How to Avoid the Rejection Blues by Author James Houston Turner

James_Houston_Turner_2011(2)James_Houston_Turner_2011(2) ABOUT JAMES HOUSTON TURNER

A native of Kansas, James turned to writing fiction as a result of his years as a smuggler behind the old Iron Curtain. He has been on a KGB watchlist, organized secret midnight meetings with informants, located hidden mountain bunkers, and investigated legends of forgotten tunnels buried beneath the cobblestones and bricks of some of Central Europe's most venerated cathedrals. Department Thirteen, his debut thriller featuring former KGB informant, Colonel Aleksandr Talanov, was inspired by those experiences and went on to win the USA Book News "Best Thriller of 2011″ award, a gold medal in the 2012 Independent Publisher "IPPY" Book Awards (thriller/suspense), and a gold medal in the 2012 Indie Book Awards (action/adventure).

A former journalist in Los Angeles, James holds a Bachelor's Degree from Baker University and a Master's Degree from the University of Houston (Clear Lake). His 2011 "Too Ugly Tour" saw him drive 4500 miles across America promoting his books and speaking to thousands of students about not letting the hard knocks of life defeat you, which in his case included years of rejection, surviving cancer, and once being turned down for a customer service job because he was "too ugly" - a reference to the facial scars he still carries from his successful 1991 battle against cancer. He and his wife, Wendy, a former triathlon winner, live in Adelaide, South Australia.

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How to avoid the rejection blues

Easy: quit. Or better yet -- don't even try. Both are surefire ways to avoid the rejection blues. Nevertheless, before you do something that drastic, I think we should be asking ourselves whether in fact we should be seeking to avoid them. I'm not saying we should wallow in the blues, but should we seek to avoid them altogether?

Personally, I don't think we can avoid them. Rejection is part of the game, as certain as death and taxes, except that some people know how to avoid paying taxes. Few of us, however, can avoid rejection. Which means there's no avoiding the rejection blues. The real issue, I think, is what happens next. Do you continue to sink, or do you let that experience motivate you toward positive change? And I'm not just talking about managing those blues, but profiting from them.

Step one: identify your expectation level. If you expect to land an agent easily, then those rejection blues may well sink you. You may score an agent first up, but thousands don't. But if you expect to receive your fair share of rejection letters or non-responses, then you won't be as disappointed when you get them, and the "blues" won't hit you as hard. Because the fact is, most of us get rejected. I have. I've been writing forty years and have the gray hair to prove it. And it's only been within the last two years that my writing career has started taking off.

But I was not derailed because I expected to get rejection letters. And when I got them, I simply pushed on. But it wasn't always that way. Let me explain what I mean.

Some years back, my writing seemed to be going nowhere and I was on the verge of quitting. We needed money and so I applied for a customer service job with a large company. I was refused, not because I lacked skills, but because I was too ugly (a reference to the facial scars I still carry from my successful 1991 battle against cancer, which left me with a disfigured face). Talk about a kick in the guts!

But the hard knocks of life are sometimes blessings in disguise, because if I had been hired, I may well not have persevered with my writing to become the published author I am today. So my attitude about rejection has been forged in the valley of rejection, and I am here to tell you, rejection is just something we have to learn to live with. It's part of the package, just as the exhilaration of a great review or seeing your book in print is.

But how handle the rejection when rejection is all you're getting?

Step two: identify what that little voice inside you is saying ... about you. We all have it. It's the attitude we have about ourselves. It's what you really think about yourself down deep. Is it saying, "You'll never succeed," or "You're such a loser" -- that kind of stuff -- or is it saying, "I am tougher and more persistent and stubborn than any editor or agent alive," and "I will keep getting better and better and better until I kick open that door and achieve my dream" -- that kind of stuff? What does your inner voice say?

When I was turned down for that customer service job, I was pretty bummed. But I was not about to be defeated. So I started cleaning houses. I had cleaned houses, shoveled concrete, hammered nails and washed windows before, and I would do it again. I would not be beaten.

That's because I believed in myself, and I was willing to do whatever it took to keep writing (that was legal, of course!). My inner voice kept telling me, "You can do this!"

That's what I'm made of. The question is: what are you made of?

Step three: recognize what you can control and what you can't. I couldn't control being rejected for how I looked. That was beyond me. I could control my response to that shallow judgment, as illegal and cruel as it was. My choice was not to play the victim, or get even, or turn bitter. Instead, I turned that experience into a steely resolve to push on and succeed. To keep getting better and better at what I do. I let it motivate me. I let it toughen me, and make me stronger.

And because I've gone through so much rejection and hardship myself, I now have a wealth of experience to help me create new challenges for my signature hero, Aleksandr Talanov, a former KGB colonel whose wife (in my latest novel, Greco's Game) is murdered in front of his eyes, and his vendetta to track down and kill the assassin becomes a journey of redemption with the help of two young prostitutes being held captive by human traffickers. So Talanov becomes swept up in a deadly plot framed around a 1619 chess game, where the victims of a human trafficking ring are nothing but disposable pawns, and Talanov is pushed to his limits defending those victims while trying desperately to solve his wife's murder.

At its heart, Greco's Game is a story of one man against the odds. It's what I've lived, whether we're talking about years of rejection, being called too ugly, or battling cancer. I fought the odds and won, although that fight has not been easy. Which probably explains why I write books where the odds look impossible and our hero feels alone and without a lot of hope. That theme of triumph over the odds is important to me, and so I make it important for Talanov, who believes some things -- some people -- are worth fighting for, no matter what the cost or the intensity of rejection and adversity. How many of us have someone like that who would fight for us? Someone who would go to hell and back? There are a lot of people who don't, and Talanov is their kind of guy. But I learned those values in the valley of rejection, which is why I can write about them now. Don't let rejection or the blues defeat you. It may be a blessing in disguise.

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