I have followed the comment trail over at I Heart Presents with sadness and even a bit of disappointment. It's up to the editors to sort out the rules, and I will not comment on that at all. And while I DO understand the disappointment of some of the people who are commenting, I have to say that I don't think personal attacks are ever warranted.

Yes, I was an unknown when I won the first Presents contest. And you can bet I was damn happy. Thrilled to freaking pieces. I didn't expect I had an automatic pass through the publishing doors, however. As it turned out, I did not. I had to work hard, through two sets of revisions in which I wanted to tear my hair out and even cried because I thought I was failing big time and would never get bought, but would quietly fade away when my lovely editor rejected me and stopped answering emails.

Happily, I finally nailed those revisions and my lovely editor bought the book. Four books later, I'm still thrilled and amazed. And I still have revisions and I still work hard and bite my nails and wonder if my editor will reject me. Because it DOES happen, y'all. Being published is not a guarantee of future publication. (So if you tell me that because I'm published, it's easy for me, I can assure you that you are wrong. Whether you believe it or not. And no, I didn't believe it before I was published either.)

I will not speak to rules, because I am not qualified to make that judgment. But I can tell you that the two published winners didn't get an automatic pass into the top two. Their work had to be outstanding, and it had to live up to the Presents promise. I don't believe either one of them deserve to be attacked personally, whether or not you like that they won or think they violated a rule. It's your right to be disappointed, and to express dismay that published authors were allowed to enter. It's even your right to demand to know how the rules were applied and whether or not they were violated. But it's not your right to be mean to these women.

And I will say this until I'm blue in the face: JUST BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T WIN DOES NOT MEAN YOU WON'T SELL TO THE LINE! Ask Tina Duncan, Maisey Yates, and Mira Lyn Kelly! Of the two runners up when I won, one of them went on to sell into TRADE PAPERBACK under another name. I won't out her because she may not want that, but believe me when I tell you the woman is amazingly talented! I am thankful to call her a friend and to run ideas past her even now.

I understand being disappointed to realize you were competing against published authors. But who do you think you're competing against whenever you submit a manuscript? Your work has to be as good as what's published in the line to get bought. You are competing, whether you know it or not. And I really don't know whether there were published authors in the contest I won; being published already does not automatically make you a better writer for a particular line than someone unpublished who is targeting the same line. I've heard, from reliable sources, about single title writers who want to break into Presents and can't. They don't have the voice, and all the publishing credits in the world won't get them bought if they can't write the story.

Okay, so that's my opinion. If you were disappointed by the outcome, good grief I don't blame you at all! But please don't listen to the naysayers who tell you that you might as well give up because you'll never get a fair look and you can't compete with published authors. YOU CAN. You do it every time you submit, so keep writing and keep growing. It took me 15 years to get published. How long will you keep trying before you give up for good?