Guest Author J. Gavin Allan … talks love and counter Intel

I’m thrilled to have author J. Gavin Allan as my guest today. Not only is he a new author, but he’s my critiquing partner! So, I’m doubly honored.

Oh, and check out his bio. It reads like a novel! 🙂

J Gavin Allan’s tales profess one agenda. Love is the most powerful force in the universe.

Homebound as a child due to illness, loneliness liberated imagination. Poe’s influence can be felt in his work. Trained as a Counter-Intelligent Agent by the US Army, J Gavin used his unusual mind’s eye developing strategies protecting Americans abroad. The only non-Vietnam Veteran in his airborne unit, he memorized accounts of special operations in Southeast Asia. Coupled with interviews of North Vietnamese veterans and Bru Montagnards his expertise increased.

While in Asia, J Gavin developed valuable friendships. A submitted screenplay in China, and a Vietnam War novel thought too controversial for publication showed his versatility.

A retired New York City teacher, J Gavin instructs language at the University level. The author writes in all genres, always with a besieged romance battling to survive. Membership in RWA and NJRW sharpened the sometimes-disturbing imagery in his work. An active member in veterans’ organizations, J Gavin still finds time to relax on the rifle range.

NR: Jaye thanks for stopping by and hanging out on my blog. Just move the balloons to the side and have a seat. As you probably guessed from all the decorations, it’s my 100th post and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to invite my critiquing partner and new author over for a chat. So, talk to me. 🙂 When and how did you discover your love for writing?

JGA: It became an escape as a child. I spent two years understanding what it meant to be isolated.

NR: And what about your work? What drives your stories?

JGA: My work concentrates on one agenda. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. It is greater than any person or belief.

NR: I know you’ve been writing for a long time, more than 16 years, right? How did you persevere?

JGA: Membership in NJRW…plain and simple…

NR: I’ve blogged about New Jersey Romance Writers (NJRW), and the benefits of belonging to a writer’s group or organization. NJRW is definitely an organization that supports and cheers on its members. Shout out to all NJRW members!

NR: Okay, I digress, again. Jaye, you recently secured a literary agent, which is a big moment in many an aspiring writer’s life. What was your initial reaction when you received “the call?”

JGA: The call from Nicole R. of the Seymour Agency led to a professional conversation. We talked strategies of marketing. All the while I was pinching myself and waiting to wake up.

NR: I bet. So, tell us about your upcoming book, “Family of Heroes”, which is a historical work set in war-torn Burma. Also, are there any takeaways you want readers to experience after they’d read it.

JGA: “Heroes” is the best example for putting forth my “agenda.” I realize many life-styles will embrace or detest the book when told of the plot, but it is not something to dispute their beliefs. It is to show…love for someone is greater that national, economic, religious, political, and racial differences…and…differences in sexual orientation. If you need love or to be loved…does it matter?

NR: I have to say, that because I’m your critiquing partner I was honored to see it from beginning to end. It’s the type of book that leaves you emotionally spent. You feel drained, but at the same time satisfied for having read it. So, are there any new projects on the horizon?

JGA: Next project is the sequel to “Heroes…The story of Bo Bo” and finishing a graphic and psychological war drama about the Vietnam War…”The Last Lieutenant”…There is romance in all my work.

NR: Writing is tough. It takes patience and dedication. What advice would you offer to aspiring writers or writers in general?

JGA: You must write and then write some more. When you do not feel like writing or feel empty of ideas…watch people and imagine them in a story. Plus…listen to all critiques…do not be a snob about where they come from. Even members of the Great Unwashed, as myself, might see something you need to include or delete.

NR: So true. Jaye, I can’t thank you enough for stopping by, especially on my 100th post. J Gavin Allan is an amazing writer, not because he’s my critiquing partner, but because it’s true! Visit his website and get hooked.


Rejection: So, does that REALLY mean it’s over?

No one wants to receive a Dear John, Dear Jane, or Dear Writer letter. Whether it’s from an ex-lover, an agent or an editor, rejection is rejection and it’s painful.

There are varying degrees of rejection. Some can actually inspire you, while others can be downright hurtful. Yet no matter how good or bad they are, our egos and confidence take a beating. Initially, we may want to:

• Scream and rip the manuscript to shreds
• Start revising the book–at that moment–from chapter one.
• Burn the rejection letter along with the other 50 stuffed in the desk drawer
• Become BFFs with Jose, Jack or the Captain.
• All of the above or a few of your own creative choices

Yes, I know. It hurts like hell.

But the next day, after the hangover and putting out the fire we started in the trashcan, we grab our manuscript, and tape it back together. Then we try to behave like the professionals we are, and take this rejection as a sign of getting closer to our dream. And remember, the most successful authors were rejected. I might add, some none too nicely.

