Last week, I received a rejection letter for Delilah from a publishing house I submitted to back in October. Although I know it sounds odd, I was elated. “Why?” you may be asking, and with good reason. Rejections are not something writers are usually pleased about. In fact, just the opposite. But I was pleased with this rejection letter for one reason. It was not a form letter. In fact, the editor took the time not only to read the sample I submitted, but to give me constructive criticism and suggestions as to how the manuscript might be improved.
As a graduate student, my professors drilled the idea into our heads that a personal rejection letter, means your manuscript made it past the slush pile and actually received some attention from the editor. It was good enough that they actually read what you sent. And a rejection letter with personal feedback is even better, because then you don’t have to wonder why they rejected your work, and you can strive to fix anything that needs fixing before sending it out again.
My rejection letter was personal, rather than form, and it offered feedback. How sweet is that? I mean, I’m not happy the book was rejected, but I am happy that somebody read at least part of it, in this case, the first fifty pages. My reaction to this rejection is to study the personal feedback and then really look at the manuscript to determine the validity of the comments. Then revise and resubmit to the next publisher on my list for Delilah.
For those not familiar with me or my writing, Delilah is my 60,000 word western novel about a strong willed young woman, who served two years in the Colorado Territorial Prison, in the late 1880s. Delilah thought that time had hardened her against the cruelties of the world, but she wasn’t prepared for the trip back home and the hardships of the Colorado frontier. She heads to her home in San Luis, with sixteen year old, Sarah. An encounter with two outlaws, who take the girl captive, sets Delilah on a journey into the high country of Colorado mining towns. Along the way she faces wild animals, outlaws and Indians, makes colorful friends, and learns to love again. Delilah is a novel with the true flavor of the Colorado frontier.
A while back, I also had a hybrid publisher, who expressed interest, but wanted me to provide other western authors that would be interested in publishing with them. (To get a better idea of what I’m talking about when I say hybrid publishing, see my article, Hybrid Publishers – What are they all about?). I posted in a few places on Facebook, but did not come up with any other interested authors.
So, this is actually the second personal, (non-form) letter that I’ve received on Delilah. Of course, it would have been better if I had received an acceptance letter, but I believe in myself, I believe in my writing, and I know that one day, that acceptance letter will come. And, if not, I am not beyond the idea of publishing her myself, because I know she is that good.
To learn more about and read updates on Delilah, go to my Delilah Facebook page.
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I like westerns. Thanks to my creative writing instructor and adviser, I discovered that I like to write westerns, and I’m fairly good at it. So, I read Louis Lamour, Zane Grey and other western authors to absorb as much from their talents as I can, applying it to my own writing. I picked up Angel Falls Texas: The Traveler #1 The Origins by J.C. Hulsey in anticipation of a good western tale. What I got instead was a poorly written story, in which the characters’ actions make little sense.
Angel Falls Texas lacks the story line and plot points to hold readers’ interests. Characters are two dimensional and lack depth, making it difficult to connect and invest themselves in the story. There are many flaws in logic which make it nearly impossible to suspend disbelief, and there is a lot of telling, rather than showing.
A teenage boy, Jed, watches as his pa is killed and kills his father’s assailant, who happens to be the sheriff’s brother. So, he sets out on the run, assuming the sheriff will come after him, not even stopping by the home place to gather supplies for the journey. He makes friends along the way, who travel with him, because they apparently have no lives of their own, and end up back where he started, in Angel Falls, where he learns the sheriff is still gunning for him. When the sheriff returns, instead of the show down one would expect, and perhaps even anticipate, the protagonist runs away, thus avoiding confrontation. The sheriff never even sees him, so it’s not even a close call.
In fact, there is no confrontation throughout the story. There is no conflict, no obstacles to overcome. Jed and his new friends go where they please and do what they want unhindered in any way, with no apparent destination in mind. The characters are not challenged in any way and they have no clear goal to accomplish or strive toward. They do not have to overcome other people, the elements, or the landscape. Jed spends several months helping one new friend fix up his ranch, but when a neighboring rancher shows up and claims the ranch for his own, his friend packs up and takes to the trail with our hero, giving up without a fight, or even a word of protest.
If that weren’t bad enough, the book is riddled with typos and grammar errors. This is a pet peeve of mine because poor quality books which are self-published give self-publishing as a whole a bad name, adding to the stigma that has been placed on self-published authors. This is one of those books. The cover says this book won first place in Texas Western series, but I don’t see it.
