Happy Lunar New Year. May the Year of the Monkey bring you all the best kinds of mischief.
Happy Lunar New Year. May the Year of the Monkey bring you all the best kinds of mischief.
For today’s Lucky 13 blog, I dreamed up a top-ten list of the good luck we writers wish for in this beautiful new year.
10. The “bestseller” list becomes the “best written” list.
9. Editors earn eligibility for the Pulitzer and/or Nobel Prize.
8. Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga form a book group.
7. Independent bookstores out sell Wal-Mart.
6. Our muses discover a fountain of eternal youth, so they never get old, age, or disappear.
5. Women’s pajamas are all made with pockets, so we can write in our own PJ’s instead of stealing our husband’s/boyfriend’s/brother’s.
4. All book publishers and distributors – print and e-book – join forces to bring great stories to readers at fair prices that support a living wage for authors.
3. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler host the National Book Awards.
2. Martin Scorsese and Ken Burns team up to make films based on my books. (Okay, that one was just for me.)
And the most important wish for writerly luck in 2015…
1. Readers’ imaginations continue to provide the alchemy that makes our stories sing.
Today I welcome fellow author and Washingtonian Audra Middleton to join our series of stories about luck in writing and in life. Audra describes herself as “a somewhat neurotic and terminally sarcastic mother of three” from Ephrata, Washington. Audra’s love of writing began in the third grade, when she was chosen to go to a young author’s conference based on a story, “The Dragon Cookie”, which she wrote about a giant cookie that comes to life. Audra went to college thinking she would go into journalism, graduated college thinking she would go into publishing, and then went back to school to get her teaching degree. Audra enjoyed teaching, but once her oldest was born, she chose to stay home. At the encouragement of friends Audra started writing again, the result being her first novel, Watcher, released in January 2013 by Champagne Book Group.
Since getting published, Audra has been asked to speak about her writing journey at several local venues, the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference, and the Write on the River conference in Wenatchee, WA. Last fall she went back to work as a kindergarten teacher, but has continued to write books. Her second novel, a humorous paranormal thriller called Hitchhiker was released in November 2014, and her second fantasy novel, Abomination, was released June 2014.
Audra’s story of pitching her first novel is a beautiful reminder of the simple power of persistence.
I had actually given up on my first novel at the time that I got my publishing contract. I spent years writing Watcher, a fantasy novel. It was a labor of love, but after many rejections from literary agents via query letters, and some jarring feedback from my on-line critique group, I decided maybe it was time to shelve my ‘baby’ and concentrate on something a little more mainstream.
Fortunately, I had already I joined the PNWA and paid a hefty sum to attend their summer conference. In addition to writing seminars, the conference provides opportunities to pitch to agents and editors in person. We were strongly advised not to pitch a work in progress, so I went ahead and tried to pitch Watcher. I bombed my first few pitching attempts, in the beginning being too nervous to complete a sentence, later being so exhausted I just rambled incoherently, at one point confessing that I may have ‘screwed myself’ (thereby ensuring that I had).
My last pitch session was with an editor. I almost cancelled, because the brochure made it seem like it was more of a Q & A rather than a pitch session, and I did not think the editor I was assigned dealt in the fantasy genre. Luckily I attended a “meet the agents and editors” session and discovered not only was it a pitch session, but that the editor to whom I was assigned did have a sci-fi/fantasy label. I met with her on the last day – another lucky break, because at that point I was so completely exhausted and overwhelmed by the whole conference experience, I decided I didn’t care anymore, sat down, and managed to have a lucid discussion about my book.
We clicked. She was interested.
Six months later, I signed my first publishing contract and I have continued to publish books ever since.
Thanks so much for letting me share my story of good fortune today!
Last September, the 13th fell on a Friday. That evening as the sun set, my brother married his true love, exchanging vows in the shallow waters of a mineral lake left by ancient glaciers. It was a day of the best kind of luck for our family, and inspired this series of Lucky 13 stories.
