A debut novel dream comes true

Friends, please welcome Lynn Griffin to Write Despite. Lynn’s debut novel comes out this month, courtesy of The Wild Rose Press. Lynn’s journey to publication has been long, but her dedication and passion—and the courage to finally take the submission plunge—have paid off.

And don’t you love her cover?

Take it away, Lynn:

Thank you for allowing me to share a little bit of me. A granny of five who retired expecting to go trekking across the world, only to find herself with a whole new career. This is the Life of Lynn, a project in the making, which by the way is not the title of my debut novel, which is: Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox. A romance with bite and intrigue.

If you don’t mind, I’m going to start out by taking you back to January 2020, when the new terrible, invisible, big bad wolf began to emerge. (COVID-19.)

I was in Spain and about to come home to the U.K. I’d finished my novel, which certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was complete. I’d already decided it would stay in a dark, dusty corner and cogitate its fate. Just like everything else I’ve ever written. My poor, long suffering but supportive husband couldn’t understand why I not only took my laptop away with me, but also had no intentions of sending my work to a publisher. He said, throwing his hands up to the heavens, “What, after all that effort?”

Well, he hadn’t read it for starters. So, what did he know? Plus, who likes rejection? My response was: “It’s a hobby, a passion, I don’t know. What I do know is that I am a compulsive writer.”

I have always written around my full-time paid jobs. Help pay the bills, bring up the family, but I need to write to give the little devils doing a dance in my head the chance to get out and tell their story. 

The other truth behind this mask is that I’ve never had enough confidence to get going. I guess, for fear of a professional reading it and then dying laughing. I didn’t want to be sued for manslaughter! Plus, who likes rejection?

Anyhow, when I came home from Spain, a friend said something that stuck. Please know this is not a direct quote, but in my head it was pretty much: “Get it out there before you pop your clogs, mate!”

I thought about that for a quite a while and wondered, did I want my epitaph to read: “woulda coulda shoulda?”   

Now here’s the thing. I never believed anything would come of it. But I got my ancient Writers Year handbook and began to research appropriate publishers, then checked that they accepted submissions. Here’s a real tip: There is nothing worse than doing a whole heap of work trying to promote your gorgeous baby, when the publishers are not accepting submissions. Even if you think you are the next JK Rowling or Stephen King, they won’t change their minds. It wastes your time and theirs.

Back to the dreadful process, I had to write the smartest, shiniest interview on earth. That’s what submission are. Interviews. I hate them. And none of the requirements are the same! Plus, they prevent you from writing the stuff you really want to write. It’s also important to note that publishers generally tell you not to send your work anywhere else or let them know if you do!

Anyway. Months passed, and rejection loomed. Then something stirred in my gut, and I decided to nudge this one particular publisher again. I was polite and to the point, especially as they didn’t state, like some do: “If you don’t hear back within three months, clear off.” That’s so harsh. Not taking the time to let you know. Leave you in limbo. Oh, and yes, I know they’re busy. 

Anyhow my email went something like this: 

“Did they receive my enquiry. If they were not interested, could they please let me know so I could move on. Thank you.”

Yup, as simple as that.

I couldn’t believe it when an email bounced back, almost instantly, bearing in mind the time difference, Eastern Standard Time, New York, with something like: “No, didn’t receive, can’t find it, can you resend? President/Editor-in-Chief” 

Can you imagine! Seriously? I didn’t send it? What a plonker. Was it still floating around in the ether? All this time wasted, wondering! And YES, I know my IT skills are rubbish! Hey ho. Of course, I’ll resend. I wasn’t about to argue now, was I?

Another email arrived shortly after – again from the President/Editor-in-Chief : 

“…will pass on to Editor!” Surely that couldn’t be right? I thought it must be a scam. I had to check them out again. But here I am almost twelve months later, contract in hand and a July 21, 2021, release date for my debut novel.

So, that’s part of my story. But there is so much more. I’ve started a blog. Just a little hints and tips along the way, with the aim of supporting and encouraging budding writers. If you are published, you know how hard the journey is. If you don’t already, I encourage you to support other budding writers. If you are new to all of this, please know that I had a dream that before I died, I would get a book out there. If I can do it, then so can you. Have faith in yourself, you can do it, and thank you for reading.

From Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox:

“Harriet felt the tell-tale gust of wind from the ink-black cave. The train was coming. A strand of hair came loose from her plait, flicking her face as debris skittered along the dais. The train was imminent. People throw themselves in front of trains all the time…

Also available through Barnes and Noble.

Follow Lynn on her blog, on Instagram, and on Twitter.

A little blog fun, and a release date coming soon…

Hey!

Author DV Stone was kind enough to feature “Arborview” and me on her blog, in a fun feature, today. Take a peek. Looks like I’m going to have a September release! I’m waiting on the date…
Cheers,
Karen

Take a Peek Through the Window with Karen Guzman


Video game wisdom and the road to publication

Breaking into the publishing business is no small feat. Perseverance and strategy are key, but video games—of all things—can offer unexpected insight, as Steven J. Kolbe discovered. Steven’s debut novel, How Everything Turns Away, is forthcoming from The Wild Rose Press. Please welcome Steven to Write Despite. Find him on Instagram @stevenjkolbe.

Some years ago, I became rather discouraged about my writing life. I read voraciously, wrote even more voraciously, and even chose creative writing as my college major. While I published a poem in high school and an interview with a U.S. poet laureate my freshman year of college, my accomplishments dwindled from there. A few years out of college, I began to doubt if this writing thing was going to happen.

Then my wife Susan did me a great favor. She convinced me to get a Wii. Now, I am not a gaming person. I played video games as a kid, but quickly my interests diverged. By middle school, I only played one if a friend really wanted to play—and then they would beat me miserably, of course.

However, as an adult, it was fun to return to the old world of Mario and Luigi, this time with fancy motion-sensor remotes. Around this same time, my friend Geoff, a New Orleans poet, introduced me to a website called Duotrope. This website catalogues different literary journals and magazines. It organizes them by genre, print or online, pay, and, most importantly, acceptance rates. Immediately, I realized my error. All the journals I’d been submitting to had less-than one percent acceptance rates. 

I had a revelation: What if I approached my writing career the same way one approaches a video game—not with the hardest level first, but the easiest? Looking through Duotrope and thinking about Mario Brothers, I had a paradigm shift. I decided to send my recent stories to journals with only high acceptance rates. It worked. I placed nearly all of them within a few months. After that, I took on slightly more selective journals, and so on. 

When it came to finding a home for my debut mystery novel, How Everything Turns Away, I checked out a copy of Writer’s MarketI chose a wide variety of agencies and publishers to send my manuscript to. In this way, I found The Wild Rose Press, an independent publisher with a wide range of authors and a stellar reputation. I began working with Kaycee John, who has been a lifesaver for my manuscript. She gave me copious notes on my sample chapters and has been working with me over the last year to take How Everything Turns Away from a manuscript to a novel.

‘Show Australia Some Love’: anthology aids wildfire victims

Please welcome author Sydney Winward to Write Despite. Sydney was among a spirited and caring cadre of writers from The Wild Rose Press who took part in an amazing fundraiser to benefit the victims of the 2019-20 wildfires in Australia.

It’s always inspiring to see writers–and publishers—using their talents to help others. Please check out the anthologies and lend a hand.

From Sydney:

Hi, Karen. Thanks for having me on your blog! Today’s topic is one filled with heavy loss and grief, and has broken the hearts of many. The Australian wildfires affected many people, even those not living in Australia. To see both people and animals lose their homes is heartbreaking. Thousands of homes burned down. Koalas, kangaroos, and other animals alike couldn’t find shelter or water, not to mention the millions of animals that lost their lives to the fires. It was awful and saddening, with a devastating, continuous impact on the country. It pulled on the heartstrings of not only the Australian people, but the entire world. 

Although most of us couldn’t be out there with the brave firefighters in their efforts to put out the raging wildfires, we found our own way to give back with our own unique skill sets. Stephen B. King, an Australian author at The Wild Rose Press, came up with the idea of putting together an anthology, whose profits would go toward the fires. The idea received such an overwhelming response that there wasn’t enough room to put everyone’s stories into one anthology, and had to be broken into three anthologies.

women’s fiction, thrillers, and mystery

My own story, Born of Fangs, is in volume three, a short paranormal story about two of my favorite characters, Willow and Adam, and the romance they share when love between a vampire and a human is frowned upon. It’s a bonus chapter after Bloodborn that I hoped my readers might enjoy.

