Thursday, February 3, 2011

You're writing WHAT?!?!?

     It may very well be the most wonderful, and most terrifying, thing a writer can hear: "We'd like to offer you a contract for your work." 
    On one hand, it means that you've really arrived: you can now say "I'm a writer" and deflect the virtually inevitable raised eyebrows when you tell them you've landed a contract.  Anything you do that isn't quite "within the lines" is put down to "Well, s/he is a writer, you know," as if that answers for all of it. 
    On the other hand, you're putting yourself and all your peccadilloes out on display.  Everything about a writer's craft, perhaps uniquely within the artistic community, says something about them.  From their choice of words, phrasing, and punctuation, to the genres, concepts, and events they explore, they give themselves away at every step.  There are only so many strings on a guitar or keys on a piano, and from these can be wrung a mind-boggling, but finite, number of notes, chords, and progressions.  The English language, weighing in at 1,008,855 words as given by the Global Language Monitor, allows for the combination and recombination of words to a degree that approaches infinity.
     This digression is highly relevant to how I came to write for Noble Romance Publishing.  Like so many other things, it came about more or less by accident.  It will also explain the title, as you will see shortly.
     In October, I decided to enter a prompt-driven contest on  The prompt was simple: write a short erotica story with supernatural elements.  If it has romance, all the better.  I had actually won this same contest back in May with a one-off story featuring a character from another project, and had been delighted by the feedback.  So I decided to try again, this time doing something very different from my comfort level and typical style.  Which is erotic horror and urban fantasy, in case you were wondering.
     But what?
     I mulled that over for a while, and then the concept came to me, again by accident.  The catalyst was my MP3 player.  The song was Melissa Etheridge's "Angels Would Fall."
     An angel of death falls in love with the woman whose soul he is to take to Heaven.  Erotic hijinks ensue.  Excellent chance of all Hell breaking loose.
     Brilliant!  Something different!
     I sat down and dashed it off.  Then I submitted it, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.
     My inbox was stacked twelve deep with glowing reviews before the contest closed.  I raised an eyebrow in surprised delight when I learned that I had split first prize with a story about a mermaid.  Then I pursed my lips and got to thinking.
     I had the good reviews to tell me that "Angels Would Fall" was solid writing.  It was a prize-winning piece, even if it did win in a closed environment.  So why not try to publish it?
     At that moment, my inner editor/critic/chief nitpicker tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Who's going to publish this?  Anne Rice could pull this off, but you?  Nope...It's too risky.  Put it away and focus on your usual fare."
    My response was fairly typical for such a conversation: I took a Louisville Slugger to the jerk.  After beating him back into silence, I started looking around for someone who might be interested.
    The second or third house that showed up on my Google search was Noble Romance.  I lit a cigarette and took a closer look.  Immediately, I was enthralled by the large, bold statement: "Dare To Be Different."  I certainly had different, and to spare.  But was it too different?
     A quick scan seemed to suggest that it wasn't, at all, by their lights.  Very, very interesting, I said to myself.  After a quick run-through to bring it into submission compliance, I wrote out a query letter and attached it.  Firing it off into the Blue Nowhere, I resigned myself to another round of waiting.  Immersing myself in other projects, of which I always have too damn many, I kept a close eye on my mailbox.
    This was late December.  In early January, we had a truly horrible morning at the house.  You see, I live in the armpit of nowhere, and my brother-in-law totaled the truck and sole source of transportation for two households, by hitting a cow.  Hey.  It happens.  And things like that always seem to happen when I've had two hours of sleep or less.
     Sorting the situation out as best I could, I shuffled back to bed and decided to check my email, just one more time, hoping for a little good news to ameliorate the disaster the morning had been.  I very nearly swallowed my cigarette when I found an email from Noble.
     Oh God.  They didn't like it.  They don't want any part of it.  Thank you for interest, but this doesn't suit our needs at this time. et cetera, et cetera, blah blah blah.  The inner critic was going full-speed.  "I told you, idiot!"
     Giving him a cursory whack with the baseball bat, I opened it, gritting my teeth and sweating bullets.  The first word to catch my eye was "Congratulations."
     I read on.  The gist was, "I loved it.  You should have a contract within four weeks."
     Suddenly, I understood what Neil Gaiman was talking about when he said: "When writing a novel, that's pretty much entirely what life turns into: 'House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day."
    Amend the above as appropriate, of course, and you've got the feeling I had.
    So now comes the fun part.  I was naturally so excited that I was crowing from the rooftops.  But when I told people that I was getting published through an actual house, the first reaction was: "Oh, they picked up the book?"
    Well, erm, no.  One of my short stories.
    What's it about?
    Supernatural erotic romance.
    Uhh...Wait, what?  I thought you wrote horror.
    {Nonchalant shrug} Yeah, well, I do other things, too.
    {Stammering, slack-jawed horror}You can't write romance.  You're not a female.
    Says who?
     It's common knowledge. 
     I tried to argue that point.  I pointed out that there are many men who write romance, under pseudonyms or otherwise.  I assured them that what I'm doing is different from just about anything they've ever seen before.  I informed them that it smacked of the worst kind of chauvinism to say that; if I said that women can't write horror, for example,  I'd be burned on my front lawn, and rightly so.
     All to no avail.  Romance is the domain, dominion, and province of women and that's that.
     Not to say that everyone was as unsupportive.  My family, God bless them, have known that I'm an odd duck right from the cradle, and took the news in stride.  Likewise most of my closer friends, my wife, and the local librarian. 
     So what does it all mean?
     Basically, it means that if you're dreaming of writing, you shouldn't let the fact that you're working out of your element deter you.  There are always going to be naysayers and haters who will say "You can't do that.  There's virtually no chance that you'll succeed.  And even if you do, who's going to want to read about (fill in the blank)?"
     Look them right in the eye.  Ask them where their stack of novels, short stories, and poetry is.  The usual response will be a mumbled, "Uh...well...that is..." to which you say, "Uh huh" and drive on.  Even if they do have such a stack, it doesn't mean they know everything there is to know about the business or every single person who'll read your work.  You might surprise yourself by what you can do when you think outside your box. 
    It certainly gives the haters cause for pause.
    Thanks for letting me spend the time with you, y'all.  It's been fun for me, and hopefully for you too.  I'm very proud and pleased to be part of this, and in the company of such august talent and wonderful fans.
    Until next time,


