My publisher, Sky Pony Press, has created a little teaser of my upcoming release. If you want a taste of what's to come on September 4th, you can check it out. Click HERE to check it out.
NOTE: The teaser is a pre-proof (i.e., not fully edited) version and it's not for quotation.
Hello, Wonderful Writers!
The author journey is long. Long. It takes forever to get an agent. Even when you sign with one, it can take months to years to sell your book. Then you wait for it to come out. And to get the next book deal. In between, there are a lot of things to wait for: people to read and give you feedback, wait times until reveals and announcements, delays in getting an answer so you can move on to something else.
This process takes a LONG time.
But, it’s not all an endless, sweaty slog along a dusty trail. I swear. There are many bright spots along the way. Today, I want to talk about something else that happens during the writing journey: a bunch of seemingly inconsequential events that actually are really important.
I learned this concept as a psychology pre-doctoral intern, leading a CBT psychotherapy group for people in recovery from addiction. One of our therapy concepts was Seemingly Inconsequential Decision: or, the little, unimportant choices we make daily that keep us stuck in a loop that replays our addiction. The decision to get gas here instead of there (because here just happens to be near the market where we buy our cigarettes or the bar we like to stop at after work). The decision to skip a workout, which leaves more time open, which means we might get bored, which increases the chances that we’ll want to hang out with the wrong crowd. In therapy, by helping clients see how these seemingly unimportant events are actually important, they gain greater insight and more muscle to power forward in their recovery.
Right now you’re probably like: 1) what does this even have to do with writing? and 2) I thought this was supposed to be motivational; how is this positive?
I’m getting there, I swear!
Trail Marker 2: I joined a critique group that I located through those materials. That group wasn’t the best fit for me, so I ended up joining another one, which also wasn’t the best fit for me, so I found another one in the summer of 2013. In that group, I noticed an old friend, the wonderful Cristina Dos Santos, who I’d lost touch with maybe seven years prior, but who was apparently writing. I reached out to her, and she invited me into her writers’ group.
Trail Marker 3: That group was the right fit. Those ladies are now some of my best friends. Now, I have all these new best friends!
Trail Marker 4: One of them told me about a small press looking for stories for an anthology. So I wrote one, and that ended up being my first accepted story. That wasn’t the end of my journey; getting into an anthology wasn’t my end goal, but it was a fabulous success that motivated me and led to more opportunities. One of the authors on that anthology became one of my current CPs; we still trade manuscripts.
Trail Marker 5: Later, I was invited to attend an author workshop with one of those writer group friends (the fabulous Janae Marks, whose book, FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON, comes out next year), and I chose to attend a Middle Grade romance talk; I used what I learned there to write the second short for the small press.
Trail Marker 6: And that got accepted. No, it wasn’t an agent offer or a book deal, but it was so cool, and it led to more opportunities. That anthology was all MG horror stories, and one author in particular has a successful MG/YA horror series.
Trail Marker 7: Later, when I was working on a MG horror, I had some questions, and so I reached out to that author, Ty Drago, of THE UNDERTAKER SERIES. He was very open to talking to me since we were in the anthology together, and he was super helpful.
Trail Marker 8: Later, he came to me and asked if I’d like to help read submissions for his lit mag, Allegory Magazine, and I was like, “Sure!” Becoming an editor on the project wasn’t the end of my road either, but I learned SO much about story by reading those submissions; it helped me get better at writing. I also got to give other authors their yes-moment, and there’s nothing like that.
Trail Marker 9: Later, when I had an opportunity to be a mentor for PitchWars, I felt very confident I could help other authors with their books, and my work with Allegory helped there. Being a PitchWars mentor isn’t the end of my journey either, but now, through that, I’ve met SO many other authors, and I’ve learned from them, been supported by them, and helped to support them back. (The thrill I get when I ask authors to send me their full MSs is almost as exciting as when I was the recipient of such emails). And my mentee got an agent!
There’s more. I could go on. For example that same small press put out a call for novellas, so I wrote one, and that book, BROKEN CHORDS was published last year. Ty was kind enough to write a blurb for me. Because I wrote that novella, I was invited to Palm Peril in February, and I got to be on a panel and have dinner with R. L. Stine. This string of events never ends. If I come back in three months, I will see how it has grown again.
All of these things were little boosts along the way, but none was the ultimate end of my journey. It wasn’t like I started writing saying “Being a Pitch Wars Mentor is my goal,” but all of these things were endpoints in and of themselves anyway. They were all small successes that not only helped buoy me and keep me motivated for the longer hike, they also opened new opportunities that absolutely support my success long term. And, they’ve been hugely fun and rewarding and satisfying. I’ve learned from them. I’m growing every day.
