Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The "Trials" of Poison Study

Part 2!  In Part 1, I talked about how I sparked on the idea for Poison Study.  You can read it here: Part 1 

Today's post is what happened next.  After spending 4 years writing and revising Poison Study, it was ready. I decided I wanted to find a literary agent to help me sell my book to publishers (editors work for publishers).  So I bought a copy of The Literary Marketplace to do my research and find agents who didn't charge fees to read my book, who were located in New York City, and who represented fantasy novels. I made a list of those agents and agencies.

In June 2001, I began submitting to agents.  Most of them wanted to see the first 3 chapters and the synopsis, and some only wanted a query letter.  A query letter is just a single page that tells the agent what your book is about and who you are. My first round of submissions goes out and I start getting rejections.

Most are form letters (or postcards) and a few just write, "Will have to pass on this project" on my own cover letter and mail it back to me.  There are a couple personal responses (note - the personal ones are from agents I met at writing conferences).  One says, "Although I found a lot to admire in the material, my final reaction is that I would not be able to place it to your or my satisfaction in the current publishing market." And this one, "I was simply not excited about the story. Yes, it is written fairly well, but I did not see anything in it to make it stand out in a way to grab me."  A few agents, don't even bother to reply.

In January 2002, I get an email from an agent who enjoyed the opening chapters of Poison Study and would like to see the full manuscript.  I'm quite excited and I send her the whole novel.  In February 2002, she replies, "I really, really, really enjoyed it and it is with a heavy heart that I am turning down the opportunity to go further with it. There were a few important aspects that I felt needed work." However, it's not all doom and gloom as she offers to look at the book again should I revise and she even offers a more detailed critique.  Her comments are great and I revise and send it back to her. Unfortunately, she doesn't offer me representation and the close call is harder to take than a form letter.

In June 2002, I decide to send Poison Study directly to publishers/editors - this is after 26 rejections from agents. I make a list of 20 publishers (both large and small) that publish adult fantasy. Rejections roll in.  The publisher rejections are basically the same form letters and notes written on my cover letter.  One publisher doesn't even open my query letter (see picture).  I get a couple personal responses (again from editors I've met in person at a conference). One says, "Unfortunately, while I absolutely adored the background about the taster's trade, I can't help feeling that the story itself is a little too weak to support the premise."  She suggests I add in more political intrigue. While I appreciate her comments, I'm reluctant to change the story. I'm not a big fan of lots of political intrigue in fantasy and my story is more focused on the characters.

I receive a couple of nibbles--where the entire book is requested only to be rejected later.  One phone call sounded promising, but in the end the publisher decided that my 95,000 word novel was too long. When I offer to shorten it, I'm told the story is too good to be shortened.  Sigh!

In June 2003, I see an announcement about a new Harlequin Imprint.  "Luna Books delivers a compelling, female-focused fantasy with vivid characters, rich worlds, strong, sympathetic women, and romantic subplots."  They're looking for 100,000 words and wanted the POV predominately from the female characters.  Poison Study is 5,000 words short and doesn't have a big romantic subplot, but otherwise, it's perfect.  I mail off the first 3 chapters and synopsis on June 24, 2003. By this time, I have 17 rejections from publishers.

At the end of September 2003, I receive an email from a small publisher who is interested in publishing Poison Study! I'm excited, but don't commit right away, I want to review the contract first. While I'm waiting on the contract, I get a phone call from Luna Books on October 2, 2003.  They loved the first 3 chapters, can I send the rest?  I'm honest and tell them about the offer from the small publisher. They're disappointed but understand. However, later I get an email saying that Luna doesn't mind multiple submissions and, if the other publisher hasn't requested "exclusivity," Luna would be happy to read Poison Study at the same time.  The other publisher didn't request exclusivity so I email them the rest of the manuscript on October 3, 2003, but tell them I need an answer back right away.

Monday, October 5, 2003, my phone rings and it's Helen from Luna Books. She and her boss LOVED Poison Study and want to publish it and a second book!!!  I'm torn because I have that offer from the smaller publisher as well, but Luna is like the major leagues, while the other would be like the minor leagues (it's a baseball reference ;).  I decide to go with Luna Books!

It takes 2 months to get a contract finalized (I found an agent for Storm Watcher, and she's happy to help me with the contract for Poison Study).  I sign it in December 2003!

