Well I was asked to talk to you today about my writing journey, and oh, what a trek it has been! There have been some hairpin turns, some steep grades, that’s for sure, and some times when I just coasted along. Scratch that. That never happened! ;) Writing is hard work, and in order to do it right, you have to constantly be striving to get better at it and to get your name out there. No coasting allowed!
"It's wicked bad luck for ships what coast without a good wind, lass."
"Shhh, Jack! MJ's telling us about her journey."
Jack puts a fingertip on his lips... "Silent as the grave, luv."
MJ tries to get herself back on task. "Jack is mesmerizing, isn't he?" Audible sigh...
MJ tries to get herself back on task. "Jack is mesmerizing, isn't he?" Audible sigh...
Where was I? Oh, yes. Ships! No. I mean, journeys. Before you set off on your journey, you have to plan and pack, right? My journey started off without a lot of planning at first. We were mapless, without written directions or a GPS. I began by sitting down and writing twelve books. Not all in one sitting, of course, but twelve full-length novels. Then I decided to learn about writing. A little backwards, eh? I don’t recommend this course. There is a lot of backtracking and pointless meandering that can be avoided if you start off with a plan of action. You should attend classes, read books about writing, and read award-winning books in your genre.
I did have the opportunity to attend a weeklong workshop, the Antioch Writers’ Workshop, in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This was like a little piece of heaven on earth for me. A week to live among fellow writers, talking about all things literary? Divine! I joined the local chapter of RWA which, among other things, was a critique group. I began to bring in my writing and have it read aloud for the first time by strangers (yikes!). This is where I really began to grow as a writer. I am lucky in having a number of extremely intelligent and talented authors in my group (hi, guys!) who have taught me much more than any book or seminar ever could. I was also fortunate enough to attend the Chicago North RWA Spring Fling. Here I began to learn more about the business end of publishing. Along the way I did pick up a number of books on writing. Some of them I even read. I guess they’d be the souvenirs in my suitcase.
So, although I started off a little lost on my journey, I began to formulate a plan. The plan involved submitting to agents and editors, which I did. I took my rejections stoically (cried like a baby) and sent out more query letters. And, miracle of miracles I got a contract offer! I had my brother-in-law/free lawyer read it, signed on the dotted line, and told the entire extended family around the Thanksgiving table. When we got home that night I got online to check my email and the publisher had rescinded its offer. Turns out they’d bitten off a bit more than they could chew and had to spit me out (the publisher went out of business). I’d hit a pot hole, busted a tire, and messed up my suspension all in one shot!
So back to the drawing board, licking stamps, sending out letters. And low and behold, I got another offer and published my first book, TAKEN BY STORM! Big milestone on the journey, flashing lights, beeping horns, the works! I had my first book out! But then I began to think about it. This publisher was getting 70% of my profits for, basically, editing my book and providing a cover, things I could do on my own. I’m not saying that working with a publisher in the future is out of the question, but it would have to be a publisher with a lot of reach to give up that much of the profits again. Logically, the next step was to self-publish.
Read this next line in your best GPS voice-“Now rerouting…” This meant acquiring more books about the industry and asking a lot of questions to those who had already self-pubbed (I was like an annoying little gnat!) We created a business plan this time and I brought along my navigator/husband/business partner. Kissmet Publishing was born! We published my second book, TRAPPED UNDER ICE, part of my ROCKING ROMANCE COLLECTION. TRAPPED’s sales blew away TAKEN’s as it was in the hotter, contemporary romance category. [TAKEN BY STORM is now part of my ROMANTIC REALMS COLLECTION and is set in a fictional place similar to Ancient Persia. It is a great story, by the way, I highly recommend it! ;) ] Since then I’ve brought out a second book in each collection, ABANDON ALL HOPE--the story of a rock star reunited with his high school sweetheart after an eight year separation—and AN UNCOMMON LOVE—my fairy tale romance about a princess that falls for a commoner. This month I released my first in my REALISTIC ROMANCE COLLECTION, which features heroes and heroines from all walks of life. UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR, my Christmas romantic suspense novella, for example, features an EMT and a widowed kindergarten teacher.
"You're a well-propertied writer, Lady Schiller," said with that Captain Jack Sparrow appreciative grin. "I've a mind to navigate ye, myself."
"Why don't we share a blurb from MJ's Christmas novella UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR, instead?"
Raising his jug in salute. "Let's!"
Dylan Fisher is an EMT and part-time Santa Claus at a mall in Denver, Colorado. He has logged plenty of time with children sitting on his lap asking for anything from the latest electronic gadget to a week’s worth of homework passes, but he never heard anyone ask for what little Delaney Kelly asked for on one snowy night in December. A dad! When Dylan’s eyes search the crowd for Delaney’s mother and land on Keira Kelly, the paramedic almost finds himself in need of a little CPR. She is stunning!
Keira Kelly is still grieving over the loss of her husband, but a reckless driver has her thinking about nothing but survival as she’s headed home from the mall. When Keira wakes in the hospital to find a hunky EMT at her bedside, she begins having a few thoughts that would put her on Santa’s Naughty List for sure! But when she finds out the EMT is only hanging around because the police believe someone is out to get her, she’s not sure what to think about his kindness. Is he helping her because he wants to, or because he feels he needs to? And what about the man who rammed her car, could he have had something to do with her husband’s death?