I ran across an interesting blog, “One Hundred Famous Rejections,” complete with the blogger’s editorial comment(at the end in italics) that I thought could make any aspiring writer struggling with rejection, hopeful. (I only saw 78, listed. However, I’m sure they’ll have a complete list in no time.)

Here are a few from their list. I urge you to look at the rest.

Famous Rejection #1: F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald, considered to be one of the best American writers, wrote The Great Gatsby in 1922. While the book is now ranked #2 in Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, he once received a rejection letter that read: “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.” I believe history would beg to differ.”

Famous Rejection #43: Nora Roberts

Bestselling romance novelist Nora Roberts has written over 209 novels! We think that deserves repeating. Two hundred and nine novels, which spent a combined 861 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. But, before all that, there was rejection.

[Nora Roberts] submitted her manuscripts to Harlequin, the leading publisher of romance novels, but was repeatedly rejected. Roberts says, “I got the standard rejection for the first couple of tries, then my favorite rejection of all time. I received my manuscript back with a nice little note which said that my work showed promise, and the story had been very entertaining and well done. But that they already had their American writer. That would have been Janet Dailey.” Nora found a home with Silhouette books, and since then romance has never been the same.

Famous Rejection #69: Louisa May Alcott

“Little Women” would never have seen the light of day if Louisa May Alcott let rejection hold her back.The editor of Boston’s The Atlantic magazine, James T. Fields, told Alcott’s father, “Tell Louisa to stick to her teaching; she can never succeed as a writer.” As far as rejection goes, that one is pretty harsh! Fortunately, Louisa May Alcott never took it to heart. Instead, she told her father: “Tell him I will succeed as a writer, and some day I shall write for the Atlantic!” Not long after, she did!”

Rejection #72: Jacqueline Susann

“Novelist Jacqueline Susann is famous for her book Valley of the Dolls, which sold over 30 million copies. She’s also known for a particularly nasty rejection letter. Editor Don Preston initially wrote this about Susann’s initial manuscript:

“…she is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes that would not make the pages of True Confessions, hauls out every terrible show biz cliché in all the books, lets every good scene fall apart in endless talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly…. most of the first 200 pages are virtually worthless and dreadfully dull and practically every scene is dragged out flat and stomped on by her endless talk… I really don’t think there is a page of this manuscript that can stand in its present form. And after it is done, we will be left with a faster, slicker, more readable mediocrity.” Wow. Now that’s a rejection!”

Famous Rejection #76: Chinua Achebe

“Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” has been considered a milestone in modern African literature written in English, and is one of the first to receive global acclaim. It has sold over 8 million copies worldwide, been translated into over 50 languages, and was selected as Time Magazine’s 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. And, it too, was rejected: It was sent to several publishing houses; some rejected it immediately, claiming that fiction from African writers had no market potential. Finally it reached the office of Heinemann, where executives hesitated until an educational adviser, Donald MacRae – just back in England after a trip through west Africa read the book and forced the company’s hand with his succinct report: “This is the best novel I have read since the war”. In 1958, the publisher published 2,000 hardcover copies, and the rest is history.”

Lesson in all this?

If and when you get another disappointing ”Dear Writer” letter, take another glance at some of the most famous authors who had their work handed back to them. And remember, they prevailed. We will too.

And one more reminder. Stay true to you and your book. F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t take out Jay Gatsby, did he? If he had, we would have been reading “The Great Whathisname.”

Chin up and keep writing because it only takes one YES.

Supporting our literary family …

While prepping to write today’s blog, I tried to research the number of writers in the USA—a daunting task. I hadn’t even begun to include the number of writers worldwide, which I know is outrageous and increasing exponentially as I write. So, I decided to skip the stats. (You probably know them anyway!)

My point in providing numbers was just a means to state that although the writing community spans cities, states, provinces, countries and continents, it in itself, is a small close-knit community. And if you’ve been around long enough, you get to know the authors, agents, editors, reviewers, and most importantly, the readers. It’s a family of people who inhale the written word.

Amongst this family, there are also unbelievable resources that can help each of us as our careers and ambitions grow.

One of my favorite blogs is Nathan Bransford, Author. Mr. Bransford provides information from both sides of the literary house, as a writer and a former literary agent. His blog is filled with knowledge, wit and down-to-earth advice.

Another great resource comes from author, Holly Lisle, who gives generously of herself and provides aspiring authors and those who want to tighten up their skills, online boot camps on how to, among other things, create plots and develop characters. Most of the information is FREE and easy to download. Yes, I said FREE. Her article, “Ten steps to finding your writing voice,” is a must read, and is found on her Web site.

Although there are thousands, no millions—of working authors, aspiring authors, writers, and poets spanning the world, it’s still small enough to share information. And in an age where computers and internet rule, it’s even easier to support fellow writers—no matter where they call home.

I hope these resources help you achieve your goals and dreams.