It took me 2 and a half years to find a publisher for Poison Study!  And then I had to wait another 2 years for the book to be released.  In the meantime, I worked on Magic Study (it is due to Luna Books on June 1, 2005).

Total time from start to publication for Poison Study was 8.5 years!!  Whew!

Monday, September 28, 2015

10 Year Anniversary Blog Tour and Scavenger Hunt!

Today starts a two-week long Blog Tour and Scavenger Hunt for POISON STUDY!!  I posted the schedule below.  Visit each blog each day of the tour and find the RED word for the scavenger hunt. I will be doing two guest posts, both from Valek's POV!  And the PRIZES are awesome if I must say so myself.  The GRAND PRIZE is a set of hardcover, first edition signed POISON STUDY and MAGIC STUDY.  Open to ALL humans around the world!

Here's TODAY's Link:

And here's the rest of the tour stops:
9/29/2015- a GREAT readScavenger Hunt
9/30/2015- Seeing Double In NeverlandScavenger Hunt
10/1/2015- Two Chicks on BooksGuest Post
10/2/2015- Alice MarvelsScavenger Hunt

10/5/2015- FiktshunScavenger Hunt
10/6/2015- Read Now Sleep LaterScavenger Hunt
10/7/2015- Mundie MomsGuest Post
10/8/2015- Tales of the Ravenous ReaderScavenger Hunt
10/9/2015- ParajunkeeScavenger Hunt

Thursday, September 24, 2015

POISON STUDY Read-Along Details

The read-along will take place from October 1st-31st and we will be reading a few chapters a week - see the schedule below. This is a great opportunity for those of us that are hardcore fans of the series to re-read the book and for those of you that have been wanting to read the book to finally do it!
We have some amazing bloggers helping host the read-along. You can participate and follow along on any of their blogs!

Two Chicks on Books
Mundie Moms
Read Now Sleep Later

What would be required of you?
1. Just sign up in the Linky over at Two Chicks on Books' blog and let us know you’re participating! (During the read-along you will be able to add your blog posts to a Rafflecopter for a chance to win one of the awesome giveaway prizes!)

2. Post once a week during the month of October (preferably on Friday or Saturday). The post can be about anything you’ve read that week.
3. Join the conversation on Twitter. There will be no set times, just tweet when the mood strikes, using the hashtag ‪#‎PoisonStudyReadAlong‬

The read-along schedule: 
October 4th-10th: Chapters 1-8
October 11th-17th: Chapters 9-17
October 18th-24th: Chapters 18-25
October 25th-31st: Chapters 26-32 and closing post

I will be hosting an open Q&A session on her Poison Study 10 Year Celebration Facebook Page so if you have questions for her while reading head on over there! The characters from POISON STUDY will also be answering questions there, so feel free to stop by and ask Yelena, Valek, Ari, Janco - or anyone else you meet in POISON STUDY - anything you’d like to know. Maria will also be posting links to her website where she’ll be sharing chapter notes and hosting an exclusive giveaway!

The giveaway:
In conjunction with the read-along there will also be a blog tour the first two weeks of October. The read-along and blog tour will hosting the same amazing “10 prizes for 10 years” giveaway, and some of these prizes are very, very rare!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The "Birth" of Poison Study

As many of you know this October will be 10 years since POISON STUDY was first published by LUNA books, an imprint of Harlequin.  While I'm having all kinds of fun things like a blog tour, scavenger hunt, chapters notes, read along, and prizes to celebrate during the month of October, I also thought I'd do a series of blog posts about the book and how it came to be :).

I sparked on the idea of writing about a food/poison taster when I was reading Orson Scott Card's book, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy.  It was the chapter on characters and a scene jumped into my mind of a King who had fallen in love with his food taster and she was just about to taste his meal and it was probably poisoned, BUT she had to do it.  So he watches her in heartbreaking horror...

I never did write that scene!  But it started me asking questions.  Who was this food taster?  Why was she there?  Why was the King worried about being poisoned?  I decided the King would be a practical type and he wouldn't want to use one of his loyal subjects as a poison taster, so he offers the next person in line to be executed the job.  Then that triggers more questions, why is she on death row? Once she takes the job, what keeps her from escaping?  And are readers really going to like a protagonist who murdered a man? (Yes, if she has a damn good reason!)

