Saturday, January 16, 2010

Welcome Jennie Marsland

I’m sitting down to write this blog, minutes after getting confirmation that the first print copies of my first book are on their way to me. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, so it’s a fitting time to reflect on the journey from inspiration to publication. It hasn’t been dull.

I’ve written all my life, poetry, lyrics and short stories, but I’d never considered attempting a novel. Too long, too daunting. Then, in September of 2006, the hero of McShannon’s Chance simply materialized, fully formed, in my imagination. Tall, a bit on the lean side, dark hair and molasses-colored eyes. Cajun mother, British father. A Georgia boy who turned traitor and fought for the Union in the Civil War. I suppose all the Westerns I read growing up had been perking away in my subconscious, because I knew instantly who Trey McShannon was and what drove him.

I was on a camping trip at the time, and couldn’t find anything to write on but paper towel. I grabbed three sheets and a pencil and started writing. I still have those sheets tucked away. Six months later, I came up for air with the first draft of a novel on my hands. By that time I knew I wanted to be published, but I was full of all the usual quaking doubts and fears. Everyone else on earth wants to be published, too. Might as well buy a lottery ticket and hope to win the jackpot.

I hadn’t set out to write a romance. I’d sworn off romance novels in the eighties because I found the heroes arrogant and annoying. I wasn’t even sure that what I’d written fit the genre, though it was a love story. I’d never heard of Romance Writers of America and hadn’t belonged to a writing group for nearly twenty years. Awash in ignorance, I did a little research and decided to submit my MS to a small e-publisher, thinking that even if they rejected me, they’d be more likely to give me feedback than a large publisher or an agent. Then I settled down to wait.

They got back to me the next day, asking for the full manuscript. They said that, with some changes, they would publish. I couldn’t believe it. My first book, on the first try. Overnight.

I shouldn’t have believed it. This was followed by a year of false starts, long waits with no contact, and finally the disappointment of having the company fold while my book was in edits. A year during which I had joined an online forum, Writing.com, got critiqued by some wonderfully helpful and supportive writers, and lost some of my naiveté. A year I needed badly.

With a much stronger manuscript in hand, I submitted to a couple of large publishers and received rejections. I felt like giving up, but I hadn’t forgotten the thrill of that first acceptance. I still believed in my story, so I sent it to another small e-pub, one that had published authors I knew online. This time, my novel was released in e-book form.

For three weeks, until the company folded.

At this point, I didn’t have much naiveté left. I’d joined RWA and learned a bit about publishing. In spite of my disappointment, I knew I was lucky to have gotten the rights to my book back from both companies. I also knew that, given the present turmoil in the publishing industry, and given that Westerns aren’t currently fashionable, my book could spend a lot of years looking for a home with a traditional publisher. I took a couple of months to consider my options, then submitted to a third e-pub, Bluewood Publishing, the owners of which I knew as authors. Which brings me to the boxes of books I’m eagerly awaiting.

Is there a moral in all this? Several, I suppose. I’ve learned that the publishing industry today is full of risk, wherever you turn, with large companies and small. I’ve learned that I have to write what’s in me to write, whether it’s a hot commodity in today’s marketplace or not. I’ve learned to measure success by pride in a job well done, by growth in my craft and by the friends I’ve made.

Oh, and I read romance now.

McShannon's Chance by Jennie Marsland is available from Bluewood Publishing and Amazon.com. Visit Jennie at her website where you can read an excerpt and find out what else she's working on, including some photos of her wonderful paintings.

18 comments:

Carla Gade said...

Congratulations!

Blessings,
Carla
http://writingtodistraction.blogspot.com

Linda A. said...

Thank you, Carla!

Janet said...

Good morning, Linda, and welcome to The Prairies. We very pleased to have you visit today - and share with us your road to publication. I know (being a member of RWAC now) that you've had your books delivered - it must seem like a miracle after all you've been through?

I guess my biggest question is what kept you going? Was it the fact your manuscript had been accepted so early? Do you think you would have kept trying for publication if the first acceptance had come after many rejections? I must say, you possess an inner strength most of us don't have (or at least haven't been tested with, yet).

Again, welcome - looking forward to your day with us here.

Jennie Marsland said...

Just a note of explanation...Jennie Marsland is my pen name. I forgot to switch accounts for my last post. Sorry, haven't had my coffee yet.

Jennie Marsland said...

Hi, Janet! I've got my coffe now, lol!

