Looking Beyond the Red

When you are in the throes of querying or submission, rejection can play mind games with you, so I figured why not write a post about rejection this month?

Let’s talk about rejection.

It comes at many levels. 

  • Querying/Submitting manuscripts (short stories, novels/novellas, chapter/picture books, etc.), at agent or editor level,

  • Entering contests (many Twitter-related),

  • Applying for grants/fellowships/writing opportunities,

  • Providing your manuscript to a beta reader or critique partner and they annihilate it,

  • Submitting to jobs related to writing.

  • And many more!

Per Merriam-Webster (one of my favorite websites), the definition of REJECTION is: 

a.    an immune response in which foreign tissue (as of a skin graft or transplanted organ) is attacked by immune system components of the recipient organism

Okay, okay. As a trained immunologist, I was compelled to keep that definition above. But the one I sought is below.

b.   The action of rejecting : the state of being rejected, or something rejected

Digging deeper: reject = to refuse to accept, consider, submit to, take for some purpose, or use. Unwillingness to accept something asked for. And Merriam-Webster even lists the example: “To reject a manuscript.” Ah, there we are.

I do love a good thesaurus, be it a writer's help guide or the regular old kind. Let's check out some synonyms for "rejection." Ouch. How about we toss those words down into that bubbly hot spring, shall we? Even if that beauty is called Morning Glory Pool (Yellowstone National Park) and is an exquisite sight.

 Let's toss those synonyms into the depths of Morning Glory hot spring!   Photo by Jean M. Grant

Let's toss those synonyms into the depths of Morning Glory hot spring!

Photo by Jean M. Grant

Moving on to antonyms. Those are a bit more uplifting so instead of letting them sizzle inside a geothermal hot bath, we’ll let them rise on the warm muddy surface of Grand Prismatic Spring (Yellowstone National Park).

 Bring on those happier words! And the muddy surface of Grand Prismatic Springs, Yellowstone National Park.   Photo by Jean M. Grant

Bring on those happier words! And the muddy surface of Grand Prismatic Springs, Yellowstone National Park.

Photo by Jean M. Grant

There are some enlightening words in that antonym box. Validation. Acceptance. Approval. Isn't that what we seek as authors? Don't we wish for that magic seal of approval stamped on our shining manuscript after we send it off to an agent or editor/press? Yes, we love our work. Our best friends love our work. Yes, we do write for ourselves. But, we do also write to get published, and we write the reader's enjoyment, too.

Like those hot springs, the surface to publication success is delicate. One wrong step, and down into the hot bubbly abyss you go. But if you can hover on the top, the heat is turned up...and you're okay.

How do we pull ourselves out of the heat and rise up for a warm bath instead? How do we keep our cool?

The road to publication is paved with rejection. Some authors  print all their rejections and line their entire floor’s square footage with it. Stephen King used to tack his rejections to the wall. What do I do? I made a spreadsheet! I even color-coded it:

Yellow: pending response (due to volume of submissions, many agents provide a timeline [sometimes] and say a “no response equals a no”). So when I first query, that entry gets highlighted yellow.

Green: positive response! The agent or editor asked for a partial or full. (insert dances and nervous checking of gmail five times a day!)

Red: where most of the queries end up. Rejection.

 A bit blurry, but you get the point. Agent names have been deleted. But here is one of my many spreadsheets I created for each project and the querying status. Agent name, their specifications, turn around/info, date of submission, and response (if any). 

A bit blurry, but you get the point. Agent names have been deleted. But here is one of my many spreadsheets I created for each project and the querying status. Agent name, their specifications, turn around/info, date of submission, and response (if any). 


40 rejections. 1 yes. It only took one.

With A Hundred Kisses, I began writing in 2012-2013. After 6 months of writing, 6 months of initial beta feedback and revision, I began the querying process. During this time, I added a lot of red to that spreadsheet. In addition to thickening my skin , I also revised, again and again. I met with agents at conferences. I focused on the feedback that came with some of those rejections. I re-sent to betas. Finally, it was more ready. But instead of sending to agents, I took a leap and submitted to two small romance presses. One said yes. And there is my happy-ever-after, folks! Granted, it was not the traditional agent-editor/publisher path, but I am very happy with it. From start (writing, 2012) to finish (contract, 2016), the process for that book took 4 years. Disclaimer: A Hundred Kisses was my fourth book written. The other 3 hang out in a closet somewhere and are learning experiences in writing and querying.

