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Sep 11

E. Ayers and the Rejection Letter

   Hi, Anna, thanks for inviting me to be on your blog. Waving a big hello to all of Anna’s friends. I love meeting new people so don’t forget to leave a comment, because someone is going to win a free book if they do!
   Anna and I were talking about the road to publication and I think I got lucky, very lucky. I started this journey writing books for my children. Then I got serious and decided that I’d like to write for actual publication, even though it was a tough field that wasn’t open to many authors. Seems the publishing industry thought if you were in a certain grade then you should be reading …and that didn’t work for me, my children, or my grandchildren, but things have changed over the years and so did my writing.
   My dearest friend has a daughter, Marjorie, who is multi-published in romance. That daughter told me to write romances. I laughed at her. Then she told me a few things and I quit laughing. I sat at the computer and wrote my first romance over fifteen years ago. Except, it wasn’t exactly a romance because it had very strong mainstream elements. I sent it to Marjorie who by this time was part owner of an epub. She wrote me back and told me it wasn’t sexy enough. Well, needless to say, this kind of passing the manuscript back and forth went on for months. I found out about things like point of view. Oh my gosh! I had a crash course in writing, or at least, I thought I did, except I had barely scratched the surface.
   Then my friend’s daughter suggested that I submit to the editor of her publishing company. I was concerned that my name might be too well known because of the closeness to Marjorie, so I submitted under a different name and held my breath. And held it, and held it. Then it came…THE REJECTION LETTER!
    By that time, I had joined a local RWA group, and had started taking several writing classes online. I knew about those horrible rejection letters. The ones that make people cry for weeks and tell them how English must not be their first language or worse, it’s a form letter that says almost nothing other than no thanks. I had a real letter and it was nice!
   I picked up the phone, called across the USA to Marjorie, and asked if she told the editor who I was. Marjorie said no. She didn’t even know I had received a letter. I read it to her. I had a three-page letter from the editor, Stephanie, telling me how wonderful my story was and with it, several suggestions to make it better.
   Now here comes the fun part. That small pub was going to be at a conference that was being held near me and I was slated to go to it, which meant meeting that editor. I was so excited. Marjorie even gave me the hotel room number. I wasn’t going to stalk Stephanie to her room. But I did set up an appointment to meet with her.
   I promise the last thing an editor wants to do is meet with someone they just rejected. But when Stephanie realized I was not some crazed woman, and I only wanted to chat about her suggestions, she definitely chatted! She spent two hours with me explaining things. All these years later, I know that rejection was the best thing that could have happened to me. I don’t write erotic and I never will – it’s not in me. That publisher is best known for its erotic romances. That’s not where my stories belong. I write adult as opposed to children’s stories, and I expect that my readers are mature enough to know that there’s more than simple kissing in a loving relationship.
   Stephanie went one step further and personally introduced me to several well-known authors including Janet Lane Walters who co-wrote a book on writing. I got Janet’s book and we stayed in touch. That’s when I learned that it wasn’t just a matter of telling a good story – I had to learn to craft it. Every time I learned something new, I went back and fixed that very first story.
When I was certain that it was the best possible story that I could write, I submitted it to a well-known agent whom I’d pitched at another conference. I held my breath…and held it…and held it. She sent me a brief letter about nine months later saying she had read the story, and it was under consideration. Okay, I was excited, but what exactly did under consideration mean? So I held my breath for another six months. In the meantime, every author I knew who had submitted to her had been rejected before that nine months had lapsed.
   Marjorie had told me to keep writing. Write the next book, so I did, and I wrote another. By that time, I had a New York Times best-selling author who was mentoring me. She kept saying that no news is good news, and that my work was worthy of being represented. Then it came. I ripped that envelope open and held that letter in my hands. My insides were quivering. I was afraid to look.
   Three times I read it. “I loved this story… I must be very selective…” She turned me down! Okay, I cried that time. I called my mentor and with tears blurring my vision, I read her the letter. How can someone praise my story and then turn it down?
   The answer was not that difficult to understand. At the time, there were big publishing houses and a few epubs. You had to fit into the big houses’ little pigeonholes or they wouldn’t accept it. I didn’t fit. I also didn’t fit with the epubs that tended to publish hotter stories. I kept writing. Then I got my lucky break and a contract. Except, I watched my story being changed in edits to match a more traditional romance. I didn’t like what was happening to my story or my characters. It was not what I wanted. Instead of being happy, I had this horrible, suffocating, wet wool blanket of depression being heaped on me with each batch of edits.
   Break a contract? That was insane! But I did it. It was my name on the cover, and I wanted to be proud of what I had written. I had to stand up for myself and my characters.
   Then I sat on my derrière, watched, and waited for something wonderful to happen. It didn’t happen to me, but I saw another author independently publish a book and then a bunch of books. They sold like crazy. She talked me through the steps. I published a novella and waited. I was told if I sold twenty-five books that first month, I would be very lucky. I sold one hundred. I published another novella, then I published that very first novel, Wanting.
   It was a long road to get where I am now and I learned a lot along the way. Wanting was the first in my River City novels about young urbanites who are trying to make their world a little better. Think mid-sized city tucked in the middle Atlantic states of the USA. It’s totally fictional but very similar to several such cities. I followed the novel Wanting with A New Beginning, then A Challenge, Forever, A Son, and A Child’s Heart. And there are more coming! They don’t need to be read in order. The glue that holds them together is the city.
   They all have those heavy mainstream elements, but they also have the happily ever after of a romance. Just as people in real life have plenty of problems, so do my River City characters. A Son deals with prejudice. Some folks believe it doesn’t exist, but it still does. Lucky are those who never feel it. Most of my novels tackle some gritty subjects from sexual abuse to trying to mesh different lives on different schedules into a cohesive relationship. People have complicated lives, they have jobs, they have skeletons in their closets, and falling in love is never easy. Well, maybe the falling is but fitting it into a life isn’t. And people aren’t perfect. I do not write normal romances. It’s called slice-of-life writing and I write the romantic slice. That means all the other stuff in life comes with it.
   I love writing the River City novels. My latest one, A Child’s Heart, wasn’t always easy to write. There was so much going on and so many conflicting emotions. When I’m writing, these characters are alive within me, and what happens to them affects me as the author. I become the means for them to tell their story. They drive me. And these two drove me crazy!