As a fan and author of the western genre, I can only give Angel Falls Texas: The Traveler #1 The Origin one quill.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
This will be the last reflective post of the year. Next Monday’s post will find us in 2017. For my writing career it has been a slow take off, but I’ve seen progress. In July, I completed my Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. With emphasis in both genre fiction and screenwriting, and two completed novels, Delilah and Playground for the Gods Book 1: In the Beginning, two full feature film scripts and one comedy series pilot script in hand, I eagerly jumped right in to get my feet wet in either the publishing and/or screenwriting industry. I began submitting my work to agents, publishers, and competitions like crazy. I received mostly rejections, as expected, and although I still haven’t found a home for either novels or scripts, I did manage to find a home for two poems and two short stories. Not too bad. While the poems, Aspen Tree and Yucca! Yucca! Yucca!, appeared in print, (in Colorado Life (Sept.-Oct. 2016) and Manifest West Anthology #5 – Serenity and Severity, respectively), my short story, I Had to Do It was published on Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry, and my not so short, short story, Hidden Secrets was published on Across the Margin.
2016 has been a pretty good year for Writing to be Read. The revamping of the blog site was completed in March, I’ve managed post things on a fairly regular basis, we were honored with guest posts by my friend Robin Conley, and my visits and page views have risen, with almost 2000 visitors and over 2,500 page views. Looking at this, makes me feel pretty good about the blog, as a whole. Another good change is the addition of screenwriting content, which I believe has drawn a larger audience by widening the scope of the content.
The top post of 2016 was my book review of Simplified Writing 101, by Erin Brown Conroy, which is an excellent tutorial on academic writing, including writing advice that every writing student should know. After that, the reflective post Writing Horror is Scary Business would be second in line. Other popular posts include my four part Making of a Screenplay series,( Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4), my Tribute to My Son, and What Amazon’s New Review Policies Mean for Writing to be Read. More recently, my ten part series on publishing, Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing gave me the opportunity to interview some awesome names in the publishing industry: self-published authors, Jeff Bowels, Tim Baker and Art Rosch; traditionally published authors Stacia Deutsch and Mark Shaw; independently published author Jordan Elizabeth; and children’s author Nancy Oswald, who has published under all three models; as well as Caleb Seeling, owner of Conundrum Press and Curiosity Quills Press – with the final installment summarizing the conclusions made from those interviews.
Many of my posts were reflections of my own writing experience. These included: Why Writing is a Labor of Love; Fear is a Writer’s Best Friend; I’ve Come A Long Way, Baby; Writing the Way That Works For You; Creating Story Equals Problem Solving; What’s A Nice Girl Like Me Doing Writing in a Genre Like This?; Acceptance or Rejection – Which Do You Prefer?; A Writer’s Life is No Bowel of Cherries; Write What You Know; Discouragement or Motivation?; What Ever Happened to Heather Hummingbird?; How You Can Help Build a Writer’s Platform; and Why Fiction is Better Than Fact.
Sadly, I only attended two events that were reported on, on Writing to be Read in 2016 – the 2016 Ice Festival in Cripple Creek, and the 2016 Writing the Rockies Conference in Gunnison, Colorado. What can I say? I’m a starving writer. This is something I hope to improve on in 2017 by attending more events to report on. One possible addition to the 2017 list that I’m very excited to think about is the Crested Butte Film Festival. The details are not ironed out yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Screenwriting content included this past year seemed to be popular. In addition to my Making of a Screenplay series and Writing Horror is Scary Business, Writing to be Read also featured Writing Comedy for Screen is a Risky Proposition, and a book review for Hollywood Game Plan, by Carole Kirshner, which I can’t recommend highly enough for anyone desiring to break into the screenwriting trade. Robin’s Weekly Writing Memo also included several writing tips that could be applied equally to literature or screenwriting.
Another project I’m particularly proud of is my ten part series on publishing, Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing, which I just finished up last week. In this series I interviewed nine professionals from within the industry to get the low down on the three different publishing models. My interviews included self-published authors Jeff Bowels, Tim Baker and Art Rosch, traditionally published authors Stacia Deutsch (children’s books) and Mark Shaw (nonfiction), and independently published YA author Jordan Elizabeth. To balance things out a bit, I also interviewed children’s author Nancy Oswald, who has published with all three models, Clare Dugmore of Curiosity Quills Press and Caleb Seeling, owner and publisher at Conundrum Press.