The red sometimes gets to be too much when you see rows of it glaring at you on the screen. So with my current work I'm querying, I changed it to a pretty lavender instead. That's a bit more soothing. My current work is women's fiction and I'm going the red route again - agent to editor. Given my happy experience with The Wild Rose Press, I'm also about ready to send my editor the prequel to A Hundred Kisses after a bit more revision and beta-reading. And if all goes well (and she says yes!), then I plan to work on a third book to turn those romance books into a trilogy.

So what do I do when rejection gets me down?

  1. Realize rejection is part of the journey

  2. Maybe take a day or two to be sad, eat more ice cream or binge watch The Price is Right or The Walking Dead (those characters can definitely make you feel better about your situation)

  3. If given feedback, glean from it. What did the agent/editor say about my story that is in my control to change? 

  4. Revise more

  5. Query more

  6. Take a break

  7. Write something else

  8. Keep at it

  9. Rinse and repeat the above steps

I'd love to hear from you. How do you organize and deal with rejection? 

Looking past the red,


Fording Rivers

Last week Facebook nicely reminded me of a fond memory, that ironically, I’d already been thinking about that very week. Spooky ESP aside, the image was an exclamation point on a road sign in Mt. Aspiring National Park, in the Wanaka area of New Zealand. I’ll start with a disclaimer: we traveled to this jewel of a country (Middle Earth if you’d like to call it that) for our honeymoon over a dozen years ago and it is hands down my favorite place on earth (sorry, Scotland, you’re second place). But I digress. What’s interesting about this sign is that it’s an exclamation point! First, you laugh at the image and think what the what? Then you see the sheep photobomb (and laugh more).

Why the exclamation point?

 Doesn't look intimidating at all, right?

Doesn't look intimidating at all, right?

Let’s start with how we got there. The drive to the Rob Roy Track was long, gravely, and a shakin’, window-nearly-breakin’ nauseating ride. There was no way to drive “just right”: fast, slow, in the tire ruts, or dodging holes…our car rumbled and roared on the 19-mile (30km) gravel road. The second challenge was alluded to by those lovely yellow signs. Fords in the road.

Yes, with our small rental car we needed to ford washed out parts of the road. Another disclaimer: we had asked a park ranger if the tiny rental car could handle the fords and she advised that it could. These were not little trickles of water. They were a foot deep, twenty feet in width, filled with rocks of all sizes, like your typical river. And we had to ford it over and over. I lost count. We probably crossed eight passes. Each time, I held onto the car for dear life while my husband drove us down, through the rocky, deep bottom, and back up the other side.

 Looks easy?  Tell our car that. Just you wait and see what's coming for  you in a few more miles...(Okay, I just personified the road, but hey, it was mean!)

Looks easy?  Tell our car that. Just you wait and see what's coming for  you in a few more miles...(Okay, I just personified the road, but hey, it was mean!)

We were so busy crossing the river that I didn’t snag a photo of the fords!

How often in life are we living in the moment, crossing fords, and hurrying to the finish line (or to the next adventure)? We are so hyper-focused on the task that we don’t take a moment to enjoy the journey. Or at least to appreciate it. Certainly, we reminisce in happy fondness later.

But what do we do during those times?

Sometimes we survive. We wake up, do the daily grind (whatever it may be: careers, parenting, caregiving for a loved one, going to school…the list is infinite). Some nights, we crawl into bed, achy and beaten by the day.

Sometimes we live. We cherish those moments like enjoying a great cup of coffee at sunrise, strengthening muscle while paddling a lake, listening to the laughter of our kids building Lego structures, conversing with a good friend or partner, or writing a new scene in a manuscript with sweet abandon!

And sometimes we doubt. On our trek in New Zealand, we questioned that road, those fords, even the track itself: can we make it? Should we keep going?

While on that bumpy-ford-crossing-will-we-ever-get-there road, my husband and I took in the magnificent glacial valley scenery: slender trees lined up like lollipops, cows and a million sheep nibbling on grass, tall cascading waterfalls, blue sky, puffy clouds, and sweeping mountainsides.

When we reached the trail head, we were exhilarated to have made it through the cumbersome, scary, nerve-wracking, beautiful, amazing journey there. But the journey wasn’t finished yet. First a rain shower hit, and we took cover (it was spring after all). Then we donned our packs and huffed up the mountain trail to even greater views of the valley. “Oh, look, swing bridges!” my husband exclaimed. My stomach didn’t match his excitement. But I made it across. The reward at the end of the trail: the Rob Roy Glacier.

