Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Writing Life by Cricket McRae, Guest Blogger

Cricket McRae is my first guest blogger from right here in Northern Colorado. Just as her photo suggests, she is one of those warm and friendly people who make the writing life so much fun. Her mystery series is pretty darned good, too. I'm especially looking forward to her booksigning at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, Colorado at 1:00 PM on Saturday, July 31st. It's rumored there might be a cheese tasting during Cricket's signing, and Cricket might be bringing homemade sourdough bread. I have the signing on my calendar in red ink.

Welcome to my blog, Cricket. It's a real pleasure having you here.

My Writing Life by Cricket McRae

Thanks for inviting me to guest on your blog today, Patricia!

Many writers start their careers early with short stories, but in my mid-thirties I plunged right into writing a mystery novel. I'd had a vision of being a published mystery writer since I was nineteen, and it was time to get started. Despite a demanding job, I completed a manuscript about a rancher in Montana who had to solve a murder to save a family member he didn't even like.

And then I rewrote it and polished it, and finally, began sending it out to agents. Form rejections ricocheted back to my mailbox with alarming regularity, though on rare occasions brief encouragement shone from a scrawled note at the bottom of the page.

Very rare occasions.

I sent the manuscript to an independent New York editor, who offered to "fix" it for me for 8K. No thanks. I wanted to know how to fix it myself. So I read books on writing, took workshops, went to writing conferences and wrote more. My first book became my learn-how-to-write-a-novel novel. After about a hundred rejections from agents, the Montana rancher manuscript went into a drawer. I never sent it directly to editors because many agents want a clear field of submission once they take you on as a client, and I never thought about self-publishing. I had a vision of my future writing career, and, for good or evil, stuck to it.

For my next project the character of Sophie Mae Reynolds came fully to mind. She was a soap maker. I'd never been a rancher, but I'd left the software industry and started an online business selling handmade toiletries. The writing flowed with ease.

I finished Lye in Wait and sent out more agent queries. The rejections were more personal and encouraging. Then I learned of a new Advanced Fiction Certificate Program at the University of Washington, and I dusted off that first mystery again. Since it wasn't going to be published anyway, why not rip it apart as my class project?

Everything in the book changed, from the gender and background of the protagonist, to the murder and the murderer. I replaced every scene except one. It was a different book, only loosely based on the first one. I sent out more queries.

An agent called me the day after Christmas in 2006: She thought she could sell the revamped Montana mystery. Per standard etiquette, I contacted the six agents with whom I had outstanding queries. Three of them requested the manuscript. I also sent everyone a copy of Lye in Wait. I wanted an agent who would be willing to represent both the gritty mystery and the cozy series.

Sparked by one agent's interest, all three agents offered contracts. I went with the original offer. My new agent never sold the Montana mystery, but she sold Lye in Wait and two more books in the Home Crafting Mystery Series to Midnight Ink within eight weeks. And I never told her that she'd originally rejected Lye in Wait as a book she didn't think was right for her. ; - )

The fourth Home Crafting Mystery, Something Borrowed, Something Bleu, hit book stores last week, and things look good for the series. My hope is to develop a second mystery series, and to write a few standalone novels as well. We'll see. At the least, I'll stubbornly keep at it!

For more information about me or the books, visit my website. I blog regularly at Hearth Cricket about writing, food, gardening and domestic arts.


Thanks for being our guest today, Cricket. I hadn't heard that story about your first Montana rancher mystery. There's a lesson there for all of us. Never give up.

The second and third books in Cricket's Home Crafting series are titled
Heaven Preserve Us and Spin a Wicked Web. All are available through your local bookstores or at online booksellers.


Mason Canyon said...

Patricia, thanks for hosting Cricket and enjoyed your interview.

Cricket, you definitely prove that if you really want something, don't give up - keep trying. So glad you did continue. Best of luck.

Thoughts in Progress

Anonymous said...

Cricket, What a delightful recount of your publishing process! Oh how I could identify with several steps in your process! Love the cover of your book--makes me want to buy it--and the title is fantastic. BTW--I also spoke with the 8K guy--and did the same thing you did. Now, I'm going over to check out your blog.

SonshineMusic i.e. Rebecca T. said...

Thanks for sharing this! What great encouragement to keep working, keep trying and keep learning!


Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

Cricket, I like never give up stories, and I love the cover of your book, and agree, the title is fantastic! Happy writing. I'll pop over for a visit. Oh, what an original and interesting name you have.

Thanks Patricia. Talk soon, Simon.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That first effort may still one day find a home. Sounds like Patricia worked hard on it.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Good morning, everyone. Doesn't Cricket have an interesting story? She's also a darned good writer and a very nice person. If you like cozy mysteries, I think you'll love her series.

Jemi Fraser said...

I really enjoyed seeing all the steps! Wow. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

Cricket McRae said...

What kind comments, everyone! And thanks again to Patricia for inviting me to guest post today.

I guess mine is kind of a never-give-up story, but I don't think it's unique. There are a lot of really talented writers out there, and the publishing industry is a tough one. To retain sanity it's a good idea to write for the sake of writing and approach querying and submitting as a separate -- and purely impersonal -- enterprise.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

What a great story of perseverance! It certainly paid off. Sounds like a fun series and I plan on looking for your books on my next trip to the bookstore.

Joanie Rich said...

An amazing article, Patricia! Cricket, your story is so inspiring to me as a young writer. Thank you both for sharing!

Elspeth Antonelli said...

It's something we all have to remember, isn't it? Keep writing, keep editing, keep improving.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Cricket!

Ann Best said...

Patricia: I'm happy to meet a new (to me) Colorado author. I'm now going to go into Cricket's website and blog.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A wonderful guest blog Patricia , thanks for inviting Cricket will certainly visit her blog later on.


Dru said...

Great post and I'm glad you kept at it.

Cricket McRae said...

Patricia, you have the best folks following your blog. I'm so glad I got a chance to encounter those of you I didn't already know, and see old friends here, too. You inspire me!

Michelle Mach said...

Nice post! It's always encouraging to hear a Northern Colorado success story. I've enjoyed your mystery novels--this is a good reminder to me to review one of them for my blog! :)

N A Sharpe said...

I love this series! It is so cool meeting so many versatile and talented writers!

I've not been on line nearly as much as I'd like lately, but your blog is one of my favorites to visit I do have an award for you on tomorrow's blog. Have a great evening, Patricia!

Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

Ciss B said...

Sounds like her signing will be a great event! Wish I lived closer.

Cricket sounds like the kind of writer whose books I like to dig deep into - mysteries! I'll check them out!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks again, Cricket, for being here today. And thanks to everyone who dropped by to say hi. You're all sweetness (and fun, too).

Cricket McRae said...

I had a great time, Patrica -- I appreciate the opportunity to tell my story and to hear from your wonderful readers.