Monday, March 08, 2010

Serendipity and Persistence

This is a story that took about eight years and isn't over yet. This is a story about a young man with dreams, a young man who served his country then--still struggling with his dreams--started serving meals, waiting tables in a Palm Beach, Florida restaurant.

This is also the story of an author who--when she was a struggling writer with dreams--was helped by other authors on the path, and who has a habit of leaving her bookmarks everywhere, such as along with the cash to pay for the meal in a restaurant.

"Hey," says the waiter, returning to the dinner table with the change, "you're an author. I've always wanted to write a book. But I don't know where to start."

"Hey," says the author (who writes much better dialogue than this in her books), "I might be able to help."

They exchange email addressess (under the watchful eye of author's husband who long ago gave up on his wife's tendency to collect strays), they exchange ideas, the author sends suggestions. Read Dwight V Swain's "Techniques of the Selling Writer." Read Browne and King. Read Bickham. URLs are sent, guiding the waiter-writer to sites like Sime-Gen's World Crafter's Guild and the worthy advice on sites run by Orson Scott Card and Holly Lisle.

During the next year (which was 2003)--and many more meals at that restaurant--the waiter-writer actually sends the author a few sample chapters.

"Hey," the author says in a return email, "you have talent. But you've missed a few key points. Reread Swain. Reread Bickham." She makes notes in his chapters, suggests changes.

The author and waiter-writer lose touch for a while. Then every once in a while, another chapter hits the author's email inbox. She sees talent, she sees progress. She crits and sends it back.

Fast forward to 2009. The waiter-writer has moved to Connecticut, finished his first novel, and sends drafts for query letters and synopses to the author. After thwacking the waiter-writer via cyberspace for not listening to her when it comes to queries, the author sends more instructions on crafting queries and by 2010, the waiter-writer gets it right.

Fast foward to March 2010. The author offers to send a letter of introduction on the waiter-writer's behalf to her literary agent. This generates a phenomenom knows as "jumping over the slush pile." Author isn't sure--she's never sure--how the literary agent will feel about waiter-writer's book. It's edgy contemporary fantasy, sharp and gripping but with a very distinct voice. Or as waiter-writer calls it, "It is a blend of the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter having lunch with Tom Clancy and Dean Koontz."

The manuscript hits the email pathways and within two weeks, the literary agent gives author a heads-up: she loves the book. Loves it. Totally. The agency is going to offer waiter-writer representation.

Waiter-writer has just become an author. His name is Steve Vera. Watch for him as this author has a feeling he will sell and sell quickly.

Corrollary: A couple of things to be learned from this story.

1) Believe in yourself and don't be afraid to ask someone farther along the path than you for help. I try to mentor two to three writers a year (that's honestly the limit I can handle because as Steve can tell you, I do very intense critiquing). Many other authors do the same, but even if you can snag an author as a mentor, authors do blog, do teach classes, do share their tips and tricks on their websites. Utilize that.


2) When authors share, listen. We've arrived where we are by employing certain methods that work. Recently there was a discussion on another blog where a poster decried the "rigid rules of writing," indicating that those kinds of writing rules weren't necessary. Big fat hint: they are. A lot of writers are natural writers; they innately have the cadence and flow of commercial genre fiction. But that's the muse part, the art part. Being an "ar-teest" is not enough. You must, absolutely must understand and employ the craft of writing. That doesn't mean you can't bend the craft rules. But you must be able to employ them well before you can bend them skillfully. Writing only "from the muse" is rather like letting loose inside your house an out-of-control toddler with a tray full of fingerpaints. The muse needs the discipline of craft.

As soon as Steve has a book deal, I'll post. And yes, outside of getting offers on my own books, watching one of my "students" fledge is the best damned wonderful feeling in this galaxy. Which brings me to a final and necessary rule of life called Random Acts of Kindness: Good karma. Pass it on.


REBELS AND LOVERS, March 2010: Book 4 in the Dock Five Universe, from Bantam Books and Linnea Sinclair—

Kaidee hated when her ship didn’t work. Dead in space was not a place she liked to be. Especially with an unknown bogie on her tail, closing at a disturbingly fast rate of speed that made her heart pound in her chest and her throat go dry.


  1. I can attest first- and second-hand to how generous you are, Linnea. Hopefully soon I'll have good news to share because of it!

  2. Thank you, my dear, but generosity isn't the issue at all. It's karma. It's "paying forward." And I would LOVE to know your good news! Hugs, ~Linnea

  3. Gotta jump in here, too! Couldn't have done it without you. You totally made my getting representation possible. Hopefully I'll have a book sale to announce before too long.

  4. I've been lucky to have Linnea as my mentor and friend for years now. She's been so patient with me! My first NY-pubbed book (The Ghost and The Goth) will be coming out in just a few months, and that never would have happened without her. :) So, thank you, Linnea, and congrats, Steve! :)

  5. Me too, and you led me to Jacqueline and lots of resources I never would have found on my own. I'm bracing to launch my fourth polished novel into Queryland right now. Thanks a bunch.