Honorary Heartlette – Karen Foley

November 4, 2007 at 8:48 am | Posted in contests, Honorary Heartlette, Karen Foley, writing | 22 Comments

When Opportunity Knocks…

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be blogging here at Purple Hearts! My debut book, Flyboy, hit bookstore shelves last month, and was a Romantic Times top pick for October.

How I reached this point is, I think, worth sharing because sometimes it really is a matter of seeing an opportunity, and taking advantage of it.

I’m a big fan of RWA-sponsored contests, and when I was first writing, I entered as many contests as I could. Between 2003 and 2006, I think I entered more than sixty contests. At that time, I was primarily writing historical fiction. Overall, my manuscripts did pretty well on the contest circuit, and I received a lot of positive feedback from the judges, and a handful of requests for partials from editors and agents.

The downside was that I also received my share of lousy scores and hurtful comments. While I was tempted to shove those scores deep into a desk drawer and ignore them, I forced myself to read the comments and try and figure out which remarks were valid, and how I could use them to strengthen my writing. The result was that I began to win or final in many of those contests. It was late in 2005, when I noticed a trend developing; whenever I entered a contest where Brenda Chin, senior editor for Harlequin Blaze, was the final judge, my manuscript finaled or won. She even included personal notes with my score sheets, saying she loved my voice and my characters. Unfortunately, Brenda wasn’t acquiring historical romances.

While I’m not an advocate of chasing market trends, I do believe that occasionally stepping out of your comfort zone can help you grow as a writer. I’d never written a sensual contemporary romance before, and had never read a Harlequin Blaze novel. But the fact that Brenda Chin apparently liked my writing style was incentive enough for me to give it a try.

During the two months leading up to the 2006 RWA National Conference, I devoured Blaze novels at the rate of 3-4 books per week. I even developed a spreadsheet to analyze the different aspects of these books, like what constituted the sexy premise, how explicit was the language, and how many sex scenes were included in each novel? What I found really surprised me. There was no “formula” to writing a Blaze novel. There were no prerequisite number of love scenes, and each story was as unique as the author who penned it. They ran the gamut from light and funny, to dark and edgy, with everything in between. They included paranormals and time travel romances, bad-boy alpha heroes and boy-next-door beta heroes.

By the time the conference rolled around, I felt I had a good handle on what constituted the Blaze novel, and had the outline of a story taking shape in my head. That year was the 5th anniversary of Blaze, and Brenda Chin was hosting a contest where she solicited ideas for the next great Blaze novel. I remember scribbling my 1-page synopsis down on a piece of paper and dropping it into the box with a feeling of hope and anticipation. But nothing could have prepared me for the phone call that came just three days after the conference, requesting the full manuscript. I wrote that book in a fast and furious ten weeks, and received The Call three months later.

It’s been exactly one year since I first submitted that manuscript to Brenda, and it’s hard to believe that Flyboy is now gone from bookstore shelves. But the result of stepping out of my comfort zone to write that one book is a contract for three more Blaze novels, due out sometime in 2008 and 2009.

So what am I trying to say? Keep doing what you’re doing, but don’t be afraid to take some risks and put yourself out there, whether it’s through contests or queries, writing articles or presenting workshops for your local chapter. And most of all, learn to recognize opportunities, and be ready to grab them when they come along.

I will give away a copy of Flyboy to two lucky readers at the end of the week. Post a comment here to get your name in the drawing — winners will be chosen at random on Friday.

Karen Foley
Karen’s group blog: The Moody Muses



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  1. […] are thrilled for Karen and delighted that she will join us. Please tune in for her blog post on November […]

  2. Thanks for that, Karen!
    I don’t leave my comfort zones very often, and I think that’s something I can improve on.
    And that bit about getting yourself to read the nasty comments as well as the positive ones is so true (and hard) and yet so necessary.

    But well, thanks for sharing your personal story with us. I hope one day I’ll be a published author with an encouraging story, too!


  3. Cosmic Whale, thank you for stopping by! Yes, contests aren’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. All the best to you!


  4. Wow, thank you for sharing your story.

  5. […] November 6, 2007 at 7:54 am | In Karen Foley, books, writing | Tags: free stuff In case you missed it, our November Honorary Heartlette, Karen Foley, is giving away two copies of her debut novel, […]

  6. Thanks for sharing your story, Karen!

    I’m still working on finishing my first book, but the idea of contests is an intriguing one! I’ve also found just looking at the anthology submission calls to be good for sparking the old creative urges.