I started writing the book in the beginning of 1997.  Despite having a very energetic 2 year old boy, I wrote a couple chapters with a King. The King's name is D'Ambrosia and the murdered Duke's son is Reyad and I have three names listed for the King's Chief of Security: Valek, Valello, and Valerio!

I see a contest for Great Beginnings and decide to enter my first chapter.  The contest is sponsored by Pennwriters and is part of their annual writing conference.  In May 1997, I travel to Pittsburgh to attend a fantastic conference where I learn all about writing and publishing.  I don't win the Great Beginnings contest, but I DID get wonderful feedback from one of the judges - Ms. Kate Elliott (one of my favorite authors and one of the reasons I attended the con).  She really enjoys the story and thinks the food taster is unique, but she suggests lots of changes to make it stronger and I decide to try to make my fantasy stand out from all the others, so I kill off the monarch and decide to have a military dictatorship instead.  Oh, and I still plan to have the Commander and Yelena fall in love as per my original idea.

After I meet Kate and she encourages me to continue with the story, I'm very bold and ask her if she'd like to read a revision of the first chapter.  She says YES!!  I still have her note about the revisions it begins: Dear Maria - Wow! The new draft is much stronger. At this point you're right of course to not do any further rewriting until you've finished the first draft. I love the poison names, by the way!

I'm cheeky again and ask if I can send her the completed draft when it's finished. Again she says YES! Another happy dance!

I continue working on the book until my daughter is born in October 1997 and then I take 6 months off.  Re-starting in May 1998, I write one chapter a month to give to my writing critique group for feedback.  Having that small goal helps and I finish the first draft in January 2000!!!  By this time, lots of my original ideas for the story has changed - Spoiler - the Commander and Yelena do not fall in love and Valek turns from an antagonist into a protagonist!

I spend the next six months revising and then send a few queries out to literary agents and get rejections in return.  Then I receive feedback from Kate Elliott in January 2001 (She read the entire book and given me excellent feedback and suggestions.  Her kindness is why I'm teaching and mentoring writing students at Seton Hill University - to help other writers like Kate helped me).

Another six months's worth of revisions and by June 2001, I believe the book is ready to be sent out to agents and publishers.

Approximately 4 years from start to finish!!  Of course I wasn't working on the story full time - being home with two young kids doesn't give you a lot of time :)  And once I finished Poison Study, I started working on Storm Watcher while I worked on revisions.  At that point, Poison Study was a stand alone novel - no sequel was planned, but I did think I could write another only IF I managed to sell Poison Study to a publisher (self-publishing wasn't an option at that time!).

Next post will be on The "Trials" of Poison Study

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Win a Japanese Edition of Poison Study!

Yes another give away!  I received a couple of extra copies of the Japanese edition of POISON STUDY, which I think is very cool and is a "must have" for all you hard-core MVS readers :).

POISON STUDY is doing very well in Japan with loads of great reviews.  It's number 1 in the Fantasy novel category on Rakuten Books!! (According to Yukari, who translated the book into Japanese is bigger and more popular than Amazon.  One Japanese reader said, "How many years has it been since I’ve acted like this? I couldn’t stop thinking about the story..."  And another said, " I read this book while in the bullet train from Tokyo the other day… I almost missed my station. Wow, that was close. High readability from the beginning, and you won’t be able to stop turning the pages in the latter half..."

The give away is open to ALL!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm also still trying to reach 10,000 likes on my Facebook Author page for POISON STUDY's 10 year anniversary.  Even if you're not interested in the give away, please go on over to my page and click "Like" (

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Shades of Doon

The new Doon book is out today!  SHADES OF DOON by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon is the third in the Doon series, which will have four total.

I really love this series.  The main characters, Veronica and MacKenna are likable and proactive and intelligent.  I will admit I'm partial to MacKenna as I love how she references Broadway Musicals and exclaims, "Son of a Sondheim!" She's more snarky and light hearted than Veronica, but that's a good thing as they balance each other out.  If you haven't read any of these book, the first on is DOON and the second is DESTINED FOR DOON.  For me to stick with a series this long - it has to be good ;)

I interviewed Carey and Lorie on my blog last year.  Here's the link if you're interested: Interview!

Speaking of series....any recommendations?  What's your current favorite??