Talk Back: do you track your manuscript rejections

June 3, 2013

On my Kindle: Once upon a Tower by Eloisa James

Talk Back – Tell us how you write!

As I’m starting the process of submitting my manuscript to agents, which I haven’t done in a while, my brain is leaving the “I’m awesome/I’m horrible” state to a more realistic “I’m normal” mind-frame as my rejections start piling in.

Yep it hurts. And that why stumbling upon an article about rejections by author Tobias Buckell really helped me this week.

Go ahead and read it. I’ll stay here and wait for you.

Done? Helpful isn’t it?

I never done much in way of tracking rejections beside making sure I don’t submit the same story to the same person twice. But now I’m thinking of using some kind of spreadsheet for life.

Just as a way of reminding myself that rejections are part of the writer job and that there will never be a time in my career when I will no longer get them.

So tell me… Do you track your rejection? And how do you do that? Spreadsheet? Notebook? Your bedroom wall?

The floor is all yours! Let’s hear from you 🙂

Much love,
Marie-Claude xoxox


Agent Shop w/ Jessica Alvarez of Bookends LLC.

January 27, 2013

Good Morning Everyone!

I’ve had one of those super busy weeks, but it’s at its end today. YAY! And since things are a bit slow at work, I have THREE days off next week. Anyone wanna guess how I plan to spend those days while kids are at school? 🙂 Big wordcounts planned!

Anyway, I’m happy to say that Agent/Editor Shop is becoming something of a buzz. I’m constantly amazed by the amount of people who know about it, and have participated. We’ve even been getting e-mails from agents/editors interested in being guests for future Shop dates!

So thanks to everyone who’s participated, blogged about us, mentioned us to writing/professional friends and such. Musetracks was based on the concept of giving back to the writing community for all the help we all received and continue to receive over the years.

February’s Agent/Editor Shop will be Feb. 16th around 10:00am EST. and as you can see from the title, we have Jessica Alvarez with Bookends LLC as our guest agent, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve spoken with Jessica several times via e-mail, and she is not only a super nice person, but it’s easy to ‘hear’ the love she has for what she does.

Here’s the link to Jessica’s information:

Jessica Alvarez


After ten years as an editor, Jessica Alvarez joined BookEnds in April 2011. She began her publishing career in 2001 as an editorial assistant at Harlequin Books. There, she had the opportunity to acquire and edit a wide array of fiction, specializing in historical romance, romantic suspense, and inspirational romance. Jessica left Harlequin in 2008 to pursue a freelance editing career, and completed projects for Harlequin, Scholastic Books, Thomas Nelson, and independent writers. She uses her editorial background to help writers hone their skills and develop strong, marketable stories. Jessica is actively building her client list and is proud to work with a wonderful group of clients. She is a member of AAR.

Jessica read her first romance at the age of nine when she pilfered from a friend’s mother’s Harlequin Presents collection and was instantly hooked. Though her pilfering has passed, her weakness for alpha heroes and exotic settings remains.

A New Jersey native, Jessica still resides in the Garden State. She is perpetually over-caffeinated in an attempt to keep up with her young son and two energetic wheaten terriers.

You can contact Jessica via email or follow her on Twitter

Jessica’s areas of interest include historical romance (particularly 18th and 19th century!), inspirational romance, contemporary romance, category romance, erotic romance and smart, female-focused erotica, women’s fiction, and cozy mysteries.

Her authors include Andrea Laurence, Jennifer Delamere, Lorrie Thomson, Melissa Cutler, and Stacy Henrie.

Hope to see you all here! Until next weekend, happy writing, reading and life.



Good morning! Here are the pitches.

December 16, 2012





Good morning everyone and a huge welcome to Rhonda Penders with The Wild Rose Press.

It’s interesting…

I’ll give the stats below, as I usually do, but this time I had a lot of pitches from authors/writers who haven’t been to Agent/Editor Shop before. Many of them didn’t make it in today. It’s too bad too! We didn’t even fill up all the slots because so many of the pitches didn’t follow the rules.

Here’s the thing, and I say this every week. Agent/Editor Shop is an opportunity to get your work in front of an ACQUIRING agent or editor. Preparing and learning and doing research is vital at any stage of a writer’s career. Following submission guidelines, whether it’s for a pitch or query or full submission, is almost as important as the time you invest in your writing.

A good story will always shine through… Maybe, maybe not. But why would you sabotage your chances by not following the rules?

Okay, now onto the pitch stats.

Pitches received:44

Pitches accepted:18

Pitches deleted:26!!!

  • 15 – Too long
  • 5 – Missing contact or story info
  • 6 – Not romance

I have to tell you, doing  these Agent/Editor Shops has given me a whole new perspective in what agents and editors go through on a daily basis with hundreds more submissions than I receive. The time I use for one shop is a fraction of the time they have to spend every day weeding through hundreds of queries and submissions. There’s a very good reason they have guidelines and by not following them, you’re doing yourself a disservice. For those of you who read, re-read, and followed the pitching rules – KUDOS! You’ve taken one huge hurdle and demolished it.

So, now that we have that out of the way… Welcome Rhonda. I hope you’ll find something that interests you. If you do, please email me at with the pitch number, title and of course, what you’d like to see from the author and how they should send it.

