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. 😉

 

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After reading agent Nathan Bransford’s blog post on the importance of having one-sentence, one-paragraph and two-paragraph pitches ready for your novel (you never know when you’ll run into your Dream Agent in an elevator, after all), I decided to take a stab at crafting some of my own.

One sentence: As the reluctant winners of a cable TV network contest, a painfully shy woman and an outgoing man — neither of whom are seeking a spouse — must marry and live together for 90 days, learning true love — not cold, hard cash — is the real prize.

One paragraph: Thanks to her meddling best friend, Kari Parker earns the dubious distinction of becoming the “Blind Date Bride” — sentenced by the judges in Romance TV’s “Get a Love Life” contest to meet and marry a complete stranger for 90 days. Unable to pass up the cash prize that she wants to help her parents’ failing restaurant, she finds herself saddled with a too-big, too-strong and too-friendly husband who reminds her way too much of the ex she’s been running from for years. Then Kari moves from the spare room to Damien’s bedroom to accommodate a camera crew filming a reality show of their “marriage” and realizes she doesn’t have a chance of making it through the 90 days with her heart intact.

Two paragraphs: Thanks to her meddling best friend, Kari Parker earns the dubious distinction of becoming the “Blind Date Bride” — sentenced by the judges in Romance TV’s “Get a Love Life” contest to meet and marry a complete stranger for 90 days. She agrees to do it because the prize money will save her parents’ foundering restaurant. Damien Walker didn’t enter the “Get a Love Life” contest, either — his buddy was hoping he’d win second prize, a trip for two to Club Med. But when a panel of romance experts says he has the worst love life in America, he realizes he has become too wrapped up in his veterinary practice. He sees his beautiful, bogus bride both as a lifeline to pull him out of his dull existence and a puzzle to solve.

The real fun begins when Kari moves from the spare room to his bedroom to accommodate the camera crew they agree to let film a reality show of their “marriage.” As Damien tries to figure out why Kari bolts every time they touch, she quickly realizes she’ll never make it through the 90 days without succumbing to his advances. Worse yet, she finds herself wanting to trust Damien and see if they can make their sham marriage real in every sense of the word.

I was pretty pleased with my efforts, especially when I had a chance today to use my longest pitch on an editor taking pitches on someone’s blog today.

Well, either I did a poor job communicating what I wanted to convey or “Blind Date Bride” isn’t as ready for querying as I thought, because the editor didn’t have a kind word to say. She said my plot was too far-fetched.

What, I ask you, is so far-fetched about a TV network coming up with a crazy, intrusive premise for a show and changing people’s lives? 😉

Maybe I just need to explain their motivations a little better … but this is the short version — even shorter than my one-page query. Hmm. What to do, what to do?

The hits just keep on coming!

That’s right. About 30 minutes ago, I put the finishing touches on the expanded draft of Bree & Mike’s story. It’s 56,000 words (on the shorter side of category romance, but still within the bounds) and will probably grow as I edit.

Of course, with Bree and Mike somewhat settled, I’m back to being at loose ends. What shall I do next?

The task that looms large is synopsis writing … but I think I’ll hold off on that until after our next NARWA meeting on May 15. That’s the topic our guest speaker, Cathy McDavid, will be covering.

Maybe I should go back to editing Kari & Damien’s story, “Blind Date Bride.” It’s my only single-title novel, and my writer friend Pat (who has read both it and Brad & Erin’s story) thinks it’s by far and away the better one.

Since Brad & Erin has been getting agent rejections left and right, I’m starting to think Pat may be right.

Query letter, here I come! Ugh. That sucks nearly as much as a synopsis.

I got another rejection from an agent this morning. I’m beginning to think I need to set Brad & Erin aside and start querying on something else …

I wonder if “Blind Date Bride” ready for the big-time?

I know: If I have to ask, it probably isn’t.

Today, I’m ordering a new part for my laptop off eBay. Hopefully, I’ll have my own back soon.

