April 29, 2011

Made It Moment: Jennifer Shaw

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:48 am

Big Pharma's Sexy Little Secret

I am so happy to have Jennifer Shaw on Suspense Your Disbelief because Jennifer wrote a book that…what? Changed my life? No, but it did confirm a lot of assumptions I’ve made that drive certain decisions that affect myself and my family. It’s about the pharmaceutical industry and I’ve been telling everyone I know who ever takes or has taken a medication to read this shocking true tale.

Jennifer Shaw

I can’t say that I’ve completely reached my Made It Moment quite yet. But, I’ve definitely made some huge strides.
I never considered myself a writer, but I did author Big Pharma’s Sexy Little Secret. My goal was to draw attention to the fact that physicians are human and patients need to be their own health advocate.

I spent night after night writing and rewriting little vignettes exposing my life as a pharmaceutical sales rep. I wanted to get the message out because I knew it was important. Pharmaceutical sales reps spend their days manipulating studies, doctors and other health care professionals in order to obtain expected prescription share growth—which means, If a physician does not write enough prescriptions for the drugs that a pharmaceutical rep promotes—the rep’s job is on the line.

My goal was to write the book in a raw, witty, unedited version—the truth the way that I envisioned it. I eventually chose to self publish through Create Space—within four months I had a professional looking book. The day that I received my fist copy of Big Pharma’s Sexy Little Secret, I did feel a brief Made It Moment.

Then reality set in—Why am I only averaging a few book sales a day? Oh boy—I went crazy on Facebook, emails, twitter, blogs. I reached out to every local paper and magazine. Of course, I thought about hiring a professional publicist—spoke to a few—wonderful people—but, it’s so expensive. So I keep blogging, emailing, tweeting…

Finally, a huge break—a national medical reporter finds me on twitter and wants to do a story on Big Pharma’s Sexy Little Secret. We interviewed for six hours and it’s scheduled to air as a feature story the first week of May. Made It Moment? Almost.

I have to see it air first!

I’m ecstatic that my message will be heard and I truly hope that patients become their own health advocates and understand that doctors are not Gods, they are human. They get influenced, enticed and persuaded every day.

JENNIFER SHAW received her B.A. from Rutgers State University. She was a top ranking pharmaceutical sales representative for over eight years. She currently resides in Bergen County NJ with her husband, two children and two step-children.

April 27, 2011

Made It Moment: Alison DeLuca

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:28 pm

The Night Watchman Express
I am thrilled to welcome Alison DeLuca to the blog today. First of all, Alison is published in one of the bravest of brave new world ways I’ve seen–a collaborative effort between some extremely talented people. I believe that J Darroll Hall’s Fantasy Island Book Publishing is a radical concept that could revolutionize parts of the industry.

Second, I met Alison (and J) through the contest Alison mentions in her post, and I agree that this contest’s profoundest value (since I also didn’t get very far in it) was its wonderful contestants, some friends of mine now for years.

Finally, Alison wins this year’s award for looking younger than she is. You’ll have to read on to discover by exactly how much :) While you do, check out her terrific book cover and book.

It’s a brave new world.

Alison DeLuca

My current success sprang from failure. A few months ago I got an email from CreateSpace describing their ABNA contest. The top prize was a publishing contract with Penguin.

I have always had a thing for Penguin books. I loved their bindings, especially the antique paperbacks – the orange and white front, the titles in plain black font, and the penguin on the spine. When I read about the contest, I jumped right in with my manuscript, naively expecting to advance to at least the second round.

Well, that didn’t happen. I was disappointed when I was “pitched on my pitch,” to quote fellow participants, but while I was writing that all-important three hundred words of pitch, I met some wonderful, interesting people on the ABNA discussion boards. That is when things actually started to happen for me and my book, The Night Watchman Express. J Darroll Hall of Fantasy Island Book Publishing offered to put the book on Kindle for me and act as my publisher and agent. I squeezed my eyes tight shut, and took my most exhilarating “leap of faith” to date.

I wrote my book a year ago. It started as a trilogy, but I compiled it as a single volume for the ABNA contest and for epublishing to Kindle. It is a steampunk fantasy of a girl in Edwardian England who discovers a quantum computer, thus setting off a series of adventures. There are tropical islands, a dethroned princess, an underground laboratory, and some villains, who were a lot of fun to create.

There isn’t any sex or gory violence. I just seem to work naturally within a G rating.

When I saw my manuscript on sale on Amazon, I felt nervous, excited, and overwhelmed with the thought that somewhere, out there, people were actually READING WHAT I WROTE.