    Trent was a young widower. With his mom’s guidance, he grew into a wonderful father. And Cassie…Well, Cassie is Cassie, and she’s older than Trent. She has this tremendous passion for history and she loves her job as River City’s museum curator. On the outside, she looks sweet and conservative, but inside, she’s got a wild streak. And she’s being harassed by the city manager. She also understands the relationship between Trent and his mom. She’s a PhD from a wealthy Boston family, and he’s blue collar from the low end of middle class in River City. Just be prepared for a roller coaster ride as Trent and Cassie figure out that they have a relationship worthy of a lifetime commitment, while Shawn’s life dangles precariously as he awaits heart surgery.

Excerpt? You want an excerpt? Okay. How about that first kiss? I love first kisses. Who doesn’t?

Cassie pulled in front of a small home that looked exactly like every other house in the working class neighborhood. Tiny, cookie-cutter houses sat on postage-sized lots. The Callahan home was painted a pale yellow with dark gray shutters and trim. The grass was recently cut, and a few petunias were planted around the base of the lamppost. She parked her car and drew in a deep breath as she gathered up the two books.
“Hi,” she said when Trent opened the door. “I brought something for Shawn.”
“Come on in. He’s not here right now. My mom took him shopping for some slippers and a robe. He’s going to need them for the hospital. They say he’ll be there for a while.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I should have called first. Tate gave me your address, and I thought I’d stop on the way home, since you weren’t very far out of the way.”
“You live in the area?”
“Not really. I have an apartment in Sweet Grandview.”
“This is not exactly on your way home from the museum.”
“It’s not, but it’s not that far, either.” She forced another smile.
He glanced at his watch. “They should be home soon. Would you like a glass of iced tea?”
“Thanks. I’d appreciate that.” She gazed at Trent standing there in his work uniform, his name written in an oval under the embroidered company name. “What exactly does River City Manufacturing manufacture?”
“Countertops. We measure, custom cut, and install counters for both commercial and home use.”
“Oh. What do you do?”
“Everything. Mostly, I handle the computer and oversee the shop. It’s a rather involved process. The measurements are dropped into the computer, which then runs the saws that cut the counters.”
She followed him through the tiny house to the modern kitchen. “Cute kitchen.”
“Thanks. My mom loves it. I tore out what existed a few years ago. I made the cabinets from scratch and the countertops are leftovers from a large job the company did awhile back.”
“Granite?”
He nodded, opened a cabinet, and withdrew two glasses. “I’ve got a small woodshop in the backyard.”
“I’m impressed. You do beautiful work.”
“Thanks.” He handed her a glass of iced tea.
She put the two books on the counter and accepted the glass. Her fingers touched his, sending a spark though her body. Gazing into his eyes, she smiled. A golden blonde lock fell across his forehead, and she noticed slight dimples when he returned the smile.
Broad shoulders filled his shirt, and golden hair covered his forearms. Desire filled her as she stared at the man with gray-blue eyes.
He returned the stare and she found herself lured to him. Golden-brown eyelashes framed his penetrating gaze. Taking a sip of the sweet liquid only enhanced the burning inside her. His fingers wrapped around the glass and removed it from her clutch as his mouth covered hers.
Sweet, probing kisses caused her to close her eyes, as she was drawn to him by the magnificent sensation that streamed through her body. Her hands found his shoulders, as his arms locked her into his embrace. Her hips swayed against the soft bulge in his pants. His hand on the small of her back pulled her tight to him. The room vanished. All that was left, were two bodies pressed together.
