Jenn McKinlay

New York Times Bestselling Author

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Jenn McKinlay's News #2

October 1, 2012

Jenn McKinlay October 1, 2012
Newsletter #2


BOOK, LINE, AND SINKER will be released on December 4, 2012! Iím very excited, so Iím sharing the recipe for lemon-almond cookie truffles thatís in it (see below).

A DEAL TO DIE FOR by my alter-ego Josie Belle will be released December 31, 2012! Very excited about that one, too!

Recently, when I was at a book signing, a reader approached me with a decided squint in her eye and asked, ďWhy you?Ē

What she meant, of course, is why are you published? I didnít take it personally. I understood. I spent eight years in the trenches, trying to get published and I squinted at a fair number of authors myself while I tried to figure out this singularly unique -- read, totally whacko -- business.

Now, Iíd love to say that it is my brilliance with words, my eloquence, or my own particular brand of word-bending -- sort of like a super power -- that landed me a deal. But it isnít. It didnít.

In fact, if you remove my bullheadedness and insane work ethic -- yes, these are requirements in this industry -- then what is left is a certain disregard for the rules, which I have come to discover is the key ingredient to becoming a successful writer, or more accurately, a successful anything.

Rebels. I love them. I love people who dance in the grocery store not caring that someone may be watching. Yes, Iíve been known to be one of them upon occasion but only if it was a real toe-tapper of a tune that they were piping in overhead. I mean, hey, if youíre going to play the chicken dance song while Iím shopping for produce you really canít blame me for giving a flap and shake, now can you?

But back to the rebellion. Rules. Weíre choking on them, arenít we? A friend of mine says in her neighborhood's HOA, you can only paint your house one of three different colors. Really? But what if I want a purple house with pink polka dots? Someone out there just had a stroke from that visual, didnít they? ErÖsorry.

Okay, leaving aside home aesthetics for the moment, weíre still drowning in rules. At our jobs, we have to dress professionally, even though anyone who has ever worked in an office will tell you that these people behave like children, very naughty children, who would probably be a lot happier and more productive if you let them dress like super heroes and ballerinas every now and then, and no, thatís not gender specific. Just a suggestion.

From the time weíre born, the world starts sanding us down with its rules Ė undoubtedly, for our own good -- smoothing away our rough edges so that we donít run with scissors but learn to play well with others, so that we arenít home brewing from the Anarchistís Cookbook while still in the third grade. Iím okay with that. Mostly.

But hereís the problem, we get so used to rules and meeting expectations and doing things the ďrightĒ way that we forget we learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes. Oh, and failure? Yeah, itís good thing. In fact, itís a great thing.

One of my favorite failures is the guy who was told after his first gig at the Opry that he ďshould go back to driving a truckĒ. Guess who? Yep, the one the only -- Elvis. Does he strike you as a rule follower? Hmm, not so much. Another fave was described by his teachers as ďmentally slow, unsociable and adrip forever in foolish dreamsĒ. I particularly enjoy that last turn of phrase. We should all be as adrip as Einstein.

See? Failure begets success so long as you donít give up. I wrote five novels before I sold one. They were terrible, hideous, as in only good for starting fires, but I learned so much from them that I couldnít be the writer I am now -- a work still in progress, I assure you -- if I hadnít slogged through those baddies first. Why were they so awful? Because I was afraid to break the rules!

Hereís the ironic twist. Because I was paralyzed with self-doubt and insecurity, I frantically followed all of the insignificant rules about point of view, plot, dialogue and characterization that I had studied and fretted over, and subsequently failed at the only rule that matters. I didnít write what I wanted to read or what anyone else would want to read either for that matter.

And hereís the truth, the stomach cramping, night terror inducing truth, if youíre going to write something worth reading, youíre going to have to break some rules. A lot of new authors get hung up on font, type size, line spacing, whether they can query one agent/editor or five at a time. Who cares? If you hand in a manuscript that grabs an agent/editor by the throat and doesnít let go, youíre going to get a deal. Believe me when I tell you that ďYeah, youíre 50 Shades of Twilight with a Dragon Tattoo manuscript was awesome, but you used the wrong font size so weíre going to have to pass,Ē was said by no editor ever.

And even if youíre not an aspiring writer, itís always good to assess and evaluate the rules that dominate your life. This is the part where my mother cringes and clutches her chest, thinking I am inciting mayhem. I am not. Wear your seat belt. Treat others how you want to be treated. But donít be afraid to swim against the current when itís not going in the direction you want to go.

I have two young sons, and while I drill respect for all people into them, I do want them to question authority. Sadly, they seem most comfortable questioning mine. Sigh. But the reason I do this is because of the Milgram Experiment conducted at Yale in the 1960ís. I remember being shocked when I learned about this behavior study during my undergrad days.

In a nutshell, it went like this: Participants were instructed by a person in a lab coat to shock test subjects when they got the answers to their questions wrong. Little did the people doing the shocking know that they were actually the test subjects and what was being tested was their willingness to blindly follow rules even if it meant hurting others. It made such an impression on me that I started to really think about the rules I should follow and the rules I shouldnít.

So, hereís my two cents for what itís worth Ė- about two cents exactly -- cut the tags off your pillows, submit to as many publishers as you want, self-publish if thatís what your heart tells you to do, or just go get the haircut/tattoo/nose ring everyone says youíre too old/young/straight laced for and go live a life worth living!

RECIPE: Lemon-Almond Cookie Truffles

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
3 cups ground lemon sandwich cookies
The zest of 1 lemon
Almond bark, melted for dipping

Mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and lemon extract in a large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Then stir in the ground cookies and lemon zest until well mixed. Roll into 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate for about 1 hour. Dip balls in melted almond bark, letting excess drip off. Place in mini cupcake papers and cool in fridge until coating hardens. Because of the cream cheese ingredient, store in refrigerator. Serve either at room temperature or chilled.

To find out more about what is happening with me, you can find me at my website or you can find me on facebook or twitter. My next newsletter will be out December 2012!

Happy October!