One of the great things about doing book reviews is that you get to read a lot of great books, in with the okay and not so great ones. In addition Simplified Writing 101, my five quill reviews in 2016 included Jordan Elizabeth’s Runners & Riders, Mark Shaw’s The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, Nancy Oswald’s Trouble Returns, Carol Riggs’ Bottled, Jeff Bowles’ Godling and Other Paint Stories, Janet Garber’s Dream Job, Art Rosch’s Confessions of an Honest Man, and Mark Todd and Kim Todd O’Connell’s Wild West Ghosts. I don’t give out five quills lightly and every one of these books are totally worthwhile reads.
Of course, not all books get a five quill rating. Other books I reviewed that I recommended with three quills or more include three short story anthologies: Chronology, Under a Brass Moon, and Cast No Shadows; two poetry collections: Suicide Hotline Hold Music by Jessy Randall and Walks Along the Ditch by Bill Trembley; Escape From Witchwood Hollow, Cogling, Treasure Darkly, The Goat Children, and Victorian by Jordan Elizabeth; Dark Places by Linda Ladd; Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson; Wrinkles by Mian Mohsin Zia; Full Circle by Tim Baker; The 5820 Diaries by Chris Tucker; The Road Has Eyes: An RV, a Relationship, and a Wild Ride by Art Rosch; Hollywood Game Plan by Carol Kirschner; Keepers of the Forest by James McNally; 100 Ghost Soup by , and A Shot in the Dark by K.A. Stewart. I also did two movie reviews: Dead Pool and Point Break.
I feel very fortunate to have had Robin Conley join us with her Weekly Writing Memo and her guest movie reviews. The useful writing tips in her Weekly Writing Memos covered a wide range of topics including critiquing, using feedback, ways to increase tension, Relatability or Likeability?, 3 Types of Plot, story research, what to write, making your audience care, world building, handling feedback, writing relationships, establishing tone, editing, word choice, How to Start Writing, endings, queries, Parts of a Scene, making emotional connections, the influence of setting, Building a Story, Inciting Your Story, movement and dialog, Writing Truth, time, Overcoming the Blank Page, Networking, character names, theme, set up, cliches, parentheticals in screenwriting, horror inspiration, and Learning to Write. Robin’s guest post movie reviews included Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Batman vs. Superman, Miss Perigrin’s Home for Peculiar Children, and The Neon Demon.
I am thankful for Robin’s valuable content and am glad that she will still be contributing Memos on a monthly, rather than a weekly basis. Although I was sad to lose her weekly content, I am happy for her as she moves forward in her own writing career and I wish her well in her writing endeavors. For those of you who looked forward to her weekly posts, you can catch more of her content on her own blog, Author the World.
2016 was a great year for Writing to be Read, even if it was kind of rough for the author behind the blog. You readers helped to make it a good year and I thank you. Now it’s time to look ahead and see what’s in store for 2017 Writing to be Read. I mentioned some of the things I hope to achieve above: more posts pertaining to the screenwriting industry, and coverage of more events throughout the year are two of the goals I have set for my blog. I also plan to add some author, and hopefully, screenwriter profiles into the mix. I had good luck with author profiles during my Examiner days, and I think they will be well received here, as well.
I also hope to bring in some guests posts by various authors or bloggers, or maybe screenwriters, just to give you all a break from listening to me all the time. I believe Robin plans to continue with Monthly Writing Memos, which will be great, too.
I look forward to all the great books that I know are coming my way in 2017, too. The first reviews you have to look forward to are a short memoir, Banker Without Portfolio by Phillip Gbormittah, a YA paranormal romance, Don’t Wake Me Up by M.E.Rhines, a Rock Star romance, Bullet by Jade C. Jamison and a short story, How Smoke Got out of the Chimneys by DeAnna Knippling.
I hope all of you will join me here in the coming year. Follow me on WordPress, or subscribe to e-mail for notifications of new posts delivered to your inbox. Have a great 2017 and HAPPY WRITING!
I recently sold I Had to Do It, a flash fiction story of the western flavor, to Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. And of course, my regular readers know I’ve written a western novel, Delilah, as well, for which I’m diligently seeking a publisher at present. It might seem that I am leaning toward becoming a western writer, and I’ll admit, I do enjoy writing western.
But I’m an eclectic kind of gal by nature. My palate savors many cuisines, although I’m partial to Oriental and Latino foods. I listen to various genres of music, being heavy on the rock, but also enjoying metal, hip hop, country, pop, and even classical. I watch a wide range of movie genres, as well. On that same note, I read most of the genres, and seek opportunities to try genres that are new to me, but horror has always been my favorite. In fact, in 2012, when I began my M.F.A. in Creative Writing program at Western State Colorado University, western was one of the few genres which I hadn’t read.