We’re grateful for having you with us today and for taking the time to look at the pitches.

Out top pitch slot winner is: PURE AS SNOW

And ELLIE HELLER is the lucky winner of the ARC of PRIMITIVE NIGHTS. (E-mail me and I’ll get you your copy.)

ON TO THE PITCHES! Good luck everyone and thanks for joining us!






20,000 words

Lynka a tri-shifter is one of the Sisters of the Earth and a spirit of the Tundra region. Her domain is the ice and snow. She meets Igor a guardian who is sent to protect Lynka’s mother (an earth goddess) while she gives birth. Unfortunately for Lynka, her uncle (a warlock) is determined to capture Lynka’s baby sister Estelle and steal her powers for himself.

Lynka and Igor must combine their skills of strength and wisdom in order to deflect the evil and allow this child to be born in a pure and untouched place. Can Lynka combat the fear she has of being with others to protect her mother and sister? or will the need to flee and be isolated be her undoing and place the innocents in the path of evil.

This is the first of the Sisters of Earth series.




Contemporary Romance

55,000 words

He works in the Comic bookstore and he plays music.

She is a Pastors daughter, they come from two totally different worlds and now they are fighting for their love. Can he find the strength to stand up for his love of her and do what he believes is right?

Its do or die for him.




Romantic Suspense with a Paranormal Twist

65,000 words

Reluctant psychic Katherine Crystal, dubbed “Crystal Ball Kate,” is thrust into the national spotlight when she accurately predicts that the young son of movie actor Vince Rivers will die in a private plane crash. Skeptical Atlanta police detective Jack Hale—who harbors a deep-seated distrust of psychics—is the by-the-book officer who ignores Katherine’s warnings when she calls to report her premonition. Jack is forced to partner with Kate, who uses her eerie sensitivity to evil to help him catch a serial killer. Their investigation into a mystery surrounding Kate’s birth leads to murder and romance among a secret society of psychics in the quaint spiritualist community of Casa Spirito, Florida.

Sixth Sense just won the Georgia Romance Writers 2012 Unpublished Maggie Award of Excellence in the Paranormal/Fantasy category.



Historical romance with elements of fantasy, set in 16th-Century Tuscany
80,500 words

Aimee is a gifted witch trapped in a marriage as the third wife of Prince Henri and an unwilling participant in a plot to produce an heir. She finds friendship and love with a talking cat and Steven, the guard captain. She spends a lifetime sifting through high court infidelities and atrocities to insure her daughter finds her place assisting the rightful Queen.

King Henri marries the second wife and twins are born. The first born, Carlo, is betrothed to princess Domenica, a gorgeous but spoiled bitch who seduces the brother, Piero, but marries Carlo.

King Henri had another child, Isabella, who helps Carlo as king after Henri is killed. In a murderous fit, Domenica pushes Carlo off a cliff, expecting her son to be king, but Piero is chosen. Piero marries Aimee’s daughter but remains enthralled with Domenica. The kingdom suffers under Piero who sinks into madness. Aimee uses her last strength to summon a storm to end a long drought, and Piero dies in the resulting flood. Aimee dies after Isabella is crowed as the first Queen ever.




Religious Romance
40,000 words

Harlequin Inspire is romance lite for the Christian woman, and Christians are the majority of world population, but what about the rest of us? I have in mind a line of religious based romances that cover other world religions such as Judaism, Budism, Islam, and Wicca to name a few, and how these religions shape the lives of the women who follow them. The first book I see in this set I already have in rough form and am working on polishing. It is about Seraphina Bergman, a late- twenties modern Jewish girl whose best friend is getting married. this is the catalyst for Sera to finally move from her parents’ home to her very first house and make an effort to meet a man. What she would never have guessed is her new next door neighbor is not only drop-dead sexy, but he is also an Israeli Jew. A romance blooms between them and after a single night of passion, Zev, her neighbor is re-activated on a mission for Mossad and must leave immediately. He has been gone for several months when Sera realizes she is pregnant. As well as the romantic aspect of this story, it also informs the reader of modern Jewish (liberal) views and customs. The tale comes to a climax when Zev returns to the United States under deep cover and Sera runs into Zev as her best friend is at a last minute flower consultation.




Historical Regency Romance

94,000 words

HUNTER CRANSTON, MARQUESS OF REDINGCOATE was devastatingly betrayed by his brother with the woman he loved, 7 years ago. Although he has decided to marry, he vows that he will not risk his heart again, only marrying to beget heirs.

LADY AMANDA SEACROFT has loved the Marquess for almost 2 years but as he has yet to offer for her, she has decided to marry Viscount Bensen. The viscount only wants to marry her, as his father will disinherit him should he not marry within the year.

When Amanda is compromised by the Viscount, the Marquess is the only witness. Without admitting he has feelings for her, he cannot let Amanda marry anyone else, whether he loves her or not. As the two marry, they begin to love and learn to trust one another. Hunter’s past catches up with them, however, entangling both the newly wedded pair and their coterie of friends in a murder and kidnapping plot.

Will Hunter put aside his fear and learn to love his wife? Will Amanda learn to put aside her insecurity over Hunter’s past love to trust in him fully?