But truly, the real reward was the journey it took to get there.

Would we do it again?

Of course!

p.s. There will likely be more travel adventure posts coming from me because this gal loves to travel, photograph, and write all about it! And you betcha’ I have many misadventures to share, too!

Counting Down the Clock

Tick-tock goes the clock.

We are surrounded by time in all its various forms, a gentle reminder that we're on a life-clock...and hopefully we'll get many days while we hang out on this third rock from the sun. 

 Oh, so many clocks...they surround us on appliances, technology, phones, Darth Vader alarm clocks, and old-fashioned wall clocks (my son learned to tell time via Roman Numerals at the ripe age of 4...he has a thing for clocks and schedules). Time is everywhere.

Oh, so many clocks...they surround us on appliances, technology, phones, Darth Vader alarm clocks, and old-fashioned wall clocks (my son learned to tell time via Roman Numerals at the ripe age of 4...he has a thing for clocks and schedules). Time is everywhere.

Another 365 days have now come to a close as we usher in a new year. Another 31 million seconds (or 525,000 minutes or 8,760 hours) have come...and gone. So what did we do with all of that precious time? Some minutes or hours were lost into an abyss of nothingness. And that's okay. Some were spent on heartache or struggles. That's also okay. Some were invested into careers/parenting. Also good. Some were spent on joyous occasions, travels, or special moments. And that rocks.

What's amazing about each brand new year is that we choose how to spend our time (more or less...). Time is a gift. Time is not infinite.

With the end of the year, we may have our regrets...our wishlist that didn't get completed, goals that seemed to be swept aside by life's unexpected events. All the could's, should's, would's. Yeah, they're there, too. It's okay to have some regrets, so long as we don't dwell on them, right?

We were all given the same 31 million seconds this year. So what did I do besides breathe, eat, and sleep?

My Adventurous Endeavors and Memorable Moments of 2017:

  1. Joined Twitter -- lookout, world!

  2. Countless hugs and love-you's from my children and husband...along with their own special milestones this year.

  3. Published my first book, A Hundred Kisses, (this secretly should be #1)!! [insert happy dance].

  4. Visited Lake Placid and Door County, Wisconsin for writing assignments.

  5. Left a fruitful, demanding job to follow my full-time writing dream (A little more about that).

  6. Ventured through Nova Scotia with my husband.

  7. Celebrated my website's 1-year-anniversary.

  8. Connected with other writers via social media and friends.

  9. Finished my second book in the "Hundred" trilogy (currently my writer buddy is reading the first draft), while I outline the third book...btw, this latest manuscript is my 6th manuscript completed...3 are hidden in a drawer somewhere as a learning experience. Yes, 6th!

  10. Conquered my fear of heights in a fun tree-canopy-ropes course with my family (who am I kidding? I'm still scared.).

  11. Enjoyed so many cherished moments with friends and family.

  12. Appreciated the support and patience of a few close friends while dealing with my own struggles.

My Speed Bumps (Let's call them "Moments to Reflect and Grow") of 2017:

  1. Left a fruitful, demanding job to follow my full-time writing dream (A little more about that) -- yes, it's the same as #5 on my memorable moments, too. A milestone life moment can be both gratifying and terrifying.

  2. Saw the resurgence of a life-long battle with anxiety/depression this fall (and I'm busy digging myself out -- there is light at the end of the tunnel!).

  3. 43 rejections on my newest work (Women's Fiction - a genre jump for this romance author and the 5th novel I've written). 55 if you count the dozen "no responses" I'm waiting on.

  4. The throes of parenthood ('nuff said?).

  5. Losing a few friendships.

Admittedly, I was surprised, given the dark waters I waded through this fall, that I had trouble compiling that speed bump list. No deaths or serious illnesses or huge events plagued our household this year. I am grateful because certainly the bumps list was far longer during other years in my lifelong journey.  

I've spent this year learning, crafting, venturing, taking great leaps of faith, growing...and treasuring the seconds, minutes, and hours. I'm sure I will make a goal/resolution list next week, as I am a goal-driven person. I will check off things as they happen, and there will definitely be some goals not achieved. To be honest, I don't even know what all my goals were for this year! Some lists are fluid and shape shift. Some goals remain on that list for a very long time (it took me 19 years, on and off, to get my first novel published). Some may never reach fruition. And that's all okay.