In that first class, the first thing my instructor asked was, “In what genre do you usually write?” I considered the short stories I had written to date, many of which, I wasn’t sure what genre they fell into. The only experience I’d had with western was 850 words worth, I Had to Do It, and it hadn’t sold. But the idea was for us to write outside of our comfort zones, and western was the genre I was assigned for my first excerpt.
I’m not sure why I didn’t think I would like writing westerns. I’m a native of Colorado and proud of that, but I’ve never been a cowgirl per se. I enjoy western films. Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns are the best, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Quick and the Dead are right up there, too. But as I said, I hadn’t really read much in the western genre. But then, I wrote the excerpt for Delilah. After that first semester, revising my excerpt according to the feedback from my instructor and my cohorts, I started thinking that I might not be too bad at writing in the western genre. Three years and several rewrites later, Delilah is a story I’m rather proud of. The rejections do sting a bit, but I’m confident that if I endeavor to persevere and keep submitting it, eventually it will land with the right publisher, and it will be accepted. And if not, well, there’s always independent publishing. Delilah is a good story, and it’s well written, and I want very much to be able to share it with the world. One way or another, I will get the book published.
And yes, there will probably be other westerns in my future. I seem to have a knack for it, at least, so I’ve been told. I already have an idea for a western romance, although romance is another genre I never thought I’d find myself writing. I guess we’ll see.
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Back in May, I wrote a post about dealing with the rejection by a publisher of Delilah. My response to the rejection was to submit my novel elsewhere and keep hoping it will get picked up. More recently, I did a post on hybrid publishers, as I explored the concept after I had a hybrid publisher request my full manuscript. Unfortunately, they passed on Delilah, too. It is out to yet another publisher now.
I could go into another post about rejections. Lord knows, I’ve gotten plenty. But I’ve always been one to see the glass half-full side, rather than half-empty, focusing on the positive side to everything, so I think I’d rather talk today about acceptances. I don’t think anyone will disagree when I say acceptances are much better than rejections. You don’t have to be a writer to figure that one out.
You don’t get them as often as rejections, but they’re a lot more satisfying. But there’s a reason I want to write a post on acceptances. If you follow me on Facebook, or Twitter, or Google+, you may have seen my very recent post announcing that my flash fiction western story, I Had to Do It, has been picked up by Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry.
It’s true this isn’t a big paying publication. I’m certainly not going to get rich from this one little 850 word story. Flash fiction never pays a lot. There’s simply not enough words to make the pennies add up to much, even with higher paying publications. But, I was still elated when I received the acceptance, because my story found a home and people will now read it, and because it is still one more publishing credit for me. I can’t explain the rushing feeling of excitement and pride that small note from the editors brought me. I think most of all, it was thrilling to know that someone else really liked my writing. It was a affirmation of my own belief that my writing really is pretty good.
That probably sounds silly to those who have not yet received an acceptance. (Never fear. It will come.) But we writers are an odd lot, and we are filled with fears and self-doubt. Filled with it. Most of the time we can keep these elements of our inner beings at bay by simply pecking away at the keyboard or filling up sheets of notebook paper, but every once in a while we let our guards down and that’s when they strike. The fear and self-doubt simmer in us, just down below the surface, until they see an opportunity, a weakness, and then they reach up and grab a handful of us and don’t let go.
I think just about every writer worries that the only person in the whole world that really thinks their writing is good is themselves. Friends and family don’t count because they may be saying they like it so as not to hurt your feelings. When you receive an acceptance, any acceptance, it tells you other people do like your writing, and motivates you to get busy writing more.
It’s a good feeling. One I think every writer needs to experience. It can’t happen unless you submit relentlessly and write, write, write. That’s my advice. Write your heart out and then submit like crazy, and never, ever give up. The notes that say, “yes”, make it worth surviving all the ones that said, “no”. So what are you waiting for? Get writing!
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I finished the final draft of Delilah last month. Normally, in anticipation of its completion, I would scour my Writer’s Market in search of publishers and/or agents that might be in the market for a western novel with a tough, spunky female protagonist and make a list of places to send it out to. But, I pitched Delilah to a publisher I felt would be a perfect fit for this manuscript last summer at the Write the Rockies Conference in Gunnison, and got an invitation to send the manuscript when it was completed. That in itself was amazing, because you usually don’t pitch a manuscript that isn’t complete, but I was doing the pitch for practice, and I actually felt like I’d bungled it pretty badly. My perception of my performance must have been wrong, because the invitation to query was forthcoming.
