My goal in life is to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am.
RECAP of last week’s blog:
While waiting tables at Eastside Mario’s in Colorado Springs, I met two well-behaved Canine Companions ladies and dogs. The ladies said there were too many "cat mysteries" and not enough "dog mysteries," and I promised to write a dog mystery. And donate a portion of my profits to Canine Companions, an organization that trains dogs to help the handicapped. My lovable Great Dane-Irish Setter-Lab mix, Cherokee, volunteered to be the model for "Hitchcock the Dog." I decided to expand one of my short stories, Spilt Milk, and make the killer obvious…
Except, I then added a twist at the end 🙂
Here’s a brief description of Hitchcock the Dog: In his own mind, Hitchcock, is the quintessential well-trained pooch, even though he only knows eight commands and responds best to gooddog, baddog, and getdownoffthecouchyousonofabitch!
I began writing FOOTPRINTS IN THE BUTTER – an Ingrid Beaumont Mystery co-starring Hitchcock the Dog – a week after meeting the Canine Companion ladies. I wrote a Prologue: At a high school reunion dance, Ingrid’s childhood chum, Wylie Jamestone, pisses everybody off, then gives Ingrid a riddle: "How do you make a statue of an elephant?" Ingrid doesn’t know the answer, but before Wylie can tell her, he leaves the dance. End of Prologue.
Chapter One finds Ingrid at a Broncos vs. Cowboys football game. Approx 70 miles away, Wylie Jamestone [who for some reason looks exactly like my ex-husband, James Wiley] is fatally clunked over the head with a small but heavy reproduction of The Thinker.
In Chapter Two, Ingrid meets her friend [and Canine Companions volunteer] Cee-Cee for breakfast. The two women talk about the reunion dance, the murder, various suspects and…
Something didn’t "feel right."
So I emailed the prologue and first two chapters to my agent, who had only one question: "Does Cee-Cee know these people?"
"She does if she read my prologue," I replied.
I killed the Prologue and made it Chapter Two. I rewrote the "breakfast dialogue" and finished writing the rest of the book and, to make a long story short, pun intended, no one wanted FOOTPRINTS IN THE BUTTER. My rejections ranged from "My list of amateur detectives is full" to [and I swear I’m not making this up] "The heroine is engaging, the mystery works well, and I love the dog, but I didn’t find anything special about the book." For the record, I’ve hated the word "engaging" ever since. Then I received the following: "Thank you for submitting ‘Footprints in the Butter.’ I like Dietz’s writing, but it’s not doggy enough."
In the back of my mind, I heard my promise to the Canine Companions ladies. I simply HAD to get this book published. I sent it to Hard Shell Word Factory. The publisher liked it. A lot. It was published as an e-book and I put an excerpt on my website. Which was seen by a print publisher (Delphi), who published the book in hardcover. A rave Library Journal review contributed to
phenomenal library sales. The novel hit a few bestseller lists and was reprinted by Harlequin/Worldwide in mass market paperback.
This year it came out in large-print — in both the US (Thorndike) and the UK (BBC Library).
Not bad for a book that wasn’t "doggy enough," and I’ve been able to send several generous checks to Canine Companions.
"You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, ‘My God, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!’" ~ Dave Barry
Many people have asked me if I’m writing a "Hitchcock the Dog" sequel. The answer is yes. It’s working title is "The Lollipop Guild." And…
BETTE MIDLER, if you’re reading my blog, I wrote "Footprints" with you in mind. You could even sing at the reunion dance. Which reminds me. I’ve been meaning to get in touch with Barry Manilow, ask him to write me a couple of songs that make the whole world sing [for "Lollipop Guild"].
Quote of the week: Since it’s apropos, I’m quoting a rejection letter. The following was sent to one of the world’s top-ranked medical thriller authors: "Peter has a strong commercial voice and a plot that grips the reader from the very first chapter. Unfortunately, it will not fit in with our line of books."
[Makes "not doggy enough" sound a tad less insane, eh?]
This week’s "household hint" comes from Eye of Newt‘s Aunt Lillian:
Cure for headaches: Cut a lime in half and rub it on your forehead. The
throbbing will go away.
