Painting Sunsets and Other Changes


Painting done by me following the tutorial by Cinnamon Cooney on Youtube.

Let’s pretend for a minute that I was a painter instead of an author, and that this painting of swirls and leaves was my first book.

This is the painting I went into the world with. This is the painting I found an art dealer with. This is the painting I debuted with. This is the painting everyone knew me for.

I love this painting. The picture is bad (sorry, there’s no natural light in Washington right now). But… I love this painting. I love the colors. I love the way it pops on my wall. I love the blues, and the purples, and the vibrant sunset in the background.

And I want to paint more sunsets.

My literary agent loves this painting too. She loves the touches of bright colors, the intricacy of the leaves, the mix and melange of colors in the swirls.

She wants more swirls.

The TIME AND SHADOWS series is like this painting. It’s a mix of thriller and science fiction. It’s considered quirky because there’s a Hispanic female protagonist who tries not to use a gun, time travel, dogs, and mentions of religion and cloning. It isn’t hard SF and it isn’t Crime Thriller either. It’s a blend of two of my favorite things.

When it came time to write the next book, I struggled to pin down what I wanted. I finally settled on science fiction, and in particular spaceships. I love spaceships. I love cheesy action movies. I love heist movies. I love books like THE STAINLESS STEEL RAT and OFF ROCK, and I wanted to write a fun adventure with spaceships, heists, and wild characters doing zany things. I wanted something fun. I wanted the sunsets.

My agent really loves thrillers. She loved Sam’s intellect, her willingness to stick to things, her curiosity. She wanted more thrillers.

And so, at the end of 2016, my agent and I decided we weren’t moving in the same direction any more.

This is normal. Literary agents have their own career arcs, their own goals, and their own likes and dislikes that change over the years. Authors change over the years. We move between genres, change tones, change focus, quit writing and start again. It is never wrong to grow, change, and set new goals. In fact, it’s really healthy.

So my agent and I parted ways, still friends, and still wishing the best for each other. I still cheer on my former agency siblings. They still cheer me on.

I spent 2017 writing something new, exploring deep space with my band of quixotic rogues, and at the end of 2017 I sent off a query for the first time in four years.

Where does this story end?

I don’t know yet.

The book is out with agents. Some have queries waiting for them. Some have pages to read.

THE DAY BEFORE spent 18 months on query. The first query went out in 2013, a request for pages from a pitch contest. I sent the last query (an R&R to my future agent) in 2014. Signed with my agent in 2014. Sold three books in 2014. Sometimes publishing can move really, really fast. Sometimes it moves very, very slow.

While this book is out I’m working on another one, because that’s how you have a publishing career. You don’t pin all your hopes and dreams on one book. You write a book. You write another book. You keep writing books. Some of them sell, some of them get abandoned. Some of them sell and fade to obscurity. Some of them come out of nowhere to hit the lists. Some of them earn out their advance – and the time you put into them – some don’t. The point is, you don’t know until you write the book and throw it out into the world.

So make like Nora Roberts and keep writing. 🙂

What Do You Do With Rejection Letters (a reprint)

Originally Posted On 6/10/14

I sent my first story out in February and now I have my first rejection. What am I supposed to do with it?
– Rejected and Confused

Dear Confused,
First, congratulations on sending your story out! That’s a big, scary, terrifying, and exhilarating thing to do and I bet you’ve been biting your nails ever since!

And now for the rejection letter… let’s start with the basics.

1) Don’t respond. Unless the agent/editor has asked for a response don’t send anything back, not even a thank you note. I know it seems terribly impolite (especially if the agent/editor has offered advice) but the average publishing in-box has over 100* submissions piling up every hour and a thank you note isn’t going to change anything.

2) Don’t argue. Never in the history of publishing** has a combative email swayed an agent or editor. Most the time the email will wind up being circulated over gin and tonics as Agent Swanky and friends laugh about their near misses with bad clients and consider asking for combat pay because Crazy McAuthorcrazypants has sent them six queries and two death threats today. This actually happens. Don’t be Crazy McAuthorcrazypants.

3) Don’t rant about it. Even if it’s your dream agent. Even if it’s the only editor you will ever love. Even if it’s Tor***. If you’re furious and ready to cry, step away from the computer and phone a friend. Don’t blog, tweet, facebook, instagram, Tumblr, or Vine your reaction to the rejection. You are a fabulous author and this rejection is between you and the agent. The agent will forget about you 2.3 seconds after deleting your query, you should drop it just as fast.

Those are the three cardinal rules of querying. Now, as for what to do with the actual rejection letter… that’s a little more personal.

Some people keep their rejections letters. If I had a rejection letter signed by Janet Reid, let’s be honest, I’d frame it. Janet is one of my all-time favorite agents. I love the advice she gives. I love that we once tweeted to each other about avocados. And if I ever wrote a book in a genre she repped I would query her in a hot second. But I don’t, so I won’t.

Still, if it’s a rejection from your all-time favorite agent (or editor), so ahead and frame it! View it as a mark of accomplishment that you made it through the Plot Bunny Massacre, the Perilous Opening Chapter, the Long Dark of Editing, the Soggy Middle of a Novel, and all the other perils waiting to ensnare and destroy unwary pen monkeys.

You can keep the rejection. Place it in a special folder and look at it as a way to encourage yourself… I’m not actually sure how this works, mind you. But I know authors have shown up at conferences with suitcases full of rejection letters that show that they tried, and they never quit. If that’s your cuppa tea, sweetie, drink it up!

Personally, I delete them. I have an Excel sheet with agents, editors, and agencies so I don’t query twice, and once a response to a query arrives I mark it down and move on.

I do collect royalty checks. I keep them in my writing desk with the a nicely penned VOID across them after I’ve put the money in my bank account. For me, that’s a sign of success. Someone is paying me for my books.

You get to decide what you want to collect and what you want to delete.

Happy writing!

* I made this number up.
** Please note that I don’t have an MFA and this might be a lie.