His tongue danced with hers as her pelvis rode his hardening length. Her breasts burned. She clawed at the fabric covering his shoulders. It was primal and she lost herself in the ancient ritual. Heat flowed through her until it peaked, causing a groan to escape her throat. Her lips unlocked from his, and she buried her face into his chest. The course material was permeated with the pungent smell of perspiration and oil. Inhaling deeply, it was nauseating, exciting, and very masculine. Reality hit, sending a jolt through her system. She let go of him and turned away. “I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I just did that.”
His hands grabbed her shoulders and pulled her back to him. “I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it was terrific.” His breath flowed over her face as he spoke. “I should be apologizing to you. I’ve never spontaneously kissed someone before.” His voice was deep and raspy. “I’ve heard it said that you can tell a lot from a first kiss, and that was one hell of a first kiss.”
“I’m so embarrassed.”
“Why? It was awesome.” He pulled her tight to his body.
Her gaze locked with his as his lips once again touched hers. Her knees weakened and her body trembled. Wanting to flee, she found herself riveted in place. His tongue found hers. Heat coursed through her as the room began to swim. A gray cloud enveloped her until there was nothing.
“Hi, welcome back. Feeling any better?” Trent asked.
Cassie looked up at the man kneeling beside her. “What happened?”
“You fainted. I was about to call 9-1-1. You’ve been out for a few minutes.” She started to sit up, but he gently pushed her back down. “You’re not going anywhere. Take a couple of deep breaths.”
“I’m fine.”
He ran a finger across her cheek as he stared into her crystal blue pools. “You remind me of a china doll, perfectly beautiful.”
“Please, let me get up.”
“Slowly.” He offered her his hand.
Making her sit at the kitchen table, he brought her the glass of iced tea and then pulled out a chair across from her. As he sat, a grin split his face and erupted into a chuckle. “I’ve kissed many a woman in my life, but I’ve never had that effect on one.”
“I’m sorry, I have no idea what came over me.”
“There you go apologizing again for something that requires none.”
“I’ve never been that lost in a kiss, and I’ve never fainted before in my life. No, that’s not right, I fainted one time after I gave blood when I was still in college.”
“Gave blood on an empty stomach?”
“Probably.”
“Bet you’ve got a empty stomach now.”
She shook her head, as if trying to clear it. “Maybe. I ate a banana at some point today.”
“That’s it?”
“Ah, I think so. I skipped breakfast and drank a pot of coffee at work.”
“You’re not leaving here until you’ve eaten something nutritious and filling.” He opened the refrigerator, put a generous helping of pot roast in a bowl, and stuck it in the microwave. When the microwave beeped, he handed her the bowl and a fork. “I’ll be right back.”
Her taste buds savored the delicious beef and potatoes. She devoured it with lightning speed. It had been years since she had a home-cooked meal. Memories of her family flooded her mind: the beautiful, old, stone house on the outskirts of Boston, her mom and dad, Emily Zoot making dinner for the family, and several noisy brothers teasing her. Now she was sitting in Trent’s tiny kitchen, scraping the bowl with her fork to get every precious drop of gravy.
“Looks like you’re ready for a piece of apple pie.”
“It was delicious, but I’m not sure I have room for pie.” She gazed at Trent, now freshly showered and wearing a tee shirt and jeans. Her heart sighed.
“Make room.”
Her heart had plenty of room for him, but she wasn’t sure her stomach could handle more.