Fellow authors and artists including Julie Eberhart Painter, Jude Johnson, Carol McPhee, Jill Blair, Linda Rettstatt, Ceci Giltenan, Celia Breslin, and the dear late Jane Toombs graciously shared stories of how luck played a role in their writing and their lives. And coming up next month, Audra Middleton describes the luck of the pitch that landed her first book contract.
The series also inspired my blog’s tag line – every day, good luck comes in the strangest of ways. It’s a line from British singer/songwriter/master slide guitarist Chris Rea’s song “God’s Great Banana Skin.” And I believe it’s true. All we have to do is pay attention, and the good luck shows itself.
Today, for example, at the end of a ragged week filled with technical troubles, bumps in the road, and minor setbacks, everywhere I look I see spots of luck.
The early morning sunshine streaming through a window, making a warm spot on the rug for my toes to bask.
A steaming cup of coffee, strong and dark, ready to wake me up to enjoy a Saturday morning with nothing of any importance scheduled.
My pile of to-be-read books tempting me from the bedside table.
Books to write, stories to tell, walks to take, music to listen to, art to create.
Friends to call and meals to enjoy.
And, of course, you, dear readers.
And all the things that will happen today to start a new chain of good luck, working their mysterious ways, traveling paths I can’t even imagine, paths that won’t make themselves visible until they’re in the past.
For April’s installment of Lucky 13 on the 13th, Linda Rettstatt shares her story of how good luck can come disguised as bad. Linda is an award-winning author of Women’s Fiction and Mainstream Contemporary Romance. She was named Author of the Year in 2010 at Champagne Books where she also serves as a mentor for new authors. In March of 2012 her novel, Love, Sam, won the prestigious EPIC eBook Award for Mainstream Fiction. Her work is published by three small presses: Wings ePress, Champagne Books, and Turquoise Morning Press. She has also independently published her first romantic suspense novel, Protection. Linda grew up in the small town of Brownsville in Southwestern Pennsylvania, but has lived and worked in NW Mississippi for the past fourteen years.
Here is Linda’s story.
In 2004, I sat down to try to write what became my first novel. I say ‘try’ because I wasn’t at all certain I could do it. The book began with a title—And The Truth Will Set You Free. I toyed with that, wondering what story it might tell. I knew only that I wanted to write women’s fiction. Then Kate Reynolds revealed herself as my protagonist and off we went. Kate’s story is that of a fifty-something woman who’s not unhappy, yet not quite fulfilled with her life. When she is asked to take an early retirement from a job she’s held for over thirty years, Kate goes into a tailspin that drops her down right smack into depression. Her life is out of her control and she feels helpless.
I started the book on a cold January afternoon when my counseling clients had either canceled or failed to show up for appointments. The writing took off for me, much like champagne bubbling from a shaken bottle. Then, in early April, I became Kate. I was informed that the program in which I worked was to be closed due to an “organizational restructuring.” Plainly put, I was now out of a job. Most people would consider that to be terrible luck. And it would have been worse had I not been in a position to pay my bills for a while before seeking new employment.
In her story, Kate’s best friend tells her to see this crisis as an opportunity to do something she’s always wanted to do. You guessed it—Kate wanted to write! But back to my story. My family and friends offered condolences for my circumstance. I, on the other hand, saw this as a gift. I had a few months to live in Kate’s shoes, sort of, and to write her story from the inside out. Of course, I didn’t thank my employer for the favor. A relative sent me a check, saying she was sorry I was “down on my luck.” That certainly wasn’t my perspective at all, but I could hardly admit that. I thought, “How lucky to have the opportunity to truly get inside my character’s head, experience her shock, fears, hopes, and determination to follow her dream.” I needed that stroke of bad luck to bring me good luck in writing that first book.
(In case you’re wondering, I just published book number eighteen!)
Linda’s Website: http://www.lindarettstatt.com
Linda’s Blog: http://www.onewomanswrite.blogspot.com
Find Linda on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Linda-Rettstatt-Writing-for-Women/142119167526
Follow Linda on Twitter: @linda_rettstatt
Email Linda: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find Linda’s books on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Linda%20Rettstatt&sprefix=Linda%2Caps
This month’s story of luck and how it steers us (even when we try to ignore it) comes from the delightful, lovely, and talented author Julie Eberhart Painter. Julie is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee. The sequel, Medium Rare, was released in 2012. Julie’s Tahitian side is represented in Daughters of the Sea and Morning After Midnight from MuseItUpPublishing.