Genre Paranormal Romance

108700 words

After being bound to a vengeful goddess, immortal warrior, Reynner, has little time for the fairer sex. The last thing he wants is to be aligned with another female, even if she is the key to finding an artifact and saving his realm. His stone-cold resistance is tested, his attraction undeniable for the feisty mortal. But she demands the one thing he cannot give her…his trust.

Eve Leighton keeps away from intimacy of any sort after an accident in her teens left her with a painful gift—the ability to see into another’s soul with physical contact. When an ice-cold warrior claims she is his world’s savior, she’s intrigued, until she dares a look into his soul and sees a man who’s been cruelly betrayed. She agrees to help him and loses her heart. But the man is an unassailable fortress.

With quiet determination, she chips away his barriers and a passion darker than night pulls them under.

But Reynner must overcome his own personal demons as battles are fought to claim the woman he loves or lose her to a vicious goddess. And Eve has to face her own mortality and fight for a love of a lifetime.




Historical Romance-Regency Period

103,000 words

Everybody has a secret. Some are more dangerous than others.

For Georgina Wilcox, daughter to the traitor known as “The Fox”, there are too many secrets to count. Treated as more of a servant than daughter in her father’s household, she is content to secretly aid the men he imprisons. After her last attempt to free a prisoner resulted in the man’s death and for her, a severe beating she’s forced to accept she cannot free another man. That is until she meets Adam.

Adam Markham, a member of the Brethren of the Lords, an elite group of spies is captured. Adam loses everything: his close-knit family and Grace, the woman he fell in love with. As his days in captivity grow, he finds himself fascinated by Georgina. Her innocence and bravery breathe life into him.

When Adam is freed he realizes he cannot live without Georgina. They wed and Georgina has added the most unforgivable lie of all to her mountain of secrets–the truth of her identity. As the carefully crafted lies she’s built their marriage around begin to crumble Georgina realizes she’ll do anything to prove her loyalty—even it means at the expense of her life.




Romantic Suspense

73,507 words

Sandra Walsh, codename Wraith, was a sniper for a mercenary-style agency. When her bullet misses the target and kills the young girl she’s supposed to save she realizes she can’t stay in this life anymore. But the only way she can quit the agency is to fake her death. Without telling her team her plan, she sabotages a covert meeting and makes it appear as if she was blown up in a bombing.

She establishes a new identity in a small town managing an entertainment center owned by sexy former Marine, Casper Grady. But she gets sucked back into the world she tried to escape when the agency finds out she’s still alive and comes after her.

When they discover Grady’s connection to her, she knows it could jeopardize his life. She’s kicking herself for not leaving town sooner but her heart wouldn’t let her leave him. Now she has to keep them safe while trying to figure out how to get them out of this mess. But Grady doesn’t make it easy when he has his own ideas on what they should do and only complicates things when he takes their attraction to the next level.




Historical Fiction with Romantic Elements

100,000 words

Back during the reign of Trajan, c. 108 AD, at the pinnacle of Rome’s power, Marcus, a fine Roman citizen, is stripped of his position to be condemned as a slave to fight in gladiatorial games. Sentenced to die in the Colosseum, he lives and excels at the blood sport, becoming Champion of Rome, possessed by a demon to win his freedom to exact vengeance against his accusers.

Gustina is a Roman slave, never tasting the joys freedom, serves her owner, her domina, but when she finds the woman dead, poisoned by her husband, Gustina is accused as the killer and sentenced to die in the Colosseum.

Marcus saves her by using the coin he wins to buy her life. He will protect her from death by his status as champion and she will save him from the dark demon of vengeance but together, their love is tested by the very Romans who condemned him to slavery – his family – the same people he must rescue her from before they kill her.




Contemporary/Sci Fi Romance
80,000 words

Sofia was having the worst day. First her car seems to have finally given up the ghost and gasped its final breath. After a grueling commute through slush and frigid temps she walks in on her boyfriend becoming intimately acquainted with Stephanie, her Supervisor. To add insult to injury, Stephanie then explained that she was being downsized. Finally home she finds a large cat-like creature half frozen and injured on her balcony. What else can go wrong?

The people of Felinus are in jeopardy. Havardr is chosen to investigate an uninitiated planet where a comrade had disappeared. Ensnared, he awaits his fate till the most delicious scent empowers him to escape the trap. Severely injured, he follows the scent to a tiny house. There he discovers the most delightful surprise of all……




Historical/paranormal Romance

98,000 words

Pandora Mavros is on the hunt for one of her own. A high ranking Siren has gone rogue, murdering innocent men. Her mission is to locate the rogue and the artifact she has stolen. If she fails; the destruction of her people will follow. The licentious and dashing Alexander is a complication she is definitely not looking for. Could he be working for the rogue?

Alexander Knight is searching for his business partner who mysteriously disappeared and with him the ancient map of the elusive island of Eudora. Alex doesn’t need the impediment of his desire for the mysterious and guarded Pandora, but something or someone is forcing them together. Is she his salvation? Or the destruction of everything he holds dear?



Historical Romance
115,366 words

Cordelia Clarke has waited two years, in vain, for her brother’s best friend to see her as more than a sister to him. The night of his masquerade ball, she produces a false identity, along with a colorful costume and proceeds to show him she is a desirable woman and not a dear girl. Her wildest dreams come true, she leaves him quivering and wanting more.

