Category Archives: I’m a writer too

One of my favorite gifts, from one of my favorite people

2016 may have been a challenging year, but Christmas brought us nothing but peace, love, and thankfulness. Hope you all reveled in some joy and cheer, too!

 

xmas-mug-2

 

My kiddo left this mug under the tree for me. Does he know his mother or what? Now if only I could use this at work–set it atop the circulation desk at the library…

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Chuck Wendig in the flesh

Yeah, I’ve have been slacking with the blog lately. Too much going on with life, the family, the day job… Then there’s the recent horrible events here in Orlando which I still don’t have the strength to write about. In fact, I haven’t written much at all over the last month. Mea culpa.

I DID have a chance to meet sci-fi and urban fantasy author extraordinaire Chuck Wendig at the Orlando Book Festival at the Orlando Public Library. Chuck is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath, as well as the Miriam Black thrillers, the Atlanta Burns books, and the Heartland YA series, alongside other works across comics, games, film, and more.

But, many of us in the writing community know him best as our beloved foul-mouthed writing guru and author of the blog Terrible Minds. Seriously, he’s like our Yoda. Only taller. And I’m guessing minus the secret bad ass lightsaber skills. (Although he does write Star Wars books, so he may whip out some sabers as he plots in his writing shed.) His no-nonsense posts inspire legions of Penmonkies, driving us to sit our butts in the chair, keep on writing, and not stab our eyeballs out. And laugh. The man is funny.

And he is just as affable in person. Seriously.

The Kick Ass Writer

Writer that I am (ahem), I had him sign The Kick Ass Writer. My hubby had him sign a couple of his favorite novels, then bought a stack more for Chuck to inscribe.

Chuck began his keynote speech by saying he’d considered starting with a moment of silence, but then he realized that writers and artists are not at their best when silent. Six days before, 49 people had been killed and 53 injured at the Pulse Nightclub, a few blocks away.  (If you haven’t read his Recipe for a Shooting. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

Some of the nuggets of wisdom he doled out to the audience of eager Padawans writers and readers:

  • Telling your parents you want to be a writer is like telling them you want to be a unicorn farmer.
  • In the game of writing, no one knows what their doing. (You’re not alone!)
  • Writing is a game of perseverance. It can be like putting a bucket on your head and head-butting a wall. Either you or the wall will fall down eventually.
  • Care less. Your writing and your life will improve. (And you’ll be less likely to start head-butting walls like a drunken billy goat.)
  • The man can write 30k words in a weekend. That is NOT a typo. THIRTY THOUSAND WORDS IN A WEEKEND. Forget man–he’s a myth. No, a legend.
  • And while we’re on the subject of writing faster than the speed of light, he wrote his first Star Wars book, Aftermath, in ONE MONTH. This was not planned. The publisher kept moving the release day up. The book hit the shelves exactly one year to the day after he tweeted about how he’d like to work on a Star Wars book. Note: this in NOT how anyone else will every procure a publishing deal. Like ever.
  • His measly little blog Terrible Minds get about 10k hits per day. Guess a few folks want to read his rants about writing. And food. And his kid. And don’t mind his creative use of naughty language.

 Chuck 2

Don’t bash the hair. The humidity hovered around 300% in downtown O-town that day. Between sessions, I’d made the pilgrimage to the makeshift memorial filling the grassy lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts just blocks away.

I had to see it with my own eyes. I had to honor those we’d lost. I had to let my heart bleed.

You see, even as I watched the coverage on TV, it didn’t feel real. The 24-hour news feed running “Orlando Massacre” and “America’s Deadliest Mass Shooting” played like a reality show. How could this happen here? We’re the land of fucking Mickey Mouse, fairy dust, and overpriced Harry Potter wands. Not mass shootings. Until now.

I’m going to get off this tangent. I don’t want to write about it. The wounds are too fresh.Pulse shooting, Orlando Massacre, Pulse Memorial, Dr Phillip's Center

Now back to good stuff.

My husband joined me for the Chuck meet & greet keynote speech. He has a thing for signed books (and comics, and photos…you get the drift). He brought along a handful of books, then had to buy a few more because the temptation was just. too. great.

Back at home, our 12-year-old eyeballed the hubby’s loot, and thought Under the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy Book 1) looked like a good read. Kiddo is pretty bright and an avid reader. But ready for his first “adult” book? And that book be one of Chuck’s? (As I mentioned, the man is infamous for his potty mouth.)

Then I realized that age 12 I was about to start on my Stephen King kick. That shut me up.

