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Reclaiming My Website

Continued from page 1      long-line of Southern belles, who weren’t afraid to “shade” the truth, influenced my writing. My updated bio page includes family photos from the 1920s, and the late 1800s; I also muse about the fact that my grandmother lived on the same street as Tennessee Williams’ family and wonder, as my great-uncle did, whether there might have been something in the water in Columbus, Mississippi—’cause honey, there was a whole lot of crazy going on that street. Yes, it’s personal, but if you want to know what a late 1800s wedding dress looks like in detail, check out great grandmother’s. For a page called Esoterica, I’m thinking of featuring engravings from my book collection. I’ve posted a great late-1800s engraving of a flower seller on an Amsterdam street, determinedly hawking her wares on the Home page. As I did, I found myself writing a manifesto of sorts that sums up my own personal “newsflash”: It doesn’t matter whether you’re publishing trad, or indie, or both, if you want to keep the joy, let your freak flag fly.

The Manifesto (or I’m baaack.)

For years my website was like an abandoned billboard on the highway: the advertisement stayed the same, but the information faded, became outdated, and parts fell away. To stretch the billboard metaphor further, you might say I left it up as a signpost in the wilderness while I went off to explore other literary roads….

I didn’t mean to leave off writing historical romance (despite my mother’s response to the news that I’d sold one: “That’s great. When are you going to write a real book?”). I thought changing genre was what I need to do to keep writing. Though my books were well reviewed, even before they hit the market it was pretty clear my publisher wasn’t interested in continuing the series. (Let me just say, though I wasn’t thrilled, I wasn’t totally devastated. My first experience in the publishing world wasn’t exactly every young writer’s fantasy—unless of course, that young writer is a masochist. In which case, it was AWEsome.)

Note: This less-than-awesome experience included my agent, who I will not name and will not publicly bash. Except to say, if you’re thinking of using her you’re better off signing on with a used-car salesman. (Great at selling, hates to be bothered with questions about the fine print in the contracts, and really doesn’t want to be bothered after she’s made the sale.) I only mention the agent thing because if you stick with my story, you’ll notice a theme. For those of you with short attention spans, it has to do with a) wasting time following other people’s advice instead of doing what you want to do and b) wasting time waiting for other people to give you permission to do what you want to do.

A lot of people kept telling me, "If you want to sell again, you need to change genres." A lot of people kept telling me to “write what you know.” And lot of people kept telling me I needed a “platform.” This advice, coupled with the fascination people tend to have with my time at the CIA—yes, it was an amazing experience; no, I can’t tell you the details—made me think I ought to write a contemporary romance set at the CIA. I will admit that my heart was not entirely in it. I mean, how excited would you be about writing about your job?

A lot of people also said if I was writing in a new genre, I needed to write a whole new book to get a new agent (because a lot of people said you can’t sell a book without an agent). So, I wrote the book, sent it off to a bunch of agents and got a new agent. (Did I mention that agents take months to respond to queries and more months to respond to complete submissions?)

Not counting the time to write the book, nearly a year went by before I got my bright shiny new agent. She sent out my book. And a proposal for a paranormal romance set at the CIA. Then I waited. And waited. After six months, I decided, hey it’s been nearly two years and I haven’t sold a new book and isn’t the whole point of agents supposed to be that they get you a faster response than if you send in the book yourself? (Call me naïve.) I pulled the book and the proposal, and left the agent.

My departure wasn’t based solely on frustration. I also left because I wanted to try my hand at writing a genre the agency didn’t represent. You see, my kids had started handing me books and demanding I read them. And because I was constantly telling them they should do stuff because I said so, I figured I ought to do at least some things because they said so….   

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