Andrew Daventry, Viscount Sutton is no usual aristocrat. He is a gentleman in every sense of the word. But, after the night of his family’s masquerade, he becomes very bitter and annoyed. The enchantress he meets and sets him aflame, rejects his offer to become acquainted with one another without costume. Confounded by lust, he sets out to find the beauty that turned his well-ordered life upside down.

His search leads to his one true love, the woman he never knew that he even wanted. Not until they share an unexpected, tender kiss in her parlor.

Their lives become complicated when another suitor vies for Cordelia’s affections and a tremendous secret rips them apart. Nosy relatives and misunderstandings certainly do not help. Yet, they have the most powerful weapon of all, friendship.




YA—Contemporary Fantasy

195,000 words

Polly’s moment had finally arrived, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Barely a teenager, Polly had reluctantly accepted the role of human guardian of the Green. Now, about to begin college and leave her hometown and all the weirdness behind, fate calls her, except to save the Green she must defeat Isaac, the boy she loves.

Isaac was the kid nobody liked until a mysterious faerie granted him his greatest wish. Now bestowed with incredible musical prowess, Isaac is loved and admired by all. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Polly is the only one who can save Isaac’s soul, but her first responsibility is to the Green. Can Polly save the Green and save Isaac as well?

Guitar God is a Jewish, suburban rock and roll fantasy with a 1970s soundtrack. It’s urban fantasy in the suburbs. It’s War For The Oaks meets Portnoy’s Complaint. It’s crossover YA for teens and their parents. It’s a world where the faerie folk walk among us, but we don’t know it. It’s about the magical places where we grew up. Maybe we knew about them or maybe we walked by them every day without even noticing.




Paranormal Romance

88,000 words

Kila’s mother severed their relationship in hopes of keeping her lineage a secret. When Kila meets Ethan, a charming and lethal man from the bayou, things take a passionate but bitter twist. Their illicit love affair acts as a catalyst to her birthright. Bringing her destiny to the forefront awakens the Sepulturans, riling unprecedented anger from shape-shifting clans, and reveals the truth behind the voices in her head. One act of forbidden romance shatters the carefully sculpted facade on reality, one where shape-shifters prey on humans, creatures of the grave distort minds, and an unknowing hunter walks among the immortal bloodlines.



Contemporary Fantasy Romance
108000 words

Only after she’s chosen to train to keep everyone safe from misused magic does Mona realize her ability to see and manipulate other people’s spells, but not create her own, isn’t a failing, but a rare trait. Her studies go well until she disregards the rule stating Warders never go after a spell’s creator. Hoping to stop more shifters from getting killed, she sets out to track down the person setting death traps.

Cart Dupree is called in by a high-ranking elf to find the magic user behind the killings. Mona dogs his steps, despite the fact that she shouldn’t be involved in his investigation. Reckless and headstrong she plays fast and loose with danger, something no mate of his will ever do, there are too many orphans in his family already.

But it’s not her actions that get shifters killed, it’s the madman who is spelling them to capture Mona or die. With each successive attempt coming closer to succeeding, and the death toll for shifters rising, Mona and Cart use his skills as an investigator and hers as a Warder, to decipher the few clues they have. Before they become the next victims.




Romance / Suspense

112,000 words

For over a century, two families have fought, shot, kidnapped, hung, burned, stolen from and accused one another. Danny Bennett knows that most of what keeps her family feuding with the Cahill clan is baseless accusations from both parties, but that doesn’t keep her from taking sides. After all, when her fun-loving brother, Derek – the person she idolizes most – has been accused of murder, her loyalties lay solidly with him. Accustomed to living on the edge, Danny welcomes a good challenge… until she unwittingly falls prey to her brother’s accuser.

Driven by hatred, Austin Cahill knows exactly what to do with Danny: use her as a weapon against her brother. Derek must pay for killing Austin’s fiancé, but Austin must coax a confession out of him first. His plan to “own” Derek’s beloved baby sister should break the man, but he soon discovers a much bigger obstacle… his burgeoning desire for Danny. When Derek comes for her, will Austin be prepared to let her go in exchange for the truth? Will his quest for vengeance destroy the woman he’s grown to care for? Or will it be the truth that brings them all down?





78,000 words

Becoming a soldier to protect her nation from rebels isn’t the way sixteen-year-old Allesra92 expected to spend her birthday. And doing so while posing as her twin brother borders insanity. But she’ll do anything to keep her mentally challenged brother out of Asylum – a place where those who aren’t ‘normal’ are sent and never return.

Pretending to be part of the boys’ fart-belch-fight club is a piece of cake compared to finding out her entire nation is nothing more than a higher government’s testing dome. Outside the dome isn’t much better when a rebel attack places her in the midst of a bipolar(ish) rebel leader who wants to sacrifice her and her brother to the government authorities to further his own cause.

And the government wants her and her brother – badly. Enough so that anyone she comes in contact becomes a target as well, and she’s faced with the ultimate decision between her brother’s safety and the freedom of a nation. With rebels who lie, authorities who kill, and a boy who steals her heart, any direction she chooses looks like a dead end.

