A Killer Welcome to our special guest Lena Diaz!
Thank you so much for hosting me on Killer Chicks today! This is such a cool site. It’s definitely going on my favorites list. And congratulations, JB, on your sale to Avon Impulse!
Now, on to my post. Today I’m sharing my story about my first sale.
My dream of becoming a published author didn’t start during childhood, or even during high school like so many other authors. I dreamed about growing up to be an architect, or a lawyer, and eventually settled on computer programmer. Glamorous, huh?
I may not have started out dreaming of being a writer, but the incredible stories and heroes of romance novels have always been in my dreams. I cut my reader teeth on the atmospheric, dramatic gothic novels of Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. I learned about the facts of life - no joke - from Sweet Savage Love, by Rosemary Rogers.
I didn’t get the itch to write until I was in college. I don’t know if it was my Lit class or just something that happens to all life-long romance enthusiasts, but that itch hit with a vengeance and wouldn’t let go. I wrote, for fun, but nothing more than that.
Fast forward several years (I’m not about to admit how many). I’d been working as a computer programmer, and then as a manager of programmers. I still wrote occasionally, but never for publication. I was too busy making a living to chase my dreams.
Then, dual tragedies struck my family. My daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Watching them both struggle to overcome those horrible challenges was a life-changing experience for all of us. But no one was more affected by watching those struggles than my husband.
He’s the one who made the decision that it was time for me to focus on my dream. He sat me down, held my hands, and looked into my eyes as he told me how precious, and short, and unpredictable life can be. He told me it was time for me to stop dreaming about being a writer. It was time for me to become a writer.
With his love and support, I spent the next five years learning my craft, going to conferences, taking workshops, and of course, writing. Naively convinced I would be a success right out of the gate, I entered my first manuscript in a contest and won second place. Awesome! I was on my way, so I pitched the manuscript at a conference, got a request for a full, and sent it off to the person that I was convinced was about to become my future editor.
Then I waited...and waited...and waited...and received my first rejection. (sigh)
Humbled by that experience, I took a long hard look at my manuscript, and then gave a prayer of thanks that no one had bought it. Because it was really, seriously, BAD.
I started another manuscript, in a different genre - romantic suspense. I poured my heart, my soul, and everything I’d learned into that novel. I entered it into the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart ®contest.
It did NOT final.
Okay, by now I realized this writing gig wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be when I’d first started out. I rolled up my sleeves, took more writing workshops, attended more conferences, and revised the heck out of that manuscript. I joined a critique group, and re-wrote my manuscript - twice - and entered it in the Golden Heart again the following year.
This time, I hit pay dirt. He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not was a finalist in the Golden Heart. It also won the Daphne du Maurier and the TARA, so I decided to send it out to a few agents.
Nalini Akolekar, of Spencerhill Associates, offered me representation. I was in heaven! I knew I would sell any day now. I was about to become a published author!
Fast forward almost a year. Still no sale.
I began to question whether I had the chops for this business. And I started to worry that my agent was going to drop me. She’d submitted my manuscript to several houses. We had a few nibbles, but no bites. Then I read an announcement on the internet about a brand new digital-first line by Harper Collins, called Avon Impulse.
Avon? Are you kidding me? I love Avon! These are the people who brought Kathleen E. Woodiwiss into my life (A Rose in Winter, Shanna, Ashes in the Wind.) I contacted my agent and asked her what she thought about submitting to Avon Impulse. She laughed and told me she’d already talked to them and that they wanted to see my manuscript.
About a month later, on the day of the 2011 Golden Heart announcements, I sat with my two critique partners watching the results roll in. One of my CPs, Valerie Bowman, got that magical call. She was a GH finalist! We were so happy for her.
While sending out a flurry of emails chatting up my friend’s final, I noticed an email sitting in my inbox from my agent. I opened it up and it read, “I think this is it.” A few minutes later, she called and told me I’d sold to Avon Impulse. A year to the day of finding out that He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not was a Golden Heart finalist, I found out that I’d sold that same manuscript to Avon.
I guess you could say that instead of ‘the call’, I got ‘the email’, but it was still an amazing experience. My novel debuted on August 9th and has had some great reviews (try it! Please!!!) A couple of weeks ago, I sold a second romantic suspense to Avon Impulse, which will come out early next year. And almost a week after that, I sold a novel to Harlequin Intrigue (a 2013 release).
I know how hard it is to get your toe in the door in this business, and how very fortunate I am to be published. I count my blessings every day, and sometimes stare off into space with a silly smile on my face, amazed at all the wonderful things that have happened to me in the past year. Just today, at my day job, I actually started crying at my desk thinking about my three sales. And that’s not the first time.
Ernest Hemingway once said, “It is not difficult to write a novel, all you have to do is to sit down at a typewriter and cut open a vein.” Truer words were never spoken (except, of course, that most of us use computers these days!) Writing is such incredibly difficult work. And once your work is in the public eye, it’s like you’ve taken off your clothes and danced around Central Park naked. Then you wait for the cheers...or jeers.
It’s exhausting, intimidating, and scary. But it’s all worth it when you receive an email from someone who isn’t your mother, or your sister, or your husband, and they tell you, “I read your book, and I loved it!”
I hope you enjoyed reading my story of how I became a writer, and how I sold my first novel. And I hope that you too will reach for your dreams, whatever they may be.
~ I love to hear from my readers. You can reach me on Twitter, or Facebook, or email, by visiting my website, www.LenaDiaz.com, and clicking on the links. He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not is available as an ebook or mass-market paperback, on Amazon.com and all major electronic retailer outlets.
Four years ago, Amanda Stockton was forced to play a serial killer's twisted game of chance. Since then, she has retreated from the world, bearing the scars from her ordeal and the burden of a terrible secret. But when another woman is found dead, clutching a long-stemmed red rose, Amanda knows she can hide no longer.
If there were any other way, Chief Logan Richards would never ask the only surviving victim for help. But it's clear this killer will not be stopped and Amanda is the only link. Torn between catching a madman and winning the trust of the woman he's come to love, Logan and Amanda are caught in a dangerous game. And there's no guarantee they'll come out on top.