Judy’s Bumpy Road to Publication….

Hi, all!  Sue has been a blogging/writing friend of mine for a while now.  I admire her work, so when she asked me to write a guest blog about my publishing journey, I squirmed, because I’m sure NO ONE has taken more detours and taken as long as I have along the way.  But then again, maybe some of you have war stories, too.  So here it is—my long and twisting road to publishing.

 

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My Bumpy Road to Publishing

I started writing long enough ago that a writer could put a finished manuscript in a BIG envelope, add an SASE and a cover letter, and send it off to an editor.  That was in the days of smaller publishing houses, before they were gobbled up by bigger companies.  You didn’t have to have an agent to submit.  And if an editor saw any promise in you, he/she would make a comment on your rejection slip.  More magazines/editors bought short stories, too, so an author could gain some name recognition writing those.  Things have changed since then.

In some ways, it’s easier to get published these days.  A writer can self-publish if he’s willing to put in the time and effort to write, edit, buy covers, and market.  The trick is getting readers to find you in the vast sea of other writers.  You can’t submit to a big publisher without an agent, and agents are hard to get, but authors can reach them through pitch wars on twitter and get feedback faster than before.  They can find writing advice at the click of a key. If they don’t want to bother with agents, some authors choose small publishers.  In truth, though, writing has never been easy.  No art is. 

I started by writing short stories.  At first, I sold to small magazines and often was paid in copies.  Each sale—even if it was to a magazine no one had ever heard of—boosted my morale.  They kept my dream afloat.  Eventually, I sold to magazines who offered me 1 cent a word, and then I started selling to bigger markets.  I was in two WomanSleuth anthologies and a few Barnes & Noble anthologies, and then made it into Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock mystery magazines—no easy feat.

I decided to try to write longer fiction.  I sold my first novella GOURMET KILLINGS (20,000 words) to a small publisher that bought a second one, and then went out of business.  I wrote three cozy novels that editors loved, but wouldn’t buy, explaining that they loved my writing and the stories, but that no one was buying cozies—they were considered “dead.”   Markets do that.  When a “trend” takes off, every publisher scrambles to find similar books, and then the market gets glutted and dies for a while.  One editor asked if I’d send her a serial killer mystery, so I wrote one—it took me a year—and sent it, and by then, the market was dead.  She apologized, but the word had come down—no more serial killers.  Lesson:  Beware of writing to trends. 

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I sort of liked writing darker, though, so wrote a YA dark fantasy and sent it to Zebra (I think.  It was a long time ago).  They’d started publishing YA horror back then, and the editor was excited about my book and asked to hold it for a year, because if the horror line went over well, they were going to start dark fantasy next.  I waited and waited.  A year and a half later, I asked about my manuscript, and she’d lost it.  The horror line fizzled, and she’d moved on to something else.  Lesson:  Don’t take rejections, etc. personally.  You can write a great book, but there are so many things outside your control, part of getting published is just luck.

I wrote one more dark fantasy (adult this time) just for the fun of it.  It was so off-beat, editors passed it around in their offices for others to read, but wrote me back that they’d have NO idea how to market it.  And that’s the next big Lesson:  Marketing matters.  If a publisher doesn’t know where to put your book on the shelves, it’s a problem.

 

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One editor who really liked it, though, asked if I’d be willing to send her an urban fantasy.  I had no idea what urban fantasy was.  I told her I’d try it if she defined it for me.  She sent a list of what she wanted, and I sent her a novel.  That first try was a miss, so she sent me lots of notes, and I tried again.  That was close, so I sent a third—and she loved it.  She took it to the table to pitch and told me to keep my fingers crossed, BUT it got shot down.  Another editor had recently bought a novel that used Tarot cards for the supernatural element, and the sales team didn’t think they could pitch two Tarot novels at the same time.  Just goes to show you.  Lesson Reinforced:  Success or rejection often doesn’t have a thing to do with your writing. 

 

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A week after that, my editor left Tor to pursue something else.  And that’s when real life interfered with my writing.  So many things happened at home, writing was the last thing on my mind.  I threw manuscripts and lists of places I wanted to send to in a drawer for a few years.  Lesson:  Life can interfere.  And that’s all right.

When the dust finally settled, I sat at my computer again.  And guess what?  Writing is sort of like riding a bicycle.  You remember the basics.  I wrote a “soft” paranormal because that’s what had been bouncing around in my head for a while, and sent it to agents because I’d lost track of what was going on in publishing.  And an agent wanted it.  Not just any agent, but a really good one.  Now, I’d had two agents before, and that was a Lesson, too:  A bad agent is worse than no agent.  Just because you have an agent doesn’t mean you’ll get a contract.  Agents only know so many editors, and when they send your manuscript to the ones they know, and none of them want it, your manuscript is done.