Putting yourself out there by Candi Wall

September 26, 2011



OH! Super cool update! Laura Bradford confirmed she’ll be here for our November Agent Shop since

gremlins messed with our last run of e-mails and this Agent Shop was cancelled. She’s a stellar lady peeps!

“This is wonderful. I could feel everything your character was experiencing!”

“You’ve got a strong voice and the writing was sublime…”

Oh, yeah. You all know what I’m talking about. The big grin, the heart thumping that goes along with opening your e-mail, contest scores, comment section, twitter, or whatever venue you use to put your writing out there, and reading something like that!

It’s like CRACK!

More, more! Gimme more!

‘Course, the negative comments can be just as intense .

“You really should pick an author you like and try to emulate them.”

“Your characters felt cardboard to me, and your villain was nothing more than a cliché device to throw in some failed tension.”

Kill me now!


Okay, so it’s not that bad. As with everything, we have to take any and all comments with a grain or bucket of salt.

As writers, we’re going to come across every personality, like, dislike, good day, bad day, that our readers have. We’re going to be held high by a reader that just adored everything we put into words, and we’re going to be knocked so low, getting back up will be a Herculean task.

Color me a glutton…

But I’ll probably keep putting my work out there, through contests, groups, sharing sites and of course my Beta readers and Crit partners.

Wanna know why?

Simple. Feedback, friendship and the chance at winning!

And believe it or not, that’s the order of importance I take when I enter any contest. Feedback is gold.

As most of us do, I started this journey alone. Through contests, writing groups, and networking, I’ve found the most amazing people and am lucky to have them. I don’t believe for a moment that without them, I would be as far as I am today. And that in itself is enough reason for me to feel justified in encouraging any writer, at any stage of their craft, to get out there, take a chance, let others see what you write and learn what you can from what you get for feedback.

Soak it up like a sponge, retain what you need, and let the rest evaporate.

I took my first tentative steps into networking waters by joining Charlotte Dillon’s Romance Writers Community. Best choice I ever made. That’s where I met Jenn, Marie-Claude and John. I took a chance, they took a chance, and we found a solid foundation of friends to share our journey with. That friendship and professional connection remains today!

Marie-Claude stepped WAY out of her comfort zone and entered Dorchester’s American Title V contest and WON! But if you ask her, she met and remains friends with numerous other writers to this day, and that’s something even winning can’t compare with.

My first public contest was Dorchester’s Next Best Celler contest. It was hell. Pure and simple. Vote tarting sucks, that’s all there is to it. There was some back biting, some down voting, oh – it was tough, but again, out of the great, not-so-great, and sometimes questionable comments, I gained a group of ladies as my friends, all of whom will give it to me straight when I’m doing well, or writing crap.

‘Kinda makes you feel all mushy inside, don’t it?

Yeah, me too.

So I’m on to my next contest.

The Mills & Boon New Voices contest

I’ve met one stellar writer already, and I know she’ll be a friend way past this contest. I’ve read some great entries, left what I hope are seen as constructive comments and gained some as well. I’ve been down voted too, and it’s still early in the competition. but I’m looking forward to it just the same, because regardless of the outcome, I’m coming out of it a winner. Either with feedback, friends or (fingers crossed) a win.

New Voices is open to any writer who hasn’t been published. the deadline is Oct. 10th, so swing in and enter!

So, have any contest experiences you can share, good or bad? I’d love to hear about them.


Bushwhacking, Booze, and Nothing to Lose

September 1, 2010

Song of the day: Nothing to Lose by Operator

Okay, tell me the truth. Do you ever have a moment where you just stop and wonder why it is that you write? Why do you subject yourself to torturous, lonely hours of work, real work, on a book where often there seems so little reward? I think we all do.

Do I LOOK happy?

It’s a cruel existence for writers. Blood-letting critiques, dream-crushing contest scores and bad reviews erode even the most leather-skinned author’s resolve. Some of us realize we have a long journey ahead nailing down our craft; so long, we question if the voyage is worthwhile. Others have crazy expectations and looming deadlines to meet. You sold your soul to the publishing industry and now they require a sacrificial offering or it’s curtains for your career.  It’s enough to make you head for the liquor cabinet.

Our lifeblood is intravenously given over to our characters and their plights. Their stories have to be told, after all. We are selfless, diligent, hard-working – real troopers in our mission, whether to finish our first manuscript, become published, or crank out another book sure to make our agents and editors weep. Nevertheless, it gets tough at times. Family, friends and employers have the nerve to demand your attention. Suddenly, obligations shift. Doesn’t anyone understand what you do or how much you give of yourself?

It would be easy to throw in the towel and give up the madness. Who needs the disappointment, the disrespect or the endless stress gnawing away your sanity? Besides, think of the cost of continuously restocking the liquor cabinet.

If a green author is an active participant in writing communities, whether in person or online, I would venture to say that writer is growing. Green becomes learned and learned becomes seasoned. In that, the writer is at the very least moving forward. Likely, the writer is climbing upward. But those damned blind sides and bushwhacking naysayers are inevitable.  I think it is part of our nature to question ourselves when we stumble.

I recently received a rejection from an editor less than 24 hours after I sent it. While I appreciate the quick response, I admit I was a bit dejected.

