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Saturday, August 27, 2011

It all started with a contest By Janice Seagraves

It all started with a contest
By Janice Seagraves

Hi, I’m Janice Seagraves. I write romances of various genres. My first novel is a contemporary erotic romance called, Windswept Shores, published through Pink Petal Books.

My book 

Since my depute novel was published, I’ve had a roller coaster of a learning curve. I've had to learn to promote, schedule guest blogs and do interviews. Also run contests and the like. But it’s been fun too, and I’ve meet a lot of wonderful people along the way.

One of the things I’ve learned is that a lot of people are interested in how I got my first contract, and I realized that I’ve never did a guest blog about it before.

It all started with a contest.

While going through comments on a certain yahoo group, I noticed a post about a cover contest at Pink Petal Books.

So I checked it out.

There were two book covers available, and the publisher wanted a book based on the cover.
The first one I wasn’t too interested in, but the second had me. I stared opened mouth at the cover of a handsome man and woman, standing in water. A beach was behind them. It reminded me very strongly of one of my finished manuscript that I had named, Windswept Shores.

I decided right then and there—I had to have that cover.

Next came days and nights of hard work as I made the manuscript as perfect as possible. It took me a few weeks to get it done.

But then I realized there were three more things I needed to do. As tough as it sounds, I had to quickly educate myself in the fine art of writing a blurb, query letter and a synopsis, which I had never done before—ever.

In a panic, I asked some writer friends for help and advice, which they very graciously gave.

Finally, everything was ready and I emailed my submission package.

Anxiety set in. Did I write the query letter correctly? Did the synopsis or blurb suck?

While I waited to hear back, I went over my manuscript again, checking for typos and grammar issues.

Two weeks later I heard from a woman named, Mary. She told me, she liked what she’d read and asked for the complete manuscript.

With my heart beating a rapid tattoo against my ribs, I attached my manuscript to the return email.
My mouth went dry, as my curser hovered over the send key. I bit my lip and my hand shook. My manuscript is as ready as it’s going to be. So hit the button already!

Two more weeks passed, before I heard back from Mary (which I didn’t realize at the time was a very fast response time).

I read the email three times. I looked back at my husband and nearly ask him to read it for me. Then I read it again. Am I reading this right?

Finally, I called my hubby over so he too could read the email. “Jan, she loves it. She’s offering you a contract. Congratulations, honey.” As I sat in a state of shock, hubby patted my shoulder and kissed my temple.

She likes it?

It’s a heady feeling to finally get a book contract. I can’t even describe how wonderful it felt.
After carefully looking over the contract, I signed on the dotted line. Next were the edits, and then finally the book release.

From this experience, I can tell you that if you’re a new writer trying to breaking into the publishing world, then entering a publisher’s contests is a quick way to get your foot in the door.

Make sure you follow all the publisher’s guidelines, just like you were submitting through normal channels. Double and triple check your submission package. Make sure it as free of typos and grammar errors as possible. Finally and most importantly, make sure you are submitting what the publisher is asking for in their contest.

Best of luck.
Windswept Shores Blurb:

The sole survivor of a plane crash, Megan is alone on a deserted island in the Bahamas until she finds a nearly-drowned man washed up on shore. Another survivor, this time from a boat wreck. With only meager survival skills between them, will they survive and can they find love?


If she had to spend one more day on this godforsaken island, she'd go stark raving mad. The thought spurred Megan into rolling a large log with one foot then the other, until it was near the bonfire. "God, this thing is heavy." With a grunt, she lifted one end until it teetered upright then gave it a shove. It landed in the fire, embers swirling in the air.

Breathing hard, she flicked a glance at the teal-colored sea. She'd thought a vacation to the Bahamas would be the perfect getaway, would be a solution to the problems she and Jonathan had faced. She'd been wrong—dead wrong. Tears of grief filled her eyes. The never-ending crash of the waves on the beach and the cries of the seagulls seemed to mock her with the reminder she was utterly alone.

She'd felt like a tiny speck of sand last night when a violent storm had swept across the island. It had made a mess of her meager campsite, which had taken all morning to fix, and had demolished her seaweed SOS sign. She'll have to recreate her SOS. Sighing, Megan trudged toward a pile of kelp. As she got closer, she saw a figure wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. Her stomach lurched.

Oh, God, it’s another body washed up from the plane wreck. That would be number twelve. As always, she couldn't help but wonder if the next one would be Jonathan. He hadn’t been wearing jeans on the plane, so she knew she’d been spared seeing his corpse this time. Thank God. She approached the body with dread. Tightening her resolve, she knelt. Suddenly the "dead body" coughed and rolled over. With a scream, Megan jumped back. She clutched her chest and pressed a shaking hand to her mouth.

He’s alive!