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Book 4

Even my top agent couldn’t sell my paranormal.  The market was shrinking.  Urban fantasy and paranormal had hit big, and it was on the downswing.  I wanted to try them online, and she wasn’t happy about it, but let me.  Dystel and Goderich formatted them and put them up.  I did everything else.  But my agent really wanted me to find a traditional publisher, so asked if I could write romance.  I’d never tried.  I pretty much thought I’d suck at it.  But she asked me to give it a try, so I did.  And Kensington bought it for their e-books line.  I had a three-book contract for my Mill Pond romances under a pseudonym: Judi Lynn.  Then I signed for three more.  My editor liked my books and thought I’d be good at mysteries😊  He asked if I’d like to write three more romances for him or try my hand at mysteries.  I’d started in mysteries, so that’s what I’m working on now.  I’d taken an up-and-down path full circle.

 

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Book 5

If you’ve counted all of the books that I’ve written that didn’t sell, all the years I sold just enough to help me hang in there, it’s been a LONG journey.  Frustrating over and over again, but I’m hooked on writing.  And I kept coming close over and over again—always a tease to keep hitting the keys.  I think I’m good at it.  I’ve listened to lots and lots of people tell new writers, “Write a good book, and eventually, you’ll sell.”  I don’t completely agree.  I’ve written books that were good enough to find agents and editors, that didn’t go anywhere.  BUT I was never smart about marketing.  I only thought I was.  I concentrated on the writing, the words, making them better.  That’s not always enough.

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If you want to write just to write. DO IT.  If you want to put your book on Amazon and look at it and smile, DO THAT, TOO.  And enjoy it.  If you want to sell and have a career, BE SMART.  You can do it, but the stars only shine on a few people to make them overnight sensations.  The rest of us have to work at it.

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Thanks for visiting, Judy/Judi! If you’d like to learn more about her books, here is her contact information. I encourage you all to support a fellow writer. She’s amazing and her books offer a great read!

Twitter:  @judypost
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giving a shout out and a little love…

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My dear friend and fellow blogger AshiAkira is publishing a book of his wonderful haiku poems. I met him seven years ago when I was a baby blogger. All those years and he’s never stopped writing and sharing his amazing gift. And now I’m happy to give a shout-out and highlight his upcoming launch. Please look for purchasing details at the end of this post.

And now, let me introduce AshiAkira, using his own words. Because, well, he says it best!

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I became interested in writing haiku poems originally in English after I turned seventy.

Born in Tokyo in 1938, I went to the United States for study after graduating from a Tokyo metropolitan senior high school in 1957.

After returning to Japan from the United States in 1963, I worked for a news agency as an English reporter, thus continuing the use of the English language I had learned in the previous years in America. After reaching the mandatory retirement age of sixty with the news agency in 1998, I continued to work for its subsidiaries taking charge of correspondence and translation, thus further continuing to make use of my English skills.

When I reached the age of seventy, I fully retired from all the chores of work to make a living and decided to live on a pension alone. My income then drastically went down, but in return, I gained enough leisure to do whatever I wanted, and I chose to spend the remaining years of my life in writing novels, short stories, poems, or anything I found myself interested in.

I then noticed on the internet that haiku writing was gaining considerable popularity in many countries outside Japan. I didn’t have much knowledge of haiku writing above the common sense level of a person born and raised in Japan, where saying things in the haiku rhythm penetrates through people’s lives. But I felt something amiss about many of the haikus written by non-Japanese writers, and I thought it would be interesting to write haikus directly in English.

When I told a friend of mine that I’d try to write haikus in English, he introduced me to a member of the haiku-writing club of a famous university in Tokyo. The haiku writer apparently discussed my plan with other members of the club, and he told me it was utterly impossible to write haikus in English or in any other language than Japanese. He said that I should first train myself to write in Japanese until I became familiar with traditional haiku writing. He said he resented so many non-Japanese poems that are claimed to be haikus simply because they are short and broken into three lines. He said many Japanese haiku writers feel the word haiku should not be used for the non-Japanese three-line poems.

I know it’s said that “poetry is what gets lost in translation,” but I also believe that the prosody is not all there is to poetry. Having been born into and grown up in the haiku-writing culture, I feel there is something in the core of haiku that can be retained in whatever language it is written.

I decided to call what I would write haiku poems, meaning haiku-style poems, instead of haiku to avoid hurting the feeling of the haiku experts as much as possible. I also decided to throw away all rules and tradition about the haiku writing except two basic ones, namely the five-seven-five syllables—rhythm—and its connection with nature, without which a haiku cannot be a haiku.

The Japanese language, when it’s spoken in five and seven syllables, gives to the Japanese ear a pleasant rhythm. I believe this stems from the fact that Japanese is always pronounced in combination of a consonant and a vowel or in a vowel independent of consonant clusters. It is also because Japanese is pronounced with the tone accent rather than the stress accent, like that of English.

For hundreds of years, saying things in the five-seven-five syllables was popular among the Japanese people, and it was called haikai. Several people might get together for a party where they would compose the haikai, mainly jokes to throw at each other or allusive sarcasm against corrupt or oppressive officials of the feudal rule that lasted until nineteenth century.