FIP started gaining steam as well as more writers signed on to publish with them, and J Darroll asked me to help edit some titles for the YA / Fantasy end of the business. From being a stay-at-home-mom who just scribbled whenever possible, I evolved into a published author and editor with a slush pile. Life, which had always been hectic, suddenly became downright chaotic.

I still wonder what actually lit the fire under my Night Watchman caboose. Was it just the attention from FIP? Or was it also the fact that I am fifty and can’t say any longer, “Oh, I’ll publish books one day?”

Alison DeLuca is a writer of urban fantasy for young adults. She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain. As a teacher she taught every grade level in every kind of school district possible. She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.

April 26, 2011

Made It Moment: Lesley Diehl

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:44 am

Dumpster Dying

Please welcome Lesley Diehl to the blog. We’ve had a couple of Moments involving the way children connect to our feelings of success. But I guarantee that no one’s ever seen one like Lesley’s before. Read on!

Lesley Diehl

I guess I don’t believe in “made it” moments, at least not the kind that come like a bolt of lighting and feel much like the “Eureka” moment experienced by that old Greek philosopher guy. “Made it moments” are softer, more subtle, warmer, fuller, and can bring tears and laughter. Mine came a few weeks ago. I had planned a book party to introduce my second book, one that is set in rural Florida and features a protagonist retired from preschool teaching. I’d advertised the event in the library where it was to be held, and in the local newspaper.

When the afternoon arrived, I was at the event early—chewing my nails and worrying whether I had an engaging and exciting enough program to hold the attention of the probably ten or so people I expected to attend. Imagine my surprise when over thirty people filled the room.

No, no. That’s not the moment.

About to begin my program, I was tapped on the arm by a small girl, about ten years old, with brown hair and a face full of freckles. She held in her hand two pieces of paper, one a social security card, the other a birth certificate. “Hi,” she said, “My name is the same as your protagonist and I can prove it.” She handed me the two documents and sure enough, she had the name of “Emily Rhodes” the very same as my fifty-five year old protagonist.

She was all smiles. Her glee at bearing the same name as someone she saw as famous, a character in print, was catching. I couldn’t help grinning at her delight. I briefly looked at the documents, but she was insistent I give them more than a cursory glance. I did. Her mother said they had read the press release in the newspaper and her daughter was insistent they attend the event. They could not stay for the program, but she bought two books, one for her and one for her best friend. Better than the sales, she gave me a huge hug and acted as if I had done something very special just for her.

Actually she had done something very special–and just for me. It was my “made it moment,” one I will never forget nor will I take her joy and enthusiasm for granted.

Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office. Back north, she devotes her afternoons to writing and, when the sun sets, relaxing on the bank of her trout stream, sipping tea or a local microbrew. In her words, “I come to the “Big Lake” to write, hang out in cowboy bars, and immerse myself in the Florida that used to be. No beaches, no bikinis, no sand. Just cows, horses, and gators.”

April 25, 2011

Made It Moment II: Douglas Corleone

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 6:37 am

Night On Fire

I am very happy to welcome back mystery author Doug Corleone to the site. Doug speaks about the business of publishing from the unique perspective of a sophomore–and I don’t quite know if I want to clap my hands over my ears–or else clap him on the back for showing us all what it means to stay in the game.

Douglas Corleone

Here it is, a year after the publication of my debut novel ONE MAN’S PARADISE, and I’ve made it again. Which is to say that I’m on the cusp of having my second novel in the Kevin Corvelli mystery series NIGHT ON FIRE unleashed unto the world.

Over the past twelve months, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I would revise my first Made It Moment, so I jumped when Jenny Milchman offered me the opportunity to write a Made It Moment II. First, I take back the line in which I said I hope that my real Made It Moment is “decades and dozens of books away.” Because over the past year, it’s certainly seemed as though that might become a reality. No, I’m more than ready for my Made It Moment, because I’ve finally come to realize what my Made It Moment will be – the moment I can honestly say I’m earning a living wage and have some job stability.

There were plenty of moments last year that I thought might qualify as Made It Moments – the moment I first saw a large display of my books in the window at Barnes & Noble in Honolulu; the moment I sat down at my first book signing; the moment I received a contract for the next two books in the Kevin Corvelli series. But looking back, none of those moments qualify because not one of those moments did anything to remove the uncertainty about the future of my career.

So few aspiring novelists realize that the real challenges begin only after you sign your first book contract. The anxiety that accompanies waiting for your first review, your first royalty statement, is far worse than the stress inherent in the original submission process. Because by this point, you’ve come so far and experienced so many minor Made It Moments that failure now would be devastating. And until you’ve established that you can sell books to the reading public, the threat of failure looms like a dark cloud over your writing space. Until you’ve established yourself, you’re always one bad sales quarter away from having to start the entire process over again, under a different name.

