Friday, August 13, 2010

Ooh, Pretty!

My guest is Judi Fennell. She is both friend as well as an excellent writer for whom I have a great deal of respect. I knew she was up for the Prism Award and for my favorite of her Mer series, Wild Blue Under. I also knew she didn’t think she’d win it. I couldn’t believe she didn’t even go to the awards. Since I wasn’t able to go to Nationals this year I had to rely on second hand accounts of her win, I told her she owed me an account, lol!

Judi, is also part of my village. Writers rely on others to tell them the truth about their proposals, do beta reading, doing critiques, and be there when a problem is kicking their arses and they need problem solving input. Knowing your *village* and their skills is important too. I don’t know what I’d do without my *village*.

The title’s an inside joke with my online Writing Wombats group (go, Pat!), but the award in this picture is no joke. It’s a PRISM Award, given by the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal chapter of RWA for excellence in paranormal romance, and if you look closely, you can see my name there.

Trust me, I’ve looked closely. Have run my fingers over it repeatedly. Breathed on it and shine it up quite a bit—and my name doesn’t disappear. How utterly cool is that?

I’ve won writing contests before and the thrill never goes away, but with this one, I’m still trying to catch my breath. I mean, I was up against Kerrelyn Sparks and Angie Fox, both New York Times best-selling authors, who are incredible writers with great stories. I ended up tying with Kerrelyn for this award, which is just icing on the celebratory cake, because, honestly? That whole, “It’s just a thrill to be nominated” thing? Seriously, it was. I saw my name on that list and just giggled myself silly. Me. There. With them. Ha!

Of course I wasn’t going to walk away with that shiny, pretty thing. I mean, Angie Fox and Kerrelyn Sparks! Come on, it was an honor just to see my name there. There was no way I was going to win.

I even went to my publisher dinner instead of going to the awards dinner, that’s how sure I was that my name wouldn’t be called. (Side note: I did, however, write an acceptance speech for a friend to give on the “Hell-freezes-over, off-chance that someone would do the math wrong and take pity on me and call my name” because if I hadn’t, I would have won and looked like an idiot and winning wasn’t worth looking like an idiot.)

See, this was my first book written under contract and under deadline. Close friends have heard the horror story I had with this book, typical “Second Book Syndrome.” If you haven’t experienced it, lucky you, but it’s the “I wrote the first one for me; there’s no way I can do it again and people will like it” thing. (We authors, we’re neurotic!)

But I persevered and turned this book in on time and was happy with it. My editor, however, was not. Major problems with the heroine.

What? I loved my heroine. I thought she was funny and witty and had just enough angst to make her sympathetic but still be her tough-as-nails self.

This, my friends, is why writers need editors. I shudder to think of the response if that book had gone on to be published as I’d turned it in the first time. Man, was my editor right.

Oh, don’t get me wrong; at first I didn’t understand what she meant when she said I had to change the heroine. I mean, that was my heroine. What did she mean, change her? I had done what you were supposed to do; I’d written the best book I possibly could. I liked it. I was proud of it.

But it wasn’t good enough. Talk about a mental adjustment! I gave myself about ten hours to process her feedback, come to terms with the work I had left to do, and then I got down to it and restarted the book—

Twenty-four different times in half that many days.

And none of the new starts worked.

And then, finally, on December 16, I changed the heroine’s name, and voila! There she was. My new heroine.

I’d love to say that her story flowed from my fingertips, but, alas, that’s not true. It was blood, sweat, and tears to drag her into this story.

And stress. Lord, was there stress. You did see the December 16th date, didn’t you? What comes nine days after the 16th? And six days after that? And the book was due by January 4th.

I spent every waking hour on the revisions. And unwaking ones, too. I didn’t sleep well and my cell phone voicemail box had tons of whispered mutterings from the wee hours of the morning when I’d call myself about an idea that had woken me and I didn’t want to wake my husband, but was too freakin’ tired to pick up the notebook and pencil beside my bed to jot down a note.

But the book got written (which is really poor grammar, but I’m reliving the utter “phlumfff!” of getting the story on paper), and thanks to one of my Writing Wombats (Beth Hill, check out for her editorial expertise!), I turned it in on time.

I still had a few things to touch up after my editor read the new version, but what ended up following that gorgeous cover was 720 degrees from what had originally been turned in so those touch-ups were practically nothing at that point.

That’s why this award means so much to me. It means hard work. It means a big learning curve. It means a few hours of Christmas and New Years’ Eve celebration and very little time with my family. It means the generosity of a very good friend. It means the faith my editor had in my ability and the patience she had in letting me work through it and not tossing my contract into the shredder.

