Meg & Matt


Yeah, I’m saying there has to be something higher than Cloud Nine, and I’m on it. I am a 2011 Golden Heart finalist. I’ve been fielding congratulatory calls, tweets and e-mails all day — and I’m glad to get them.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought to myself “OMG, OMG, OMG” today. Good thing they just added that phrase to the dictionary, eh?

The GH final wasn’t the only piece of good news I received today. I also found out that “Beauty and the Ballplayer” won the Beacon contest, too. And the final judge/agent requested a full MS. I’ll be getting right on that, contacting her Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See? I’m not imagining all this good fortune. It’s really happening!

I’ve been writing off and on since I finished my first draft of my first MS back in 1995 or 96, but I’ve gotten serious about it in the past two years. I entered the GH for the first time in 2010; my entry earned solidly mediocre scores. This year I entered two (in series contemporary and single title contemporary) and finaled once.

You can find a full list of Golden Heart® and RITA® finalists here. (I’m excited to have found the ® symbol I’ve been instructed to use in reference to the GH and RWA.) It was nice to see so many familiar Ruby sisters (from my adopted GH class of 2009) on the lists.

There’s so much to think about, though. The Boyfriend said, “What’s next?” Well, the most immediate concern is getting a flattering headshot by April 8. I also need to find a way to pay the conference registration fee/airfare/hotel, and think about business cards. And I need to update my website … and take a “crafting the perfect pitch” workshop so I’m ready to meet with agents/editors at Nationals.

Simply put, I need to ramp up my writing efforts while remaining grounded enough to hold onto the day job … and start a new diet to lose weight before July.

None of these things are impossible tasks. I’m just thankful to be faced with such dilemmas.

My phone woke me up — and this time, it was THE call … well, the call that I’m a Golden Heart finalist, at least.

“Beauty and the Ballplayer” finaled in the contemporary series category.

More later, since I’m sure this is the beginning of a long, wild ride!

My immediate dilemma: How can I get a flattering headshot for the Jumbotron? Well, I do work with a bunch of photographers. Maybe one of them will be up to the task.

Today just might go down as the highlight of my writing career to-date. It could be the start of something big.

Today, I was one of the lucky 125 entrants selected to submit to the Knight Agency’s Author Speed Date contest. You should have heard the excited whoop I let out when I saw my name on that list. (Everyone in the newsroom sure did. A few people even came over to my desk to see if I was OK.)

Panic quickly supplanted the initial excitement: Which of my novels do I send them? (I have so darn many to pick from — six completed MSs in all.) After some thought, I chose the one with the proven track record, my Beacon finalist, “Beauty and the Ballplayer.”

When I received word a few hours later that “Beauty and the Ballplayer” did not final in the Write Stuff contest, I second-guessed my decision. Big time. Lucky for me, I hadn’t had a chance to ship off my entry yet.)

The score sheets sat in my Gmail inbox, waiting for me to decide: Do I read them now, before I send my entry to the Knight Agency, so I can try to “fix” it?

A coworker convinced me to go ahead and look. “If they make any suggestions for the first three pages, use them if you think they have merit.”

So I took a peek. I couldn’t believe my eyes: Two perfect scores! The last judge gave me a 66 of 100, though. (Hope I didn’t get that judge for the Golden Heart. 😉  ) None of them wanted to make substantial alterations to pages 1-3.

I literally just shipped off my entry (the first three pages). Now, I wait … just like I’m waiting for the Golden Heart calls. The Speed Date results will come back faster, though. I’ll know by Thursday if I advance to the next round. (Just 25 of 125 will be so lucky.)

An e-mail arrived in my inbox today with the subject line: “Your Submission: …”

Since I was at work at the time, I had an argument with myself.

“You can’t open that! You’re supposed to be working,” the me with the Midwestern work ethic said. (It’s the same me that never calls in sick because I don’t want to leave my coworkers in the lurch. I have something like 140 sick hours built up because never feel like I can take it.)

“Open it. It won’t take long — and it might be good news.”

“No, really. Good news or not, you can wait until you get home,” the angel me insisted.

My impatient side snorted. “Yeah, right.”

No need to guess which side won. I clicked on that e-mail faster than a hungry dog scarfs down its dinner. I’m not even sure I took time to carry on that conversation in my head before I opened it. (I should have!)

Unfortunately, the news was not good. Another rejection — the second on the partial MS for “Blind Date Bride” … well, the third. Two agents and one publisher have taken a pass.