That's a good question. I think it's true that if the first acceptance had come after a few rejections, I might have been more inclined to give up. I really sent the book out on a flyer the first time, hoping for some feedback,as I hadn't done much writing for quite a while and wasn't in touch with any other writers at the time. The fact that the editor showed immediate interest really gave me a boost. Then, I'd have to say that the way the story came to me was a factor, too. I really rode a wave of inspiration the whole time I was writing it, and it left me feeling that I was somehow meant to write this book.
That feeling kept me going through all the ups and downs.

Janet said...

Oops, sorry Jennie!

I'd like to welcome Jennie to The Prairies - there, I'm sure I've confused a lot of people this morning, I'm blaming my lack of coffee, too :)

Julianne MacLean said...

Very inspiring post, Jennie. Just goes to show that persistence pays off, and when you have the desire to write, it's not something that goes away. Congrats on all your successes!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Jennie,
Welcome to the Prairies! I'm glad we got the name thing sorted out!

I've been lucky so far in that I'm published with three different epublishers and none have folded. I was lucky in that the owners of one of my publishing companies decided to retire last year. They could have simply closed shop and called it a day, but instead they sold the company to a larger epublisher and all of us authors went with the sale! We've been well looked after. But I've certainly heard horror stories of epublishers closing and leaving authors in the lurch.

My story is kind of the opposite of yours in that I went through years of rejection before finally selling. But something inside me wouldn't let me quit. I suspect you had some of that too, an inner belief in yourself and your writing that kept you going through the adversity.

I wish you much success and many sales with your new book!

Jana

Jennie Marsland said...

Thank you, Julianne and Jana! With all the changes in the publishing industry, it seems that no one - publishers, authors, booksellers - knows where to turn. People start companies with good intentions and find that the market is so scattered, they just can't make a go of it.
Jana, I suppose you're right - something in me refused to quit, though I certainly felt like it. I kept thinking, 'you've put all this effort and energy into this story. What are you going to do with it, just let it molder in a box under the bed?' It seemed to make more sense to just get it out there and try to build a bit of a readership.
Besides, the characters had grown on me to such an extent that I didn't want to abandon them. I've just finished the first draft of my second book, a prequel to Chance, with Trey's twin sister Rochelle as the heroine. Her story takes place in Yorkshire, England, the twins' father's old home. I'm planning at least one more instalment in the series. The whole family has taken root in my mind like a set of distant relatives.

Karyn Good said...

Good morning, Jennie. Thanks for sharing the ups and downs of your publication journey with us today. I'm glad you persisted and kept a determined attitude in the face of turmoil and circumstances out of your control.

Congratulations on McShannon's Chance!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Congratulations Jennie on your release. I love your book cover.

I truly appreciate your 'call' story from the heart. Just goes to show that you can't take anything for granted these days.

Thanks for joining us here today.

Jennie Marsland said...

Hi Karyn and Anita, thanks for dropping by! I truly appreciate your good wishes, and Anita, I'm glad you like the cover! So do I.

Anne MacFarlane said...

Hi Jennie, Thanks for sharing your publishing story. You've had lots of ups and downs but you stuck with it. Congratulations on your success.

Helena said...

Welcome, Jennie! Sorry I'm late ...

I went to your website and watched the You-tube promo (I know there is a 'technical' term for it which I can't remember), then read the excerpt. And. I. Am. Hooked!

We have read so many of the same authors. When I was a kid, it was the Anne books (of course), but I was also into Zane Grey (had nightmares over The U.P. Trail. I loved western movies and horses. I still like to read historical fiction.

... all in all, I think I've found a kindred spirit!

Jennie Marsland said...

Hello Anne, thanks for dropping by! Yes, persistence pays off. And Helena, thank you! I'm glad you liked the video trailer. I had fun making it. I felt like the images captured the mood of the story.

It does seem that we have similar tastes. I loved Lucy Maud Montgomery's books as a child, and I still enjoy them as an adult. My favorite Zane Gray is Riders of the Purple Sage, and I loved Louis L'Amour's Sackett books.

Janet said...

Well, Jennie, I hoped you enjoyed your visit to The Prairies! I know we enjoyed having you - and wish you every success with McShannon's Chance.

Thanks again. And thanks to all who stopped by.

Pamela Callow said...

Hi Jennie,


No wonder you were inspired to write Trey McShannon's story - he sounds like an amazing character! Congratulations on your release. Can't wait to read it!

Donna Alward said...

sorry I'm so late to the party, Jennie! But I'm so glad the book is FINALLY in your hands! Congrats on the print release!