This award is as much my editor’s as it is mine and I’m utterly grateful to her for working on this book with me and making it so much better than it was.

That’s the value of a professional editor and anyone who thinks they don’t need one is fooling themself.

Because we are so caught up in our world, and our story, our characters, and making sure all the loose ends are tied up and the emotions are there, that we don’t have enough distance to see what needs work. I now run my stories through four people before I submit them to my editor, and, still, she finds ways to make it better. Both of my 2009 releases were up for awards this year: NJ’s Golden Leaf, National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Prism, Beyond Her Book PW Readers Choice, and Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and I credit that to the wonderful, insightful editorial feedback from both my beta readers and my editor.

You know, writers sometimes call their books their babies, and there’s that old adage that it takes a village to raise a child, so cultivate your village on your way to publication so that you can write the best book you can.

And you won’t have to give up your Christmas holidays to do so. :-)

  • Who’s in your village?

Judi Fennell's new series:  GENIES ARE COMING! January 2011, "I Dream of Jeannie meets Indiana Jones, and the action is on!"

Read back cover and story line.
Judi Fennell has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to “get outside!” instead of watching Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on television. So she did--right into Dad’s hammock with her Nancy Drew books.

These days she’s more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she’s still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends’ books.

A three-time finalist in online contests, Judi has enjoyed the reader feedback she’s received and would love to hear what you think about her Mer series. Check out her website at for excerpts, reviews and fun pictures from reader and writer conferences, and the chance to “dive in” to her stories.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Judi, I can't wait to read the Genies in finished form. I love the covers!

A BIG congratulations on winning the PRISM award. When doubts kick in, just look at it and remind yourself that they don't just give those away. They're earned, my friend, and you earned!

Other Lisa said...

Awesome post (oh, I sooo hear you on the Second Book Syndrome...the pain...)! And a well-deserved award.


VA said...

That is one mighty fine looking award. Sharp and pointy, too. It would make an excellent weapon in a pinch.

Congratulations, Judi.

Village? I hang at the Hicken and Spleen.

tonya kappes said...

Judi! Congrats on the award. I know exactly what you mean about your editor. I was asked to change the killer in my mystery. It was hard b/c I had invested so much time in who I wanted to be the killer. BUT in the end, she was so right and my mystery is sooo much stronger.

Judi Fennell said...

Morning everyone and thanks to my village!

Tonya, don't you just hate when that happens? They (editors) suggest something and you clunk yourself on the head and go, "now why didn't I think of that?"

I have to remind myself (and my editor) that I'm the one who put a tail on the merman in the first story. Couldn't sell it that way; got rid of his tail and I sold it. But I needed someone to tell me that. sigh...

sherilynwinrose said...

Judi, I couldn't be more pleased or proud to have you as part of my village. Congratulations lady, the muses know how hard you worked on this book.

James Rafferty said...

Judi, thanks for sharing your account of the battle to get your second book done in a way that met your editor's expectations. It's a beautiful award and all the more meaningful for the work you put into getting it.

Olivia Cunning said...

Great, great post, Judi! I'll never forget the moment you found out you'd won (I was standing right there, folks) and you went squeeing through the hotel lobby to find Deb. I'm so proud of you. Your recognition is well deserved.

Now, will you rent that trophy out to those of us who don't write paranormal so have no chance of ever winning one of those beauties? I think it would look great on my desk. I can pretend my name is Judi for a few weeks.

Judi Fennell said...

*waving hi

Thanks again, Village Wombats (which is so much better than village idiots...). Olivia - has your hearing recovered from my squeeing? More like squealing. Thanks for the hug!

And, nope, sorry, I'm not renting it out. It's staying right on my desk where I can stroke, I mean, see it all the time. :)

Judi Fennell said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone and I hope you have a great weekend!

aries18 said...

Congratulations on winning this award! It's so shiny! With your talent and your dedication to your work you totally deserve this win.

Jill Lynn said...

Judi, that was one of the best writerly articles I've ever read. I think a lot of writers believe once they get a first novel published, it'll be smooth sailing from then on: novels will magically become easier to write, editors will love everything submitted with nary a red mark to be had, fans will be a'gush no matter what. Many an author would let them think that, too, because they wouldn't want to expose themselves as anything but secure. Your heartfelt honesty here made your trenches to triumph story that much more victorious. I think this should be required reading for anyone who chooses to pick up the pen.

Kat Sheridan said...

Ooooo, PRETTY!!! SHINY!!! WELL DESERVED (and if I ever come to your house, you may need to keep it under lock and key!) Sooo may congrats on this! And I'm eternally grateful I can say that you are part of my village!