My writer buddies gave me about 20 minutes to sulk and then told me to suck it up. We all know it take longer than 20 minutes in wallow in self-pity. I mean, you barely get coated in the stuff to really brood. Plus, there are only so many shots of Jack Daniels I can knock back in such a short amount of time.

After rereading the rejection letter, it became clear that although the editor found many things about my manuscript she liked, I was not right for the publisher’s line. She commented on my writing style and felt it needed a round of line editing. Well, that novel had been line edited within an inch of its life. Seriously, just ask the eleven people I confided in to buff and shine it.

So, yeah, I was bummed. But then I realized like with writing peers and contest judges, it is subjective even among industry professionals. My writing style just isn’t right for that editor. And that is okay. Not all editors will have the same opinion. I respect that.

The song of the day has lyrics that struck a chord with me and this particular quandary.

When you’ve got nothing to lose, then, baby, you’ve got it all.

Simple, but true.

It’s a mindset. When you sit down to write, whether for a few minutes or for a marathon session, believing from that moment you have nothing to lose, what is there to stop you from reaching further and beyond?

I'll take a shot of that.

Focusing on the positive, there really is nothing to lose. It is gratifying to finish a manuscript. You know you are headed in the right direction when constructive criticism is less about the craft and story and more about individual preferences. It is validating when contest scores are high. There is humble amazement and pride when reviews are stellar. And then there are the shameless tears of joy and accolades from agents and editors.

Onward and upward, folks. – Wine, margarita, or beer in hand optional. That’s what we writers must do because we’ve got nothing to lose.

Want to hear the song? Click here for the official YouTube video of Operator’s Nothing to Lose. (Warning: It’s loud! 🙂 )

Writer Inspiration: Katharine Ashe

August 16, 2010

by Marie-Claude Bourque

Hi everyone!

Today I am please to host AVON historical author Katharine Ashe. I know I write paranormal but I am truly a historical fan. I can’t wait to get my hand on Katharine’s novel! And it’s a Regency… oh my! Don’t have enough of those!

Visit Katharine at

From the Heart and Head

They say write from your heart but sell from your head. And they’re right. I know this from experience. I’m going to tell you a little story about that experience. I hope it’s useful to hear.

The hero of my debut historical romance, SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS, is a priest. What’s more, he is a French Catholic priest. 

No, he isn’t a real priest. He is a dashing and decidedly non-celibate English viscount. But he pretends to be a French priest (for good reasons), and for a handful of chapters the heroine has no reason to believe otherwise.

 How did I ever imagine I could sell this book? I suppose I figured that if Richard Chamberlain—an actual priest in The Thorn Birds—could stir the pulses of women worldwide, then my pretend priest could pass.

Well, clearly some women out there were appalled with Rachel Ward’s character having the hots for a man in clerical robes. One contest judge disgusted with my heroine’s attraction to a priest gave me such a thrashing I still feel the sting of it years later. But the thing is, another judge in the same contest loved it. She felt deeply for the heroine, a young woman with scandal in her past trying hard to make a new start and torn apart that she’s failing.

So I thought: “Okay, the priestly guise is fine with some readers. What do I do to pull in those other readers still looking askance?” Solution: Make the hero so attractive in so many ways that he is irresistible, and make the heroine’s struggle against her feelings as poignant as possible. 

I beg you to please note: My solution was not to throw up my hands, hurl the manuscript into the fire, and write another story with a less dicey premise. Actually, I did that last one too. I wrote other books with unquestionably available heroes. But I never gave up on the priest book. I loved it. I loved them—my characters. So I reworked it and I sent it off again.

About a year and a half ago, amidst plentiful rejections and in the depths of despair about my future as a published author, I had three different manuscripts floating around in Agent Land. Two of them featured warrior heroes—blatantly guys’ guys. But when a top New York agent called and told me she’d fallen in love with my book, it was the priest book.

I am still so grateful and humbled that my story touched her, as I was with that contest judge who adored it. When someone loves your book, whether that person is your mom or a big-time editor, it is a gift beyond measure. That is why I write, because I want to share my stories and move people. So I write from my heart because that is where the warmth and adventure and emotion live in me.

But on this twisty road to publication, I have learned that when I need to sell, I sell from my head. I study the market and pitch my stories accordingly. 

If you have an idea for a book with an unusual plot, an atypical hero or heroine, or an uncommon setting, don’t let someone convince you it’s “off market” (my most loathed publishing industry term). Just write it. Then send it out—to CPs, beta readers, agents, editors—whomever. Get feedback. After the initial shock of that feedback wears off (whether positive or negative feedback, I’m always shocked at first), kick your brain into full gear and act on the feedback. Keep the book in your heart, but rework in your head. Hold onto what makes it special but include as much of what makes it sellable as you possibly can. 

Regencies are selling now, and my priest book is certainly a Regency. It strays a bit from the ballroom (the first few chapters take place on a pirate ship, arrr!), but it doesn’t by any means leave England’s beau monde behind. The hero masquerades as a priest while he is in fact a warrior and a lord. But perhaps most importantly, at the heart of the book is a powerful love story, which is after all why we read romance. 