***
My heart goes out to any parent with a child who is fighting for a chance at life. And if you know someone with that child, do whatever you can to help that family. Even something as simple as mowing their yard gives them an extra hour to spend with the child. A new book, toy, or a puzzle will brighten a child’s day. They don’t need to know who did it, but you’ll know you did something special for someone.
What’s coming next? I have three historical westerns all set to release between October and December. Writing historicalwesterns is a new genre for me. The last one to be released will be the diary of Clare Coleman, which was mentioned in A Snowy Christmas in Wyoming. And with a little luck, I should have the next River City novel out before Spring 2014. Yes, I’ve been very busy. But I love writing. It is my job.
Don’t forget to leave a comment, then drop me an email at e.ayers@ayersbooks.com and say you’ve commented. I’ll be giving away a few copies of A Child’s Heart to some lucky people.

Bio:

About the Author

Born and raised with wealth, E. Ayers turned her back on all of it and married her prince charming a few days after her eighteenth birthday. Her family disowned her, and her friends were shocked. A firm believer in love conquering everything, she never looked back. The love she and her husband shared became the springboard for her novels. Fascinated with the way people deal with everyday problems, E Ayers has always been an observer and a listener. A simple problem for one person is a mountain for another. She utilizes those common predicaments which is why her books touch so many lives. Today, she spends most of her free time writing while living in a pre-Civil War home with her two dogs and a cat. Rattling around in an old money pit gives her muse plenty of freedom. Her idea of a perfect day is to spend it at the keyboard of her computer, coffee in hand, and everything in the house actually working as it should. She’s the official matchmaker for all the characters who wander through her brain, and she likes finding just the right ones to create a story.

13 comments

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  1. Rose Anderson

    I’ve read several River City stories and loved them all. Very real characters and charming exchanges between them. The City being the background is a terrific draw to the stories even though they all stand alone.
    I like that reader engagement. It’s as if you go back to the hometown after being away for years, and the same dog is being walked and the same waitress is at the diner. Great concept E. Best luck.

    1. E. Ayers

      Thanks, Rose, for stopping by. I’m so thrilled that you’ve loved my stories. I enjoy writing them. I’ve made friends with all those characters, so I like visiting with them, too.

  2. Melissa Keir

    Sounds like you are a brave and tenacious lady. I wish you continued success with your books.

    1. E. Ayers

      Thank you, Melissa. I’m glad I didn’t toss in the towel and quit. It’s been a long road to where I am today. But it’s also been a great adventure!

  3. Jenny Twist

    I stopped counting the rejections I had before I finally found a publisher, then, like you, I disagreed fiercely with the editor’s changes. Fortunately, my publisher backed me up and allowed me to keep my own style. So I didn’t break my contract. I’m going my own way now, though. I think you’re right. The way forward is self-publishing. Keep writing, Elizabeth.
    Love and hugs, Jenny xxxx

    1. E. Ayers

      Thanks for stopping, Jenny. We’d love to hear more about your situation with the editor. Publishing is a business and often it’s a matter of getting to the right people.
      I’m very happy with the way things have turned out. It’s been a long haul, but each step of the way brought me closer to success.

  4. Jane Leopold Quinn

    These are very interesting experiences in your writing career. I’m glad you kept going and ultimately ended up indie publishing.

    1. E. Ayers

      Thanks, Jane. I’m glad my path took me to indie publishing, too. Seems I’m too much of a nonconformist. My books straddle romance, women’s lit, and general mainstream. I happen to think that’s a good thing. I love a good heroine, a wonderful hero, and a strong story.

  5. Carol

    A very familiar road to publication, E. I also have a small folder of rejections, some of them absolutely hair-pulling because the editor liked the characters and the premises. They simply didn’t fit or they’d published a similar previous story. Congratulations on all your books! They’re filled with emotion, real characters and stories we can all identify with.

    1. E. Ayers

      Thanks for stopping by, Carol. I try so hard to make everyone very realistic and then I hear people say they don’t want realism – they want to escape real life. To that I say terrific! Let me give you some names of some wonderful authors who write sci-fi, vamps, shifters, and time travelers. (Heck, I’m a sucker for a good medieval romance.) But that’s not what I write.
      Thanks for being one of my fans. I love when someone tells me they could identify with a character.

  6. E. Ayers

    Thank you so much for having me, Anna.

    Rejection letters are one of those things that no one wants to admit has happened to them. But they are really stepping stones for so many of us. Mine were useful as they spurred me forward.

    1. Anna Markland

      thanks for being my guest and for sharing the wealth of your experience.

  7. Joan Reeves

    Loved your post on rejection letters, E. We’ve all walked a few thousand miles in those shoes.

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