It was Matsuo Basho who made the revolutionary achievement of writing poems of artistic value in the haikai form in the seventeenth century. There was no such a word as haiku in Basho’s days. It was not until about two hundred years after his death that the writers of artistic haikai began to call their works haiku to distinguish them as an art from jokes or allusively ironic pieces which then began to be called senryu or kyoka, respectively.

The counting of syllables in an English word varies from speaker to speaker. The word poem pronounced by some English speakers, for instance, sounds like a one-syllable word or by others as a two syllable word. The word poet, however, is pronounced almost always as a two-syllable word. Thus, the haiku poems I write in English often follow the five-seven-five syllable rule loosely.

Connection with nature is another basic core tradition in the haiku writing. The reason for this would no doubt call for heated discussion by experts. But as a full-blooded Japanese who received more education outside Japan than at home, I must ask for others’ permission to say that the haiku artists feel that nature is the ultimate ruler of all living things deserving our due respect. We all came into this world by the natural power in disregard of our own will. And in most of the cases, we leave this world when the time for each individual to do so comes. Before nature we are powerless. We don’t know what nature is as we don’t know what life is. But we can have a glimpse of what happens in nature as its work. For example, the blooming of flowers and birds flying and chirping are works of nature. By catching a glimpse of nature’s work, only a momentary spark, and jotting it down in words as a reflection of our mind, we may get closer to knowing it. The five-seven-five-syllable poem, or close to it in any language, is a handy form of poetry to capture the works of nature when noticed. Doing so could be a way to bring the unseen power of nature into the human consciousness.

I have written around two thousand haiku poems in nearly a decade, and I have randomly selected and edited 496 of them for this publication. I plan to publish all the rest of them, in addition to other forms of poems I have also written, in the future.

Finally, since so much must be squeezed into the seventeen syllables, I take full advantage of poetic license to disregard grammar or any rule of the language. Since I intend my haiku poems to appeal directly to the imagination of the readers through words only, the use of pictures or illustrations is avoided. And like any other form of poetry, each haiku poem, although it’s so short, is meant to be independent. I would be honored if the readers read them as such.

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AshiAkira’s book will go into full global distribution networks, including Amazon.com and BN.com in the next 6-8 weeks. For the time being the book can be purchased directly from Lulu, and the link to the page for the purchase is:  http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/haiku-poems/20836642

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m back…

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So, I haven’t been around for a while. Sorry. But it seemed a good idea to launch an author page and claim ownership of this crazy thing called a social platform.

Some of you know, I moved over to Weebly. Which worked out pretty well for the first year or so. And then Weebly was hacked and off went my private contact information into that vast expanse of internet, all for sale to any blackheart with a few bucks in their wallet.

I know this because a) Weebly sent me an email notifying me of the hack and would I please change my password? and b) I received a call from a complete stranger about a month ago who wanted to know if I’d like to go into business with him. The call went something like this:

“Hi, Sue. This is Chris. I’m reaching out to see if you’re interested in looking into a business venture.”

Me, sucking in a breath so I don’t explode. I need to keep this creep on the phone long enough to glean some info. “Wow. A cold call,” I say through gritted teeth. “You’re pretty brave. But, um, how do you know me?”

“I don’t, actually…” The guy chuckles. “You must’ve had a website, right? I kind of used a service that scrapes the internet.”

I won’t bore you with the details. The conversation lingered long enough for me to learn he not only had my name, my cell number and where I lived, but he mentioned he saw me on Facebook.

We rang off, but not before I got his full name, which I then used to scope him out on Facebook. Unbelievable. There he was, all smiles, with pics of his wife and kids hanging out like it was no big deal.

No big deal to buy hacked information, then have the nerve to call those people and ask if they’re interested in going into business? Really. People can be that stupid?

The short of it is this: I let my website idle. Tumbleweeds roll across the screen as the date of my last post grows more and more distant. And what of this website? What did it do for me over the past year except expose me to the world, and not in a good way? I got views, often hundreds in one day, but not one comment, except… and this is important… from friends I’d made on WordPress. 

WordPress was my original home and here I’ll stay. I’ve missed you guys. I can’t wait to read and follow and like and comment… ah well.

It’s nice to be back.

hugs,

Sue

a dozen tiny questions for you…

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image credits: pixabay.com

What do you need today? Someone to affirm what you’ve written has value? Someone to acknowledge there’s room for you in this vast, crowded published world?

Someone to affirm what you’ve written has value? Someone to acknowledge there’s room for you in this vast, crowded published world?

A single person to smile and say, keep going–I believe in you?

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What do you need today? Time to write? Emotional space to clear the clutter and receive those words from your inner muse?

Time to write? Emotional space to clear the clutter and receive those words from your inner muse?

A loved one to take on daily tasks, freeing you to sit and create?

 

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What do you need today?

Are you wrestling with words, trying to shape them into something coherent? Can you calm the inner editor and allow the words to flow?

Is there someone who’s familiar with your story who can help?

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I want you to know,  I feel your frustrations and celebrate your successes. I’m on this journey with you. 

I wish you all inspiration-

Sue