Daily Archives: April 24, 2007

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

April 24, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

by Judy Duarte

It seems like only yesterday—or at least last year!—when I walked into my very first OCC meeting, heart pounding, adrenaline pumping and dreams soaring.

So when I was asked to take part in this blog, how could I say no? Still, I had to give it some thought. What advice would I give myself as a newbie author?

This is what I came up with—

If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing, and I’ll tell you why.

As an avid reader of romance, I began to harbor a growing compulsion to write a book of my own until it was impossible to ignore. Trouble was I had no idea what to do or where to start.

However, I’ve come to believe that God doesn’t put a dream on one’s heart without giving a person the power to make it come true.

Call it what you will—a divine gift or just plain serendipity—but some things are much more powerful than the muse.

In 1996, while scanning a schedule for the UC Irvine office of extended studies, I noticed a class titled “How to Write a Romance Novel” and jumped at the chance to learn everything I needed to know…in one single weekend. Imagine that!

Lesson #1 to self: There is something to learn every single day, and being published doesn’t change that.

Had I realized that it would take much longer than a weekend to learn all I needed to know—and I’m still learning, by the way—I might not have stuck around long enough to see my dream to fruition. But I was enthusiastic, driven and hopeful, which is the first thing I wouldn’t change.

At the class, I met several aspiring romance novelists who all shared the same dream I had. One of them, Sheri WhiteFeather, was writing a paranormal time travel. Now, I didn’t particularly read or like paranormals, but there was something that drew me to Sheri. She was the only one in the group who seemed to share the same burning desire to make our dreams come true. So I volunteered to read her work and agreed to send her mine. This, by the way, is the second thing I wouldn’t do differently.

Lesson # 2 to self: When it comes to finding the right critique partner, it’s not a matter of searching for someone who lives near you and has Thursday evenings free. Nor is it a matter of finding someone who writes in the same subgenre you do. It’s finding someone who shares the same drive and who is willing to become a teammate in your own dream to succeed.

Someone in our UC Irvine class mentioned an organization called Romance Writers of America. And can you believe it? There was a chapter in Orange County. After attending my first meeting, I went home in awe. I also blocked out every second Saturday on my calendar for the next year. I knew without a doubt that would be the secret to success.

Before long, I realized there was a wealth of knowledge available via RWA, a treasure trove of information and resources to tap into. So I attended every OCC meeting, signed up for every possible conference and workshop, and learned all I could cram into my brain. Soon the doors began to open up for me.

Lesson # 3 to self: Seize every opportunity to hone your craft and to network with other authors.

Several months later, I headed south to the San Diego State Writer’s Conference, wanting to absorb all I could about the craft of writing. I was also hoping to meet an editor or agent who would take on my work and see me through to publication.

Lesson # 4 to self: The journey will probably take longer than you think, so try to enjoy it. And expect to get discouraged at times—it’s often part of the trip. I suspect there are plenty of unpublished authors out there who are more talented than I am, but if they lack perseverance, they may never see their dreams come true.

At the SDSU Conference, I met Chris/Crystal Green, and she soon joined our critique group. I now had two of the best critique partners in the world. We all lived an hour away from each other, which meant meeting regularly wasn’t possible. But we shared that same burning desire to be published. And we wanted it as bad for each other as we wanted it for ourselves. We went so far as to make a commitment to read and critique each other’s work and get it back within a 24-hour period of time. Soon we thought of each other as the three musketeers: one for all, and all for one!

Once that first book was finished, I honestly believed it was just a matter of time before an agent or editor snatched up my masterpiece and placed me on the New York Times list.

Lesson # 5 to self: Just because God placed the dream to be published on your heart doesn’t mean He won’t require a great deal of work on your part.

Sheri was the first to sell, and it made Chris and I even more determined to follow in her footsteps. Then Chris sold. I was thrilled for them. But then the seeds of doubt began to sprout. Did I really have the talent they’d insisted I had? Would I ever get the call?

There were a few iffy moments, I have to admit.

Lesson # 6 to self: As Gary Provost said: You need three things for success…talent, good luck and persistence. If you have persistence, you only need one of the other two!

