All posts by Nickolai Vasilieff

About Nickolai Vasilieff

Nickolai Vasilieff is a freelance writer and author. He can be found writing in a cabin, on the banks of the Necanicum River in Northwest Oregon. In addition to small business consulting and freelance writing, he is currently finishing a Y.A. novel - The San Juan Express - to be released in 2014. Over the past forty years he has built and managed eleven companies including drafting/engineering, import/export, retail, international distribution, and business and market development for high-tech applications in the USA, Europe and Asia. Nick has also traveled to over thirty countries including a one-year around-the-world trip living out of a backpack. He draws on this experience as a consultant and an author. He currently is Managing Partner in Vasilieff Consulting Group and spends most of his time traveling and writing.

A New Milestone

Ocean Below
Don’t Jump—

Eighteen queries emailed and my first milestone—I received my first rejection email. My first for Sammy and The San Juan Express, that is. I’m not sure if I should be pleased or upset. On the one hand, one agent … wait, another email. Make that two agents, did not feel my novel fit their needs. On the other hand, this puts me in some good company. If the web is correct:  Agatha Christie received five years of rejections, J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter)= twelve rejections, Louis L’Amour= 200, Dr. Seuss= numerous rejections with a note: “Too different from other juveniles,” Chicken Soup for the Soul=140, Stephenie Meyer’s (Twilight)= fourteen rejections, and one of my favorite authors, Jack London = 600. Needless to say, even the very best receive rejections, and even some of the very worst are published.

And, as says, “Rejection is an imperative test of one’s character.” 

Isn’t life grand.


Idea for Sammy and The San Juan Express

Life Is Good
Life Is Good

Where did the idea for Sammy and The San Juan Express come from? Years ago I vacationed with my two children in the San Juan Islands. We’d spend two or more weeks on a 28′ Chris Craft with a small sailing dinghy in tow. It was magical watching how they adapted to their new environment. Two urban kids suddenly transformed into sailors, fisherman, divers, and explorers. During the day they would swim in warm coves, or spend lazy afternoons in the dinghy. In the evenings, with no television or radio, we’d play card games, and I would make up stories about pirates, goblins, and lost children living on the islands. And so, some thirty years ago, the seeds of The San Juan Express were planted. Many years later, they began to sprout. 

Review of Manuscript is Complete—Whew!

Sammy and The San Juan Express Adventures in growing up and exploring the world.
Sammy and The San Juan Express

With the help of my critique partner, Vera Haddan of The Fine Art of Bitching, the full review of Sammy and The San Juan Express is complete. Not such a big project, especially since Vera did most of the line editing. I’m lucky to be in a critique group with an editor.

Today, with the final manuscript ready to send out, I started emailing agent queries. You’d think once the query letter was finished, sending them out would be easy—yet another lesson learned. Each query email is taking about one hour, for research on the agency and agent, related books, and to ensure I’m sending what they are looking for. So far, twelve sent and many more to go. Wish me luck.

Tracking Revisions—Blast You Book Gremlins

Credit: Gremlins Wiki
Picture Credit: Gremlins Wiki

A writer’s nightmare. I’m ready to send out queries to agents for my new book, Sammy and The San Juan Express, and one problem, my versions got mixed up. Revisions on R23, don’t seem to be on R26 or later versions. I use Scrivener to write, so I have every every step of my creative process archived, but how to know which version contains which edits? Rewind—curse the writer gremlins—and with the help of a very dear critique partner and editor, Vera Haddan, review the entire manuscript. Only then do I send out agent queries.

Elevator Pitch on the back of my business card

SAMMY and The San Juan Express (On the beach)
Sammy on the Beach

What is Sammy and The San Juan Express? As a critique partner put it, “A young adult, middle grade novel about an orphan girl.”

The elevator pitch on the back of my business card:  Thirteen year old Sammy is faced with her mother’s death, a drunken father, and being shipped off to live with her uncle, a bush pilot in the San Juan Islands. In two enlightening weeks she saves a sea lion, uncovers a plot to kill seals, is kidnapped to be murdered, and discovers her hidden gift. Only her strength, courage, wits, and a little help from her friends above and below water, determines whether she dies or lives to enjoy her new found power.

Creating Agent Query Letters

Sammy and The San Juan Express — Float Plane — Angie
Angie, Uncle Teddy’s float plane —

In parallel to blogging about creating my young adult/middle grade novel, Sammy and The San Juan Express, I will be blogging about my current writing activity—which is, creating an agent query letter. Kapow! It’s done. Not without grinding of teeth and cursing at critique groups comments (Not to worry, I’m most appreciative). But, three week into summarizing a 65,000 word adventure novel into three short paragraphs (266 words), many readings and many revisions, it’s ready to be sent out.  

Now to compile a list of YA/MG agents, customize my email for each agent, and send them out. Nervous? Yes. Sweaty palms? Not yet, but I’m sure I will be when I push the send button.

The beginning of a new novel (six years past)

Nickolai Vasilieff Writing Mekong River Laos
Writing on the Mekong River, Laos ’06

Some years ago I began a young adult novel. I had a story in my head and it asked to be let out. I had no idea that I was releasing a monster. An exciting, beautiful monster to be sure, but monster non-the-less. I called it, Sammy and The San Juan Express.

I had written professional articles and interviews for many years, and I’d maintained an around-the-world travel blog, but this was my first full length fiction work. I figured I’d get the story down on paper, then do some edits and maybe, if I was lucky, get it published. Hell, I actually was pretty sure I’d get it published.

Six years later, I’m crossing t’s and dotting i’s, and preparing agent query letters. My optimism has been replaced with realism and I’m hoping someone, out of the hundreds of agents I’ll be contacting, will read my query and want to see my manuscript. As for being sure I’ll be published by a traditional publisher, that’s been replaced with the realization that anyone can write a story, but only a true writer can make it a novel.

At the encouragement of a friend, and as I begin to send out my query letters, I’ll tell you about my journey from business non-fiction writer to novelist, and bring you along as I learn out how difficult finding an agent really is.

I began my journey with a simple synopsis, and research. I wrote my idea for a story, on my computer. It covered about twenty pages. I also went online and searched for anything I could find that might educate me on how to write a novel. It began with excitement and anticipation of an extraordinary story that might take three to six months to complete. I was surprised on many levels.

More to follow: