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  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

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A Bulldog With Football Skin: My Path From Indie to Traditional Publishing by Author M.R. Fournet and Darkness & Demon Song Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have author M.R. Fournet here to share about book 2 in her MG fantasy/horror series, Darkness & Demon Song. It sounds like a creepy fantasy with forbidden spells and an exciting adventure in our world, which I know I’m going to enjoy.

FYI, for the giveaway, one lucky winner can choose which book they want: Book 1, Brick Dust and Bones or Book 2, Darkness & Demon Song.

Here’s a blurb of Darkness & Demon Song from Goodreads:


A cemetery-boy-turned-monster-hunter must race against time to save his recently-resurrected mother in Darkness and Demon Song, M.R. Fournet’s eerie middle grade follow up to Brick Dust and Bones.Marius Grey’s mom is back from the dead. After hunting monsters and performing forbidden spells, Marius is just happy she's there, helping him to take care of their Louisiana cemetery again.But it soon becomes clear that something has gone wrong. Marius's mother is growing more distant and strange things start happening around her. Worse yet, sometimes it feels like she’s a completely different person–one who definitely isn’t his mom.If Marius wants to save her, he’s going to need help. Serious help. Good thing he has a flesh-eating mermaid for a best friend and a classmate with extra strong magic. Add in mysterious clues for new hunts, graveyard hopping from Louisiana to Texas, and a tough ex-hunter he doesn’t know if he can trust, and it’s clear that Marius has his work cut out for him.

Now here’s M.R.! 

A Bulldog with Football Skin: My Path from Indie to Traditional Publishing

After writing novels for roughly eighteen years, I’ve learned three definite things I wish I knew before I started:

1.     You don’t need to add two spaces after a period. Forgive us poor folks who learned on typewriters.

2.     The literary world is big enough for everyone.

3.     People love to tell you that it’s not.

In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing. When I finally went to my first author conference, I learned about the Sisyphean feat of getting an agent and going on submission. It was a difficult path but a straight line, more or less. Meanwhile, those rogue indie authors roamed in the shadows. All of the pros said not to look one in the eye lest you end up like them.

Okay, that’s dramatic. But it was also the vibe back then.

 In reality, the path to publishing more closely resembles a topographical map of Appalachian Trail than a straight line. Unexpectedly triumphant peaks and self loathing valleys. Probably a few dead bodies along the way if you’re a mystery writer. Like a good book, it won’t end the way you’re expecting.

My rejection count is easily in the triple digits if you count agents and editors. I’ve heard varying degrees of “nope” for years. Some unreasonably cruel but most professional. It’s a hazard of the job.

How did I keep going? Well, I’m a bulldog with football skin. Every time I get knocked down, I stand back up and go again.

 The thick skin came from art school. We’d work on a piece for weeks or months. Then, we’d tack them up on the wall for judgement. Taking something you made and putting it on display for everyone to see is terrifying. What you’re really doing is holding it up for everyone to tear down. It’s the same thing with any creative endeavor, including writing.

 The tenacity I learned in school got me an agent. We went on submission, and absolutely nothing happened.

 I stayed sane by writing another book. One I felt passionate about, and when I showed it to my agent, she dropped me. “We can’t sell a book about a little girl who loved Vincent Van Gogh.” I was crushed, but I padded my skin and stood back up.

 That’s when I learned an important lesson. If they turn it down, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. It doesn’t mean there’s not a place for it. When you’re in traditional publishing, it’s all about what they can sell. That is decided by multiple people and for a myriad of reasons. To find the freedom you desire to write your crazy stories, do what I did. Go to an independent press.

 Smaller presses can turn on a dime. With all of today’s tools at their disposal, they can market cheaply and effectively. Print on demand changed the whole game. They can afford to take risks.

 This isn’t to say that I didn’t get rejections there too. I absolutely did. But suddenly, I was getting “yes” as well. That story about the little girl and Vincent Van Gogh won awards, as did my book about Calamity Jane, the real Alice in Wonderland, and Maud Wagner, the first female tattooist in America. My novella that was written backwards garnered me my first starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, and the Indie Author Project awarded me the Best Young Adult Author award in Texas for my book, Manufactured Witches. 

Had I believed that first agent (and all the others), I might have given up on this whole endeavor. But the bulldog with the football skin just kept getting up. I kept writing books. Kept tacking that work on the wall.

 I wanted to move into writing for a younger audience, and I wanted to write horror. Oh, the beauty of experimenting in the indie world! You can add a pen name and try something new. When I wrote Brick Dust and Bones, I had a plan. Shop it around to some agents, and if that didn’t pan out, send it to one of my indie publishers.

That’s when I met my agent, Ben. He loved my work, and we got along immediately. He wasn’t the first agent to say “yes”, but he was the first to say, “If this one doesn’t hit, you can indie publish it and write something else for submission.”

 This floored me. Oh, how much the industry changed in a matter of years.

We went on submission, and low and behold, we found Holly, an editor who loved it too. I got a contract for two books. Suddenly, the bulldog didn’t need the football skin as much. I wasn’t alone in the harsh world anymore. There were people in my corner.