So, my points here are: 1) you never know what one opportunity will lead to in the long run. 2) the journey may be long, but there are many, many places to pause and simply enjoy the view along the way. 3) You just have to get a little ways down the path before you’ll be able to see how these things have all been instrumental in your success.
What seemingly inconsequential evens have opened new paths for you on your author journey? Leave your stories in the comments. I’d love to hear them.
A huge hug to Amber Gregg for having me back on Judging More Than Just The Cover, and until next time, remember: You can do it! You can write!
A weekend in Palm Beach, FL. My first author panel, moderated by R. L. Stine, an icon and a personal favorite. Seeing my book for sale for the first time. My book with a library bar code! And the kids. They were INCREDIBLE. I can't even explain what it felt like hearing a mob of young readers say they want to read my book. Nothing was so painful as choosing one for my giveaway (I did eenie-meenie-miney-mo). And I got to do my first signing. And have dinner with this fabulous group of writers and Mr. Stine and his lovely wife and editor, Jane Stine. The weather was fabulous, and the other authors were wonderful. (Writers are seriously the best people, ever.) Amy Christine Parker (author and chair of the new International Thriller Writers Young Reader division) was a fountain of information and made the whole thing easy as can be. J.D. Fennell, Karen McManus, Megan Miranda, and Shelia Sobel were super fun to hang with, and I can't wait to see how things go with all their careers. The Palm Beach Library System set up the event with such professionalism, and helped to ensure we had a large crowd. We visited two high schools the day after the main event, Glades High School and Atlantic Community High School, where we met Elizabeth Zrodowski and Rebecca Radic, librarian and medial specialists, extraordinaires.
The event was also sobering. As most people know, February 14th, 2018 saw a shooting at the Marjorie Douglas Stoneman HS in Parkland, FL. The schools in the area were under high alert in the week after, which included our visit, mere days following the horrifying event. Security measures were in effect, but tensions were high. I wont lie; it was emotional and scary. Imagining what kids in America must experience on a daily basis when they walk into their classrooms was immensely moving. Being afraid of going to school. Fear of being in a place where something terrible might happen. Our schools have threats on a regular basis. Social media makes it so easy for masked threats, many of which are pranks, but how does anyone know? Not having children myself, this was a huge eye-opener. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated what all this meant, just nowhere near enough.
Our educators are heroes. Period. Our children are courageous. I don't know how parents get through. In life, we are occasionally exposed to things that change our worldview. This was one of them for me.
I want to end by thanking everyone involved. I also want to thank the International Thriller Writers and the Debut Program, organized by Shaun Harris (author and fellow member of Team Triada), for creating an opportunity for debut authors like me (in other words, clueless authors like me) to learn this valuable aspect of the business in a safe, supportive way.
I came to writing at a time when I was tired, worn out, burned out. I’d just finished my degree in psychology, which involved many years of classwork, exams, and applying for multiple training positions—many of which required competing against other students for scarce spots. For a decade, I did little for me other than my absolute necessities. I missed sleep, I missed parties, I missed trips. I stayed home when everyone else went and had a good time.
I told myself it was worth it.
And ten, a decade later, I was done, and instead of feeling energized, I was tired. And so I wrote. I wrote not knowing if I’d finish my first book. I wrote not knowing how to write at all, not really, not the way that works for fiction, but I did it anyway. And before that first book was done, I was ready for more and ready to put myself out there. My first queries met with only rejection, which was appropriate—they were terrible—but at that time, I didn’t understand how to make them better. All I knew was that I wasn’t good enough, which was hard. I thought of giving up, but as the stress built—from work, from rejection, from everything else in life—I needed to get it out, and so I wrote.
Three years in, I finally found my writer tribe, and they taught me SO much. And then life happened, reminding me that utter ruin is just around the corner. No matter how well you prepare and how hard you work, you can still end up with nothing. Then life took people I loved—including my cheerleader—and bestowed disease on people I can’t bear to lose. And the rejections kept coming, as if everything in my life was okay. As if could handle one more letdown. And I coped with the stress the only way I knew how; I wrote. Until the day I didn’t get a no. That day, four years into my journey, I got a yes.
My first yes.
My mom still had cancer, and the future was still uncertain, but my story was going to be published in a real book, and it was the most incredible moment of my life. Even to this day. I will never forget what that email was like. I had leveled up. New things were now possible. Everything was possible. I’d done it. And I was more motivated than ever, and so I wrote.
I didn’t sleep for about two weeks after that, because every time I tried, that excitement came back. And it was a good thing, because for the first time in over a year, I was not-sleeping for a good reason. The stories filled my brain, and I woke up, tired but exhilarated, and I wrote them.
That one yes helped ease the no’s that came right after, but then something amazing happened. Another yes. And then another one. And then, a maybe—from an agent. An agent! My first requests came in, and I was sure it was going to happen. It. I’d be a writer. For real. And so I wrote.
Then the big disappointment. The day the call came, but it wasn’t the real call. It was my lowest point of all. Everything that had happened in the months prior came down on me, and it was like all that potential I’d seen had been smoke and mirrors. I cried. Then I stopped. And the info from the call that wasn’t the call was running through my brain, and before the redness had left my eyes and the stuffiness had left my nose, I wrote.
The possibilities and potential weren’t gone. More good things came. The competition, the call that was the call, then the offer. With these things came more excitement than I can capture in words, but they brought stress and uncertainty and self-comparison and not-measuring-up. At times, I realized that, though six years had passed since I typed the first words, I almost felt like I was in the same place. And so I wrote, because nothing eases the stress of being a writer like writing, like the story in my head.
In mere months, my book will be out, and I have no clue what that road will be like. It will definitely be exciting, and I’m sure I’ll have more sleepless nights—the good ones—but I’m sure I’ll have some of the bad, too. But I’ll be okay, because over the eight years since I started this “hobby,” I’ve learned so much, I’ve met incredible people, and I have a fabulous team behind me (including my mom, who’s doing well!). I can’t control what people will think of my book. All I can control is what I do next. The thing I’m most grateful for is that the writing never stopped being fun, exciting, and energizing. It’s still the thing that gets me through. I really hope people love my book, but if they don’t, there will be another book. I don’t know that, not yet, but I know it all the same. And, in the meantime, I’ll write. Because what else am I going to do?
NB: Last month, I wrote a post about my journey, and this is the same story, but not a story of dates and milestones. In some ways, this is the real story. To all the Wonderful Writers out there, if you’re looking for your cheerleader, let me be it. As long as you’re writing, you’re a writer. As long as you don’t quit, you can’t fail. And, never forget: You can do it! You can write!
When I entered BROKEN CHORDS into this competition, I had zero expectations. Let's just say I've entered a couple book contests in my day. But, my book took an honorable mention! What a fabulous surprise! As this is a horror novella, I'm extra proud as genre fiction can sometimes get lost in the mix, and I love this book so much. (I know I'm a little biased.)
And don't forget, if you're in the Palm Beach, FL area on February 18th, come see me, four other debut authors, and the legendary R. L. Stine at Palm Beach Peril where we'll be doing a panel presentation followed by a book signing (my FIRST book signing! Squee!) I hope to see you there. Find out more about this event HERE.
Sometimes, in the life of a book, the publisher decides to go back to the drawing board on the cover concept, even if the book hasn't been released yet. And that's what happened to my book, TEN AFTER CLOSING. I loved my old cover, but I LOVE my new cover. The artist is Kevin Tong, and he's FABULOUS!
So, here it is, the new cover for TEN AFTER CLOSING.
Pre-Order TEN AFTER CLOSING: http://bit.ly/TACBAYLS
Holy MOLY, I'm going to be on an author panel next month. And it's with R. L. Stine. I DEVOURED Fear Street books when I was a YA reader, and I still have a couple of my favorites on my shelf. I can't believe I'll get to meet one of the authors that inspired my writing and be part of a pane discussion with him and four other debut authors!
For more info, check out the Palm Beach Library Group page for the event. And I hope to see you there! I'll have swag, a special giveaway, and a TEASER for my upcoming release, TEN AFTER CLOSING.
Happy New Year, Wonderful Writers! I took a break from posting during December so I could focus on writing/editing and also enjoy the holidays. I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and are ready for a new year of writing, reading, and moving forward toward your goals.
The start of a new year is a time when I always stop and think about where I am and how I got here. I often reflect on my path to my first career as a psychologist and all the things I accomplished. My favorite way to do this is to reflect on all the things that I’ve done/achieved or are happening now that weren’t part of my life 1 year ago.
For writing, for example, one year ago, I didn’t have the book deal for my debut novel, TEN AFTER CLOSING. I sit here writing this post on January 8th, and the offer came the evening of January 9th. It’s hard to put myself back to what it felt like to be in that place, waiting to see if my first experience with submission would go well or end in disappointment. Out of all my writing challenges, the hardest time was the interim between my agent telling me we had very strong interest on my book and the day the offer came.
When I first started writing, which was late 2010, I started as a hobby. I literally had a conversation with myself about how I needed a new hobby, and I thought it would be fun to see if I could write a novel. I finished my first one about a year later, and I already knew I wanted to pursue a career in writing. (You can read my post about how I queried pretty much as soon as I finished that book, even though it was not even close to ready, right here. LOL!) I didn’t start
long as necessary to reach whatever success is waiting for me. But back then, it just felt so daunting.
And here I am, ready to do the math. So, how long did it take me?
- Fall 2010: Started writing November, I think)
- Summer 2011: Told a dear friend I was writing, and she wrote me a note with my favorite inspirational phrase
which will sound familiar if you follow my posts): You can do it! You can write!
- December, 2011: 1) First book done (but not fully revised; I finished revisions in summer 2015. Starting with book three, my revisions started taking way less time, but my first two books were a hot mess and I still had SO
much to learn.) 2) First (highly misguided) queries sent.
- January, 2012: Asked a writer, who was a friend of a friend, for some info/resources, and found my first critique
group through SCBWI.
- July, 2013: Connected with my writing group! (YAAAAYYYY!!!!!!!!!)
- November, 2013: Second book done (but not fully revised; I finished revisions in Feb. 2016).
(Here’s where things heat up because I started plotting.)
- August, 2014: wrote first short story. I won’t break down all my stories on this time line, but between then and
mid-2016, I wrote nine.
- November, 2014: First attempt at NaNo. Third book done.
- December, 2014: 1) First short story accepted AND 2) this is when I began my website and social media presence.
- January, 2015: Actually started getting requests on my queries.
- March, 2015: My first short story was published. (Hooray!)
- April, 2015: BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT is out!
- May, 2015: BREATHLESS IS OUT!
- June, 2015: Fourth book
- July, 2015: Offer from a small press on book number four.
- August, 2015: 1) Fifth book (TEN AFTER CLOSING). 2) Heard an audio book recording of my story for BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT (Happy tears. A lot.)
- September, 2015: Revise and Resubmit! (AHH!) But no offer.
- November, 2015: Sixth book done (BROKEN CHORDS) AND FRIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is out!
- January, 2016: Seventh book
- February, 2016: 1) Found out Three World Press was closing so bye-bye BREATHLESS and book number 4. (Sad tears. A lot.) 2) Offer on BROKEN CHORDS (Holy moly!!!). 3) Accepted into Pitch2Publication (So much excitement, I thought I might die.).
- May, 2016: I GOT AN OFFER FROM A DREAM AGENT!!!! And we went on submission (GAH!).
- August, 2016: Eighth book
- November, 2016: Ninth book
- January, 2017: We got an offer on TEN AFTER CLOSING (Hooray!!!!!!!)
- February, 2017: Tenth book
- May, 2017: Self-published BREATHLESS.
- July, 2017: Eleventh book
- October, 2017: BROKEN CHORDS is out. (AHH!!!!!!)
- November, 2017: Twelfth book
- June, 2018: TEN AFTER CLOSING will be out.
I’ve never written this out before, and I’m sort of sitting here, letting it sink in. Mind=blown.
So, as you can see, between my first words on that first blank page and:
- First ‘yes’ on anything: just over 4 years
- First book contract: 5.5 years,
- Agent offer: 5.5 years, 7 books, and 9 short stories
- Contract on TEN AFTER CLOSING: 6.5 years, 9 books, and 9 short stories
- The release of my book BROKEN CHORDS: 7 years, 11 books, & 9 short stories
- The release of my book TEN AFTER CLOSING: almost 8 years, 12+ books (I’m not sure what my drafting schedule will be this
If someone had told me, the day I started my first book, that it would take more than 5 years to get an agent and almost 8 for my first official novel to come out, I doubt I would have been like, “Yeah. Sign me up for THAT, please.” I would maybe have curled up into a ball and cried. I might never have started.
BUT, when I think about the ride getting here, it DOESN’T FEEL THAT LONG!
This has been the most exciting seven years of my life. There were so many milestones along the way. Meeting new people, learning new things, small successes. Yes, there was a lot of stress, waiting, and the challenge of so many rejections. If I put all my rejections into this time line, we’d have AT LEAST 120 additional bullets. AT LEAST. But still, it’s been an amazing seven years. It’s been more fulfilling, rewarding, and FUN than I would have ever imagined.
I love writing, and I can’t even picture what my life would be like today if I hadn’t had that conversation with myself about needing a new hobby (or if I picked something other than fiction like, say, knitting. Hmm… Yeah. That would have been different, but I’d probably have a lot of cool sweaters and blankets by now.)
So, no matter where you are on your writing journey, I wish you success, but more than anything, I hope you are having FUN! And remember, the only way to fail, is to stop before you reach your goals.
You can do it! You can write!
Jessica Bayliss Blogs about reading, writing, & other fun stuff