Biting her lip, she stared down at the still-breathing man. His drenched t-shirt molded against his broad shoulders and well developed upper body. Short, golden brown hair stuck out in all directions.

Megan, get control of yourself. Don’t wet your pants the first time you finally see a living person. She got on her knees, plucked the seaweed from him and wiped the sand from his face. His day-old whiskers scratched her palm. Reddened skin stretched across both cheekbones and over the bridge of his nose. Her thumb caressed his parched full bottom lip.

She patted the side of his face. “Hey, are you okay?” That’s a dumb question. He isn’t okay.

“Hmm?” Gray eyes fluttered open. He stared at her a long moment, frowning slightly. “G’day.”

“Hello there.” She hated the sound of her voice. It sounded rusty, unused.

Abruptly he rolled away from her to heave onto the sand, making a loud, ugly retching noise.
He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then looked at her. “Sorry, mate, I swallowed too much sea.” His gaze went over her shoulder in the direction of the bonfire which crackled and popped not far from them. “Mite big for a barbie.”

Sitting back on her heels with her hands folded in her lap, Megan followed his gaze, then back to him. “My signal fire.”

“Signal for what?”


His accent intrigued her. Was he English or Australian?

“G’darn,” he looked around, “where the bloody hell am I?”

“Don’t know. There’s no one here to ask.” Megan shrugged helplessly, but couldn’t contain her curiosity. “Are you from England?”

“Naw,” he rubbed his eyes, “I hail from Sidney, but my port of call these days is Fort Lauderdale.” He blinked up at her. “You?”

Ah, he’s an Aussie. “I’m Megan Lorry, from Anaheim, California,” she said, barely loud enough to be heard above the sounds of the surf and the roar from the fire. “Are you a survivor of Air Bahamas flight 227, too?”

Windswept Shores:
Janice Seagraves website:
Janice Seagraves main blog:


Karen C said...

Love your 'It all started" story!! The excerpt is intriguing - have added to the TBR list.

Tina Donahue said...

What a wonderful story of your first sale, Jan. Brought a lump to my throat.

I remember mine well. My agent, who I never ever ever heard from except for rejection letters, called me one morning. He told me I'd sold.

I kept asking him, "Are you sure?"

He probably thought I was nuts, but I just couldn't believe it.

Not only did I sell, but when I spoke to the editor the following day, she asked what else I had. I gave her the plots of two others I wrote that hadn't yet sold. She asked to see them.

By the end of the week, she'd bought them too. :)

jean hart stewart said...

Love hearing how writers got started. So many different stories. Mine is a little like Tina's. Got my first acceptance and when I thanked the editor she asked if I had anything else. Since I'd already written the sequel I sent it off, and she accepted it immediately. So, two books in three days...

Katalina said...

Lovely story. it's so interesting to hear about those perfect little opportunities that come into our lives at the right moment. This book cover was yours.

Janice said...

Hi Karen,

Thank you so much. :)

Hi Tina,

Aw, I'm glad you liked it.

I like your story too.

Hi Jean,

Both you ladies have a great start to your writing career.

Hi Katalina,

Yup, it was. :)


Harlie Reader said...

I'm an aspiring writer so I don't have a story to share. I do write for the Yahoo Contributor site and I just received my first payment of $8 for a piece I wrote for Yahoo Shine. Its sitting in my PayPal account and I've done a screen print and saved it to my home computer to look at forever.

Thanks for sharing the stories. I can't imagine what I would do if I ever got the call/email? Probably faint. LOL!

Harlie Reader said...

Sorry...have Windswept Shores on the Nook. Need to read...again, sorry.

Brenda Hyde said...

Thanks for sharing this Janice. I finished a novella I've been working on and I'm terrified of the synopsis and query letter. I actually had a site of sample synopsis pages up when I saw the email about your blog post:) It seemed easier to write the story then to do the synopsis! LOL

I've had two short stories accepted but the first was for no pay, and the second was for an anthology that never panned out so I've never had to "officially" go through the submission process.

Janice said...

Hi Harlie,

That's great and a great place to get your feet wet as a writer too.

I have some of those keepsakes too: my first fan letter and my first check stub (I cashed the check).

Oh, you have my book? I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Hi Brenda,

The best thing to do is to just do it. But do read the samples first. I found them very helpful.

Sorry to hear about the analogy that didn't pan out, but at least you did enter and get accepted. That means you work is good enough for acceptance. Don't let this set back stop you, get out there and submit again!


Cassie Exline said...

Awesome story, Janice. I had no idea that's how it started for you. So glad you caught Mary's eye. Windswept Shores is a great book, I loved it.

Janice said...

Hi Cassie,

Yup, that's how it happened for me. It was very exciting time too.

I'm so glad you loved my book. That just made my day. :D


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