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!
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.