Friday, December 11, 2009

Guest Blog: Victoria Roder

I wrote an article for FarmLife magazine on my rescue dog Rocky. He is a beautiful black and tan Husky that was hit by a car and left for dead. His back leg and tail had to be amputated, but the day after his surgery he walked out of the veterinarian’s office and into our hearts. When I saw my article about Rocky’s harrowing experience in print I was hooked. I set an original writing goal to have something published to honor each of my beloved family pets for all eternity.

With the success of publication came the inevitable rejection. Oh the devastation of receiving those initial rejection letters in the mail hurt deeply. I could have given up, I wanted to give up a few times, and then my stubborn nature took over. When I received a rejection in the mail I would immediately submit the story to another publisher, or magazine, based on the theory that ten separate publishers could give me ten different reactions to what I had crafted. Perseverance means determination, and I was determined. The key in writing is to find the right match for your manuscript, short story, or article. A rejection doesn’t mean your writing is lacking it could mean the publisher has met their quota for your genre at the current time. I received enough rejections for The Dream House Visions And Nightmares that I could have wallpapered my den with them. If I would have abandoned my determination I would never have received the publishing contract from Asylett Press.

Rejection can arrive in many forms, some rejections are a form letter, sometimes you don’t get a response, and sometimes the letter contains a glimmer of hope such as, good premise, shows promise, but…

Take the “but..” and fix it and re-submit. That’s how I landed a contract with Champagne Books. The editor liked my premise for my serial killer action thriller Bolt Action, but she suggested I soften up my main character Detective Leslie Bolt and then perhaps she would reconsider the manuscript. So, did I claim artistic talent, or writer’s prerogative? Hell no, I softened Detective Bolt’s characteristics and also explained earlier in the manuscript why she is rough around the edges and Bolt Action will be released in April 2010.

Set your goals, be determined, and persevere. Rejection is part of the process of publication. Take it with a grain of salt and sometimes a shot of─stubbornness, and resubmit.

Please read the excerpt below from The Dream House Visions And Nightmares, Asylett Press July 2009. Visit my website and read an excerpt from Bolt Action coming from Champagne Books April 2010.

Acknowledging my desire for─but my inability to─sleep, I decided to read for a while. I stretched for my neglected novel and prayed for heavy eyes and dreamless sleep. As I read several chapters I could feel myself nodding off, jerking awake, nodding off…


The young redheaded boy crouched on the rotting, dilapidated porch of my
childhood home. He couldn’t have been more than seven or eight. His mop of hair whipped in the gale force wind surrounding us. He had a white-knuckled clutch on the shell of the bay window.

Fearing for his safety, I screamed, “Hey, over here.”

The wind pricked at my face. My white nightgown billowed out behind me. I again called to him over the blustery wind. “Hey, you!”

Turning toward the sound of my voice he removed his hand from the window and pressed his index finger to his lips to silence me. Then he beckoned to me with a gesture of his hand. Struggling against the wind like a drunk attempting to walk a straight line, I finally reached him. He slipped his small hand into mine and led me out of the windstorm and into the abandoned house.

Once inside, the house transformed before my eyes into the home I’d once known. There were panes of glass inside the windows. Mustard-colored carpet covered the floor. The only light in the room was the flickering glow of the television set, its light falling on a snoring man on the couch. The stench of whiskey and cigarettes hung in the air like fog rolling off the San Francisco Bay.

The man and the children appeared blurry as if I was watching them on a station with bad reception. In a tight-knit group, several children sat within inches of the television set, but instead of watching the program, they used the light to see primitive motions they were gesturing toward one another. Although the children had not noticed us, the young boy and I stood motionless, watching their signals of communication. They seemed to be conversing with one another in their own sign language, I assumed, in an effort to avoid disturbing the passed out man.

I turned toward my companion in an eerie slow motion. He watched the children and imitated their gestures. He tapped my arm and repeated a hand sign over and over.

Attempting to recall the sign language class I took in college, I searched my memory.

Think, think.

Yes! Help. It’s the sign for help.

The boy walked backwards toward the downstairs bedroom, beckoning me to follow him. The bedroom was furnished with an unmade queen-size bed, a shabby pressed board bureau with a cracked mirror, and a bassinette someone had taken the time to weave blue ribbons through. A familiar, barely audible, tune played as a mobile of butterflies turned above the bassinette.

I turned to look for the boy, but he was no there. A glimpse of the bed drew my attention. I was now covered in cobwebs and an undisturbed layer of dust had materialized on the bureau. I focused on an invisible finger etching words in the dust. The words left behind read: HELP THE BABY.

I scanned the room once again, searching for the boy. Though I could not see him, I was certain it was he who had written in the dust. The beautiful bassinet enticed me─almost as if beckoning me to it─but I planted my bare feet on the arctic-cold floor. My gut instinct seemed to warm me against approaching the bassinet. Somewhere outside of myself I felt a presence encourage me. Go over there…over to the bassinet.

A wall of water ascended behind me, and with enormous pressure, forced me toward the bassinet. I could hear an infant crying. The icy cold water splashed against my back as I peered into the ribbon wrapped bed. As a mother, the site made my heart flutter. A blue and white crochet blanket embroidered with tiny flowers and edged with sheer lace lovingly swaddled a child. My hand─as if its own accord─moved toward the infant. No mother can resist the urge to hold a baby.
With gentle care, I picked up the bundle, and marveled how light the babe felt. Removing a corner of the blanket from the child’s face I inhaled in shock.
Suddenly, the boy stood before me signing in jerky panicked motions, “Help, help, help.”

In mortified horror, I tossed the crocheted blanket. Remains─human remains─tumbled out of the blanket onto the floor in front of my bare feet. The beautiful crocheted blanket had tenderly covered nothing but decaying bones. Everything in the bedroom vanished except the spinning musical mobile. Now the barely audible music became deafening. Over and over the mobile played the tune, Hush Little Baby…

As the whirlwind from outside shattered the windows, spraying glass pierced my face and chest. The wind whipped around in the hazy bedroom the mobile began to spin violently. It crashed to the floor, landing on top of the bones. Even over the howl of the wind I could hear the music. At unbearable decibels, Hush Little Baby, resounded from the wreckage.


Tanya Eby said...

Victoria...first off congrats! And I can certainly relate to your idea of perseverance. I've been writing my whole life, but it's only now after decades of trying that I'm starting to find some success. Your book sounds fun! I look forward to it.

Victoria Roder said...

Thanks, Tanya. I'm very happy you stuck it out. The best to you.


Allison Knight said...

You are so right! Perseverance in this business is the key. After my first four books my career died - or so I thought. I refused to give up. It also happens to the biggest - for example - Dutch Leonard. He told me there was a time in his life when he thought he'd have to get a regular job to feed his family. But he persevered and that works. Now he has many best sellers.

Victoria Roder said...

A person would think you'd have it made after four books. I guess we'll keep the thought--never surrender!