Then again, as I wrote the last paragraph (I’m not kidding), a message came in from my website. It read: “ONE MAN’S PARADISE is one of the best books I have read. Loved your style of writing. I can hardly wait for your next book to come out. Just once in a while a book comes along that has everything and this one is it. More please.”

For just a moment, as I read that, I was able to forget sales figures, able to put my anxieties about the future on pause. It was definitely a Made It Moment. To quote the author of that message, “More please.”

Hope to see you all next year for my Made It Moment III. Until then, happy reading!

Douglas Corleone’s debut novel ONE MAN’S PARADISE is the winner of the 2009 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Corleone now resides in the Hawaiian Islands, where he is studying for the Bar Exam. Visit the author online at http://www.douglascorleone.com.

April 20, 2011

Made It Moment: Alexandra MacKenzie

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:00 am

Immortal Quest

Alexandra MacKenzie offers a philosophy for success that resonated so thoroughly for me, I immediately asked her to write an entry for this forum. Plus she’s been where I have. Where so many of us have. Now read on, and if Alexandra’s Moment knocks you down with its acuity, don’t forget to get back up again…

She’d want you to.

Alexandra MacKenzie

I’ve been down the road of rejection many times, and I hit my lowest low after years and years of struggle when an editor at a major house called me to say she loved my book, and so did the marketing department, but she had to get the publisher’s okay. I was thrilled– and then I waited and waited, for well over six months, only to hear that the publisher nixed it because they’d lost too much money on first novels that year. I wondered if I’d ever pull myself up from that discouraging experience.

A friend of mine who is a black-belt in karate gave me her training maxim: “Seven times down, eight times up.” I took it to heart, though in my case it was more like “799 times down, 800 times up.” And then I went out and found another passion to focus on that would never disappoint (birdwatching), and that helped me to let go of all of the emotional baggage surrounding writing. Watching birds gives me great joy, and there are no expectations or demands! I became immersed in it, heart and soul. I also paint, and one day out in the field while sketching, another birder admired my work and said, “I’m writing a book of nature essays focused on birds. Would you like to illustrate it?”

That was my first “Made It Moment”, but not the last. Not long after I illustrated the book, and feeling more encouraged from that experience, I returned to my lifelong love of telling stories. This time I tried small presses instead of the big ones, without an agent, and finally found a home for my work.

Alexandra has a B.A. in Art History (Western Washington University) and a Certificate in Scientific Illustration (University of Washington). In 2009, she illustrated a book of nature essays (In My Nature: A Birder’s Year at the Montlake Fill by Constance Sidles, Constancy Press.) with 30 watercolor paintings. In 2010 her fantasy novel, Immortal Quest: The Trouble with Mages was published by Edge SF (Canada). Alexandra’s book Seattle Sleuth will be released by Rhemalda Publishing in Spring 2012.

April 17, 2011

While I’ve been waiting, the world has changed: To E Or Not To E

Filed under: Backstory,Kids and Life,The Writing Life — jenny @ 9:48 pm

Today on his blog Joe Konrath asked me if I was an idiot. OK, he may not have used quite that word. And I suppose he wasn’t exactly talking to me. (Joe doesn’t know me).

But I felt as if he were.

It used to be that if you wanted to publish a book, and you hadn’t been graced with validation from a publisher, then it meant one of two things.

1) Your work wasn’t very good


2) Your work was good but publishers didn’t agree and so you’d better be ready to fork over a lot of money, and a lot of shoe leather, to try and prove it

I know several people who did exactly that. One fell into category 1) and the other into 2). All that differed between them was their level of success eventually. But the blood, sweat and tears along the way were the same.

No more.

Now, as Joe points out, and out, and out (because dummies like me might need to hear it twenty-hundred times as my five year old would say–the twenty-hundred, not the dummy part) you can publish a book that publishers won’t touch. For free. And quickly, too.

All it takes is a smattering of technical skill, or some cash to pay someone with a smattering of technical skill–or a baby and six years.

By that time, the baby will be able to get your book out on however many apps we’re using then. Maybe imprint it directly onto your retinas. Saves the piracy problem.

What does this mean? Well, first of all it means a lot of [insert word here] stuff will be put out there.

Mystery novelist Jeff Markowitz said at a recent Writing Matters panel that 80% of Americans think they can write a novel.


“Eighty percent of Americans,” said Jeff. “Can’t boil pasta.”

So there’s going to be a lot of [insert word again] clogging the pipelines. But so what? Did you think everything the majors publish smells like daisies?

