing more than you want, like character rights, series rights, item rights, and so on.

2.)  While it usually takes less time for a small press to take your manuscript into production, thusly you’ll get paid faster. You have to be willing to put out a bit of money for yourself too if you aren’t too comfortable with that A and B above. But the pay often excludes any advance of royalties (which is something larger presses offer), and if we’re being completely honest, you won’t make as much money in the long haul.

Am I saying that one is preferable over the other? NOPE. Not at all. It just depends on you. Just you. Not every other Tom, Dick, and Harry. That’s why it’s so darn important to be honest with yourself when you decide what to do with your completed manuscript. If you lie to yourself, you may land in a big, heaping pile of buffalo dung. And if you’re already a signed participant in a contract, then to get yourself out of that pile of dung may (and usually does) require hefty legal fees. And my friends, lawyers do not come cheap. At least not decent ones, or those you’d want anywhere near your book baby.

Now, I’ll take a cheap shot totally out of my wheelhouse.

My book RUNAWAY SAGE is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers. If you love historical fiction or stories about how an insurgent supersedes all odds, then it just might be the book for you.

RUNAWAY SAGE on Amazon

RUNAWAY SAGE on Barnes and Noble