My time away from the day job, fortunately, has not meant a vacation from writing.

I must say I haven’t gotten as much accomplished as I’d hoped: A couple thousand words written in editing mode and three rejections received from agents.

Still, at least I’ve been getting something done. That’s no small feat when I can’t seem to settle to any single project. Not one of my stories is demanding my full attention.

I’ve been doing some reading, too. As I’ve mentioned before, it seems that when I’m reading more, I’m writing less. I read Jennifer Crusie’s “Faking It” and now I’m zipping through Vicki Lewis Thompson’s “Chick with a Charm.” (It’s the sister story for the one I read last month, “Blonde with a Wand.”) The hero and heroine are great. Can’t wait to see their happy ending.

In fact, I’m about to take myself to breakfast, where I intend to finish the book. Then I’ll camp out at Starbucks for a few hours and hopefully get some more writing done.

I’m trying to go back in and add a more substantial conflict to the second Willow’s Grove story. My hero and heroine, Cassie and Dustin, meet at Brad and Erin’s wedding and dislike each other immediately. Then they find out they’re working together (he’s an FBI agent assigned to a kidnapping case and she’s the police reporter covering the story).  I have the witty banter down cold, but they don’t have any deep-seated reason for their squabbles — yet.

I hope to rectify that situation soon. Her roller coaster moods remind him of his bipolar mother and she doesn’t want to get involved with someone who’s only in town for a short time. It should help me expand the story to the required length. Right now it’s at about 49,000 words, which means adding at least 6,000.

How long am I allowed to wallow in disappointment before it morphs into full-blown depression? Right now, I can’t seem to concentrate on anything more taxing than a box of Chicken McNuggets chased with a carton of Ben & Jerry’s.

I’ll give myself the rest of the night to sob into some comfort food, but tomorrow, it’s back to eating right and, more importantly, writing. I have a synopsis to come up with for “Blind Date Bride.”

My heart picked up speed when I checked the caller ID and saw a number I didn’t recognize. It raced a little faster when I flipped open the phone.

“Hello?”

No, it wasn’t someone from the Golden Heart committee calling to tell me I’d finaled. It was Sean, from GoDaddy.com wanting to know what my plans were for my domain name.

On the advice of some of the Ruby Slippered sisters, Golden Heart class of 2009, I registered my domain name — arlenehittle.com — and set up an introductory Web page.

I figured that way, if I was named a finalist, I’d be one step ahead. 😉

Now it’s nearly dinnertime, and I’m pretty sure all the calls have gone out. That means it’s not happening for me this year.

As the Boyfriend pointed out, this is the first year I’ve entered … and although I’ve been writing since I was in second grade (seriously pursuing romantic fiction since 1999), I’ve only started putting myself out there in the past six or so months.

Still, I’m disappointed. I so wanted that phone to ring its “unidentified caller” tone — and hear someone other than Sean on the other end, congratulating me on being a GH finalist.

Last night, the Boyfriend said something to the effect of, “It’s great that you expect to win.”

Sure, logically, I knew it was a long shot. But I also worked hard on that entry, polishing it until (I thought) it was perfect.

And my gut tells me I should have won … After all, I’m a writer. I know how to get my point across and I can tell a great story.

GH finalists’ manuscripts score are the top 10 percent. That’s 90 percent … “A” territory. Every paper I wrote in high school and college earned me an “A.” Why should this be any different?

So yes, I’m disappointed … down in the dumps … wanting to be anywhere but where I am at the moment, warming my chair at work (until midnight tonight. Ugh.)

However, I want to give a hearty congrats to all those of you who did final this year. My own NARWA chapter has a finalist, in the Historical category. Congratulations, Alison Atwater!

And I’m giving all you 2010 finalists fair warning: Next year, I’m coming for you with not one but two GH entries. (I started edits on the first one today, when I was trying not to stare obsessively at the phone, willing it to ring.)

Watch out!