Joe wisely points out that most self-published writers won’t make a living off their writing. Then again, most traditionally published authors don’t either.  The figure I’ve always heard batted around is 200.

Two hundred Americans earn a living off their fiction.

I am pretty sure my book isn’t [insert word]. It’s gotten more than a dozen blurbs from big authors. Ones who weren’t contractually obligated to read my book since, well, no one would ask them to do that. It’s been blogged about and tweeted by two authors whom I’d count among the best.

So why I don’t I follow Joe’s advice? Like, tonight?

Two reasons. First, I love print. I am thrilled if people–more people by all accounts–are reading digitally. I’m happy (OK, more than happy) for them to read my work that way.

(Ooh, and now you can! Yes, go to this link and you can download a short story of mine that represents my very first paid for piece of work. No one’s reviewed it yet as far as I can tell, so if you do you get an extra doughnut, or at least my heartfelt thanks).

But, all the above notwithstanding, I do love print, and I love bookstores (duh, that’s obvious, my 7 year old would say before I nailed her with a mommy look) and I’d also like to be able to read my own book. Joe’s method doesn’t cover that because he believes books are going the way of the T Rex.

The second reason is that I’m searching to repair an age old wound of invalidation and lack of recognition left over from childhood days at school.

Well, I am.

Don’t a lot of us want to be published traditionally for the validation? The, “See [insert name of prom king or queen/varsity star/valedictorian here]? I did it!!! You wound up dried up and dried out and wallowing in a bog somewhere and I. Got. Published.”

Joe would say that a hundred thousand readers and a million bucks will afford a lot of validation.

And maybe he’s right. Maybe it’s time to put away childhood–and childish–things and follow the eleventh commandment of Nike.

You know what that is, don’t you?

April 15, 2011

Made It Moment: Mindy Greenstein

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:08 am

House On Crash Corner

I am very glad to welcome Mindy Greenstein to the blog. Mindy is published by one cool press and you guys know how I feel about those. Plus, I cyber-met Mindy through my mentor at New York Writers Workshop–a man whose incisive eye on my pitch helped lead me to my agent. Finally, Mindy’s book is just plain good. Smart, funny, poignant. We could all use a little of that. So, how does someone like this think she’s made it? Read on…

Mindy Greenstein

It isn’t in my nature to feel as if I’ve ever made it. In a sense, there are many gradual “made it” moments— my first handwritten rejection letter, my first rejection by phone (no, the editor didn’t hate my work so much she had to tell me personally; she invited me to submit pieces in the future). But there was one moment in my writing career that stands out as particularly special.

“Little Louie” was the first piece I’d written out of raw pain. It was the story of my building’s doorman’s last days after a tragic motorcycle accident. We were all in mourning– the residents, the staff, and especially the children. I had just come back from watching him lie comatose in the hospital when an essay started to form in my head. I knew there would be a group of red-eyed people standing in the doorway waiting for word.I would have to tell them what I knew, that there didn’t seem to be anything the doctors could do for him. I felt so terribly sad, and yet I felt so close to everyone in our community, as we went through our misery together. I needed to write about that feeling and give voice to our communal pain.

Having the essay published in the New York Times would have been a made-it moment in itself, if it weren’t for my ambivalence. I’d rather have Louie back.

By the time my piece came out a few months later, I became concerned about reminding the building community about our open wound. I particularly thought of Louie’s daughter, whom I’d met at the hospital, and who might not want to be reminded of those terrible last days.

But when the article came out, something extraordinary happened.

Everyone said the same thing, including Louie’s close friends on the staff—“You made me cry so hard. Thank you so much!” A combination I hadn’t heard before. I felt something new and very moving, as if I was discovering the real reason I started writing in the first place. Sometimes, we write to teach, or entertain, or even inspire. Sometimes, though, we write to make our pain tolerable, by allowing us to share it with each other. And by doing that, we also help make other people’s pain tolerable.

But Louie’s daughter reminded me of the most poignant reason we write. “Thank you”, she said, “for honoring my father.”

Mindy Greenstein is a clinical psychologist, psycho-oncologist, and author of The House on Crash Corner and Other Unavoidable Calamities.

She was the chief clinical fellow in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Her personal essays have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, SELF Magazine, and numerous other publications.

She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons. (And she actually likes to cook chicken, no matter what she says in her book.)

April 14, 2011

Sometimes You Just Have to Jump

Filed under: Backstory,The Writing Life — jenny @ 8:41 pm

11 years, 3 agents, 14 almost offers.

I used to feel pathetic writing those numbers out. Now I just feel matter-of-fact. Or maybe it’s numb.

