Starting a career as an author with that first finished manuscript is probably the most exciting and terrifying journey an aspiring writer can embark on. The uncertainty of finding an agent, finding the right publisher, finding reviewers and finding readers is daunting and can be slightly overwhelming.
But after that first book does all those things, it gets easier, right?
That’s what I’d hoped.
Turns out, having a long-term career as an author and eventually being able to support a family on this chosen path takes longevity, grit, determination…and sometimes, for everything to fall apart.
2017 was that breaking point for me.
After twenty published romances with several different publishers, my romance career seemed to be stalling. Every new series I pitched to my existing editors was met with lack-luster enthusiasm and ultimately a ‘no’. I pitched six new ideas that year, complete with sample chapters and multiple book synopses. Each one of those pitches took a lot of creative imagining and time. I’d already given up my day job, so I definitely had the time, but with each rejection, my confidence in my writing and myself was definitely taking a hit.
Could I actually keep doing this? Was I good enough?
The same thoughts I’d had before starting this career returned and this time so much stronger. I threatened to quit writing almost every day. To which my husband encouraged me to keep pushing through, keep writing, keep submitting. He reminded me that this career was the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. And as gently as possibly, reminded me that it was the only thing I was truly good at.
So, I submitted one last romance series idea to my editor for a project I was really passionate about and then had to re-evaluate my career, in case, that series too was met with a ‘no’.
I spent a few weeks contemplating next steps and decided to try my hand in a different genre. I’d been wanting to write a dark, edgy, twisted psychological thriller for a long time, but I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Unfortunately, this burning idea refused to go away, and finding myself in foreign territory of not having multiple impending deadlines, I wrote my first domestic thriller, All the Lovely Pieces.
My wonderful agent was definitely surprised to see something new from me, but the superstar that she is, she read it in two days and we got to work revising, revising and…revising again until finally going out on submission under a pen name, J.M. Winchester six months later. I knew my romance readers may not transfer to this new genre, so I decided to adopt the name to separate my two ‘personalities’.
That book sold as a two book deal two months later and I breathed a huge sign of relief, immediately followed by panic at the thought that I had to write a second thriller. But that boost of confidence meant so much and my passion for writing had returned. I wrote the second book while still waiting to hear on my romance proposal and then once again had time to think of what was next.
I’d always wanted to write a screenplay as I love writing dialogue and fast-paced, sometimes episodic stories, so I downloaded Final Draft and a bunch of screenplays and got to work, learning as I went. I started by adapting some of my previously published novellas and then started writing some new ideas that I wasn’t sure would work as novels.
Writing screenplays is very different than writing books and it opened up a new side to my creativity. The exercise in visualizing and having limited page and word counts to create characters and plots helped me fine tune my craft that much more.
I started submitting the projects with no hope or expectations and a few months later, my holiday rom-coms were optioned and my faith in myself was further renewed.
Things were definitely turning around and I felt that maybe my romance career ‘ending’ was just leading me to something else- a different path, still doing what I loved to do. I’d taken the slump I’d been in and turned it into a launching pad for a more diverse career, writing in multiple genres and formats. When I eventually got ‘the call’ from my romance editor offering on the romance series, I was over the moon thrilled that I could continue writing my happily ever afters as well.
At the time, I thought 2017 was the worst year career-wise, but it led to so many other amazing opportunities that I may never have taken a chance on had I not felt lost and been forced to dig deep.
Sometimes a year of ‘no’ could simply be leading to a new journey towards ‘yes’.
This Christmas season, love comes where you least expect it.
For Jessica Connolly, there is no better place than her coastal hometown of Blue Moon Bay. She has a wonderful family, supportive best friends, and a successful bakery on Main Street. Unfortunately, every time she designs one of her ex-boyfriends’ wedding cakes, she’s reminded just how unlucky she is with love…and that she’s a good luck charm for men to find their happily ever after. With someone else. The minute they break up. So she’s decided to be done with love.
Dr. Mitch Jameson is more comfortable traveling the world with Doctors Without Borders than staying in one place. He just needs to survive the holidays in his small hometown before he can leave again. The beautiful, intriguing bakery owner with an aversion to dating might be just who he needs to occupy his restless heart.
From sipping hot chocolates at the local festival of lights to early morning dessert deliveries, Jessica and Mitch rediscover the spirit of the holidays. But when the 25 days of Christmas are over, will their romance be over, too?
Each book in the Blue Moon Bay series is STANDALONE:
* A Lot Like Love
* A Lot Like Christmas