Four manuscripts, fifteen conferences, too many contests to remember, a scrapbook full of rejections, and scores of OCC meetings later, the rejection letters became more and more promising, the contest scores closer to the top. Then things really began to click. My third historical romance won the 2000 Orange Rose. And six months later, my first contemporary romance won the Emily contest. In 2001, I became a double Golden Heart finalist.

In May 7, 2001, while alone in the office at work and pumped full of vicodin because of a pending root canal, I finally got the call. Silhouette Special Edition wanted to buy my first book. And thanks to the meds, I had to wait two weeks before I could celebrate with champagne. But what a celebration it was!

Twenty-five sales later, the desire to write and sell is still strong, the wait on word from my editor about a proposal is still nerve wracking, and the call with an offer is still nearly as thrilling as the first. And so is the love of writing.

So if I had it all to do over again, there’s really nothing I would change. But I suspect it’s best that I didn’t know how long it would take. Had I known it wasn’t just around the corner, I might have lost the dream and the drive to succeed.

Lesson # 7 to self and to anyone else who will listen: Never quit dreaming, never quit trying, never quit honing your craft. Dreams come true—but not if you give up.

An avid reader who enjoys a happy ending, Judy Duarte couldn’t shake the dream of writing a book of her own. In March of 2002, her first Special Edition, COWBOY COURAGE, was released. Since then, she has sold twenty-four more books to Silhouette and two women’s fiction novels to Kensington, including DEAR GOD… which will be published in April of 2008.

Judy’s books have made the Waldenbooks Bestseller lists and have won her a National Reader’s Choice Award. When she’s not cooped up in her writing cave, she’s spending time with her somewhat enormous, but delightfully close family in Southern California. You can contact Judy through her website at: http://www.judyduarte.com/

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Reader Review

April 24, 2007 by in category Reading tagged as ,


by Marshall Karp

Carl Hiaasen (see my blog, “Twisted Male Humor”) may be looking over his shoulder wondering who is this new kid on the block.

He should.

James Patterson gave this cover quote for THE RABBIT FACTORY, “Marshall Karp could well be the Carl Hiaasen of Los Angeles — only I think he’s even funnier. THE RABBIT FACTORY will touch your funny bone, and your heart.”

Thanks once again to my friend and bookseller Michelle Thorne (“Bearly Used Books” in La Puente, CA), I found another terrific author. Michelle had given the hardcover to my dh as a gift last year. He loved it, but because it was HIS book and not mine, it ended up in his stash of books instead of my office shelves. He brought it to my attention after I finished another Hiaasen recently.

THE RABBIT FACTORY is centered around murders connected to an L.A. based entertainment mega-conglomerate a la Disney.

There are many reasons why I was drawn into this first novel by Karp–

First, James Patterson’s cover quote comparison to Hiaasen was a like a double endorsement! (Patterson’s WHEN THE WIND BLOWS is my favorite of his books!)

Second, I’ve been a fan of amusement parks since my first visit to Disneyland as a kid living in San Diego. Nowadays, not only can I hear the nightly fireworks from my bedroom window but I hold an annual pass so I can get my fix on a regular basis.

Third, LAPD detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs. But it’s Lomax who gets to have center stage with chapters in his own first-person voice. (Another new trend I like: mixing first and third person.)

Mike Biggs has lost his wife to cancer only six months earlier, but the author handles this situation with just the right balance between grief and poignant memories. At the same time, Mike’s dad — Big Jim — is trying to help Mike move forward and into a new relationship, something Mike is loathe to do.

I know I’m reading a murder mystery. Anything could happen. Especially to the poor protagonist who may or may not fall in love with the wrong person. Or falls for the right one who gets blown up in the end. I hate when that happens.

I want happy endings. I think everyone does, despite the cynical sneer of too many people who turn their noses up at the romance genre. (I KNOW these literary elitists have not read a Meryl Sawyer or Karen Robards or they wouldn’t act that way!)

Without giving anything away (so you will buy this book!), I will say that Marshall Karp gave me every reason to keep coming back for more.

So I was absolutely thrilled to find out that Lomax and Biggs will be showing up again in Karp’s next book, BLOOD THIRSTY, which will be available May 1.

If you are in the Los Angeles area on May 15, Marshall will be doing a drive-by signing at noon at The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood while he’s in town to research his next Lomax and Biggs novel.

Review by:
Gillian Doyle writes paranormal suspense. She invites you to drop by at her blog and say hello.

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