Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Author Guest Post: J. W. Bull, Author of Pickin' Tomatoes

In association with Chick Lit Plus, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes J.W. Bull, author of Pickin' Tomatoes!

How to Handle Rejections Positively 
By J.W. Bull

Rejections are a part of life and how you handle those rejections can be the difference between the glass half empty and the glass half full. And the difference between publication and the trash can. People say it's the journey, not the destination that's important. I say it's both. The purpose of this article is to share with you the journey of trying to get my first book published and its final destination. If I can pass along a few tips, some motivational words, a little humor - all the better. After all, life's just plain cake without the icing of a few words.

In 2007, I began to write my first book, The Chef of Hearts. I knew I wanted it to be about a middle-aged woman reinventing herself and I wanted it to include recipes. But beyond that, I had no clue. As the story progressed, my quirky voice emerged and the story morphed into a combination of Lucy Ricardo meets Bridget Jones. It was amazing. I could actually visualize the wacky scenes unfolding in my book. I was so excited that before the book was even finished, I sent out queries to multiple agents. Lo and behold, an agent nibbled ... "This is indeed fun. I would like to try to sell it for you."

Tip: Never send out your manuscript before it is done. I know everyone knows this - it's one of the golden rules of writing. Who amongst us hasn't broken that rule at least once in our writing careers? Gotten so excited about writing a book, we couldn't wait to finish it to send it out. It's kind of like Christmas - we've all peeked at those presents. But the rule is a golden rule for a purpose. Take the time to finish your book and polish it.

In a panic, I slapped together an ending and rushed it off to the agent. Before I could even comprehend what was happening, my book was sent off to a bunch of A list houses. The query immediately piqued their attention and they promised to read it, ASAP. And that's when the rejections started piling up like dirty clothes in a laundry hamper. "I liked the concept but wasn't as compelled by the story as I would have liked ... Thanks much for sending me this. An inventive idea, but I'm afraid that I just didn't fall in love with it the way I wanted to ... While Jennifer's recipes all look fantastic and the basic premise of the novel is interesting, I never developed a strong enough connection to the main character to really care about her fate or become truly drawn into the story" ... Hmmm ... not so good ... but hey, I had an agent. He could always send my book out to more houses.

Tip: Garner constructive information from your rejections; they are golden nuggets in rough form.

More rejections arrived with similar comments but I didn't care. It was like I was in bed with naivety and rolling around in my fantasy dream of getting my book published. It wasn't until I received the last rejection that I began to smell the coffee. My agent was not going to send my book out to more publishing houses and I needed to have my book edited. But I still didn't open my eyes. I fell into the trap of thinking I could fix the book myself. Like one of those "do it yourself" projects from Home Depot. The kind of project that sits in a bag on a counter, gets shoved in a corner, and is finally relegated to the junk space in your cabinet.

Tip: Hire an editor to edit your manuscript. Look at it this way: you don't give yourself a dental check up or annual physical. do you? You hire a professional. So get a professional to edit your book.

Over the next few years, my dream of getting my book published sort of dithered away. I rewrote the book a couple of times, never really getting it right. And then for some odd reason, I picked it up last year. I rewrote it once more, renamed it Pickin' Tomatoes and sent it out to multiple agents. And you know what? Once again, it was picked up by another agent. At this point, I would love to say this time around things were different, that I had learned from my past mistakes, and achieved victory - publication.

But alas, it was like that movie GroundHog Day with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. I couldn't seem to stop reliving the same situation, the same destiny - rejection, rejection, rejection ... "a fun premise, I'm afraid I just didn't fall in love with the voice ... when I started reading, I was captivated by the narrative voice. But as I continued to read, I got bogged down in too many flashbacks ... a bit light for our fiction list ... The Bull is not right for the imprint (Got to say, that one was my favorite, by far) ... I really enjoyed reading this story; Ms. Bull's writing is both touching and humorous, and her recipes sound delicious. While there is so much to recommend about this one, I'm not sure how I could make it stand out from other novels like it ... Finally, I smelled the coffee, woke up and opened my eyes. This was not going to work. Ever. I had failed.

