Captain’s Log, Stardate 03.29.2006
I had a wonderfully funny blog post planned for today, but I got sidetracked by some news yesterday!
Zondervan has offered me a three-book contract on my Asian chick-lit series! I’m still stunned by everything that’s happened.
The series is actually a 4-book projected Asian chick-lit series about four cousins who fall under the infamous family title "Oldest Single Female Cousin," and their ruthless, wealthy grandma applies pressure on each of them to improve their lack of love interests. I think the first book is tentatively scheduled to be released in August 2007.
The blurb on the series is on my website here.
Brandilyn Collins posted to the ACFW loop about my writing journey, and Tamara Cooper asked that I share it. And since you all know how much I like to talk, here it is.
My writing journey:
Like most writers, I have wanted to write since I was very young. (In high school, I wrote a fantasy novel that will never see the light of day again. Hopefully my parents will never want to blackmail me for some reason.)
However, God rebuked my attitude about my writing. I was more interested in seeing my name on a book cover than in glorifying Him. And then He told me to set it down.
Ooooh, you can imagine the fireworks when He told me that. That’s like asking a reader not to read, or a child not to play with toys. I will spare you the gory details of that particular war. Eventually, I did lay it down. And I never wrote another story all through college and the years afterward.
In December 2002, I was laid off from my biotech job. It was unexpected, but I had a great severance package (this was the height of the boom in Silicon Valley) and I spent the next 10 months blissfully denying the fact I had to work again at some point.
During my sabbatical, God impressed on me His approval again for my writing. Boy, don’t need to tell me twice! Plus now I had tons of time to do it.
The first thing I did was search the web for how to write. I joined ACFW in late 2003 and started soaking up information from the e-mail discussion loop. I joined a critique group and read all the archived workshops.
I started my first book since that horrendous fantasy from my teen years. This time I chose a romance novel, which eventually morphed into a chick-lit because I discovered I’d rather tell a story all about the girl. LOL.
Originally, my manuscript THE CORINTHIAN RULES was a stand-alone story with Caucasian characters, but I felt God telling me to consider another option. I don’t quite remember when I decided to switch the characters to Asian characters, but at the time it was a real risk, since there were no multicultural characters being published in the CBA. THE CORINTHIAN RULES became the first book of a four-book series called Single Sushi.
I read TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER by Dwight Swain (I swear, this was before I ever knew Randy Ingermanson) and it completely changed my writing. Then I discovered this pesky Snowflake writing method and realized I was a die-hard plotter.
In the meantime, I went back to work (blech) at a biotech company.
In March 2004, I went to the Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference, my first writing conference ever, where I met Sharon Hinck, Meredith Efken and Marilynn Griffith. These women played a very significant part of my writing journey that year.
Sharon became my online writing mentor. Meredith was my conference “mentor” technically for the ACFW conference in Denver later that year, but she mentored me for Mt. Hermon since that was sooner. Mary both encouraged me and invited me to participate in a chick-lit anthology idea, as well as sucking me into WordPraize and FaithChick.
I met a ton of other people there, including Brandilyn Collins, who recognized me in the lunch line as the Asian girl with the ponytail. Kristin Billerbeck and Laura Jensen Walker encouraged me to consider chick-lit, and Randy Ingermanson was just this weird physicist who taught Fiction 101 with Brandilyn. I also met Donna Fleisher, who had that weekend been offered a contract with Zondervan when she submitted her manuscript WOUNDED HEALER to the Mt. Hermon editorial review.
The highlight of Mt. Hermon that year was when Jenny Baumgartner gave me a very kind critique (not just review) of THE CORINTHIAN RULES, and suggested SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Browne and Dave King. That book bumped my writing up to the next level, and Sharon Hinck critiqued my manuscript during the next few months.
I met my three friends Pamela James, Heather Tipton and Cheryl Wyatt through the Steeple Hill discussion boards and the ACFW loop. We have prayed for and encouraged each other ever since.
Before I had revised it with Sharon, I had entered THE CORINTHIAN RULES in the ACRW Noble Theme contest that year (2004), and it completely bombed.
I attended the ACRW/ACFW 2004 conference in Denver, Colorado, and it truly changed my life. The workshops were phenomenal. I met editors, agents, authors, and writers.
One very significant part of that conference was that Sue Brower, the Zondervan Marketing Director, attended and took appointments. I met with her and she must have liked me despite my messing up my pitch right in the middle of it and feeling like a complete goober while I talked to her. She requested THE CORINTHIAN RULES (although now, looking back, I really wonder why), which she said she would send to the acquisitions editors.
And the Fab Four was prayed over by Brandilyn Collins.
Brandilyn gave us that name. We went into the prayer room the last day of the conference, because Cheryl wanted prayer for her painful hip. Brandilyn ended up praying for all of us. For me, she affirmed my decision to “write my heritage”—my Asian characters—even though I hadn’t even told her about my concern about it, and there still wasn’t much of a market for multicultural characters in the CBA, much less a multicultural chick-lit. (Other authors like Mary Griffith would break ground in that area in the coming year.)