    J.S. Wayne


Angela Nichelle said...

Great post, J.S.! The inner nitpicker is truly the hardest one to overcome as writers...hmmm...not sure you ever do, but at least we learn to ignore and push forward!

Congrats on your upcoming release and welcome to Noble! ;)

Cherie De Sues said...

By the Gods, you hit the nail on the head J.S. I get strange replies when I mention what my occupation is these days. Writing paranormal, thrillers and contemporary is a mixed bag of fish. I'm pleased men are writing romance, they can put a real twist in the sensual scenes.

AllureVanSanz said...

Great post, J.S.

I remember the feeling of the first contract. They all feel really good but there's just that one little extra degree of warmth to the first one. The one that shatters the deep doubt and makes you feel that someone out there wants to read what you've written.

Welcome to the wonderful world of ebooks!


Bianca Sommerland said...

I'm stunned. This post was awesome. Please know that I will now stalk you until I can get you to guest post on my blog. Your post proves that all the promo in the world is nothing compaired to what a writter can achieve if they give their readers a little piece of themselves.

Now I'm going to hunt down your book.

C. Margery Kempe said...

Great story about overcoming those doubting voices. Persistence is always the best byword. Luck with your continued success.

Bryl R. Tyne said...

" hitting a cow. Hey. It happens." & "All in all it was a pretty good day."

Those two lines have been seared into my brain.

Thank you, and it is a pleasure to get to know you a little better, J.

J.S. Wayne said...

Thank you all for stopping by and leaving your thoughts...and such glowing praise! I know I've been unconscionably remiss in replying, and will do my best to ensure that next time I'm a bit more timely about it. :D