Lucky 13: The Power of Persistence with Audra Middleton

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.

Watcher Ecover

Abomination Ecover
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!

~*~

You can find out more about Audra and her books at her website or her Facebook page.

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Savvy Authors: Small Press, Big Rewards

Here’s an excerpt from my recent contribution to the Savvy Authors blog, a little bit of a thing about working with a small press. (Last week, when it came out, I was puppy-sitting a small dog. Small puppy, big distraction!)

I remember the moment I opened the email that held within its deceptively simple pixellated words the phrase “contract offer.” I squealed like a little girl who just won the biggest, fluffiest, pinkest stuffed pony at the circus midway. Moments of suspense passed heavily for my boyfriend, who could not understand the meaning behind my squealing. “Is everyone okay? Is it bad news? Are you all right? Do you need the Heimlich? How many fingers am I holding up?” He tried everything until I calmed down enough to explain I’d just been offered a contract to publish my first novel.

Read the whole post here. 

A good day starts with “what if…?”

A story starts with an idea. An idea that usually comes in the form of a question:

“What if…?”

  • What if misfits here on Earth turned out to be beings from other planets, all trying to figure out how to fit in?
  • What if alien CEO’s were just as incompetent as many Earth bosses?
  • What if dogs really are from Mars?

These ideas gave shape to An Alien’s Guide to World Domination; the book release party we threw in Ellensburg last weekend gave shape to even more.

  • What if no one shows up?
  • What if everyone shows up?
  • What if we don’t have enough cookies?

Well, over one hundred people did show up for the party, and while we didn’t run out of cookies, all the other food was pretty much decimated. There’s some leftover bottled water and white grape juice in my refrigerator, and a small pile of tote bags that survived the give-away frenzy.

It was a good day.

Of those one-hundred-plus people, a sizeable number were friends and family. So many pitched in to make the event special: they brought food, organized tables, set up equipment for the live bands, made sure there were enough chairs, but not too many, so folks would dance and circulate. When the music kicked in, only about half an hour after our scheduled start time, everyone was ready to celebrate.

Especially me. My fella and his crew made sure all I really had to do that day was a) avoid losing my mind while waiting for the event to begin and then b) show up, greet people, and read. Here’s what else I got to do:

  • See my big brother and my fella and their band, the Panindias Brothers, play their best performance ever;
  • Dance while my friends in Avolition sang and played and (I think) kinda rolled their eyes but I didn’t care;
  • Embarrass my cousin’s grown son by making him dance with me;
  • Witness families reunite, friends reconnect, and strangers warm to a smile;
  • Tell a hundred people that the most important theme in this book is simply this: “But, you tried anyway.”

That’s what we do, isn’t it? We try anyway; knowing that most of life is filled with the completely absurd and nearly impossible, we try anyway, like the characters in this book do. Whatever our color, even if it’s the color of lime Jell-O ™ gone horribly wrong, we just try anyway.

And every once in a while, we swing for the bleachers in left field, and hit one out of the park.

Like the book party day. So remember: never stop asking.

“What if… ?”

Thank you to: Running Bear Productions, the Panindias Brothers, Avolition, Pat Dybvig, Sadie Thayer, the Board of the Kittitas County Historical Museum, Dan Pellegrini, Mark Fountain, Deanna Edinger, Jorge Rivera, Jay Naugel, Mike Nelson, Mike Hougardy, Dan Leavitt, Andy Cleman, Rob Fraser, Curtis Bull, Guillermo DeHollander, Rocky Hively, Robin Fischer, Bluebird Song, Running Cloud, Mr & Mrs Pellegrini, Nancy Jones, Lori & Sean Peterson, Jimmy & Sue Boyd, Dino, Kyle, & Karalyn Pellegrini & her Jimmy & Kara, the entire Rivera clan, the little girl with Converse high tops with rainbow shoelaces, Sandy & her dad Bob, Mike & Deb Andring & kids, Brian (Sporkalicious) Fischer, Mari & the Gangalanka Boys, Mitch Cook & the Dakota Café, Theresa & Tim, Mitch & Deb Perry, Bob & Molly Pieters, Mary & Tom Mara, Jeannette & Craig Simonton,  several people whose names I don’t know, everyone at Champagne Book Group; and, finally, to Charlie, the original Blind Mini-Schnauzer from Mars who inspired the “what if…?” that began this joy ride.

PS. If I left you out of the thank-you list, yell at me in a comment on this post and I’ll add you right in.

Guest Blog on Long & Short Reviews

Thanks to the lovely people who love books at Long and Short Reviews for featuring my guest blog this week! Here’s a taste, and look for the giveaway at the end…

Fiction: More Real Than Reality

I woke up from a dream, a dream of two people conversing on a bridge. One said to the other: Will you be my chosen brother? And the second responded: Only if you’ll be my chosen sister.

In the dream, these two people were not of this world – they were from another planet.

Read more here.

 

An Alien’s Guide to World Domination: Launch Day!

First, the thank-yous.

To J. Ellen Smith, owner and publisher of Champagne Book Group, and Judy Griffith Gill, for seeing the potential in this story and being willing to support it. To author liaison Kat Hall for all her answers. To editor Virg Nelson for adding encouraging notes where the story made her giggle, even while she questioned every had, said, was, semi-colon, and em-dash in the manuscript. They all showed infinite patience with my learning curve. And to the whole Champagne Book Group family, editors and fellow authors, who are unflagging in their support for a newbie.

To Richard Hugo House in Seattle, where I learned about craft, met terrific fellow writers, and learned the joys of reading my work to an audience.

To the friends and family who encouraged every step and who let me hear them cheer out loud. There are too many of you to mention by name, and if you don’t already know who you are, shame on me.

And to the real Buddy, aka Charlie the blind mini-Schnauzer from Mars, who saved my life lots more than twice.  To the love of all the Martians – er, dogs who take care of us even when we don’t deserve them.

Next, the disclaimers.

If you know me, and think you see yourself in one of the characters in this book: if it seems to show the best of who you are, you’re right. If not, then remember, this is fiction.  If you think you see someone else you know in a character, remember – this is fiction.

If you think your teenager would like this book: read it yourself first. It has some rough language, (not too graphic) violence, and many descriptions of human failings. It’s probably not for anyone younger than teens.

Finally, the heart of the story.

This is a tale of people who keep trying to do what they know is impossible. They try anyway. Whether they are humans, aliens the color of bad lime Jell-O ™, or dogs from Mars, they try anyway. At one point or another, they want to give up. That’s when they need each other the most.

I like to say this book is for anyone who’s ever looked at your boss and thought: you must be from another planet. (In other words, everyone.) But it’s also for anyone who’s ever faced the impossible head-on, and thought I can’t do this, only to find you can. (In other words, everyone.)

Now I hand this one off to you, readers, with the great and probably impossible hope that you will enjoy the ride of An Alien’s Guide to World Domination as much as I have.

Cover art for "An Alien's Guide to World Domination": Green alien with goofy grin waving at flying saucer.
An Alien’s Guide – ready for release on April 1 – click the image to buy the book!