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My First Sale by Meljean Brook, Geek Girl Makes Good

meljeancolor.jpgAnyone who has read my blog for a period of time knows this. When I really love a book, you know it. I talk about it incessantly. My blogging partner, Jayne, once said “I can almost see her bouncing up and down in her chair when she posts about it.” Jayne went on to say that I am a tough sell and you probably know that from reading the blog as well. I fell in love with Brook’s writing with Demon Angel. It wasn’t a perfect book, by any means, but it captivated me. Her world and her characters were so vivid that I couldn’t stop thinking about the fantasy construct for days.

Her imagination is vivid and her writing complex. Brooks starts with the premise that her readers are very smart and that they can follow the bouncing ball. Hers are not books you can breeze straight through. They are the savory portion of the reading menu that is often filled with too much sweet. Demon Moon is a book that can satisfy the reader longing for something just a little more.

I think that if you read about the delectable vampire Colin and his geek girl lover, Savi, you might want to climb aboard the L.U.R.V.E. Train.

***

The story of my first sale can be summed up with one word: unexpected.

But, since I rarely settle for just one word (or 100,000) here's the rest of it:

Book Cover THE BACKGROUND: For several years, I'd been managing the office for a construction company — payroll, bookkeeping, etc — and writing fanfic. Once the accounts payables were finished, I'd be switching over to MS Word and typing out another few pages in a Batman/Wonder Woman romance fic.

It was the writing that made me realize that I'd gone completely the wrong way in my occupation. I'd always been writing, but I'd also always been frustrated with it (probably because I'd been forcing myself into a literary mode, though my tendency has always been toward HEAs and woo-woo stuff.) So I quit the job, went back to school to get a literature degree (I didn't expect my writing to support me, after all) and — after a few more fics — realized that I needed to move on with the writing. I was feeling the limitations of other people's characters, and kept writing alternate universe fics (always romances). So I thought: okay, Meljean, it's time to stop messing around. You love paranormal romance…so, for God's sake, write it!

And for a few years, I'd been following Angela Knight and MaryJanice Davidson over at Ellora's Cave. I remember being very excited when I first read one of Knight's novellas in a Secret's anthology, and thinking: yes! This is what I want to read — and this is what I'd love to write. I lurked at their Yahoo groups, and I knew they'd been contacted by a NY publisher about their work.

So when I began writing an original story, I had Ellora's Cave and the idea of submitting it to an e-publisher and (maybe) jumping off from there in mind. And since I'm a huge dork, and I like to have visualization aids, and had been active online for a while, I made up a fake little cover and a fake little website with the pen name I'd chosen and the first couple of chapters of the work-in-progress, Tempting Hugh. Then I linked it to my fanfic page, so that the readers in that community could see what I was working on (and, ahem, why I hadn't finished a certain fanfic). We coerced said link out of Ms. Brook. Here it is in all its Sordid Glory.

THE SETTING: Portland State University, in the University Studies computer labs, where I was a lab attendant when I wasn't being a grad assistant.

  • Carpet: industrial gray, thin, stained with coffee and yogurt (usually organic from Trader Joe's, because the other lab attendants were much cooler than my Yoplait-eating ass was).
  • Desk: the ugliest, crappiest taupe receptionist-style desk (because they expected me to help students instead of just grading papers or surfing the internet or playing with Photoshop or writing paranormal romance, those silly, silly, silly university people) that the State of Oregon can buy.
  • Clothes: jeans, flip-flops, and a Supergirl t-shirt
  • Hair: bad

THE E-MAIL: On October 4, 2004, I was sitting at the lab (probably drinking a huge iced mocha, because the baby never slept — and probably eating a kabob, because the Persian cart at PSU was really good and a kabob just kind of fits a story like this) and I got an e-mail with the subject line, "Your writing–? and I was like, la la la, and opened it. This is a paraphrase, because I didn't ask her if I could copy the e-mail (I have it saved 4eva!) but it went something like this:

"Hi, I usually don't contact people like this, but I really like your fanfic. I'm a senior editor at Berkley, I think you have talent, call me.–?

And I was like, "Yeah, right! Ha ha ha ha!–? although my heart was breaking that someone would play a joke like this on poor innocent me. Because I recognized her name: Cindy Hwang, who'd snagged MJD and Angela Knight.

So I wrote back: I hate you for playing a joke on me and breaking my heart, I really love MJD and AK, and just in case this isn't a joke — uh, I have a book to pitch to you. It's called Tempting Hugh and it's about a demon and a guy who used to be an angel.

THE SALE: She'd already read the chapters I'd had online, so I sent her the rest of what I'd completed — she liked the characters, the world-building, my voice, but okay, the story could be (a lot) stronger. So I didn't sell her Tempting Hugh then — instead she offered me a spot in an upcoming anthology, Hot Spell. And, of course, I jumped at it.

That novella was officially my first sale, but it still feels unreal — it was the next one, for the single title, that felt much more like a SALE sale, and is what I think of as The Call. That was when I'd reworked and reworked Tempting Hugh, submitted the proposal in July 2005, and got the offer in the usual way.

Anyway. My hair is still bad, I'm still wearing my Supergirl t-shirt, and play with Photoshop way too much. It is nice, though, not having to quickly Alt+Tab away from a spandex-clad love scene when my boss walks in.