Life is a journey. Highs and lows. Memorable moments and speed bumps. As you say goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018 I encourage you to also compile your lists and you may be surprised that the good outweighed the bad if you dig deep enough.

Cheers, and have a safe and happy New Year! I'd also like to thank all my readers, followers, and support team (= friends and family and critique partners = cheerleaders!). You are blessings in my personal and professional life. Thank you!



Going Berserk: Research!

This week I delved into the definition of berserk. Sure, I knew that it meant going a little crazy. I guess I never knew that it originated from the Vikings until I happened upon it in a book and online. A few clicks and turns of the page, and I read some fascinating articles by experts in the psychology field.

What does Merriam-Webster define it as?

Berserk(er): an ancient Scandinavian warrior frenzied in battle and held to be invulnerable

Old Norse berserkr, probably from ber-bear + serkr shirt

First known use was 1800. [ahem: I can’t refer to this elite frenzied warrior sect of the Vikings by that name in my circa 1300’s manuscript unless I can verify its use that early]

 My research avenues: travel, museums & historic sites, libraries, my bookshelf (and cyberspace), and in-person interviews.

My research avenues: travel, museums & historic sites, libraries, my bookshelf (and cyberspace), and in-person interviews.

While I was on the berserker bandwagon, I also enjoyed (yet again) researching a variety of Scottish and Norse swear words. These are the things research for novels are made of. :) It can be entertaining…and time-consuming. Certainly I do my fair share of research for historicals, but contemporary novels also require a bit of digging for accuracy and authenticity. Writers submerge themselves in their worlds, and research is one powerful way to achieve such immersion. Sometimes I do the research up front, but usually, I find myself veering off the word-count train to look up a medieval remedy for fevers, to figure out if cork or stained glass was available in 1263, to find that perfect curse word, to read about the legends of the Kintail mountains, or to unveil the Norse wolf god Fenrir's story… and, and, and…. :) The list is long. Everything from minor to major…requires some level of research. And I am a bit of a research junkie.

What are my go-to methods for research?

  • Travel! Explore the location if possible. Be it a small seaside Maine town or the grand castles of the Scottish Highlands, nothing replaces being there, breathing the salty air along a bustling fishing dock, listening to the rustle of trees in an ancient wood, touching the crumbling stones of a grand keep, or observing the patterns of guards flowing in an out of an army base.


  • Museums: When you can’t get to the location, museums are a great place to find information, see relevant period pieces (furniture, tools, art representing time periods/clothes/culture, weapons, etc.).  Also, museum curators and employees usually LOVE to talk about the displays or may share anecdotes not typically found on the information plaques. A recent museum visit to look at dinosaur fossils and geologic specimens was such a delight (granted, I’m not writing any prehistorical novels) as the curator (I think a geology college student) regaled us with lots of information not found on the displays about the collections. This past spring I visited Mystic, CT where the Draken Harald Hårfagre, a reconstructed authentic Viking ship, was being housed. I walked on it, touched it, and asked questions (like why in heavens are there rocks in the hold below the wooden deck? - Answer: they needed to toss anything in there to give it the weight/balance it needed. Insert my college physics that I aced but still don't understand). It was an amazing experience. Lots of oh's and ah's.


  • Merriam-Webster or other etymology websites: Words have different meaning and usages among time periods and cultures. This website also allows me to know when a word first came about, so if it’s too modern, the phrase/word must go if I am writing a historical novel. Researching slang words and idioms is also quite enlightening! 


  • Websites: Wikipedia is an okay start but I always expand to other websites since Wikipedia is not always accurate or validated. I recommend starting there and then branching off to other reliable website sources. Double check. Find a fact and you’re unsure about? Hop around on the ‘net and verify it. Find academic articles or primary sources. We all have our favorite websites. I will not lie when I say that Mapquest or Google Earth are close seconds to Merriam-Webster. Again, they are stepping stones to lead me to other more time/area-specific mapping resources.


  • Libraries: Ah, books. Nothing can beat a book. I have so many favorites, and even though I’ve been knee deep in medieval Scotland for years and consider myself adequately knowledgeable, I still fall back on books. There is always room in my library for another book on lore, customs, clans, names, or life in a medieval castle. This time around as I write the prequel to A Hundred Kisses, I added in Viking and old Norse books and they are absolutely fascinating! Librarians are a great asset, too. Like the museum curators, they are filled with hidden knowledge.