At any rate, I didn’t make the usual list of submissions for Delilah, because I knew where she was going, and I just knew this publisher was going to make an offer. Instead, I spent my time preparing for submission. I wrote a synopsis and query letter, and prepared a brief excerpt to include. So, as soon as the final revisions were completed, I sent off my query.
I also sent a query to an agent I thought might be good to represent me, using Delilah to entice them. I sent it off on April 21, and on April 29 I received the rejection. Man that was fast. I found it disheartening. I know I have to expect rejections, probably a lot of them, and I’ve had many on other works which I’ve been shopping. In my graduate classes at Western State, they warned us to expect them, and taught us to use them as motivation to get it back out to the next perspective publisher or agent. And, you know, that’s exactly what I’ve done regarding all the other works I’ve sent out. So, why is this rejection any different?
I think it was the speed with which I received this rejection, barely a week, which took me aback. You wait for responses from publishers and agents for weeks, sometimes even months. That’s why you send out simultaneous submissions whenever possible. Get your work read by as many possible avenues of publication as possible. It’s common practice, although some calls for submissions specify that they do not accept simultaneous submissions. (If you think about it, it’s pretty selfish of a publisher to do this, expecting to allow them to consider your work exclusively, when it takes so long for them to respond.) This rejection came from an agent, not a publisher, but I wasn’t expecting a reply so quickly. I didn’t feel like they’d even had time to read what I’d submitted.
I’ve worked on Delilah on and off for four years. I could have finished her sooner, but with school and my freelancing, and holding down a full time job, I wasn’t able to work on her, like I did on my thesis, which I wrote in full within six months, (but that’s another story, for another day). Actually, I had a completed draft of Delilah in that amount of time, but the revisions turned it into a whole other story. It’s true. The final manuscript of Delilah tells a different story than the one I set out to tell originally. I have enough cut scenes from the first draft to almost make up another whole book, which I might do, if Delilah finds a home and does well.
So the question remains, why have I not sent Delilah out to more than one publisher? Why do I have this certainty within me that she will find a home with this one publishing house that I submitted to first? I know this isn’t a realistic expectation and I’m probably setting myself up for disappointment. I do. So, why don’t I treat this novel like my other works? And why did the first rejection from an agent hit me so hard? Maybe because I have put so much of my heart into Delilah, but I think you have to put your heart into any work of creativity in order for it to be truly good. I don’t know what’s so special about this novel, but I know Delilah is special. I feel it. If I find a publisher for her, you can read it and then, you’ll know it, too.
Wild West Ghosts, by Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd may turn some readers into believers. The cover describes the book as “an amateur ghost hunting guide for HAUNTED HOTELS in southwest Colorado”, but it is so much more. Wild West Ghosts might be more accurately described as a travel guide for ghost hunters, outdoors enthusiasts, tourists and history buffs alike.
In addition to the detailed instructions provided for amateur ghost hunters, which lay out the methodology and equipment which the Todds used to achieve their results, and accounts of the local ghost lore of each area, they’ve included vivid site descriptions and colorful area histories which add an old west flavor. In addition, an outline of contemporary area attractions for each site is provided for visitors looking for more than ghosts on their vacation, including highlights of the area, Annual Festivals and events, and cultural and recreational opportunities.
By design, the locations chosen are a bit off the beaten path. The southwestern Colorado locations visited include Creede, Crested Butte, Cripple Creek, Del Norte, Delta, Fairplay, Gunnison, Norwood, Ouray, Paonia, South Fork, and Twin Lakes. For each location is provided with an account of the Todds visit, including details of any strange or ghostly phenomena they encountered either on their spirit box or EMF meter. Many accounts include ethereal conversations they were unaware of at the sites, which were discovered only after they were able to play back audio-only recordings. Their experiences are related in conversational tone, with professional manner and a dash of humor.
For those on a spirit quest, ghost hunting instructions are given in simple, easy to understand terms, ideal for first time ghost hunters. The authors thoughtfully included an account of their test run, made to familiarize themselves with the equipment, along with the lessons that they learned, so those thinking of trying their hand at the ghost hunting thing need not make the same mistakes. Related photos and maps locating each site have also been included to enhance both reading and ghost hunting experiences.
Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd are partners in life, as well as in writing. They reside in the Gunnison area, where Mark teaches creative writing at Western State Colorado University. Their previous works as a team include the humorous, quirky Silverville Saga: Little Greed Men, All Plucked Up and the Majick Outhouse, which all revolve around a fictional Colorado mountain town and keeps readers chuckling to the last pages. To learn more about the Todds and their writing, visit their website, Write in the Thick of Things.
I give Wild West Ghosts five quills.