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.
Lucky to be Published
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!
On the thirteenth of each month, I host a guest blogger (or write a piece myself) about the role luck plays in writing, and in life. This month’s planned guest blogger needed to reschedule. She’s dealing with a young son who has a serious illness.
Two nights ago, I ran into a friend who had just lost his teenage son to an apparent suicide. And the day after that, my mother helped move her beloved husband of the last four years to a care facility, as his brain tumor makes it impossible for her to continue to care for him at their home.
So in their honor, I’m giving this month’s lucky blog (and my contribution to the Writers’ Vineyard, since they fall on the same day) over to a plea to us all to cherish each moment we have with those we love.
After all, as writers and as humans, being given someone to love is the best luck we can have.
I’m thrilled to welcome Celia Breslin, author of urban-fantasy-romance Haven, to our lucky 13 series. Apropos to the month of March, when we celebrate all things Irish, Celia’s contribution includes her Irish grandmother. Perhaps there is no greater luck in life than to have a wise grandmother to share tales and treats. Celia lives in California with her husband, daughter, and two feisty cats. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and has a particular fondness for vampires and the Fae. When not writing, you’ll find her exercising, reading a good book or indulging her addiction to Joss Whedon’s TV shows and movies.
“Luck of the Irish”
by Celia Breslin
When Liz asked me to pen a little something on how luck helped me along as a writer, the very first thing–or rather person–my brain landed upon was my grandmother.
When I was a kid, my parents worked long hours, so I spent a ton of time with my grandparents, particularly my Irish grandmother. Most every day, she would bake up some Irish treats and tell me stories of the Fae. Loaded up with sugary goodness, I’d listen with rapt attention as she knitted and told me wild tales of fairies and sprites, goblins and brownies and more… Imagination fueled, I wrote a lot of fairy tales during my younger years and kept on writing to this day.
San Francisco nightclub owner Carina Tranquilli works hard, plays hard, and never allows the death of her parents and her twelve-year memory gap to get her down. But her life takes a left turn when a witch attacks her on her twenty-fifth birthday.
Three hauntingly familiar vampires emerge to reveal she possesses a latent power. To protect her from their enemies, they admit to wiping her memories clean and abandoning her as a child, but now they need her help. As she struggles to evade her new protectors and even newer enemies, she meets Alexander, an enigmatic, undead musician. Insta-lust flares, leaving her wanting more.
With evil’s minions hounding her every move, and everything she thought she knew turned on its head, Carina must harness her burgeoning power, unravel her vampire family’s web of deceit, and fight to have a love life…without getting killed in the process.
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.
Fate: Three coins in the “Fate-train”, and how I ignored them for 15 years.
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.
We’ve another lucky Friday the 13th this month, and I count myself very lucky to host a piece from romance writer Jill Blair. She tells the story of luck found in an old email – and don’t we all save old email way too long, or so the efficiency experts tell us? Not Jill. She knows the possibilities hidden there.
As an author and avid reader of sensual romance and erotica, Jill Blair believes the two greatest pleasures in life are sex and travel, attributing her happy marriage and vivid imagination to the generous combination of both. The proud mother of two grown boys, she’s enjoyed a colorful variety of jobs–mother, waitress, bartender, restaurateur, entrepreneur, University student, petroleum chemist, and several in-betweens—all serving as building blocks (and storylines) for her lifelong dream of writing and publishing romance novels. Originally from Canton, Ohio, Jill’s parents uprooted her to sunny Southern California where surfing was a high school requirement and scuba diving became an adulthood passion. She still resides in California with her incredible husband, the inspiration for all her heroes.
The Luck in Being an Email Pack Rat
Luck alone didn’t bring me all the good things in my life…but it sure did help me get to where I wanted to be as an author a lot quicker. My good luck story started in the beginning of 2012.
Actually, the root of the story started many years earlier when I sat down at my typewriter (wait, what’s a typewriter?) and decided I wanted to become a romance novelist. That first novel took years to write. Interruptions of marriage, children, divorce, college, and career sidelined the book until about four years ago. With my life well settled in a second – and much happier – marriage, and my two boys grown and on their own, I picked up the beginning chapters of that old manuscript and finished it.
After sending it off to Harlequin, anticipating my instant success, I began my second book. And then my third. The letters of rejection (several for each book) did not dissuade me…much… and I kept on writing. I told almost no one of my pursuit. My husband and my best friend were my only cohorts. And as time passed, I continued to write but publishing melted into the background.
Then I lucked upon an old email (I save them all) from Romance Writers of America. I had joined them when I finished that first book, and let my membership lapse when adding my membership status to query letters didn’t magically bring me that coveted publishing contract.
I hadn’t thought about RWA for months but decided to click the link to their site. I noticed that the 2012 National Conference was scheduled in Anaheim California. I couldn’t believe my luck, the Nationals were right in my back yard. I took that as an omen and an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I joined RWA and registered to go.
Having both a finished manuscript and a rejection letter under my belt, I qualified for PRO and gained access to their mail list. For the first time I had access to writers like me, and writers who knew more than me. Then another member shared information about a contest with Champagne Book Group. I had never heard of that publisher, or any publisher other than Harlequin. I submitted one of my short erotic stories and that was the lucky moment that changed everything.
Let me sidetrack a bit. If you haven’t been to a RWA Conference, I highly recommend it. Attending the RWA National Conference was both terrifying and exciting. I was publicly stating I wrote romance. That was scary. I met wonderful writers, authors, editors, and agents that were encouraging and honest. That was exciting. I pitched both The Depth of Desire and The 30-Day Gamble to Harlequin editors. Both asked for chapters. That was thrilling. I was proud to be among my peers, a writer, and ready to announce it to the world.
So when I received notice that my erotic story – MY STORY — won the Champagne contest and prize was a contract to publish, I was ready to grab that brass ring and run. My editor was brutal and I learned so much about the evils of passive writing and adverbs from her. I know my writing is better because of her.
Since then, I have published a second erotic story (under a pseudonym, of course) and three steamy full-length romances under my real name, Jill Blair. Both Champagne and Bookstrand Publishing have treated me well, the editors have been both ferocious and supportive, and I look forward to years of writing and publishing.