Remember that sinking sensation when you know something is right, but you fear getting off the designated track to pick up on it? This happened to me more than a decade ago. It may have been a Friday the 13th, certainly it was fate related.
At a writer’s conference in Orlando, Florida, I ignored my obvious message from the fates to plunge on and pitch another book. I was in Tahitian mode (Daughters of the Sea, MuseItUp Publishing, 2013): orange suit and orchid headdress. Not a bad thing, but as I was told for many years more, a hard sell, too exotic for those days. Agents wanted a more identifiable Don Ho (pun intended), a Hawaiian romantic splash with cliché waves of “come to me and back away” fiction.
Upon preparing to pitch the Tahitian book, I spruced up in the ladies’ lounge. There on the floor were three new copper pennies winking. (Yes I kept them; no I didn’t take the hint.)
My “Three Penny mysteries” lay dormant in a drawer. I considered it at the time to be a three part mystery with colorful characters: a loosey-goosey heroine and bridge director looking for love in all the wrong places, some nutty old folks and my heroine’s beloved bird, Bilgewater, the foul-mouthed fowl, her reprobate from a seaside barroom.
I used to play a lot of Tournament Bridge. In fact I was an ACBL (American Contract Bridge League) duplicate bridge director, the one with the rule book in hand. I used that knowledge to give my character Penny in Kill Fee a hobby while she worked for the EPA (Environmental Protection Association) and solved her first two mysteries.
In 2011, Penny made her debut with Champagne Books. Bilgewater created a splash far greater than that of my Polynesian pretty. Kill Fee received several awards, and in 2012, the last of the series, Medium Rare, appeared: “Fearing one of her coworkers at a local hospice had done the deed, Penny is thrust into yet another mystery, to find the killer of her psychic friend.”
Eventually Daughters of the Sea, now also in paperback, was published by MuseItUp Publishing, an adventurous small press, and the rest is paranormal—fate.
Visit Julie’s Web site at www.books-jepainter.com
Ceci Giltenan’s novel, Highland Solution, came out this September. As if that isn’t lucky enough for all of us, she contributed this delightful story of luck in her own life for my series of Lucky Thirteen stories. I think it’s especially appropriate for the same month we here in the US celebrate Thanksgiving.
It was the summer of 1986 and I had one semester left to finish my BS in nursing. Most of my peers took jobs that summer as aides in nursing facilities to gain experience. Always preferring the fun option, I took a job teaching “hodge podge” at a summer day camp. Hodge podge was exactly what the name implies; crafts, indoor and outdoor games, music, cooking, anything I wanted it to be. Is there a more perfect summer job?
One game that my campers loved was a team version of hide-and-seek that also contained elements of tag. While playing this one afternoon I had a spectacular twisting fall, pulled a muscle and had to go home much earlier than usual to rest and ice my injury. With my feet up, I watched an early edition of the news that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise and saw a story about a nursing shortage at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). What? I didn’t even know the NIH had a hospital but it sounded cool and I decided that was where I wanted to work when I graduated. That fall I applied and was offered a position.
Aside from the fact that it was the most interesting nursing position that I could imagine having, I am where I am today because I worked there. Eventually that job led to one at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), followed by others in the pharmaceutical industry and finally my own consulting firm. However, more importantly, it was through another nurse at the NIH that I met my soul mate, Eamon. We were married over 22 years ago and built a wonderful family together. I have thought back often on what seemed like very bad luck at the time but I couldn’t be more grateful now for that minor injury.
You can find more about Ceci Giltenan’s luck and her work at her website, www.cecigiltenan.com. If you go to her website and tell her you read her story of A Lucky Accident here, she’ll enter you in a contest for a free e-book of Highland Solution!
You can also follow her on Twitter @CeciGiltenan and Facebook (CGiltenan).