No, it’s matter of fact. This is me. This is my path. For whatever it turns out to be worth.

In some ways it was easy. It took me 8 months to get my first agent, and I naively thought that was a long time. I got two offers, and I got to choose whom to sign with. The next time I signed I got to choose, too. And the time after that.

I haven’t gotten anywhere near as many rejections as some writers have. I know some who have racked up triple, even quadruple digits before finally breaking through.

My hats are off to many of my friends who have kept going and going in the face of being told their work wasn’t good enough.

Obviously, as the end result shows, it was.

My situation, as many of you know, is a little bit different.

And it is unique in one way: I don’t know of one single writer who has been this close for this long, stuck at this exact same point.

I’ve been lucky enough that agents, authors, and editors have recognized something good in my work for over a decade. Good enough to publish.

But for some reason that recognition hasn’t translated into an offer.

I don’t know why.

Because the perfect offer is still out there, about to be made?

Because I’m meant to go another way, take an alternate route?

Or because there’s no real reason and this just happens to be the way things are going?

Either way, in the words of the great head banging song by The Dream Team

I can’t take this, anymore
I guess I’m not the only one that’s keeping score
I can’t change this hangin’ around,
I’m sick and tired of always being
Fed up with this crowd

So what to do now?

I don’t exactly know.

But I think it will happen soon.

April 13, 2011

Made It Moment: Jim Wills

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:56 am

A Few Men Faithful

We seem to have a theme going here about brave new world publishing options, people deciding to forge their own paths, and whether the traditional model is…missing stuff. Clearly, this theme is pretty near and dear to me at the moment. So take this Moment from that perspective. Jim Wills figured things out after just a little heartache, and I say more power to him.

Jim Wills

A bit of background first. I’ve been a professional freelance trade editor for more than twenty years, working with new authors to form good ideas into polished books. I also authored or co-authored several titles in the automotive area, plus wrote video scripts, corporate stuff, speeches, magazine articles and so on. A professional writer, in short. I watched, rather anxiously, as the cracks began spreading in bricks and mortar publishing.

Trade experience, it turned out, meant nothing on the fiction side; nothing to publishers, nothing to agents. I had three inter-connected novels written and professionally edited (not by me), and got absolutely nowhere with them. This all ate way too much time, cost far too much money and caused way too much frustration.

I just gave up for a while and shelved the novels, though I believed—and believe—strongly in their value. Then sites like Scribid showed up: a light-bulb moment. Many fits and starts, wrong turns, and questionable deals later, I found myself at the CreateSpace/Amazon doorway, stepped through and became an Indie author.

Experience told me I needed professional jacket designs for all three books. Connections work sometimes.

I knew I’d made it when the first very enthusiastic unsolicited review appeared on the Amazon book page for A Few Men Faithful: A Kavanagh Story I. Then more for Philly MC, II, and Shooter in a Plague Year, III. The fourth, “This Hard Gemlike Flame,” will appear this summer. Difficult to believe sometimes, but the stories I’d spent nearly ten years developing actually existed outside my hard drive; difficult to credit, but the readers are out there, and most of them seem to like what I do. Indie publishing and e-books are here to stay, and the good will be winnowed from the bad just as it always has.

I’ve had many and varied careers. In more or less historical order, I’ve been a motorcycle mechanic, a race engine builder, a teacher, an academic, a hard rock miner (silver), a book editor and ghost writer, a commercial writer in print and video, a novelist, a mason, a wood-fired artisan bread baker and a teacher of that craft. Some, if not all, have overlapped in time and continue

Jim’s books, A Few Men Faithful, Philly MC, and Shooter in a Plague Year, are available on Amazon.

April 12, 2011

I Love NY, I LOVERMONT, What about NJ?

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 12:33 pm

Emerging writer (thank you for the gracious term, Louise Penny) Karyne Corum came up with a great idea for a blog called Jersey Wise Fiction.

I met Karyne though another writing favorite, author and editor of Oak Tree Press, Sunny Frazier. Thanks, Sunny!

The website name is kind of a poke at the Sopranos image many people have of NJ while also being a tribute to the wisdom concentrated in a state that is within breathing distance of a great city, a not too distant shore, a pine wilderness, and horse country that dates back two hundred + years.

MWA great Chris Grabestein kicked off the blog there, and today I get to guest. If you leave a comment, you’ll be entered into a giveaway for a free download of one of my short stories.

Some of you have bolstered me by writing at the exact moment my writer’s spirits weren’t just flagging but felt stepped on and trampled in mud, and asked to read my work. With thanks to you I went and posted some!

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress