Aspiring Writer: Breaking Through to Publication

Not many writers receive “the call” by phone anymore. These days the coveted call usually arrives by e-mail, yet breaking through to publication is still the longing of every writer’s heart …

The Breakthrough

Monday night. Rushing around, trying to leave on time for my Word & Pen critique group meeting, I quickly gathered the printouts of my next chapter and reached out to shut down my computer. Oh, maybe just a quick peek at my e-mail.

fireworksA message from my agent? I stared at the subject line: “Lighthouse of the Carolinas offer for Deadly Inheritance.” (Later titled Her Deadly Inheritance.)

My heart skipped a beat. I held my breath.  A respected traditional publisher wanted to publish my novel? Had the soon the Lord had promised actually arrived?

I scanned the brief message, “Hi Beth, Lighthouse has offered you a contract for Deadly Inheritance. I’ve attached it for you to look at … if you have any questions … Jim Hart.”

Quickly printing the contract, I grabbed it and left for the meeting–not to read it to my critique group, but to hold it in my hands while I told them the amazing news. Excitement erupted as they cheered and congratulated me. It was a victory for all of us.

Two days later on December 11, 2014—with my questions answered and having prayed to know God’s will—I signed the three copies of the contract. As I mailed them to the publisher that day, I realized that a year ago in 2013, the Lord had first indicated that my novel would publish soon.

Days after signing the contract, I was still stunned. Though deeply grateful to the Lord, my agent, and the editor who had brought me to this place, I had not told anyone except my critique group. But now was the time to share the good news with family and friends.

God had kept his promise at the right time and with the right publisher.

***

Dear Reader, as impossible or far away as it may seem now, one day you, too, will share the good news of your novel’s breakthrough. You can count on it because our ever-faithful God always keeps his promises. Work hard and believe!

~ Beth

Copyright 2015 Beth Ann Ziarnik

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Aspiring Writer: Waiting for a Publisher

Waiting … is anyone good at it? Yet it’s part of the writing life. Especially when it comes to waiting for a publisher who will love our treasured novel.

The Waiting

As my novel went out to publisher after publisher, my agent kept me informed. I prayed. My prayer team prayed. Others prayed. Yet months passed by. More than a year later, we dogstill waited.

I sighed and whispered. “How long, Lord?”

Only he knew.

At first I was excited. Most publishing houses asked for the full manuscript. How promising it appeared. But then … no contract offer.

“Don’t worry,” my agent said. Jim Hart was absolutely certain the novel would sell.

I had to believe him because it seemed the Lord was whispering the same message to me. Soon, I heard in my heart.

Yet what did this particular soon mean? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? Only the Lord knew.

In the meantime, my job was to continue to write and improve my skills, believe, and wait expectantly. I was also to help other writers succeed without losing heart about my own publishing possibilities.

“Helping other writers” was easy. I loved every minute of it. But “not losing heart”? That part took effort. I kept telling myself my novel would find a publisher and be released when the right time came.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (New King James Version) says: “To everything there is a season. A clockright time for everything under heaven.”

Surely that included the promised sale of my novel, the beginning of my career as a novelist, and  the fruition of my longtime dream.

How long, Lord?

***

Dear Reader, you may be waiting for your longtime dream to come true. A promise you feel the Lord has whispered in your heart. Let’s wait patiently together. God will not fail you. At the right time, your season will arrive. Mine, too. Let’s believe together.

~ Beth

Copyright 2014 Beth Ann Ziarnik

Aspiring Writer: The Writing Contest

Talk about scary! Enter a writing contest along with so many excellent writers? Yet I was pretty sure this was the next step I was to take on my writing journey. So I prepared to person-frightenedenter …

The Writing Contest

I was clueless.

Only the Lord knew the wonderful surprise he had for me at the 2014 Write-to-Publish Conference.

Years of effort had taught me to do my best with each writing project and take the next step. That’s exactly what I did as I prepared for this conference, hoping I might qualify for the Written World Communications Contest.

The contest was open only to those who met all of the requirements:

  • attend the conference
  • make a one-on-one appointment with the publishing house representative
  • participate one of her evening critique sessions.

But none of that would make a difference if I didn’t first polish my novel.

Two weeks before Write-to-Publish, I set a deadline of ten days to complete that work. I divided the manuscript’s 310 pages and 28 chapters into roughly equal parts and set to work. Nine days later, I finished. For the first time, I believed my novel was not only good—as others had tried to tell me—but the best I could make it. No more niggling doubts.

With the manuscript for Her Deadly Inheritance copied onto a USB drive, I arrived at the conference. That first day whenI met with J. Christine Richards for my one-on-one appointment, she approved my entering the contest and received my USB drive to download my novel to her devise.

The third evening of the conference, I joined her critique group along with six other hopeful writers. When it was over, I left knowing I had done all I could. The outcome was now up to the Lord.