Do you have an unusual story in your computer or desk drawer? What sort of feedback have you gotten and how have you acted upon it? And while we’re at it, who is your favorite atypical hero or heroine?

Agent ready? Not so fast! Practical Advice for Submitting.

July 7, 2010

Song of the day: Let’s Get It Started by The Black-Eyed Peas

Last weekend, I had the honor of hosting Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary Agency in Houston. He visited with my RWA chapter and offered us valuable pointers on preparing to submit and pitch to agents and editors.

I’m going to share his wisdom and what I learned with you.

Must...pick up...agent...

First and foremost, when picking an agent up from the airport during rush hour in the middle of a flash flood warning, it is wise to leave the house much, much earlier than you would normally.  Don’t leave the agent, no matter how understanding they are, waiting for 45 minutes at passenger pick-up. Okay, now that my PSA is out of the way, let’s continue.

Scott had so much great information; I have decided to break it up into a series of three blogs. Yes, this is my sneaky way of getting you, the reader, to come back. Mwahahaha.

This installment will focus on what a writer should do to get ready to submit. Bless Scott for his handouts because I can hardly read my own handwriting.

Before you entertain the idea of fraternizing with agents and editors, you must be READY. That means you should be ready to present your manuscript in FULL. It must be complete and spit-shined.

You must also treat writing as a BUSINESS, not a hobby. Crocheting is a hobby. Mastering Guitar Hero is a hobby. Collecting freakishly tiny spoons is a hobby. Brewing beer…well, you get the idea.

Nice package.

Do your RESEARCH. Is the agent right for you? Is the publisher right for you? Who is accepting? What are they accepting? Who will read you submissions? The editor? An assistant? The cover artist? The UPS man? Read your desired target’s blogs. Follow them on Twitter. Get to know their personality. NOTE: I don’t suggest stalking. That’s a hobby for the unstable.

Write a good QUERY. Consider this your cover letter. You’ve heard this before. Keep it brief. Include the genre, word count, blurb, and what is distinctive about your story. Don’t forget your writing biography. This is your first impression. Will the agent or editor want to know more?

Write a SYNOPSIS that won’t make them cringe. I can’t promise you won’t cringe, but try your best to keep the recipient from wincing. Three to five pages is good. You’re cringing, aren’t you?  Show the plot. Not the sub-plot, not the secondary characters. Don’t let your hero or heroine tell the story. Don’t hint to what happens and don’t end it with a cliff hanger. That is not the purpose of the synopsis.

Clowns scare me.

Be PROFESSIONAL. Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? People forget that writing is a job. A REAL job. You’re not working as a clown for children’s birthday parties. Hey – don’t get your big red nose bent out of shape if that’s what you do for a living. It’s a euphemism. Don’t harass. Agents and editors are not sitting around their offices reading submissions. They are working with their existing authors; making phone calls, attending meetings, editing, etc. They read submissions in their downtime on their commutes or before bed.  By pestering them, you may come off as pushy and brand yourself as a pariah. Word gets around and so does the plague.

Send only what is REQUIRED.  That means the material that is requested and contact information. If sending by mail, don’t forget the SASE. For the love of Pete, use delivery confirmation that doesn’t require a signature.

Be TIMELY. This applies to requests and/or revisions. Take no more than a couple of weeks to respond. This goes back to professionalism.

Finally, KNOW YOUR BUSINESS. Where in the market does your book fit? What authors would you compare with?

There you have it. The basics straight talk from a respected agent.

Next week, Preparing to Pitch.

ECWC: Agent Panel: What They Want. (Or Not!)

October 19, 2009


By Marie-Claude Bourque

Last week-end, I was very lucky to attend the wonderful Emerald City Writers Conference in Bellevue, WA. It’s great that I live so close.

The conference was a success as described here at Barbara Vey’s Blog (Publisher’s Weekly) .

I sat in front of a panel of impressive agents and editors and though I’d share what I heard from them here at Musetracks. So present at the panel, where agent Alexandra Machinist of the Linday Chester Literary Agency agent Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency, agent Steven Axelrod, editor Megan McKeever from Pocket Books, Wanda Ottewell from Harlequin (she edits the Superromance line) and editor Peter Senftleben of Kensington.

So here we go (disclaimer, this is what I heard, and maybe not what they actually said!)

On being asked about submission and pitching and what they hate, Senftleben said that if a book is not finished at the time of pitching, just don’t mention that. Pitch the book as is it is finished then send the whole thing if requested. And please don’t CC to all your agents on your list while doing an email submission (yes, he said, it did happened to him.) Axelrod said he will forget any mistake in pitching and submissions if he thinks he can sell your book, Ottewell doesn’t like receiving manuscript that are not targeted to Superromance. Machinist cautions against saying that you are a cross of a all famous authors at once. Perhaps a name or two to get the flavor of your writing but not go overboard. McKeever loves authors who are excited about their book while pitching and that have creative ideas. She also remind writers to always include the ending of the story in the synopsis.

On author promotions, Senftleben pointed that more and more publishing houses rely on authors promoting themselves and that attending writers conferences such as RWA are a great way to network, which may help in finding authors willing to provide cover quotes. On the other hand, Axelrod said that online promotion doesn’t really work that much and authors should really focus on writing a good book. Spencer also said that promotion is on the author’s plate more than ever. Authors still need to realize that their priority is to write their best book but they also do have to do something towards promoting themselves. Machinist warned authors not to get too obsessed with Amazon ranking.