I am humbled to be a part of the Australia Burns Anthology project with so many talented and compassionate writers. It warms my heart to have seen many people step up and come together to provide relief for those affected by the Australian fires. It’s amazing to see how much love the human race has for each other and animals!

Novel Cover Reveal!

My publisher has just revealed the cover for my forthcoming novel, “Arborview.” I really and truly love it. The designer captured the spirit of the book so well.

It’s a little nerve-wracking waiting for your cover, hoping that the publisher’s vision meshes with your vision, especially since the publisher — who’s paying for all this — has the final call! I couldn’t be more pleased.

Publication date coming soon, stay tuned…

Cheers,

Karen

A debut novel finds a home

Please welcome debut novelist Jacquie May Miller to Write Despite. Jacquie is a businessperson who’s now embarking on a second career as a novelist. She’s an inspiration for everyone trying to land that first book deal, and her novel’s got a killer title!

–Karen

Take it away, Jacquie…

Thank you, Karen, for inviting me to your blog. I am so excited to share my story with you and soon with the rest of the world. My women’s fiction novel, The Price of Secrets, will be released April 7, 2021.

My journey to publication took a little longer than most—I’m over 60 (not saying how far over)—but I’m as excited as I was when I published my first article in the Nosy Neighborhood News at age eleven. Perhaps that’s an understatement—I’m over the moon! It only took about fifty more years to land a contract with The Wild Rose Press. 

To be fair, I wasn’t trying for the first forty, I was using the left side of my brain managing my business. But about ten years ago, after spending most of my life making a living, I decided to make a life. I started putting words on paper, or cyber paper— scratches in a notebook, notes on loose scraps of paper, ramblings on my computer—that seemed to be forming a story.

With the help of my critique group, various writing classes and some wonderful writing conferences, my first draft was transformed into something worthy of publication.

Or was it?  After knocking on many doors, i.e., querying by email and pitching in-person, The Wild Rose Press answered the door. My editor opened it juuuust wide enough to ask me to consider a few changes, then gently closed it again. Her suggestions were correct and after a few revisions, I tried again, and the door swung wide open.

I am now a “Rose” in a garden full of welcoming authors. I couldn’t be happier to share my publication journey with the wonderful people associated with The Wild Rose Press, Inc. Thank you again for inviting me to your blog.

If you’d like to know more about me or my path to publishing The Price of Secrets, please check out my blog, www.jmaydaze.com.   

Wondering what you’ll find inside my book? Here’s a teaser:

When Jamie Crandall left Seattle for college twenty-five years ago, she was pregnant. Her mother demanded she have an abortion or get the hell out of Seattle and never come back. Jamie chose the latter, using her scholarship to UC Berkeley to disappear with the son she refused to abort. But now, twenty-five years later, everything has changed. Her mother has died, and Jamie is coming home to face the father of her son. Reuniting her son and his father will come at a high price though…Jamie has one more secret left to reveal.

From horses to dogs…and a plug for my new novel!

Thanks to novelist Darlene Fredette for giving my forthcoming novel, Arborview, its first bit of early publicity. Darlene has dubbed this month February Fur-ever, and she’s featuring writers and their dogs on her cool blog, Finding the Write Words.

Check out my pup Walker and me, and read a blurb about Arborview.

Cheers — Karen

Obligatory cute dog pic:

Are beta readers worth the trouble?

Hello and welcome to the newly updated Write Despite. Cathy and I have finally given our blog a facelift. Yeah, it was long overdue. Please poke around the redesigned pages, take note of our tweaked mission statement, and share your feedback.

To kick off the redesign, novelist Randy Overbeck shares his take on the care, feeding, and invaluable contributions of early-stage readers.

–Karen

Take it away Randy:


I’ve spoken with a number of authors who have raised questions about beta readers. To clarify, when we say beta readers, we’re referring to readers who read an early manuscript, either in part or whole, and provide feedback. Some writers find these early readers unreliable, unhelpful, or sometimes even distracting.

