Archive for January, 2010

Revisions vs. Real Life

Revisions on ALA were due to my editor January 25.  The first real deadline of my writing career, and a chance to demonstrate that I can understand and execute requested changes (I hope), and hold up my end of the bargain deadline-wise, and generally that I’m not a flake.

So naturally a huge, difficult project fell into my lap at the day job, with a deadline of January 25.  I am not exaggerating when I say I have never been this busy, and this stretched-to-the-limits-of-my-ability, in ten years at this job.  I went in to the office all three days of the Jan. 16-18 holiday weekend.  And I never go in to work on weekends.  I write on weekends.

On top of that, a stomach virus entered my household, and family members went down like dominoes.  It leveled everyone but me, which was partly a blessing, and partly meant I had to be the one getting up in the middle of the night when the kids got sick.  (And getting up again, early the next morning, to go in to work.)

But everybody got well.  And I finished the day-job project on time.  And then spent pretty much all of this past Saturday taking my sporty 13-year-old to a tournament in which her team went farther than expected, requiring her presence for a lot more of the day than we’d planned.

So I got as much done on Sunday as I could, and then buckled down hard on Monday (a regular day off from work).  And… I finished.  And went to the computer to send the file off to Bantam.  And was met by a “cannot connect to server” screen.

Aghhhhh!  Dammit, I finished on time and I want credit for finishing on time!

Adamantly unwilling to accept defeat, I packed up the laptop and went up to the library, where they have wi-fi.  And I uploaded the revised manuscript, and I sent it!  Mission accomplished!

Something I learned in this process is that it’s really hard to work on revisions for one book at the same time you’re trying to write another.  I found I needed about a day to shift gears from one to the next.  So I’m crossing my fingers now that these revisions will be sufficient, and that I can finally put Martha and Christopher away.

I’m not sorry to have revisited them.  I think I made their story better; fleshed them out in useful ways (both my editor and my agent have been really spot-on in pointing out the areas that can be improved).  But Will and Lydia are tugging at my imagination these days; they’re the ones I think about in those warm groggy moments before I drop off to sleep; and I’m looking forward to devoting my attention to them, and finding out all those things about their story that I don’t yet know.

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A month and nine days since I got the call saying I’d sold, and no contract has yet arrived for me to sign.

Officially I’m not worried. I know someone who sold in October, and she hasn’t received either a contract or a revision letter (I’ve at least had the latter).  I know these things move slowly.

But in stray moments I can’t help picturing a Bantam acquiring editor somewhere, waking up in the middle of the night with violent second thoughts about me and my book(s).  My god, what have I done?  And how can I get out of it?

The journey to publication takes a writer through a minefield of self-doubt, if the writer is that way inclined.  And silly me, I’d always assumed the minefield was front-loaded:  the self-doubt bunched up in those years where you toil away wondering if anyone will ever want to read the crap you write; sending out query letters and conference submissions that meet with form rejections or no response at all.  Surely, I thought, once you’re hearing “yes” from agents and editors, it’s a signal that all that self-doubt was misplaced.


The day my agent called to offer representation was one of the most triumphant days of my life.  And yet almost immediately I was inventing ways it could all be snatched away from me.

I’m sorry, Cecilia, we had your manuscript mixed up with someone else’s and it’s the someone else we want.

(Don’t laugh – this actually happened to me once.  I entered a poetry contest, and when they posted the list of winners online, there was my name.  But when the official letter came the next day, it was congratulating me for a poem – Surfacing was the title – I hadn’t written.  And sure enough, it was Surfacing they wanted, not me and my poem.  After I’d told my mom and everything.  [The full story is even more excruciating:  I e-mailed them to point out the mistake, and they assured me it was just a mail-merge mix-up, and that Surfacing and I were both winners.  Happy, relieved e-mail to friends and family.  Then they called to say, “Uh, actually…”  and I had to e-mail friends and family again to say I wasn’t a winner after all.])


I’m sorry, Cecilia, but upon reviewing your author bio I must inform you you’re too dull a person to ever succeed as a writer.


I’m sorry, Cecilia, but from a review of your proposed future projects it seems clear that A Lady Awakened must be the only good idea you’ve ever had.

That’s the less-than-rational part of my brain talking.  The rational part worries about revisions.  Have I layered in sufficient background for the hero and heroine?  Does the pacing at the end work better now?  And will I be able to punch up the villain’s villainy – I’ve left this to the last because it’s the most difficult – without making him cartoonish?

Oh, I see.  The manuscript you already sent us represented the full extent of your capabilities.  You can’t do any better.  Okay, that’s not going to work.

(And in dark moments it turns out I can cheer myself up by picturing the happy flipside of my poetry-contest story:  the author of Surfacing, despondent after seeing the winners list, resolving to pick himself up and move on, and then getting that call out of the blue:  “We had a mix-up, and we’re pleased to tell you that in fact…”)

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Aspiring-to-publication authors: you’ve probably been told you should have a website, and an established presence, even before you start querying, right? Well, here’s the messy flipside of that advice.

A month ago, I was Cecilia March. Light, mellifluous, an eminently suitable name for an author of historical romance. (And let me tell you it looked lovely in the font I use up there in my header.) I bought the domain, got an e-mail account, registered a Gravatar, made this WordPress site, sent in my Golden Heart entry, and started to work on building a web presence in anticipation (I hoped) of eventual publication.

December 4, 2009, I got an offer from Bantam (!! Typing those words will never get old!), and it turned out they already had a somebody March writing romantic suspense. So after some consultation with my agent and my new editor, I became Cecilia Grey.

Got a new e-mail account. Got a new Gravatar. Hired – because now I’ll have an advance! – a professional designer to build ceciliagrey.com. Labored over a new header graphic for the new WordPress site. Pestered a very kind woman at RWA to please change the name associated with my GH entry (just in case). Helped my agent put together a Publishers Weekly blurb announcing the sale, and did assorted other small things in the interest of brand-building.

Then the day after Christmas I was in Barnes & Noble, looking at the romance display and pinching myself, when what should I see but a couple of historical romances authored by… Amelia Grey.

I’m pretty sure patrons way over in the self-help section could hear my heart hitting the floor.

Panicked e-mail to agent & editor (both of whom, of course, were out of the office. Only now have I learned that NY publishing basically shuts down over the holidays.). Panicked e-mail to website developer. Groveling e-mail to already-more-patient-than-she-had-any-reason-to-be RWA contest person. New WordPress header to go on new WordPress site. New e-mail. (And why the heck is every straightforward gmail address already taken? “ceciliagrant59@gmail.com” is not going to help me build a brand!)

And all this, mind you, when I’m supposed to be doing revisions on the current manuscript, and cranking out pages on the next.

But Cecilia Grant it is, come hell or high water. I think.

Oh, and I put one of Amelia Grey’s books on hold at the library. Just because I like her name. :)

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