The folks at Dreamspinner Press, publisher of Until Thanksgiving, have been wonderful. When I finished After Christmas Eve (the prequel), I sent it to them, ignoring the part in their submission guidelines about the story having to be a romance. By ignoring, I don’t mean that I read and then disregarded the words. I never really looked. My reaction to the rejection I got from them a few months later, “Doh!”
The rejection still felt like a kick in the gut. I knew it wasn’t personal — they like me well enough. But the story wasn’t the kind of story they publish. My bad. So I do what writers do when they get a rejection email: sent a whiney message to a bunch of my writer pals and looked for someplace else to submit my manuscript.
The plain truth, whether in life or in writing, is that romance is not my forte. I’m way too impatient. Get ‘er done is my motto. I’m a busy man.
Besides, although I’m always open to suggestions, I really liked my story just the way it was. Adding romance, given the suicide in chapter two, didn’t feel right to me. Tweaking is one thing. Changing the story that much appealed to me like a root canal.
I know someone who knows someone at MLR Press. She talked with them about my story — specifically the lack of romance — and said they’d be willing to give it a look. The promise of a professional review enticed me. I submitted the manuscript, absolutely certain I’d be getting another rejection email sometime in the next ninety days.
Then I went back to the manuscript, saving the original, creating a new version with more romance. While I was at it, I decided to keep the identity of the killer a mystery for a while longer, which forced me to add chapters from a previously silent character’s point-of-view. I felt pretty good about the revised story and sent it off to Dreamspinner Press and a few trusted readers.
The first to finish wasn’t a fan of the revisions. He pointed to some specific issues he had, which I discounted because he’s a straight white man who is even older than me. But when a second member of my beloved writers group, a lovely woman a good 15 years younger than me, said more or less the same thing, panic set in. The revised book wasn’t a romance, or much of a mystery, or nearly the thriller that the original was, and my protagonist had morphed from a kindly gentlemen into a predatory pedophile.
I fired off a message to Dreamspinner to withdraw my submission. I love Philip way too much to have people think he’s a sexual predator of any kind, much less a pedophile. Ewww.
My confidence was shattered. I couldn’t even open the file for After Christmas Eve — The Romance. I tried going back to the first person narrative I was having so much fun writing, but every word looked wrong. I hate the story and I can’t figure out how to move forward.
I was blocked, and disgusted with everything I’d written. Garbage. The lot of it. Who was I kidding? I can’t do this.
When the message appeared in my mailbox, “After Christmas Eve MLR Press Submission,” I knew the long awaited rejection had finally arrived. I was on the phone with my department head in my office, when I clicked on the message. “We are pleased to offer you a contract…” I picked the phone up off the floor and apologized to my boss.
I’m thrilled to announce that ManLoveRomance Press will publish After Christmas Eve. The release date wasn’t specified, but I’d guess sometime late summer or early fall. Even though I spent hours and hours agonizing over the revised version, I’m happy to go back to the original.
Ain’t it funny how things always work out for the best?
Now if I could just sell my house…