Over and Out,
PS- Anybody else have a weird rejection letter to share?
Deni,Great post. Reading it reminded me of how often we have to go with our hearts in this business. You decided to go with an e-publisher and things then fell into place.
Re: rejection lettersWell, I’ve gotten quite a few. In the last years, they’ve been personal and pretty nice — unlike what I’ve heard from some other writers whose queries have been reamed. I remember getting one rejection where the editor said, “It’s just not compelling enough.” I asked my friend who was an editor at another large house and she said, “Anyone who uses the word ‘compelling’ as an excuse is a lazy editor and you wouldn’t want to work with her anyway.”
The weirdest rejection letter was the one I received that included, accidentally, a pitch from a prominent Dallas attorney. I had to decide whether to return the query to the agent or just dump it with mine.
And . . . which Peter?
No weird ones, but I’m worried that I’m growing too comfortable when I start posting the really nice ones on the refrigerator.
I got an e-mail rejection that said “Please see attached letter,” and the letter was someone ELSE’S rejection! They hadn’t even sent me my own rejection letter! So I wrote back and asked, “Should I just put my own name and title into that rejection letter you sent me?”
The editor was actually embarrassed, and had the grace to apologize and give me a longer explanation of the rejection. But geez.
I once received a rejection letter for a short story where the editor advised I read his collection of his own short stories for advice. He even quoted the price and gave me a phone number to order it through.
Now, let’s go over this again, it’s not the MAGAZINE’S collection of short stories. It’s his own. So, yeah, I don’t submit there anymore.
Pari, I hate the word “compelling” almost as much as “engaging.” 🙂
The Peter is Peter Clement, author of Lethal Practice, Mortal Remains, The Inquisitor, Critical Condition, etc. There was a regime change at Ballantine, his print runs were slashed, and he voluntarily left the pub house. The rejection letter I quoted was for his 8th book: SHAKES. He received it after he left Ballantine. But there’s a happy ending. Peter is very popular in Japan, so Japan might acquire the rights to publish Shakes first, without waiting for a North American release. Plus, they want the rights to his backlist [and movie rights].
Musch more impressive, methinks, than my rages-to-riches tale of ebook to mmpb to LP.
Ron, you put rejection letters on your refrigerator??? How…unique.
G.T., I had a similar experience with an agent. He suggested I buy his how-to book [on writing, of course]. I did, and told him so when I sent my submission.
He turned me down. I returned the book to the store, unread, and got my money back.
Julia, I had a similar but different experience 🙂
A pub house [not that I remember, but it was Berkley] editor accidentally included the house-reader’s critique, which was a tad caustic [understatement]. It was, in fact, as if someone had taken GWTW and ripped it to shreds.
The weird thing is, my agent’s assistant accidentally passed the critique on when she sent me a copy of the rejection.
What I Learned About The Business [I always learned something back in those days]:
1] An editor doesn’t always read a submission [Duh!]
2] An editor can take a negative Reader’s critique and pull out a few sentences so that the rejection letter sounds plausible, as if the editor had actually READ the ms.
3] When a Big Pub House editor cribs a house Reader’s sentence, it’s not always grammatical [golly, gee, I’d hate to think a Big Pub House EDITOR wasn’t grammatical].
Your posts, Deni, always bring a smile.
I once had an agent send me a rejection letter that said – while he thought the writing was superb, and the plot compelling, and the characters terrific, he didn’t love the book enough to fall on his petard. Like I’d want him to hurt himself?
To fall on his petard, Elaine? That wins the prize. Did he know what a petard is? Was he French?
Not counting “doggy enough,” my fave rejection was for my circus historical, DREAM DANCER. The editor wrote one sentence: “I don’t like circus books.”
Dream Dancer was bought, months later, by another editor at the same house 🙂
Well, Denise, your entries in Murderati are terrific! Even if you are an old buddy. I guess now I’ll have to read FITB again just to find out how to make a statue of an elephant. I thought I knew all the Elephant Jokes in the world, including a bunch that are way too XXX to make it into a family Mystery novel, but that one escapes me.Let’s have more!
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