Tag Archives: publishing

Taking a Risk and Stepping Into the Unknown

About two weeks ago, I came a across a Tweet that said Harlequin was having a pitch challenge for its Blaze line. If you don’t know Harlequin, it’s a company that publishes category romance books every month. One of its lines is Blaze, which according to Harlequin is its sexiest line. I have a draft of a romance that I thought I might pitch to Harlequin (at the time I was thinking of its Desire line…one hot notch down from Blaze), but Harlequin submission rules still require snail mail and I hadn’t gotten myself organized to put together a complete package with SASE. But the Blaze Pitch Challenge said to email a one-page synopsis and first five pages, so I thought, why not. Actually, my thinking process was something like:

“I should do that”
“But my manuscript is only a rough draft. Maybe it’s not ready to pitch”
“What the heck, you can’t win if you don’t try”
“Ugh, I have to write a synopsis, which are 100 times harder than writing a novel”
“It’s just one page. Give it a go.”

Whew. So on the last day for submissions, I sent a one-page synopsis and first five pages of “Southern Comfort”, a straight forward romance about a sassy, feisty southern gal and brooding, but hot New York guy.

I’ve never done anything like this before, and while I’ve read many Harlequin books, I don’t know much about its editors or writers. And yet, I felt pretty good about what I submitted. Perhaps it was the universe rewarding me for taking a risk, because on Friday afternoon I got an email saying my submission was one of five selected to participate in the pitch. Whoop!

But then I thought, “I don’t know how to pitch through conversation.” The Harlequin Pitch Challenge uses online chat to converse with editors. I’m nervous mostly because I don’t know what to expect? What questions will be asked? How much of the book actually needs to be done? (Only about 1/3 of it I’d feel comfortable letting someone else read. The rest is just too rough and some scenes aren’t written yet). What will the editor want to know about the characters and plot. Will I be able to convey plot succinctly? How are pen names managed (I submitted using my real name, but let the reviewers know that I used a pen name). The email I received on Friday indicated that I’d get further details this week and I hope that means I’ll be able to prepare.

So now I’m editing two books, “Old Flames Never Die”, book two in the Valentine series, and “Southern Comfort” so I have something to send should the editor ask for it on Wednesday. And because it’s the Blaze line, I have to up the hot factor, which is harder than you might think. But I’m up for the challenge.

I feel a little stressed out with so much going on, but then I think, “Hey, this must be what it’s like to be a real writer!”

So Much to Write, So Little Time

I’m very excited about the initial interest in Deadly Valentine and Endangered. Feedback has been positive, especially for Endangered, which is a different kind of romantic mystery. Instead of coming together during the story or rediscovering their love, the Delecoeurs are 100% in love and committed. I was wondering if readers would find a story in which the conflict rests completely on the circumstances — someone is out to kill Madeleine — and not on what will happen to the relationship interesting. So far, people have found it “refreshing” and are asking for the next story.

This brings a new, yet welcome problem…what to focus on publishing next. I’m eager for Microsoft or Apple or some other tech company to invent a gadget that will allow me to plug my brain directly into my computer. This gadget would make it fast to get my ideas downs and first drafts written. I have no shortage of stories for Max and Madeleine, Tess and Jack, and even new characters that aren’t published. But there is only so much time in the day and currently, my fiction writing is second to my ‘making  a living writing’. Then there is the question of what do I work on first? Do I write the new Delecoeur mystery or do I edit the next Valentine books, which are on their fourth edits? Can I do both? These are questions I’m grappling with as move from a writing hobbiest to professional writer. Perhaps I need to ask you the reader…which story do you want to see next? Delecoeur or Old Flames Never Die – Valentine Book 2?

New Edits to Deadly Valentine Coming Shortly

The difficulty in publishing your writing, is finding all the errors. Although there were several readers and edits before publishing Deadly Valentine, several errors remain particularly in the second half of the book. A new cleaned up version of the book will be posted shortly. If you got one of the “problem” edits, forward a copy of your Amazon receipt to jennahart @ gmail.com and I’ll make sure you get a clean edit for free. I’ll even throw in a copy of Endangered.

Deadly Valentine: A Valentine Mystery, Book One

Deadly Valentine: A Valentine Mystery, Book One is now available through Amazon. This is my first full-length novel and I’m so glad that it’s finally published.

After years of writing fan fiction, I’d decided to write a novel with original characters. It was much harder than I thought it would be, but I’m pleased with the finished product. Deadly Valentine includes all the elements of a story I love; a sexy romance, fun banter, and a mystery. Here’s the description:

Tess Madison walked away from her two-timing fiancé, a multi-million dollar trust fund and a cushy corporate law job to pursue the single life indulging in chocolate and fancy French underwear. But her newly reordered life comes unraveled when she reluctantly accepts an invitation to a dinner party and stumbles upon the host’s dead body. Now Tess is the middle of a murder investigation pitting her wannabe-boyfriend police detective against Jack Valentine, a man from her past with blue-green eyes and sinful smile that causes her to rethink her self-imposed celibacy. Tess has many reasons to avoid Jack including the fact that he’s the prime suspect in murder. But Tess doesn’t believe Jack’s the murderer and with an honest attempt to keep her hormones in check, she agrees to represent him. With Jack’s help, she uncovers a 30-year-old secret someone is killing to keep hidden and discovers sensual delights that don’t include chocolate or French underwear. But when her professional and personal relationship with Jack threatens to ruin her career and end her life, Tess has to decide if Jack, is worth the risk.

Deadly Valentine is the first in the Valentine Mystery series featuring Tess Madison a chocolate and French underwear connoisseur and Jack Valentine, her handsome, environmentalist, pteromerhanophobic (fear of flying) love interest.

This is a full-length 103,000 word novel of mystery and romance, including mild sex scenes.

Do Roberts, Grisham or Evanovich Write Blurbs?

You may find this hard to believe, but writing blurbs — the information on the book that tells what it’s about — is harder than writing the story itself. At least it is for me. First of all, a good blurb is crucial to sales. It’s the next thing readers look at after the cover. That’s a lot of pressure! Second, you have to fit the plot of the story into a few lines of text. But it’s not just the plot that needs to be explained. You also have to convey they tone of the story and the personality of the characters.

Example of a bad blurb…

Tess left Washington, D.C. after a betrayal. She’s rebuilt her life and her law career in a small central Virginia town. All is well until she is invited to a dinner party where her date abandons her, a man from her past, Jack Valentine, shows up and the host ends up dead. Tess doesn’t like seeing Jack, but she doesn’t think he’s a killer and so she agrees to represent him. As they investigate the crime, they learn about a 30-year old crime and grow closer together. But when her life and career are threatened, will Tess take a chance on Jack.

That’s the basic story of Deadly Valentine, but it doesn’t give you any information about whether or not the story is noir, funny, or serious, or any clue to what the characters are like.

Below is blurb I eventually pulled together..

Better Blurb:

Tess Madison walked away from her two-timing fiancé, a multi-million dollar trust fund and a cushy corporate law job to pursue the single life indulging in chocolate and fancy French underwear. But her newly reordered life comes unraveled when she reluctantly accepts an invitation to a dinner party and stumbles upon the host’s dead body. Now Tess is the middle of a murder investigation pitting her wannabe-boyfriend police detective against Jack Valentine, a man from her past with blue-green eyes and sinful smile that causes her to rethink her self-imposed celibacy. Tess has many reasons to avoid Jack including the fact that he’s the prime suspect in murder. But Tess doesn’t believe Jack’s the murderer and with an honest attempt to keep her hormones in check, she agrees to represent him. With Jack’s help, she uncovers a 30-year-old secret someone is killing to keep hidden and discovers sensual delights that don’t include chocolate or French underwear. But when her professional and personal relationship with Jack threatens to ruin her career and end her life, Tess has to decide if Jack is worth the risk.

Professional authors/publishers would probably have critiques of the better blurb, but you can’t deny it’s better than the first.

So now I’m working on the blurb for Endangered and I’m stuck. I’ve got a bad version, but am having a heck of a time beefing it up. As I work on it, I realize that I’m going to have to write a blurb for every book I publish and I couldn’t help but wonder if the mega-authors write their own blurbs. And would I have to be a mega-author to get someone else to write my blurbs?