The next evening at the conference banquet, three other big awards were handed out before Chris went to the microphone. She talked about the chosen novel, and mentioned “Beth” and her belief that she might slaughter the author’s last name if she tried begonia-stunnedto pronounce it.

The room fell silent as I looked around expecting some other Beth to get up and receive the award. Then I realized Chris was looking at me. I mouthed, “Do you mean me?”

When she smiled and nodded, I froze in my chair. The dear writer next to me smiled, took my hand, and leaned over to whisper, “You have to go up and receive your award.”

Still stunned, I joined Chris. Then turning my back to the microphone, I whispered, “Are you sure?”

She grinned and nodded.

In that moment, God gifted me with a mentor and an editing coach, the two desires of my writer’s heart. The award also included the possibility of publication, once we completed the chapter-by-chapter editing.

God’s Word says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” ~ Psalm 34:7, New Living Translation.

***

Dear Reader, do you sometimes wonder if God cares about the longings of your writer’s heart? He does! Please know that at the right time and in the right way, he will give you the desires of your heart. Until then … delight yourself in him and keep moving forward as he leads.

~ Beth

Copyright 2014 Beth Ann Ziarnik

Aspiring Writer: Finding the Agent

Oh, if only we had a good agent. That would make all the difference! But what if after following all the advice and doing our best, it still doesn’t happen. Does that mean we’ll never get an agent? Not necessarily …

The Agent

Wow, Lord! Really? It felt like some incredible dream. I couldn’t have been more surprised.

My left wrist still recovering from being crushed, I stared at the cast that had replaced the external fixator in the steps toward healing since April. It was now Wednesday of the dreams-come-truelast week in June. Lord, what could a one-handed writer do?

Hmmm. I wiggled the index finger on my right hand. Ha! I knew people in the writing industry. Icould invite some of them to link with me on LinkedIn.

Before I knew it, I was chatting online with a well-known and respected agent I had met at several Christian writers’ conferences. At one point Joyce Hart wrote that she was bringing her son into her agency. She needed projects for him to look at and asked, “Do you have any you send me?”

I blinked. Is this you, Lord?

I sent her my list of eight projects, and she chose the romantic suspense novel which would one day be titled Her Deadly Inheritance. One-handed, I spent four days polishing its proposal before e-mailing it to her. Ten days later, Jim Hart sent a message. He loved the sample chapters and wanted to see the whole manuscript.

I blinked again. Was I dreaming?

During the previous eighteen months of submitting my novel’s proposal, two other agents had requested the full manuscript and then passed on it. They were kind enough to include encouraging words about the quality of my writing and my clear understanding of the romantic suspense genre. One even told me to keep my chin up, and I would find that agent who loved my novel.

I did my best to follow her advice but still failed to find that elusive agent who would believe in me and my writing. Someone who would want to partner with me and see my novels published.

Would this be yet another round of encouragement, letting me know I was close but not quite ready? Or …

Well, whatever the Lord had in mind, it wouldn’t hurt to keep moving ahead. Take that next step. I requested two weeks to go over the 80,000 word manuscript one last time—yes, with one hand—and then e-mailed it to him by our agreed-upon deadline.

How merciful the Lord was! He kept me busy with a family camping vacation followed immediately with an out-of-state family wedding. When I returned, a message from the agent waited in my in-box. As I read his most welcome words, my heart almost stopped. He loved my novel and offered representation.

I was in!

Hardly able to believe my eyes, I called in a lot of prayer from friends and family and tried to calm down. Then I sent the agent my phone number and said I would be glad to talk with him. That afternoon, he asked if he could send me a contract, and I told him I would be glad to look it over, but I had a lot of questions. He offered to call me the middle if the contract-signingnext week.

The next day as I prayed about this opportunity, I knew the Lord wanted me to sign that contract. A few days later when the agent called, I let him know I intended to sign the contract. I then ran my questions past him, knowing it’s not wise to sign a contract unless both parties fully understand the agreement. Then I signed the contract, dropped it in the mail, and officially became a client of the Hartline Literary Agency. I danced with joy!

God’s Word says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, King James Version). Without a doubt, the Lord had directed my steps, just as he does for each of us as we seek his will,and no matter what pathway he chooses for us.

* * *

Dear Reader, it may not feel like it now, but your day will come. Keep taking your next step as the Lord directs. The details of how you team with an agent may not be the same as mine, but one day the Lord with bring to pass your agent partnership.

God bless you on your journey.