  7. Oh yes, contests are not for the faint of heart….just think of the adrenaline rush when the winners are about to be announced!

  8. I’ve never been a contest person, but I applaud those who have the courage to enter!

  9. I must be such a cry baby, but your story tickled my eyelids… no tears, so that’s good. It means I’m not hormonal just touched. Congratulations. I love the writing aspect of your story. LOL. I just love to write. Sounds like you do too. I mean…REALLY…you wouldn’t write if you didn’t love to. 🙂

  10. Stepping out of my writing comfort zone was the best thing I could have done for my writing.

    Thanks for the encouraging post, Karen.

  11. I’m gearing up to tackle a “boundary pusher” project at the beginning of next year (don’t know what it is yet!) because I won a contest w/ an agent and need something agent-worthy to present. Your encouragement here really helps with the nerves! 🙂

  12. Hi, Karen…

    I just wanted to tell you that I absolutely loved Flyboy. I read it this afternoon and could not put it down for the life of me. I even put off my NaNo story to finish it up. I’ll be honest and say that with a cover as hot as Flyboy’s, I was expecting to be disappointed that the story wouldn’t match up, but let me tell you…Flyboy surpassed the hot guy on the cover!! That first sex scene…wow. Quite possibly the hottest I’ve ever read in a Blaze before! It wasn’t overly graphic either, for those who might be reading this and wondering–it was very sensual and felt sooo real. Another thing that I liked about this book…Sedona and Angel don’t play mind games with each other. They both just lay it all on the table. I was very disappointed when the book came to an end. Heck, I might even read it again. 🙂

  13. Karen – thanks so much for taking the time to blog for us. You have a great story to tell (both here and in your book!)

    Thanks for sharing with us your bravery-turned-opportunity story.

    I’m so excited to see where this first big success will lead you!

  14. Ally — Thank you so much!! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed Flyboy! I was sorry, too, when the story came to an end…I did set the stage to write a future story about each of Sedona’s sisters, though!

  15. Aw, Morgan…thank you so much! I hope my story is a motivator. I have to tell you that just before I decided to do this, I was at a point with my writing where I was becoming very discouraged. I’m glad now that I didn’t throw in the towel, so to speak.

  16. Hi Karen,
    Best wishes to you and your book. I admire your persistance. Sticking to your goal has paid off.

  17. So, let me get this straight…I know Flyboy was your first Blaze, but are you telling us that this is your FIRST EVER novel? Wow, Karen, I have to say I’m really impressed. I’ve read some Blazes recently by multi-pubbed writers (we won’t mention names) that left me feeling…well, unsatisfied. You did an ABSOLUTELY AMAZING job for your first book and to think you wrote it in ten weeks and had it pubbed within a year? That’s some inspiration.

    I cannot wait to read Ana and Allison’s stories! 🙂

  18. Karen, thanks for sharing. Like you I write historicals. I admire Brenda Chin because of her work with other author friends of mine. But I’ve never considered writing Blaze. I’ve viewed it as a voice thing.

    I like the way you analyzed the market.

    Congrats on your first publication. Stepping out of your comfort zone really paid off. Enjoy.

  19. Laurie C., yes, you’re right. I think my Blaze voice is very different from my historical voice, although my heroes tend to be very similar. I’ll admit that I wasn’t so sure I could write a heroine who had some sexual experience, and who was comfortable with her own sexuality. In the end, it was great fun!

    Thank you so much for stopping by!

    Karen Foley

  20. Thanks for visiting and telling us how you got started. FLy boys looks great. Sex in a flight suit… oh yeah, saw a few of those in my time in the AF.

  21. Karen,
    Thanks so much for joining us at the Purple Hearts this week! Your story has inspired and motivated me and we are so pleased that you shared your time and experience with us. Like Ally, I, too, devoured Flyboy in one sitting one Saturday afternoon and can’t wait for your next three books to come out. I know we’ll have to be patient (2009?! Really?!) but I hope you’ll visit us again and keep us posted as to your progress. We’ll be hoping for great things for you!

  22. […] two copies of her debut novel, Flyboy.  If you haven’t done so already, post a comment to her blog entry and your name will go into the drawing.  Winners will be chosen at […]

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