I still have hope, though. At least it was an encouraging rejection, complete with a “hang in there and stick with it.”

The agent’s complaint? Worry that the voice isn’t unique enough to stand out in the market.

Now that’s a little worrisome, because I don’t have any other voice to write in. And confusing, because in the Beacon Contest judges’ comments, they loved my voice.

Then again, the judges’ comments are on “Beauty and the Ballplayer,” not “Blind Date Bride.” Maybe BDB still isn’t ready for prime time.

And maybe I just need to continue my agent search. Somewhere, out there, is the agent who will fall as in love with my story as I am. I just need to find her (or him).

Lucky for me, my friends at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood wrote a blog post about just that topic today: the agent hunt.

It’s funny how wildly my mood has swung. I was euphoric about my contest final two weeks ago, especially after reading the judges’ feedback. I had a feeling it was the start of something big. I imagined myself on the verge of signing with an agent, selling a novel or both.

Now, I’m down in the dumps, questioning my story … my voice … even my writing talent. Yes, even a “good” rejection stings. (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that.) 😉

I know rejection is a — huge — part of writing. We all get them. Even the bestselling authors got them at one time.

Even so, I can say it definitively: I don’t like the downslope of the writer’s roller coaster.

It’s time to make something good happen so I can crest another hill. 😉

 

It’s been more than 24 hours and I’m still not over the excitement of learning I’m a finalist in the First Coast Romance Writers Beacon Contest for unpublished writers. (You can see the proof here, in the list of finalists.)

This is especially exciting because it’s my first-ever contest final. Strangely enough, I almost didn’t enter the Beacon. I was already busy thinking about the Golden Heart. But when I saw the deadline had been extended and they were looking for entries in the category I had a manuscript ready in, I decided, “What the heck? Why not?” I had some extra money to pay the entry fee — and I’m glad I did.

The timing couldn’t have been much better: I got the call as I was walking out of the post office, right after shipping off my two GH entries (one of them being “Beauty and the Ballplayer.”)

When my phone started ringing, I almost didn’t answer it because I didn’t recognize the number. (Ah, the wonder of caller ID.) But, being certain it wasn’t a bill collector, I went ahead and picked up the call.

The first thing I did after getting off the phone — and squealing with excitement — was call our chapter president. Then I called another writer friend to share the good news … I also left the Boyfriend a voicemail and posted the news on Twitter and Facebook. I wanted to share it with the world — or at least my little piece of it.

Thanks to everyone who gave me their congratulations so quickly.

What’s next? The Beacon gives finalists a little time to revise before entries are sent to the final judges. I got my judges’ score sheets last night and have had a chance to start digesting the comments. Most were very complimentary … I guess that’s what happens when you’re a finalist! 🙂

I’m having a tough time switching out of NaNo mode to think about revising, though. I’m going to try to do a big push to finish NaNo in the next couple of days, giving me a few extra days to work before the revisions are due on Dec. 3.

I can do it — less than 10,000 words to go! (We’re not going to talk about the fact that I’ve had writer’s block today. That’s only a temporary problem. Heading to the Bux in the morning to get some heavy-duty writing done while the Boyfriend’s at work. I actually think better at Starbucks, I think.)

After last night’s good news on my contest final, I got more excellent news this afternoon.

One of my writer friends had asked to read “Beauty and the Ballplayer.” She’s read a couple of my other manuscripts (“Blind Date Bride” and “Operation Snag Mike Brad”).  She’s always busy, though, as a grandma of I don’t know how many … so I didn’t expect fast feedback.

Boy, was I surprised. She called today and said she read the whole thing in one day.

That in itself is a great sign … and she also said she loved pretty much everything about it. (Another excellent sign.)

She does, however, take issue with my poor hero, who refers to his — ahem — male part using a word that begins with “c.” I figured he’s a guy, and that’s what he’d be likely to think of it as, when he’s thinking of it (which is often). Besides, I already used my favorite name, “Mr. Happy” in Kari and Damien’s story. Two different heroes can’t have the same … er … pet name for their anatomy.

Pat steadfastly maintains Matt would not use such a crude word … so she made up a list of alternatives. We’re getting together Tuesday morning to go over them. I can’t wait.

… Ah, the life of a romance writer! Where else can you have a breakfast meeting to discuss the male anatomy?