On romantic comedy, whether it is a dead genre or not, Senftleben said that nothing is ever out but some things are more in favor at times and romantic comedy is still equated with chic lit which is down at this time. Axelrod commented that romantic comedy come and go and that is very hard to write universal romantic comedy, a humor that will please a lot at once. Spencer said that it doesn’t help to say it is funny in a query. She recommends calling it contemporary. Your humor will be obvious at first read and she suggests focusing on your voice while writing.

On epub, Senftleben said that sales for electronic books at Kensington are not that big 5-7% of total sales. Axelrod said the market was about to explode and that it was a fabulous way to distribute books, especially for commercial books. He pointed that it would be harder for literally fiction who depend on independent bookstores for their distribution and promotion. Ottewell mentioned that the good thing about ebooks was that books would not go out of print and Spencer mentioned that we do need to pay attention to that trend and that 5-7% of Dan Brown latest sale was still a large number of readers out there willing to buy electronics.

With fellow GSRWA member and Dorchester author Gayle Ann Williams

With fellow GSRWA member and Dorchester author Gayle Ann Williams at ECWC

On what it meant when an agent said that a submission was almost right but not quite, most on the panel agreed that this was a polite way of saying they passed on it. Senftleben also mentioned that to take in a submission, not only does he have to love it, but it also have to be good enough for all the other editors.

On what they are looking for, Senftleben takes all kinds of romance including erotica and please no terrorists, Axelrod is looking for wonderful storytellers, Ottewell wants depth, complexity and emotion for her HQ Superromance line. McKeever tell writers to write what you want to write and what you are good at. In romance, she takes paranormal, suspense and historical. She also said she likes sexy book. Nothing sweet.

So there you are. Get writing, and pitch and submit.

I was lucky enough to do a group pitch to Megan McKeever and she basically started our meeting by telling everyone to send their first chapter and synopsis. It seems to be the norm these days as far as I can see.  So next time you pitch, I suggest you relax and just show why you are so passionate about your story!

Is it my writing, or just bad timing???

January 16, 2009

Bitch Track: Why in the world would a perfect stranger lean over my shoulder and start a thirty minute conversation about what I’m writing??? At the public library???
Okay, I’m NOT anti-social, but I was ready to tear my hair out!

Bliss Track: My eight year old is doing a physical fitness project at school. He has to walk to Tahiti! Okay, not really, but he has to log in enough walking/active/physical time to equal the trip there and back. It’s amazing how much talking you can get done while walking around the indoor track at the local YMCA. Gotta love bonding!

Is it my writing, or just bad timing???

Little by little we work to improve and strengthen our writing. We’ve all done/seen the lists of potential ways to become a good writer.

There’s having natural talent
Taking courses / classes
Joining writing / crit groups
Finding a good WP(s)
Keeping the flow
Not head hopping
Smooth transitions
Good grammar
Correct spelling
MS structure
Sentence variation
Dumping repeated words
Losing overused phrases
Utilizing senses
Dialog tag use
There’s highlight editing
Deep editing
Reading out loud
Continuing to write…

As you probably all know – we could keep adding to this list – for a loooooooong time.

So, we’ve learned all these things, and tackled the feared synopsis and query letter. The e-mail /letter you’ve dreamt about comes. An agent/editor wants a partial or full. Yes!!! Celebrate. There’s been rejections to tear up over and the doubts have already set in on numerous occasions, but finally – A CHANCE!

The wait to hear back varies from one industry specialist to the next and when it comes we all cross our fingers and pray. It’s a road well traveled by most of us. Some have moved on to publication while others still wander the trenches.

I’ve been in the query trench for four months and just received a very kind refusal from my dream agent on a ms that I am very proud of, and has received great reviews from both my online crit group and my great writing partners John, Marie-Claude, and Jenn. The rejection came in the mail and I read and reread it several times. I was disappointed – sure.

But the thought that stuck in my mind was:

Was it my writing or the personal preference/needs of the A/E that landed me this rejection? I did my research on her, edited the ms to within an inch of its life, followed all submission rules, and sought the advice and constructive criticism of others in my profession. Hmmm, what went wrong? I know, I know – there’s no real answer to that.

BUT – Anyone follow agent/editor (A/E) blogs? Mercy, it’s like a huge database of confused wisdom. And I say this in the nicest possible way. One agent’s wants and needs are different from another. However if we do our research and read their lists we can cut back some of the rejection we bring upon ourselves.

Having said that, the thing that I notice – is that they are human. They get into moods, likes, dislikes. They have family crisis, and toothaches and dogs that die. They get to work late or miss the morning bus, or have children who are sick with the flu. They read umpteen hundred query’s hoping that one of them will stand out enough to pique their interest. One agent said she even swore to herself that the next historical romance that came in – she would request. I don’t think she meant it, she was just frustrated with the abundance of other sub genres she’d received in that day. I guess I have to remember that they are human.

But without feedback from the Agent/Editor, how do you decide to edit more, or stick with what you’ve got? Share your thoughts…