MuseTracks is happy to welcome contemporary romance author and Southern girl Lauren Boyd. To celebrate her recent release of BAKING LOVE, she’s brought us an excerpt. And one lucky person who leaves a comment could win an e-copy of the book. Sweet!
Rejection and Reviews
By Lauren Boyd
When my writing career began in 2009, I was writing for children, and I was really into writing stories that rhymed. So I wrote some poems for a couple of the well-known children’s magazines and mailed them off. I eagerly awaited their response, and when the envelopes started to trickle in, I just knew there’d be contracts inside. Instead, I opened the envelope to find (very kind) rejection letters. I was stunned. My poems were good, right? Why hadn’t they accepted them for publication?
After a few rejections, I remember crying and wondering if maybe writing wasn’t for me after all. Instead of quitting, I ordered a complimentary copy of the primary magazine I wanted to be published in and combed through it, looking for a feature I might be able to write well since it clearly wasn’t poems (incidentally, they didn’t publish that many poems per issue anyway). I found it: a rebus, which is a short story with a twist and clip art images to accompany the main nouns in the story. I wrote a rebus, mailed it in, and weeks later, received a contract! I was excited beyond belief! I’d found my sweet spot! I submitted another rebus and another and another. Not all of them were accepted, but in the end, four of them were (my editor at the magazine seemed to be saying four was about all they could accept from one author). Was the sting of rejection early on worth it to finally get those four contracts?
Fast forward four years. Now I write for adults. My debut contemporary romance novel, Baking Love, released May 17 from MuseItUp Publishing. Needless to say, it was a writing dream come true!
The first six weeks Baking Love was on the market was an eye-opening experience for me. This was the first time people outside of editors and publishers were commenting on my work. Now it was readers, the people I’d had in mind the whole time I’d written the book. It reminded me of the early part of my writing career: yes, many readers gave it four- and five-star reviews, sending me over the moon…but not everyone did. At first, I was reading reviews on Goodreads daily because it was all so new and exciting. Finally, I realized that reading reviews so often would put me on an emotional roller coaster (as a fellow Muse author so eloquently put it). Now I only click over to Goodreads on occasion and when I feel ready to handle whatever might be waiting there.
So what lessons have I learned that I can share with you?
– Rejection is part of being a writer. Period.
– You can’t write for everyone because not everyone will love your book. Determine your target audience and write for them. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear from readers who’ve enjoyed your work, as I have. (Incidentally, that’s one of my favorite parts of being an author. I mean, positive reader feedback totally makes it all worthwhile.)
– Write because you love to write.
– Read reviews of your book(s) at your own risk.
As authors and readers, how do you feel about review/rating systems such as the ones on Amazon, BN.com, and Goodreads? Any personal experience on either side of the coin you’d like to share?
Speaking of Baking Love, I’d love to share Chapter One with you! And I’d really love to hear what you think about it!
Saturday, January 14
Kate Sullivan knelt beside the top tier of the wedding cake as it set on the work table, piping the final initial of a monogram in calligraphy. The small pastry bag barely filled her right hand, which she steadied with her left. She maintained gentle pressure on the bag to keep the white buttercream frosting flowing evenly through the round decorating tip.
There. With the letter now complete, Kate relieved pressure on the bag, then slowly pulled it away from the cake. She stood up and stepped back to observe the completed monogram. Perfect. She laid the pastry bag on the work table and shook her hands to relax them.
Kate’s assistant, Jess Turner, came through the swinging door connecting the kitchen to the front of the bakery. “Your ten o’clock appointment, Cecilia Prescott, is here. She needs to order her wedding cake.”
“Thanks. Would you box up this tier for me?”
“You got it.”
Kate pushed through the swinging door and came out behind the counter, where her gaze landed on two women standing by the bakery entrance. The younger woman’s hair was amassed in a tight bun, and she wore a high-end sweater and skirt set. Bet she’s in her early twenties, like me. The woman next to her was equally well-groomed and well-dressed. Her mother, no doubt.
Kate walked over to the women. “Welcome to Sullivan’s Cakery,” she greeted them.
“Hello,” the younger woman replied. “Are you Kate?”
Interesting, she’s from New York. “Yes, I’m Kate.”
“I’m Cecilia Prescott, and this is my mother Loraine.”
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“You’re here to order your wedding cake, correct?”
Kate smiled. “Congratulations.”
Why is this so awkward? “Let’s have a seat and talk.” Kate motioned toward the circular table beside one of the bakery’s front windows.
Kate followed the women to the table. “Is your fiancé joining us?” she asked, as they all sat down.
“In that case, I’ll jump right in.” She opened one of the photo albums on the table and turned it around to face Cecilia and Loraine. “This album has pictures of the wedding cakes we’ve done.”
“I’m not looking for something that’s been done,” Cecilia frowned. “I’m looking for originality.”
“Of course.” Kate opened the notebook that was also lying on the table and picked up the pen next to it. “Tell me what you’d like.”
Cecilia’s furrowed brows relaxed into a more satisfied expression. “I want my wedding cake to be unlike anything anyone’s ever seen. I want white cake, white frosting, and white fondant. I want pale yellow beadwork, lacework, scrollwork, and fondant
flowers. It goes without saying that the decorations should be tasteful and not tacky.”
Yet you said it anyway.
Cecilia pulled a photo from her purse and handed it across the table to Kate. “This will give you a better idea of what I have in mind.”
