June 9, 2006

A Funny Thing Happened On Our Way to Publication

First, I want to remind y’all that you DO know I’m Beth Anderson’s alter ego, right? I explained all that good stuff back in February on our very first post, but I just thought I should refresh that info for our newest blog readers.

I’m Hotclue, the young, beautiful, goofy one. Beth is the author, the one who plods along doing all the work. We have a good relationship, but I love to make fun of her and she lets me do it because in spite of all her other failings, she has a wild sense of humor and while she takes her work seriously, she doesn’t take herself seriously at all.

Okay, now that we’ve got all that straight…

Today’s blog will probably give published authors a good laugh because most have probably had, or at least heard of a similar experience when they first started on this weird and twisted path. And probably the unpubbed will feel a little better about their own snafus and pitfalls along the way once they read this. (Normal civilians will read it and shake their heads because I’m confirming what they all think anyway: All writers are nuts.)

It all started when Beth wrote her first book. Not the first one published. In all honesty, if there was ever a more unpublishable novel, I have yet to see it. And this was before Beth ever dreamed there was a Hotclue. But I was there watching the whole thing, so I can tell you all about it. I have, in fact, talked about this event when giving Beth’s lectures for her (she’s very shy), so I’m sure she really won’t mind if I torture her one more time about this.

Even if she does I’m going to tell you anyway.

Beth, at the time, knew absolutely nothing about writing a novel, but she did all the author things just the same. She went all over Chicago doing interviews, notebooks and recorder in hand, armed with pens, and me, because although she went, I was always the one who asked the questions. Since she was hell-bent and determined to write a book set in the Twenties, which neither she or I knew anything about, I had a lot of questions to ask.

She sat down at her electric typewriter (don’t laugh, at least there was no email to distract her) and plunked away, finishing her first book–er–draft in about six weeks. All 123 pages of it. Now to be fair, that WAS only the first third of it, but she wanted, at that point to know if she was on the right track. There was really nobody to ask either, because she had a LOT of technical questions only a pro could answer and this was before either of us knew about Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America and all of those other great organizations. It was also before we got on the Internet.

One day in a magazine she saw an ad. (I bet half of you know which ad it was right off.) The one where you send your book AND $275 AND they’ll read it AND if it’s the Great American Novel, your future is set. IF it still needs help, they’ll critique it and get back to you and THEN your future will be set.

Sounded good to Beth because she thought she HAD written the Great American Novel, since it was about a young man involved in starting the first auto industry union in Detroit (Ewwww! Borrrrring!). Since it was set in the Twenties, she called it NICKELS. Please don’t ask me to explain that. I can’t.

She told a couple of friends about the ad. They told her not to do it, that she’d be wasting her money. And I couldn’t stop her–I almost never can when she makes up her mind to do something irrational. But she was determined to hear, from a pro, how she was doing and she knew she couldn’t submit to a publisher since it was only one-third finished. AND the man at the head of all this Publishing Industry Knowledge was a big name agent, SO she wrote the check and sent it along with her 123 pages and waited.

The check was cashed pronto. Her reply from The Big Agency took a little longer. One day about six weeks later when the mailman arrived, there it was. THE ENVELOPE. It was a big envelope, so of course, being Beth, she thought it contained a contract.

It didn’t. It contained a six-page rejection.

Six pages of rejection. Hard, cold, unforgiving rejection.

That’s a LOT of rejection, baby. A LOT.

Enough to scar the average normal person forever. But we already established, didn’t we, that writers are not your average normal people.

In reading that rejection, it was clear she had done absolutely Not One Single Thing right. At that point, I was keeping a close eye on her to make sure she didn’t pick up anything sharp, but to my vast surprise, she started laughing.

She laughed in the house. She laughed in the car on her way to the store. She laughed halfway through the store. Until she came to the Sugar Frosted Flakes. And suddenly, it all hit her.

Well, I’m embarrassed to tell you, she started crying. Not softly. Not quietly. She cried quite loud, in fact, still staring at the Sugar Frosted Flakes. A couple of women passed by and looked at her, at each other, back at her as if they were thinking, “Well, if she doesn’t like Sugar Frosted Flakes, why doesn’t she just pick something else? It’s not like there aren’t two hundred different kinds of cereal here, after all.”

Beth didn’t care. She just kept crying and tossing things in her cart. I tried my best to stop her because she was grabbing Baby Wipes, which I knew we didn’t need, beef bones, and this was in the middle of the summer when nobody in their right mind was going to make soup. You name it, she tossed it in the basket and cried all the way through the store. Cried at the checkout counter. Cried halfway home and finally got herself under control because she didn’t want to cry in front of our husband. Pulled into the driveway where he was standing, watching her get out of the car because he knew, OH, HE KNEW she had to be terribly upset.

She took one look at him and said, “Don’t sympathize with me, don’t say anything or I’ll start–”

That crying jag went on for about three more hours until she ran out of Kleenex and started using her sleeve.

Finally she ran out of tears and you’re NOT going to believe what she did next. This is SO typical of her. She picked up the phone and had three long-stemmed red roses in a crystal vase (she wouldn’t settle for anything less than crystal) sent to That Agent with a little note: “Watch for me on the New York Times bestseller list.”

