Archive for February, 2010

The woman I contracted to build ceciliagrant.com is so awesome, and so in demand, that I had to go on her waiting list and she won’t be able to build me a full site until April.

But she puts up temporary stub sites for people on her waiting list, I guess to help you start rising in the Google rankings or something (darned if I get how any of that works).  And she put mine up today!  And it is really, really lovely.

I am so lucky to have had an advance that made it possible for me to put this in the hands of someone who’s actually good at it.

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Five days from now my second-book proposal is due.  It’s already part of my contract, based on a two-paragraph pitch.  But now I actually have to send three chapters and a synopsis for my editor to read.

I’m nervous.  Is there enough plot?  Is my tormented Waterloo veteran distinguishable from the many other tormented war veterans that populate historical romance?  And above all, is my heroine going to fly?

Lydia, as far as reader likability goes, may have a lot of strikes against her.  She cheats unrepentantly at cards.  She’s mistress to another man when she meets the hero, and continues to be for a good portion of the book.  And she enjoys her physical relationship with her protector while privately thinking him something of an idiot.  That might all be too off-putting for some readers.

But I love her, with all her sharp edges and icy middle.  I’m always disappointed when I read a book with a heroine who starts out difficult and then turns out to have a gooey center.  Disappointed, too, with celibate-courtesan heroines.  Personalities like Lydia’s are readily accepted in paranormal romance.  Is there really that absolute a divide between paranormal readers and historical readers?

Anyway, I am nervous.  Because this is my book and I’m loving these people’s journey, and I don’t have a Plan B.

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Seventy-five days after I got the Offer call, my contract is finally here.  It came by e-mail, which is another thing I didn’t expect (in addition to the lag time between Offer and Contract), and since it has to be printed out on legal-sized paper, I’m running up to OfficeBigBox with a flash drive this afternoon.

I will print it.  I will make four copies.  I will sign them and send them back to my agent, who will do whatever is necessary to finalize the deal.  And then I will believe, a bit more, that I really am going to be published.

Also, I will perhaps lose some sleep, now that I’ve read the verbiage about how they can back out and drop me if I don’t meet deadlines for the next book.  Must… meet… deadlines.

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This past November, my RWA chapter meeting featured a presentation by Rita-nominated historical author *Anthea Lawson, titled Top Ten Essentials on the Path to Publication.

(*Actually just the Anthea half.  Anthea Lawson, for those who don’t know, is really a husband-and-wife team, first names Anthea and Lawson, who collaborate on spicy Victorian-set historical romance.  And if there’s anything cooler in romance than a husband-and-wife writing team, I really don’t know what it could be.)

Essential #7 was Keep Perspective, that is, never mind Author X’s meteoric rise; just “take a deep breath and remember the only journey you can take is the one you’re on.”  Anthea used the image of jogging along on the sidewalk, working steadily to get somewhere, and then seeing someone go shooting by you on a skateboard.  But there’s really nothing you can do about that, so you have to just keep jogging.

I remember chuckling at this image, and thinking of several authors who seemed to have taken the short route to publication and/or success; books sold at auction; blockbuster debuts, etc. etc. etc.  Definitely whizzing by on skateboards, while at this point I felt like I was barely walking, let alone moving at a jog.

Two days after this meeting, I got an offer of representation from the awesome woman who is now my agent.  Within a month, she’d gotten me a two-book deal with a major house.

I’ve never been in doubt of having “paid my dues.”  Statistically, it may look like I’ve had an easy road.  I’ve entered five contests, and finaled in three (and went on to win one).  I had accumulated only five rejections/non-responses before getting the “yes” from my agent.  I know those numbers are modest, compared to people who log dozens of rejections and persevere nonetheless.

But behind my statistics are years of writing, and years of not sending anything out because I knew it wasn’t good enough yet.  Let me just say that I originally envisioned being published with a purple Signet cover featuring a woman smirking behind a fan while a couple of hot-and-bothered Regency bucks looked on.  That’s how long ago I started writing.

So the hotshot on a skateboard, she is not me.  I’ve been pretty sure of that.

But a week or so ago, my editor e-mailed to say she and my agent were discussing which authors to go after for cover quotes.  I had sort of assumed I would have to do some legwork here, maybe approaching some of the authors in my own chapter, or stalking certain people at the National conference until they agreed to read my book if I would just stop stalking them.

But no.  My editor knows people.  She knows people with very big names.  And she is prepared to approach other people with big names, even though she doesn’t know them quite as well as she knows the first group of big names.

To type any of these names here feels hubristic and like tempting fate:  if I did it, I fear I’d guarantee them saying, “I’m sorry; I can’t provide a cover quote because I read this book and I can’t think of a single complimentary thing to say about it.”  Suffice to say reading the e-mail made my knees buckle, a little.  These are authors whose endorsements I always assumed you had to work your way up to.  You don’t get them on your debut.

And for the first time, I had to entertain the possibility that I may be that schmuck on a skateboard.  Because up until now, I’ve felt pretty sure I’d earned every small victory.  But the idea of a quote by [name withheld to avoid jinx] on the cover of my book… there is simply no way I have earned that.

There’s a line in George Eliot’s Middlemarch that springs to mind (and I’ve read Middlemarch often enough that a line can spring to mind for almost any occasion):  the vicar Mr. Farebrother’s mother is congratulating him on having gotten a good post, which she says is well deserved.  Farebrother says, “When a man gets a good berth, mother, half the deserving must come after.”

That’s how I feel.  Except about ninety-two percent instead of half.  I write now, in part, with the goal of deserving the incredible good fortune that’s come my way.

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Woo-hoo!  My editor says they’re good to go!

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The hero of the WIP is having a conversation with his sister about the kinds of things her ten-month-old baby gets up to.  And… I had to look up some child-development websites to find out what kinds of things a ten-month-old can do.

I have two children.

The one piece of advice I always give to new parents:  you know the baby book, where you’re supposed to fill in the date of First Tooth, First Sat Up, First Picked Up a Cheerio With Thumb and Forefinger, etc.?  Fill the damn thing out.  Don’t tell yourself you’ll remember all that stuff, and so you don’t need to write it down.  Fill in the book.  Take it from me.

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