Does that mean traditional publishing is all rainbows and donut sprinkles? No. It’s much more restrictive than the free-flowing indie world. Again, it’s about what they can sell, and I respect that. More people see my work now, and I feel accomplished every day with a team behind me.

I do get depressed every time I think about authors who gave up because of the rejection. Those who didn’t have football skin. To all you out there, maybe your journey will take you to self publishing or indie press publishing. Maybe you’ll find your perfect agent. Maybe you won’t. But don’t give up, little bulldogs. There’s a place here for your books.

About M.R. Fournet

M.R. Fournet's ties to New Orleans are part of her own origin story. As a kid, she would go fishing in South Louisiana and eat crawfish with her family in Houma. She has always been fascinated by the myths and legends of New Orleans. When not writing, she is a professional artist, belly dancer, and autism mom. She now lives in Texas with her husband, son, and ungrateful cats. Brick Dust and Bones was her 2023 middle grade debut and the first book in the Marius Grey series. It is followed by the 2024 release of book two, Darkness and Demon Song. Connect with her on Instagram or her website.

About Brick Dust and Bones, Marius Grey Volume 1

A twelve-year-old cemetery boy and monster hunter–along with his flesh-eating mermaid friend–has to race against the clock to save the ghost of his dead mother in Brick Dust and Bones, M.R. Fournet's magical middle grade debut.

About Darkness and Demon Song, Marius Grey Volume 2

A cemetery-boy-turned-monster-hunter must race against time to save his recently-resurrected mother in Darkness and Demon Song, M.R. Fournet’s eerie middle grade follow up to Brick Dust and Bones.

Giveaway Details

M.R.’s publisher and publicist is generously offering a hardback of Brick Dust and Bones or Darkness and Demon Song, winner’s choice, for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment telling me which book you want by July 6th. If your email is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter or follow M.R. on her social media sites, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This book giveaway is U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Wednesday, June 24th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Bethany Weaver

Monday, July 1st I’m participating in the Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, July 3rd I have an interview with debut author Amber Chen and a giveaway of her YA mystery fantasy Of Jade and Dragons and my IWSG post

Monday, July 8th I have an agent spotlight interview with Rebecca Williamson and a query critique giveaway

Tuesday, July 16th I’m participating in the Sip Sip Hooray Giveaway Hop

Monday, July 22nd I have an interview with author Sally Pla and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Invisible Isabel

Monday, July 29th I have any agent spotlight interview with Sheila Fernley and a full picture book or three-chapter MG or YA critique and a one-hour Zoom call giveaway

I hope to see you on Wednesday!



Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you had the tenacity to stick with it until you got that yes.

Brenda said...

Congratulations to M.R. Fournet and getting your stories published. Love seeing an addition to the MG fantasy/horror genre, sounds wonderful. Happy MMGM Natalie.

Greg Pattridge said...

The author did the right thing by her tenacity to never give up. Her middle grade fantasy duo sounds perfect for those seeking out a little horror in their reading. I will be featuring a review of the second book next month so no need to enter me in the drawing.

Kate Larkindale said...

Oh yes. A thick skin is definitely a prerequisite to this world.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

No horror, not even MG horror, for me! But I really appreciated reading the story of the author's journey. Even going completely Indie and self-publishing requires a certain amount of thick skin, and any time you start submitting to competitive markets you'd better pull on the football pads!

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Carol Baldwin said...

I love the picture of a bulldog in a football skin! I understand that. No need to enter my name in the giveaway.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

M.R. hit the nail in the head over and over. Wonderful post. If her books are half as entertaining, then I look forward to reading them.

Computer Tutor said...

So many of us--tenacity has been the key. Good interview.

Michael Law said...

I woukd choose Brick Dust and Bones and I am a follower on your blog. Email: SidLaw0425@yahoo.com. I shared to the following:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/share/p/BbhdVrKYLVkdJgjG/?mibextid=oFDknk

Twitter: https://x.com/MikeLaw97748568/status/1805613075325649169

Threads: https://www.threads.net/@sidlaw0425/post/C8pHrl3gVnY/?xmt=AQGz5Ee_R0NmF-jzfKBw352sNZly_fctdNAzR1efUegKZQ

Pinterest: https://pin.it/1PueK54iL

Sue Heavenrich said...

What a great post - and a two-fer: a post about the horrors of publishing (or not) and about a series of horror stories for the MG crowd. One stone, three birds - because now you've got me curious to read these books and I am not one who generally reads tales of horror.

Valinora Troy said...

I really enjoyed reading about M.R.'s writing journey, I loved her positivity and determination, and now I am sorry I don't live in the US, the books sound fun!

Tonja Drecker said...

So glad you didn't give up. And the books look like amazing reads.

Diane Bradley-Kantor said...

A great lesson on never giving up and her path to publishing through indie publishers is enlightening. Dust Brick Bones is one my "got to read" list. Thanks!

Lauri Meyers said...

love the idea of "football skin" - great job persisting!

Rosi said...

There are good lessons to be learned from this post. Thanks for that. I will pass on the giveaway.