When Kate laid eyes on the five-tiered wedding cake in the photo, with its intricate piping work and delicate fondant flowers, she knew exactly why Cecilia liked it. “It’s breath-taking.”
“Indeed it is.”
“I’m happy to use this cake for inspiration. I’ll draw up some sketches, and the next time we meet, we’ll see which one you like best. How does that sound?”
“Wonderful,” Loraine spoke for the first time. Cecilia didn’t reply.
Kate noticed her silence. “Don’t worry, Cecilia. Your cake won’t look identical to the one in the photo.” She smiled. “It’ll look better.”
“It’s just…” Cecilia shifted in her chair. “From what I understand, these decorating techniques are quite difficult and challenging.”
Kate’s smile faded. She’s saying she doesn’t think I have the skills and training necessary to make the cake she wants. Kate swallowed her disbelief at this woman’s audacity and forced a calm note to her voice. “You’re right These techniques are difficult and challenging. Fortunately, I mastered them all some time ago.” Thanks to my grandma.
“Could we sample the cake you have in mind for the wedding?” Loraine piped up.
Wonder if Loraine’s aptly-timed interruption was deliberate. “Certainly.” Kate looked across the bakery to see if Jess was available and noticed she had just finished with a customer. “Jess?”
“Buttercream?” Cecilia echoed. “That doesn’t sound white.”
“I’ll add bright white paste color to the buttercream frosting for your wedding cake,” Kate told her. “That’ll ensure it’s white.”
“I’ll be honest with you. This cake will take some time.”
“You mean, it’ll be expensive.”
“That, too.” At least Cecilia’s not an idiot.
“We’re getting married June second, which is five months from now. Is that enough time?”
Is she being a smart-ass? “Yes, five months is plenty of time.”
“Cost isn’t an issue,” Loraine’s perfectly-timed voice rang out.
The price of this cake might be the only redeeming factor to working with these people. “Okay.” Kate wrote “June 2” in her notebook. “Where are you getting married?”
“The Wynnfield House, which is in Asheville. It’s a three-and-a-half hour drive from here, in the mountains of North Carolina.”
Thanks for the geography lesson, Cecilia. I’ve only lived in North Carolina my entire life, but thanks.
“I realize the drive could take longer with an eight-tiered wedding cake in tow,” Cecilia continued. “I also realize it will take some time to assemble a cake of that size on site. Therefore, my parents are prepared to pay for your stay at the inn on the premises the weekend of the wedding.”
“That’s very generous. Did you say eight-tiered?”
Cecilia’s gaze shifted to her mother. “Did I neglect to mention that?” she asked.
“I believe so, dear.”
The woman’s gaze returned to Kate. “Forgive me. I know the cake in the photo has five-tiers, but ours is to have eight. In keeping with tradition, the top tier will be for our first wedding anniversary.”
“Here we are!” Jess said cheerfully upon arriving at the table. She set a plated slice of cake and a plastic fork in front of each woman. “Enjoy!”
“Thanks,” Kate murmured absent-mindedly as Jess walked away. Eight tiers.
“Oh, wow,” Loraine swooned. “This cake is divine. It’s perfect for the wedding.”
Kate watched Cecilia take a bite. Dare I ask? “What do you think?”
“It’s good,” she said with less enthusiasm than her mother. “I can see why my fiancé is so fond of your bakery.”
“Is that how you heard about us? Through your fiancé?”
“Yes.” Cecilia lowered her fork to her plate. “He insisted on using Sullivan’s Cakery for our wedding cake and groom’s cake.”
Realization slapped Kate in the face. Cecilia isn’t here because she wants to be. She’s here because her fiancé wants her to be. She has absolutely no interest in working with me.
Now I know why this is so awkward.
“He said his family always ordered their cakes from this bakery when he was growing up,” Cecilia added.
“Who is your fiancé?” Kate asked, intrigued. If this guy grew up eating Sullivan’s, then he’s from Hillsborough—which means I probably know him.
Cecilia’s phone rang. “Excuse me,” she said. She pulled her phone from her purse and glanced at the screen before answering. “Hi, darling.”
While Cecilia talked, Kate subtly sized up her engagement ring. Princess cut diamond, probably two carats…smaller diamonds set in a platinum band…stunning. A twinge of impatience suddenly struck. When will I meet the man I want to marry—and who wants to marry me?
Cecilia returned her phone to her purse. “We’ve taken up enough of your time.” She stood up, and Kate and Ms. Prescott followed suit.
I’d be lying if I said it’s been a pleasure. “Thanks for coming in.”
“We’ll be back next Saturday at the same time to finalize our order, if that works for you.”
“My fiancé will accompany us to pick out a groom’s cake.”
“Alright. I’ll see you then.”
“See you then.”
Kate watched Cecilia stride confidently toward the front of the bakery. She and her mother pushed through the door, and Kate smiled smugly.
This cake is going to blow you out of the water, bitch.
Lauren Boyd writes romance that entertains and provides escape from daily life—and sometimes, you might just learn a thing or two. She likes to bake and decorate cakes, although she’s not very good at it, and she grew up and currently resides in North Carolina, where Baking Love is set. Connect with her at www.laurenboyd.webs.com.
Don’t forget to leave a comment. You might win an digital copy BAKING LOVE!
Congratulations, Tricia, the winner of a e-copy of BAKING LOVE.