~ Beth

Copyright 2013 Beth Ann Ziarnik

Author Interview: Elaine Marie Cooper

Since I absolutely loved reading Saratoga Letters (October 2016), I’m pleased to welcome author Elaine Marie Cooper. She made stepping into Revolutionary War times so real I could weep for her characters. Thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions about your writing adventures, Elaine. We’ll get started in a few moments.

elaineBut first, here’s quick look at Saratoga Letters: It is 1777. The Battle of Saratoga, a turning point of the Revolutionary War, encourages the American Continental Army with their first great victory. But there seemed little to celebrate for one patriotic woman forced to nurse wounded British soldiers right in their war camp. Thrust into deception by a cruel Loyalist uncle, Abigail is forced to lie in order to survive, all the while dealing with fears that challenge her faith. Danger stalks her everywhere, yet her salvation springs from an unexpected source.

Then …

Two hundred years later, on the anniversary of the Battle of Saratoga, thousands arrive from Europe and the United States to celebrate the event—including descendants from the war. One young American, Abby, meets another offspring of a British soldier. When her life is threatened, Abby turns to the only person she knows at the event—her British ally. Can she trust him with her life? Or will he betray her in the same way Loyalist spies betrayed her ancestors? Perhaps letters from long ago will reveal the truth.

Now back to Elaine … would you tell us a little bit about yourself? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was about eleven-years-old when my dad encouraged me to pen my first short story. I am forever grateful that he gave me the confidence to try.

What attracted you to writing historical romance during the American Revolution time period?

Since I grew up outside of Boston, immersed in the landmarks of the American Revolution, I also grew to love the history of our country, the stories and lifestyles of Colonial America. Add my own family history, and I was ready to write historical fiction!

9781938499142Where did you get your unusual story idea for Saratoga Letters?

Writing two different love stories 200 years apart was not my normal plot line. Yet my writer’s muse was piqued when I visited Saratoga: A park ranger told me about the bicentennial celebration of the 1777 Battle of Saratoga … and I lost my motel key! The lost key morphed into a mystery-suspense story that connected to the past.

What was the most challenging about writing Saratoga Letters?

Definitely the research! It became a nightmare. But with the Lord’s help, I managed to pull the story together. It was actually easier to get the information needed for 1777 than to gather the facts for 1977. I made a series of phone calls and sent emails to numerous people in the Saratoga Springs area to dig out the details of the bicentennial celebration. Now I can’t wait to meet the many historians and others who helped me in my research to thank them in person.

So, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I always hope readers will understand that our ancestors who lived long ago were not unlike us in many ways. They shared the same hopes and dreams, and while times and customs change, what is in the hearts of mankind—both good and evil—remains the same. And God continues to seek the hearts of men and women to serve Him today, just as He did long ago.

What do you like best about the writing life?

Working in my jammies? LOL!

Oh, my goodness, I do that, too! Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I just want to say “thanks” to readers who enjoy my stories and take the time to share their thoughts in reviews. It means so much that others are blessed by my stories, and I praise God Who has given me the ability to write.

Here’s more about Elaine:

Elaine Marie Cooper’s other published novels include Fields of the Fatherless, Bethany’s Calendar, and the historical trilogy the Deer Run Saga. She grew up in Massachusetts, the setting for many of her historical novels. Her upcoming release is Legacy of Deer Run (CrossRiver Media, Dec, 2016), Book 3 in the Deer Run Saga.

Find out more about Elaine on her website/ blog, www.elainemariecooper.com

 

Revealing December 2016 New Romantic Suspense

I’m excited to share American Christian Fiction Writers announcement of  two new christmasromantic suspense releases this month. Twelve other Christian novels in five other fiction genres are also listed at the above link.

Now …

For your convenience, I’m revealing here the two romantic suspense stories–one by Liz Johnson and the other by Susan Sleeman–both excellent authors I can easily recommend. Also, in keeping with this blessed season we all love, Christmas is a part of each story’s setting.

Enjoy!

Romantic Suspense:

hazardous-holidayHazardous Holiday by Liz Johnson — Just in time for the holidays, navy SEAL Zach McCloud returns home from deployment–and discovers someone wants his family dead. When he married his cousin’s struggling widow, he vowed to help her and her seriously ill son, and now he’ll risk everything to protect them. Even if their arrangement is only temporary. Kristi’s certain an unhappy client from the law firm where she works is determined to hunt her down. But when a sniper bullet wildly misses its target, they begin to question whether it’s really her someone wants dead. Working together, can they figure out why they’ve been attacked…and keep little Cody from the nefarious forces dead set on making this Christmas their last? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

christmas-conspiracyChristmas Conspiracy by Susan Sleeman — When Commander Jake Marsh loses control of a hostage situation and Tessa Long is injured, guilt eats at him. He blurs the line between the professional and personal, and visits Tessa at the hospital. But when a man tries to kill her in her hospital room, Jake disregards all of the rules and regulations that have allowed him to control his world and vows to keep her safe no matter what. Trouble is, the situation brings back memories from his childhood of the loss of his entire family, and for the first time in twenty years, he fears he’s no longer in charge of his life, and knows when he’s out of control bad things happen. Very bad things. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])