March 16, 2012
A Writer's Journey
I’ve always been blessed―and possibly cursed―with an overactive imagination. It may have spawned from all the ghost stories my father told me as a child . . . usually right before bed. Thanks, Pop. The glow-in-the-dark vampire fangs he wore to kiss me good night might have also played a part, but I can’t be sure. Whatever the cause, my imagination has always run amuck, usually beyond my control, usually at some inopportune moment, like during an important exam or job interview. And yet I never found a creative outlet for it until just a few years back. Here is my story:
WEIRD GIRLS originally came from a dream. I envisioned four close girlfriends, coming down ropes a-la-commando style into a New York City loft where their four, hunky, werewolf (I love werewolves) boyfriends waited―supposedly to be rescued because one girl sensed they were in danger. They weren’t. In fact they were hanging out talking, while one of them thrummed a guitar. I specifically remember the guitar.
I decided this would be a good starting point for a story. However, I didn’t like the New York City locale. Wolves, after all, need a place to roam and hunt. After toying with several locations, I fell in love with Lake Tahoe. As I started developing my Weird Girls, I realized just how different they all were. While I could see Shayna’s character befriending everyone, I couldn’t necessarily see the rest befriending each other. They needed to share a bond. They needed to be sisters.
To strengthen their sisterly bond, the girls experienced family tragedy and hardships. Throw in a backfired curse to grant them unique powers, make them different from anything and anyone who exists on earth, and voila, the Weird Girls were born. Most people have long-lasting friendships. These girls only ever had each other.
So I wrote Book One from May 1st to June 3rd, 2009. I handed pages to my husband, Jamie, as I finished them. I remember when he told me, “This is going to get published.”
I crinkled my nose, not sure if he meant it. “Really?”
“Oh, yeah,” he answered.
When I finished the book, it was 60,000 words. It had witches, demons, demon lords, vampires, werewolves, bloodlust, kidnapping, fights, body fluids, guts, sex, romance, heartbreak―it had it all. And I thought for sure, next to the bible, it was the greatest book ever written.
Then, I went back and read it. And I realized I wouldn’t wipe my butt with it.
My author friend, and mentor, Susan Griner, took a look at it . . . and told me everything that was wrong with it. So I rewrote. And rewrote. And rewrote some more. And finally I was ready to submit. So I Googled a few agents and publishers who I knew would just be sucker-punching each other to get a hold of my novel. However, I was a little confused by their requirements.
“SASE? What the hell is a SASE?” Panic spread, numbing me instantly. “I don’t have one of those. Can I buy one at Costco?”
“Self-addressed stamped envelope,” Susan explained patiently.
“Oh! I can get one of those! So what’s a query letter?”
My first queries were pathetic and went something like this: Hi. My name is Cecy. My favorite color is blue. I like puppies.
Okay, maybe they weren’t that bad. But they were darn close.
So I started to submit. I have to say, the first thirty rejections hurt. After a while they didn’t sting so badly. Along the way, I worked harder and harder on mastering queries. And I wrote Weird Girls Two, and Three, along with a spin-off novel, and three short stories.
Guess what? Some agents started requesting pages. When they passed and failed to request the full manuscript, I knew it was no longer my query that needed help, but rather my writing. I contacted Michael Garrett of writing2sell.com. He agreed to take on my manuscript for a modest fee. He was fast. He was thorough. He was honest.
Mike sent my novel back fairly quickly . . . along with a twelve-page, single-spaced email about everything that was wrong with my manuscript, but more importantly, how to fix it. He told me to prepare for a major rewrite. And did I ever.
A word of warning: not all editors are legit “book doctors.” Use caution and do your research if you choose to hire one.
When I was done, I sent it to my dear friend and former housemate, Valerie (McMullen) Secker to edit. Val had once edited senatorial speeches in D.C. Go, Val! We edited, and edited, and edited some more. Sometime during this period, I turned the big 4-0. Jamie’s gift was a trip back East to see family and friends―and, oh, yeah, a New York writers’ conference. My first conference, a year earlier, hadn’t gone so well―lots of requests for the manuscript, but ultimately twelve rejections.
I finished the edits for Weird Girls, Book One, took one of Mike Garrett’s online writing courses, and off I went to Backspace Writer’s Conference. The first day, I sat next to a nice woman while blowing my nose like a mother elephant calling her calf.
“Allergies?” she asked, politely.
“No,” I replied. “I just have a really bad cold.” I was horribly sick, but she was being friendly, so I decided to be nice. “So, what do you write?”
The heavens parted and the angels sang when she smiled. “Actually, I’m an agent.”
The agent was Nicole Resciniti. I told her I’d written an Urban Fantasy Series. She escorted me to “The Agent’s Lounge,” where I pitched to her while about twenty agents looked on. No, I wasn’t terrified or anything.
Nicole requested the full manuscript and promised to read it over the weekend. That was Thursday. Jamie and I spent most of the night via email throwing the synopses for Books Two and Three together, which Val graciously edited the following morning. I missed most of Friday morning’s sessions to get the novel and synopses to Nicole. It paid off. Later that afternoon, Nicole sent me an email. She was half-way through Weird Girls and loved it (insert tears of shock and joy here). Nicole, who would become my beloved agent and friend, signed me that Sunday.
After four more rounds of complete book edits with Nicole, Weird Girls went on submission in July 2011. In August, an editor from Penguin showed interest. While I didn’t get an offer, I did get an opportunity. “Too much happens in Book One,” said the editor. “I think you should take the first three chapters of the book and make that into your novel.”
It took me several months to write the new Book One. It also took lots of crying and trips to YouTube to watch sinfully bad 80’s videos. Don’t judge me. It’s how I cope.
After a few more rounds of edits with Nicole, it went back to the editor. On February 29th, 2012, Nicole called to ask me how I liked the mascara she’d given me. I told her I loved it and we chatted about what a great product it is. Then she mentioned my three-book offer from Penguin. After a few seconds of stunned silence, the OMGs started―followed quickly by the oh sh!ts!
Less than three years of writing, and more than seventy-five rejections later, my baby found a home. Moral of my story? “Keep writing. Keep editing. Keep going,” I say, wearing vampire fangs.