Gotta hand it to her, the woman has balls.

Right after that, she took the entire six pages, highlighted everything that could possibly be construed as positive with a yellow highlighter and hung them in her writing room wall where she could see them every day. There wasn’t much yellow on those pages, but any port in a storm, right?

And then she sat back down at that electric typewriter to learn how to write novels.

She says now that she knows it was stupid to send All That Money to That Agent, but at least her first rejection was her worst, and she lived through it. So for $275, if nothing else, her skin grew several inches thicker that day and nothing about the publishing world and all its vagaries has ever bothered her, at least not THAT much.

I think she’s done okay. I REALLY think she’s done okay with the book we just finished, THE SCOUTMASTER’S WIFE.

Maybe That Agent will see her on the New York Times bestseller list yet.

Oh, no, wait–I think he’s dead now. Well hey, if nothing else, she outlived him–a minor triumph, but a triumph just the same. We take our little victories wherever we can find them, right?

For now, loves, it’s the weekend and Beth’s kitchen sink is stopped up and she can’t get a plumber here till Monday, so she has a wonderful weekend to look forward to. Green greasy cold water languishing in the kitchen sink. How appetizing. I get to escape these dreary little life events, so I’m off on Count Babbalallapaloozo’s private jet to meet him in Aruba for a few days. Gotta work on my suntan, don’t’cha know, and by the time I get back the sink will be fixed.

Timing is everything.

So ta ta for now, I’ll see you again in a few days! Love y’all, and come back again soon, ya hear me?
Hotclue

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  1. Dear Hotclue
    For Beth and you to experience rejection has resulted in my learning at her kneee (that’s because I’m crying and weeping over commas and can’t get up) AND saving me 300 bucks. Although, when I’m rejected I buy things. Louis Vuitton comes to mind. I’m one of her sponges who soaks all she and Sloane experience, living through them so I can commit my own damn mistakes. Yeah, writers are stubborn creatures, crazy to other people but sane to another writer. It’s like being an alien, you can identify another one even if we’re wearing human skin. I think there’s a potential story in there. I must say, Beth learned well after that rejection and has gone to become a great writer, friend and companion. As for you, well you’re on the wild side, make sure you come to the next meeting.

    Reply

  2. My God, Woman, you should be writing comedy. Say it with me C.O.M.E.D.Y. You are brilliant. Hotclue and Beth Anderson, what a combination. You two are fantatic!

    Reply

  3. Why, thank y’all so much, Yasmine and Sloane! Yasmine, that was so sweet, and both Beth and I are pulling for you ALL THE WAY. We KNOW you can do it. When the time is right, it’ll happen. I forgot to mention that it was eight years after our Day of the Roses before our first book was published, so for sure we know what you’re going through. But dagnabbit, if beth can do it, so can YOU! And Sloane, you’re one of my proudest moments, truly you are. In case you didn’t know it, your first draft was a LOT better than our first draft. You’re both wonderful and I’m so glad I know both of you. Love, Hotclue, who HAS to leave for the airport now because that sink is AWFUL and The Count is WAITING. 😉

    Reply

  4. Ah, I’m counting on the bestseller’s list so my book can say “Friends with author who is on the bestseller’s list.”

    Great story. Interesting how you kept the rejection. I have a one-pager I kept because my manuscript was “fraught with errors.” Apparently I was critiqued by the bloody queen of England. Pah!

    Reply

  5. My God, Erika, you’re going to put that on a BOOK? Well hey, don’t forget to spell my name right. That’s H-O-T-C-L-U-E. Yeah, we kept all our rejections up there for a long, long time untill one magical day when we started The Book That Got Published. We knew we were on the right track by that time and took them all down. You know what’s up there now. Framed cover flats. 😉 That reminds me, I’ve got three more to frame and put up there, and soon…soon…The Thing!
    Thank you for dropping by, come back soon! Hugs, Hots

    Reply

  6. Hey, Hotclue, I’m known you and Beth a long time now and I, for one, know you both are headed for stardom and the bestsellers’ list. You could call me a charter member of your fan club. And I will always be a fan, always!

    Reply

  7. Hey, thank y’all, Jenna! Just so happens I’m a fan of yours too, and I’m looking WAY forward to seeing your own first framed cover flat. You come back again soon,
    Love, Hotclue

    Reply

  8. Dear Hotclue,

    I don’t usually read blogs, but this was mentioned on the NEC loop, with the link all blue and easy and ready to click. And so I clicked. And just had a delightful and laughing and sad and poignant read. Gotta say: Love your writing. Your voice! Puts you right on my To Read list. Off to look for your book now.

    Sunny

    Reply

  9. Yo, Sunny,
    I just checked out YOUR website. You’re no slouch yourself, I read your excerpt, it’s beautiful and I’ll be putting you on my To Read Soon list for sure. Thank you so much for dropping by! I hope you stop by again soon.

    Hotclue Herself 😉

    Reply

  10. You ARE going to make it to the top of the NY Times list one of these days (books.) You are a terrific writer! Hugs, Lonnie

    Reply

  11. I’ll see you there, Lonnie. Maybe both of us on the same day! Thank you, you’re a great writer yourself.

    Hugs right back atcha,
    Hotclue

    Reply

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