  • In person/interviews or experts: Know somebody from the region you're researching or who has expertise in a specific area? They’d probably be more than happy to answer your questions.  Network. Connect. Put fishing poles out on social media. I bet you have a lot of friends and family who are experts in something you need help on. My graduate school thesis adviser and my editor are both from Scotland, so I asked them a few questions about words/phrases. I have a friend who knows all about horses, so she is my horse expert go-to. My father-in-law is an avid sailor who crossed the Atlantic Ocean solo in a sailboat (at the age of 70...yes, that's a story in its own!). I have friends in recovery who know about addiction (applicable to a character I’ve written). I’m a parent of a special needs child. I have relatives who are/were in the military. I connected with authors who live in an area of the country I’ve never traveled to but need to know about for a novel. The list goes on and on. People are a great resource!

I think that covers it. So what do you say…is it time to roll up your sleeves and go a little berserk on some research?



Staring at Page 186…

Here I am, staring at page 186 in my latest manuscript…for the past month. I was moving along at a fast pace, churning out 2000-5000 words a day on this first draft of my latest novel. I had goals! Let’s see: To be done with draft v001 by the end of October. Send it off to my first betas. Get feedback. Revise in November (even though my manuscripts have always taken me months and months to revise and polish…but I had a new method of crafting charts/characters/plots to streamline the revision process). Submit to my editor by December/January.

I had a plan. Then life hit.

IMG_20171030_104807745 (2).jpg


Many artists and creatives struggle with daily mental illness such as depression or anxiety. I’m nearly forty years old and have suffered with both most of my life. I’m still conquering my demons, healing new and old wounds, and working on my inner self-talk. Recently life got “lifey” and my plan—yeah, it crashed and burned. I went from high output to a dead stop. Granted, perhaps I saw this coming as I’ve been going through several life/career transitions and I’ve been grooving in survival mode for a few years. I usually keep myself very busy…so busy that the depression and anxiety can remain hidden, its claws safely shackled behind closed doors. However, that only works for a while. Then it (“life”) all came at once—I jumped into the deep end without the required gulp of air needed when you drop down 12 feet to the bottom of the pool.

Digging into the heart of the issue is tough and can seem impossible. Recently a friend shared the Hilarious World of Depression podcasts with me (and she had no idea what I was currently going through). At first I saw it and thought, “How can depression be funny?” Obviously the podcasts are not angled that way. In fact, I listened to a few and found myself nodding in agreement.

So why am I writing this post? First, to boost my monthly word count. Joking aside, well, I wrote it to show that like many others out there, you are not alone in your struggles. Mental illness is not a light matter.

Please know that there are resources out there for you. Text 741741 or call the Suicide Prevention number 1-800-273-8255 to speak to someone if you are on the ledge. Call a friend, family member, or spiritual mentor.

Seek out friends, professionals, and medicine if needed. Telling a person who’s depressed to just suck it up, get out of the house, exercise, just hop on the horse again, or keep busy…great advice, but we all know that it’s not that simple.

It sounds counter-intuitive but one way for me to help myself is to reach out to others who are in the same boat and help them. (Hence this post). For example, I’ve learned through my own journeys, such as parenting a special needs child, that when I need help, the best thing is to first get help where needed (friends, professionals, etc.) and not keep the pain bottled up, and second, to reach out to others who may also be in need. Just a year ago, I was seeking friends who were walking the same parenting journey, so I created a local Facebook group for just that…and we have over 350 people in the group, from parents to educators, all sharing and supporting.

So recently, as I deal with anxiety, turbulent waters, and transitions, I’ve reached out to friends who I know I can count on…and I’m reaching out to you in the hopes that my words will provide comfort and support if you are struggling as well. You are not alone. You are worthy. You are important. You can get through this.

After a few weeks at the dark bottom of the deep end, I can see the light at the surface. It may be a long swim up, but I soon hope to be no longer staring at page 186…

Bring on page 187 and beyond and hopefully I will burst through the surface of that water and take another gulp of fresh air.

Always with love,


Two songs that help me get up each day and empower me with the ability to change impossible to possible:

Gym Class Heroes “The Fighter”

Andra Day’s “Rise Up”