P.S. Now that my creative juices are flowing, I’m thinking I might lobby Pat for something like “Li’l Slugger.” It’s a little more creative than the C-word — and it fits. Matt is a baseball player, you know. 😉

What do you do when you get great news at 11 p.m., when everyone who cares is sound asleep? I have to share it with someone … I already tried texting the Boyfriend, with no response. I shared it in my Facebook status and got one “like.”

But I’m still too excited to settle down, so now I’m going to shout it to the blogosphere: The gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood picked my first line as one of 10 finalists in their “Make It Golden” contest.

I was thrilled — and a little stunned, because I read the competition. There were some fantastic first lines. Many of them made me want to read more.

For the next round, I give them the first 250 words. I was pleased when I discovered my first 240-ish ended on a mini-hook.

The grand prize is my $50 Golden Heart entry fee. Not too shabby!

But even if I don’t win, I’m excited to have finaled. There were 79 entries. Yes, 79. I’m not great with math, but I think that puts my first sentence in the top 12 percent — and that has to be a good place to be.

In preparing “Beauty and the Ballplayer” to send to the friends who’ve volunteered to read it, I found something handy to share. It’s a free service that converts Word documents into pdf files.

Nice, eh? And so much easier than the way I thought I’d have to do it … laying it out in an InDesign file (all 205 pages of it!) and then converting from there.

For better or worse, it’s in the hands of three volunteers. I can’t wait to see what they think of it.

I know my writer friends are busy — some of them getting ready for the same contest I plan to enter. As such, they’re probably too busy to read anything of mine. (And they could well be my competition!)

With that thought in mind, I posted on Facebook that I was looking for friends to give me feedback on “Beauty and the Ballplayer.”

That was at about 1 a.m., and I had no idea what to expect in the way of responses … So imagine my surprise when I checked my page this morning and had not one, not two but FIVE takers.

How exciting! Now I’m waiting for them to e-mail me so I can send them an e-copy of the story.

This is the tale I got a little feedback on from NARWA members at our July meeting. (That was the day we read through the first three pages of several stores submitted by members. It was anonymous, but we really didn’t have much trouble guessing whose was whose … I think we all confessed to writing our stories in the car on the way home. Ah, carpools!)

Still, I’m eager to see what other people think of it. Hopefully they’ll be able to point out any plot holes big enough to drive a truck through … Although I don’t think there are any of those.

It always amazes me how attending my RWA chapter meeting recharges my creative battery.

Sure, it means a long day for me. I usually don’t get to bed until at least 2 a.m., and I’m up before 8 on meeting day. We meet from 10:30-ish to 2 p.m. and drive an hour and a half back home. Then I usually have to head into work and put in a full day there.

But I wouldn’t miss it. The chats while we’re carpooling are a great way to get new insights. And the meetings themselves always serve up something useful.

This time, we had a group critique: Several members submitted the first three pages of their WIP. Entries were read aloud, anonymously, then everyone shared their thoughts.

There wasn’t a single one that didn’t intrigue us enough to want to read more. That, of course, begs the question: Why haven’t any of us wannabes made a sale yet? But that’s probably a question best left for another post (in which I’ll rail against the publishing industry that depends so much on sheer luck. You have to be in the right place at the right time and know all the right people. Your MS could sparkle like the Hope Diamond, but if it crosses the desk when the editor’s having a bad day, too bad for you.).

Sure, a few of them had issues: Too much backstory, head-hopping. But the only way to improve is to have someone point out where you need improvement.

Our members are great at offering the right mix of encouragement and advice. I think (hope) we all left with a warm, fuzzy feeling — and some tips to take us another step closer to the ultimate goal of publication.

For my part, I realized (with feedback) the new beginning works really well. It was also pointed out I need a solid description of my hero in those opening pages.

As a side note, I had no idea Matt sounded so arrogant. But when you read it aloud, he sure does. He doesn’t remain arrogant throughout the novel, though, so I’m not sure what to do about that.

Since those first pages are in Meg’s POV, maybe we can chalk it up to her perception? He’s not really all that arrogant, she’s just in a bad mood, so she sees him as more arrogant than he really is?

I spent most of today working on a couple of scenes from Bethany and Cody’s story … 3,115 words written. I was surprised again, though: Beth’s mother sounds like a guest on “Jerry Springer.” She must be from Southern Illinois! 😉

It’s time for me to start polishing next year’s Golden Heart entries, though. My Orange Rose scores came back Friday. With those and Saturday’s feedback on the contemporary series story I want to enter, I’m ready to put the comments to good use.

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