Demon Moon is on sale June 5, 2007.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

19 Comments

  1. Tara Marie
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 04:15:26

    It was Falling for Anthony in the Hotspell Anthology that completely hooked me. Demon Angel and Demon Moon have solidified my belief that Meljean is going to be a star. And, honestly how many people have a senior editor hunt them down?

    ReplyReply

  2. Dalia
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 05:53:12

    Great story :-) I haven’t read any of your work but I like your voice here so maybe I’ll give it a try if you have them out in e-book format because for sure for sure, my bookstores don’t carry it (their idea of romance begins with danielle steele and ends with nora roberts. In between the two, they have johanna lindsey contemporaries).

    At a previous job where I was locked away and almost forgotten in a nice back room, I had a great time of writing my fanfics as well ha ha. But mine were Westlife-related. I’m not a geek but I am a lame-o.

    ReplyReply

  3. Shiloh Walker
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 06:10:34

    oh i love the story, meljean. wunnerful. ;)

    ReplyReply

  4. TeddyPig
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 08:09:56

    As a gay man I would like to point out one thing I think might be missed here.

    You did not need to write a thing, in fact her publisher needs to just put her picture on the cover of every book she has ever written.
    They would sell the fuck out.

    She’s HOT! Damn HOT!

    ReplyReply

  5. bam
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 08:14:37

    Umm… isn’t “The Call” what they call it when the JLA asks you if you want to join them? Geek!

    Let’s point and laugh at the nerd-girl! :P

    ReplyReply

  6. Jennie
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 08:37:32

    Cool story! That must be every aspiring writer’s dream. :)

    ReplyReply

  7. Jennifer Estep
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 08:51:33

    What a way to catch an editor’s eye … what a great story! Being a superhero geek really does pay off. :grin:

    ReplyReply

  8. Dawn C
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 10:15:55

    M -
    Your story inspired me! I know all about being stuck in construction here in New Orleans, and though its a good thing to help to re-build the city I love. I still sneak and write whenever I can. Shhh.. I can’t wait to buy your book!

    ReplyReply

  9. Ciar Cullen
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 11:19:06

    Wow, what a nice story for what seems like a really nice person. I’ll go hunt down a book of yours now.

    ReplyReply

  10. Karen Scott
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 12:15:55

    Nothing to add except, I love you like a fat kid loves cake.

    ReplyReply

  11. Charlene Teglia
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 12:52:32

    Awesome first sale story! Can’t wait to read Demon Moon, it looks fantastic.

    ReplyReply

  12. Janine
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 15:25:59

    As a straight woman, I’m with Teddy. Meljean is beautiful.

    ReplyReply

  13. kardis
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 17:24:00

    Man, I was all set to steal Karen’s bit about cake, but she beat me to it! I am dying to read Demon Moon, Ms. Brook. (soon precious, soon) hmm, that reads creepier than I intended- oh well!

    ReplyReply

  14. seton
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 17:38:01

    I love how you tell a story, Meljean :-)
    While I am waiting for UNDERWEARLD, I might have to hunt down these WW/Batman fanfics. . .

    ReplyReply

  15. Sandra Schwab
    Jun 02, 2007 @ 01:36:00

    Lovely, lovely story, Meljean! I mean, wow! to be snatched up by a NY editor even before you’ve submitted something! Awesome! I’ll need to check your books out (again, right after my bank account has recovered from that 350-Euro order at abebooks).

    But –

    What bad hair are you talking about??? :)

    ReplyReply

  16. CindyS
    Jun 02, 2007 @ 03:27:50

    Awwww, I didn’t know that was how you got your start! Super cool and you are so funny because I totally believe you wrote back with a ‘You Suck!! but if this is for real…’

    Teddy, she had a bunch of pictures on her blog for us readers to look through and help her decide which was the best for her ‘author shot’. I’m telling you there wasn’t a bad photo in the bunch. Not only hot, but she’s hilarious and down to earth.

    Sorry, I’m a fangirl from before her anthology – I found her blog first and discovered she wrote romance after.

    And Sandra – I’m thinking you just won the award for most money spent on a book spree! Day-am.

    CindyS

    ReplyReply

  17. Suisan
    Jun 04, 2007 @ 03:00:59

    Gee, I guess I’m like Cindy. I loved her blog, and then was excited to find out that she was going to be published.

    That Tempting Hugh cover is too funny. Is there any hope that you’ll work He-Man and She-Ra into an upcoming novel? Think of the endless hours wasted in Photoshop!

    Great story Meljean.

    ReplyReply

  18. Just Joe
    Dec 12, 2007 @ 20:01:59

    Your enthusiasm about writing is refreshing and inspiring!
    Thank you for giving aspiring writers hope!
    Wonder Twin Powers, ACTIVATE!

    ReplyReply

  19. Guardian Series Retrospective #1 – Falling for Anthony
    Jun 25, 2012 @ 13:04:29

    [...] This was the first story published in the Guardian series, but not the first story I began writing. That was Demon Angel (and I’ll go into that book’s history more on its post), which is Hugh and Lilith’s romance. I had several chapters written in that novel when I was offered a contract for a novella set in the same world. (I talk more about my first sale story here on this site and here at Dear Author.) [...]

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