"EMT? Emergency Monkey Tracker? I have a question. Why can't I find one of those?"
Rolls eyes. "Emergency Medical Technician."
"That be what they call it now, eh? Where's that undead monkey?"
"Jack, since M.J. has been talking about travel metaphors, let's read an excerpt from a car scene in her book."
That smile again, revealing a sparkling gold tooth. "Let's!"
Her heart began to beat faster. She was no longer singing, but Delaney didn’t seem to even notice, carrying on without her. She heard her singing about Frosty “hippity-hop-hopping through the snow.”
Keira was pretty sure that was wrong, (didn’t Peter Rabbit “hippity-hop?”), but didn’t bother to correct Delaney. Her hands clutched the steering wheel as she hunted for a street ahead they could turn down. Spotting one, she waited until the last minute to signal and then made a right-hand turn. To her horror, tires screeched and beams from the black sedan’s headlights swung crazily as the car swerved around the corner, too, fish-tailing in the snow, but following all the same. A motor raced as it zoomed up on them, getting so close she lost sight of its headlights as they dipped below the SUV’s back bumper.
Her heart thudded in her chest. I can’t panic. Kevin told me if someone ever followed me I should head straight to a police station. But where’s a police station? She searched her mind, street names and places flashing before her eyes and then the impact of the sedan’s bumper jolted the SUV.
“Mommy!” Delaney screamed.
“It’s okay, sugar.” Even though she wanted to sound reassuring, her voice was tight. The car rammed them again.
Keira’s eyes flew back and forth from the rearview mirror to the road, trying to remain in control of the vehicle and anticipate her attacker’s next move at the same time. The street she chose was dark. A park hemmed either side of the two-lane road and a long row of drivers in the opposite lane waited their opportunity to turn onto First Avenue.
“Aaahh!” She involuntarily yelped as the sedan hit them with greater impact, making her SUV skid across the pavement. She quickly corrected and then tried to speed up to avoid another collision. She checked the side-view mirror. Headlights zoomed up again and she braced herself.
Too late, Keira saw the car in front of her making a leisurely left-hand turn onto the thoroughfare from a side street. She screamed and slammed on the brakes. The SUV began to skid sideways, her rear bumper making contact with one of the cars waiting in line next to them, sending her vehicle spinning in the opposite direction. Delaney’s cries rang in her ears. Images blurred through the windshield, a tree, a lamp post, and then, the car gunning for them. With a tremendous crash of metal it drove the SUV into a park bench and a concrete, cylinder-shaped garbage receptacle decorated with neutral-colored pebbles. The airbags failed to employ. Her head hit the steering wheel with the initial impact, and then the side window when the SUV crumpled against the pebbled trash can.
A car horn blared, her car horn. She struggled to lift her head. About ten feet in front of them, the black sedan swam in and out of her vision. Its front bumper trailed on the ground on one side, half of the hood accordioned upward, steam rolling out of it menacingly in the cold night air. She imagined the black vehicle to be some sort of fire-breathing dragon. Why does it want me dead? she asked herself groggily.
It came to life in front of her eyes, backing up over the curb a few feet, pieces clunking and scraping against the concrete. The wheels turned and with a screech of spinning tires it scrambled toward her. For a minute, she thought it sought to finish them off. Instead, the sedan roared off into the night with sparks flying from its underbelly.
Pardoned for the moment, she became aware of the pain driving through her brain. She clutched at her stomach. She tasted blood. Head heavy, she laid it down on the steering wheel, closing her eyes. She heard the horn again…shouting… somewhere, Christmas music.
Delaney! a voice screamed in her head. Keira wanted to turn to search the backseat, but it felt like her head was no longer connected to the rest of her body. She heard a strange noise, a loud, screeching, whirring noise…the dragon returning. She whimpered and went still.
"Dragons? Did she say "dragons?" Hand flail!
"Hey Gang, if you enjoyed this ~ keep reading!"
MJ is a lunch lady in the heart of Central Illinois. My gosh, can you get more folksy than that? She met her husband at the University of Missouri-Columbia and now she has an eighteen-year-old (how did that happen?) and sixteen year old triplets! She loves to read, karaoke (where she can pretend she is a rock star) and spends WAY too much time on Facebook. She grew up in St. Louis and still has family there.
"Triplets?" Jack's eyes gleam.
"Isn't MJ loads of awesome? Imagine how hard she's worked to raise a family AND manage a writing career!"
"Aye. She be right gracious to acquiesce to our request to appear on ye ol' blog. Thank ye, Lady Schiller! Most kind," Jack says with a chivalrous bow.
"Rum for all and all for rum!" I add. No excuses necessary. Pirate!
Jack flashes his charming gold-toothed sparkle. "'Tis the season, luv."
You can find MJ Schiller here: www.mjschillerauthor.blogspot.com, MJ on FB, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
What has your road in life looked like thus far? (Or currents, if'n ye be a pirate?)