Or had I? There's a quote from an unknown author that I love. "When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place." Why had I held on so long to my dream of publishing this book Why did I have to settle for no? Why did I have to succumb to other people's decisions regarding my book? Maybe it was time to take matters into my own hands and figure out what I wanted for a change.

So here I am. Will my dreams come true? I know one of them has - my book is published. I hired a professional editor, a graphic artist, and a book formatting company. Will it sell? I have no idea. But after all the frustrating ups and downs, almosts and maybes, it's no longer about the book being successful. It's about my personal goal to take charge of my book and my life. You can change your destiny. To me, that is success. And just maybe, I've found what I've been searching for all along ... the icing on the cake.

About The Author:

J.W. Bull lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two sons. Although she has worked as a sous chef for Lavande Restaurant, she currently is a private violin teacher and a member of The Georgia Symphony. She is also finishing another novel, Musical Chairs, a mystery involving Maggie's cousin - Molly Malone, plucky part-time symphony player and full-time Irish fiddler. It's a hilarious spoof on symphonies, Irish fiddling, and mysteries that continues the Malone saga.

BUY THE BOOK: Pickin' Tomatoes

Book Description: Pickin' Tomatoes

Maggie Malone wants a new life. Who aspires to be a single, forty-year-old, jobless new mother? Driven by the need for an income, Maggie decides to enter a writing contest. Cooking and Women Magazine is seeking a columnist who can compare finding "Mister Right" to cooking. To qualify, an entrant must be single and an experienced chef. Maggie is neither - she can't even cook. But desperation turns white lies into tasty morsels that whet her creative appetite and she whips up an article comparing finding "Mister Right" to picking the right tomato for her homemade salsa. She wins the contest, is dubbed The Chef of Hearts, and her new life, although a bit shaky, is launched.

Women across America write to her about loneliness, infidelity, insomnia - even to complain about a boyfriend's snoring. Maggie dissects their problems with a single stroke of her pen, all the while struggling with her own issues. She dishes out therapy in recipes and funny stories and becomes an instant celebrity. As she balances learning how to cook, being a mother and writing a column, her dual lives begin to spin out of control. On the back burner, subterfuge sizzles in the skillet, threatening Maggie's new recipe for success and she finds herself in the same stew as many of her readers - lost and alone. It's only when Maggie comes clean with all her lies that she realizes pickin' the right tomato might not be simply about finding "Mister Right" - sometimes it's about making the right choices.

Pickin' Tomatoes serves up a three-course of mayhem, motherhood and middle age flavored with dashes of irony, wit, and wisdom. Throw in a liberal sprinkling of recipes geared towards those who don't cook, and  Pickin' Tomatoes becomes a must read for anyone who has searched for "Mister Right" but, most of all, wants to find herself.

Book Excerpt: Pickin' Tomatoes

Dear Girlfriend of a Snorer,

Have no fear. The remedy for snoring is a simple, nonmedical cure known secretly to women for generations and generations. Please do not divulge this remedy to the male sex as it would affect the sleep of women worldwide.

The remedy for snoring is ...

Never sleep with a man. True but not feasible. Sometimes you've got to sleep in the same bed.

The remedy for snoring is ...

Pinch a man's nostril together and cover his mouth. Okay, not a good idea to suggest murder. This is no good. My creative juices have dried up. I need guidance. A recipe. A cookbook. I need a brain transplant. Just the other day, I was looking at a book from Barnes and Noble about a woman who wanted the government to pay for a lobotomy for her. She claimed ... wait, Barnes & Noble! They'll have loads of cookbooks. Maybe even a French cookbook. I am a chef from a French restaurant after all. I'' just buy a cookbook tomorrow, try out a few recipes, pick my favorite, and I'll be good to go. A bona fide chef.

* Virtual Book Tour Contest Giveaway: $10 Amazon Gift Card *

Post a comment on J.W. Bull's Pickin' Tomatoes Virtual Book Tour Page on Chick Lit Plus to enter to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card! Anyone who purchases their copy of Pickin' Tomatoes before July 30th and sends their receipt to, will get five bonus entries!

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