I queried agent #1 who eventually signed me on as a client, but when he shopped a significantly revised CORINTHIAN RULES, it got a resounding NO from all publishers. There is something just wrong in getting three rejections from three different publishers in a single day. Three kicks to the gut in a row would be kinder.
I wanted to work on something I deeply cared about, so I started BITTER DRAGON, an Asian suspense with a martial-arts-trained heroine and delving into the controversial issues of embryonic stem cell therapy and human cloning.
In the meantime, I was learning and studying the craft like crazy. I participated in discussion loops, I took online classes, I formed solid critique partners who “got” chick-lit, which was still in the infant stages of growth in the CBA. I started my blog, set up my website, and started a monthly newsletter group. I wanted to promote Christian fiction, so I started giving away books in a monthly website contest. I finished BITTER DRAGON and then started on a chick-lit manuscript, THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS.
Through ACFW, I discovered other local Christian writers Shelley Bates, Marilyn Hilton, Margaret Maclean, Dineen Miller, and MaryLu Tyndall. We’ve been friends ever since, and we encourage each other with prayer and lots of good food (check out my post on Dineen’s raclette!).
My husband started work at a really great company, and I started thinking about trying to write full-time. This wasn’t a frivolous decision. Most writers can’t afford to write full-time until they at least become multi-published and develop a large reader following. But I had been feeling a pull in my spirit, and I talked it over with my husband. I fasted. Marilyn Hilton gave me advice and prayed with me. And I quit my job in August 2005 with a six-month time limit to see if I could get a contract. If I didn’t, I’d find another job. In this area of the country, it actually wouldn’t be that hard for me.
Three days after I turned in my resignation, I found out my manuscript BITTER DRAGON had finaled in the ACFW Noble Theme contest. I hadn’t asked for God to affirm my decision to quit, but that was like lightning across the sky. Or my favorite pink Dooney and Bourke purse at 50% off.
I kept attending conferences (Mt. Hermon, RWA National conference in Reno, NV) and then made it to ACFW in Nashville, TN.
I took the Fiction Mentoring Clinic with Gayle Roper and it literally changed my entire writing journey. Gayle is wonderfully giving and encouraging, and she’s a phenomenal teacher. If you ever get a chance to attend one of her Fiction Mentoring Clinics, do it. You won’t be disappointed.
Then I nearly had a heart attack when I won the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category of the Noble Theme contest.
I remember being completely floored. I remember hyperventilating. I remember shaking like I had run the Boston Marathon. I don’t remember walking up to get my certificate (although I do remember telling Lena Dooley thank you). I remember Greg Williamson with his pink tie (Was it pink? Or was it his shirt that was masquerading as a carnation? Regardless, it was pretty) grinning like a Cheshire cat.
The timing was all God. I had been feeling insecure about my writing because earlier that year, the last door closed on my chick-lit manuscript, and I didn’t know what direction to take. BITTER DRAGON had a hot issue in it, and I wasn’t certain a CBA publisher would touch it with a ten-foot pole.
Everything at that ACFW conference was like God affirming to me, “This is the path I’ve set you on. Walk in it.”
Agent #1 and I parted ways in September, and I signed with Wendy Lawton from Books and Such Literary Agency in October. She suggested that I completely revamp the old chick-lit series Single Sushi, and I came up with the idea for SOLO SASHIMI. (THE CORINTHIAN RULES got renamed to ONLY UNI.)
(The funny thing about SOLO SASHIMI is that I wrote it while I was recovering from my second ACL surgery—you read that right, my second surgery. Same knee. Guess what happens to my heroine? She tears her ACL. Twice.)
Wendy is friends with editor Karen Ball and pitched Single Sushi to her. Marketing Director Sue Brower (remember from ACFW Denver 2004?) had remembered me and THE CORINTHIAN RULES (I hadn’t even spilled food on her! I couldn’t believe she remembered me, especially since I had messed up my pitch. I was heartily embarrassed she remembered THE CORINTHIAN RULES, which I never wanted to look at ever again, it’s so amateurish). Sue and Karen believed in me and in the Single Sushi series, and pushed SOLO SASHIMI through committee.
I got the call from Wendy on Tuesday night, March 28th. Zondervan was a go. After much screaming and shrieking, I sat there and felt like I’d been brained with a 2x4. Seriously. Then I called my friends—among them, Robin Miller, who posted the news on the loop.
I can’t begin to describe the amazing, overwhelming feeling in my chest when I opened my e-mail today to over a hundred messages of congratulations from ACFW and FHL members. I was in tears. My heart ached fiercely. The Christian writing community is the most wonderful fellowship of brothers and sisters. This contract is as much their celebration as mine.
I know I’ve probably forgotten to mention some people who played a part in this writing journey, and I do apologize. Holes form in the brain as you age, you know. And those gamma rays from your computer monitor really wreak havoc on your long- and short-term memory. “Look! I have a castle!”
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Captain’s Log, Stardate 03.29.2006