For me, beta readers have been an integral part of bringing my manuscripts to fruition. Over the past several years, I’ve developed a process involving beta readers that has provided insights about my work I could never have gotten on my own. Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons about what works—and what doesn’t—when it comes to beta readers:

You’re going to need more than one. I’ve found it helpful to have several individuals respond to my early work. Over the years I’ve cultivated a cadre of 10-12 readers. Since I want to learn how different readers might respond, it’s helpful to solicit multiple readers. I often get different perspectives and varying insights. I’ve also learned that some beta volunteers don’t end up actually reading my manuscript; life gets in the way, and I understand that. Recruiting several betas insures I can get the feedback I’m looking for.

Beta readers don’t substitute for a writer’s critique group. My beta readers are not writers; they’re readers. I don’t ask my beta readers to check my grammar—though there is usually one grammar Nazi in the group who likes to do this—improve my style or check on my voice or tense. I ask them to respond as readers, to aspects like plot and character or setting. Did anything catch their eye or stop them in their tracks or interfere with their reading?

Beta readers need to know what you expect of them. When I share a section of my manuscript, I try to be very specific with what I want betas to respond to. Along with the pages, they receive a set five to six questions. (As a long-time educator, my habit of giving homework lives on.) Of course, one of these questions is always very open-ended, so betas can share whatever they want to say. My betas seem to appreciate the direction, and I usually get the feedback I’m looking for.

Like everything else in life, beta readers do best with a set timeline. I’ve learned that my beta readers respond better when I give them an expected date to complete their review, usually about two weeks. Some will read the manuscript in a day or two and respond immediately, while others will wait until the “deadline” to finish their reading and respond.

It’s important your readers aren’t simply “yes men.” (Please forgive the gender blunder.) When I recruit beta readers, I try to make sure I have readers who will not be afraid to give me bad news. “That scene did not work.” “That description was too much. I found myself skimming to get to the action.” I’m careful to receive their responses, especially critical ones, in a positive manner. I encourage my betas to be candid and let them know that’s why I’m giving them an advance peak at my writing.

When possible, I try to give beta readers a chance to come together and discuss their reading and responses. (This was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, of course.) Over the years, I’ve tried to arrange a get-together—usually after work at a quiet restaurant—for local betas. They seem to enjoy comparing responses and, once they start discussing aspects about the narrative, they often provide me more than what they’ve written down. Also, some betas simply like to tell me some things face-to-face.

I’m confident that insights from my beta readers have helped make my writing clearer, more engaging and more accurate. I acknowledged their contributions at the start of both my published novels. I wouldn’t dream of writing my next mystery without their feedback. And… I’m always looking for new beta readers, so feel free to reach out.

www.authorrandyoverbeck.com

randyoverbeck@authorrandyoverbeck.com

@OverbeckRandy

FB: Author Randy Overbeck

Write your novel in 2021 with online course beginning in January

Is 2021 the year you’re finally going to buckle down and crank out that novel? If so, you’re in luck. Novelist and teacher Michelle Richmond has an online course designed to take you from inspiration to first draft, with help and guidance every step of the way.

Check out the details and get going! There’s a five-month and a nine-month option. Courses begin the first week of January.

Give yourself the gift of mentorship and invest in your writing this year.

–Karen

Karen’s new novel to be published in 2021

I have the most wonderful news. My new novel, Arborview, will be published next year.

Yes, you heard right. The contract has been signed. Final edits are underway, and so is the cover design. The Wild Rose Press, a well established and growing publisher, has purchased the rights, and I’m working with a super supportive and generous editor.

I’m still pinching myself. It’s a magical way to kick off the holiday season, and some good news to cap off a year that’s been so difficult for all of us.

I don’t have a release date yet, but it will be in 2021, and I’ll keep you all posted. While I’m on that theme, I want to thank the friends and colleagues who’ve helped me bring this book–which has been in the works for six years–to life. They know who they are, and I’ve got a hefty “Acknowledgements” section in the novel.

It goes without saying that Cathy has been on this ride from the beginning, through multiple revisions and moments of hair-tearing doubt. She is irreplaceable, and the best editor I’ll ever have. I’m not going to say I love her, because she already knows it.

Writing a novel is like running a marathon. You dig deep and push with all you have. Now we’re crossing the finish line.

It isn’t every day dreams come true. Thanks for being part of mine.

Here’s hoping the blessings of the holiday season–large and small–bring us all comfort this year.

–Karen