Kiddo ended up reading Chuck’s Star Wars: Aftermath first.

Read whatever you want, my child. If books are the most corrupting element in your tween life, we’re doing okay.

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Spreading Some Love Between the Covers

“Love stories are universal. Love stories are powerful.
And so are the women who write them.”

Last spring I wrote about how I was dying to watch LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS, a feature-length indie documentary film that explores the little-known, surprisingly powerful world of women who write and read romance? I finally attended a screening thanks to the fine folks at the Orlando Public Library. I left inspired, enlightened, and I may have had a watery eye from time to time.

Love Between the Covers is the fascinating story of the vast, funny, and savvy female community that has built a powerhouse industry sharing love stories. Romance fiction is sold in 34 languages on six continents, and the genre grosses more than a billion dollars a year–outselling mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined. Yet the millions of voracious women (and sometimes men) who read, write, and love romance novels have remained oddly invisible. Until now. For three years, the film follows the lives of five very diverse published romance authors and a unpublished newbie as they build their businesses, find and lose loved ones, cope with a tsunami of change in publishing, and earn a living doing what they love—while empowering others to do the same.

During the three years the filmmakers shot the documentary, they witnessed the largest power shift in the publishing industry in the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines, pioneering new ways to survive and thrive in the rapidly shifting environment.

Many aspects of the film had me in awe. Bella Andre writes 25 pages a day?!!

The segments following the video diary of aspiring romance author Joanne Lockyer had me feeling all swishy inside. I found myself discretely dabbing the corners of my eyes after she saw her book, her quest, her baby in print for the first time in all its tangible beauty.

There were so many more nuggets of goodness, conversations about diversity, desire, power shifts, and how to write a damn good book.

I tried to jot down a few of my favorite quotes as I watched, but alas, as I read over my chicken scratch, I’ve realized that these should more be considered paraphrases. My profound apologies if any of these are too far off. (Feel free to kill me off in your next book if I offend.)

We’re not looking for a stupid heroine … we’re looking for a story where the woman has her shit together and the man is the cherry on top of the sundae.

Beverly Jenkins

Loyalty, love, loss, courage–all books in ALL genres circle around to these eternal themes.

Eloisa James

I love fiction because it’s fiction. Fiction is not real and it’s not supposed to be. Fiction is a dream. Fiction is a desire. Fiction is hope.

Len Barot/Radclyffe

Yes it’s a fantasy. But so are Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. It’s no great surprise that he never dies in the end. So what’s wrong with our
Happily Ever After?

Beverly Jenkins

This is the one place where you will consistently find women’s sexuality treated fairly and positively.

Sarah Wendell

 

But one of the main themes of the movie was the camaraderie. Through RWA (Romance Writers of America), these women, be them multi-millionaire business builders or publishing-shy newbies, shared a refreshing desire to share what they know to help others succeed. (I also see this in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, but this wasn’t their movie. Go WFWA!) They stress that there’s no finite number of readers, so we can publish an infinite number of stories.

After the movie screening, the Orlando Public Library hosted romance panel discussions about Tropes We Love and Hate and Vampires and Angels and Weres, Oh My!, followed by a book signing featuring local romance writers.

And…

pro rwa

 

I’m offically a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.

Come on in. There’s room for you here too.

 

10 Things I Learned During an Evening with Bill Bryson

1. I can make Bill Bryson laugh!

Bill Bryson Rollins College book signing

No, that doesn’t count. To be honest, I simply cannot recall what witty quip I must have whipped out to cause the celebrated travel, science, and historical writer to chuckle, but I have the picture to prove I said something good.

During Notes from All Over: An Evening with Bill Bryson, the writer entertained the crowds with his renowned brand of cerebral yet homespun humor. Before a packed house at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, Bryson spun tales about his life between readings from some of his well known works, sparking alternating bouts of laughter and applause. I’ve binged on his audiobooks recently, so listening to him read passages from A Walk in the Woods, In a Sunburned Country, and his new release The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain truly brought the books to life. The evening proved that America and Britain’s bastion of curmudgeonly wanderlust is just as charming, hilarious, and endearing off the page as he is on.

Some highlights:

1. On how to avoid a bear attack: wear bells so the bears know you’re coming. And keep your eyes open for bear scat on the ground. It’s easy to spot — it has bells in it.

2. When a British bookstore author questionnaire asked what he would like people to say about him 100 years from now: “Well, at least he was still sexually active.”

3. He’s never thought of writing fiction.

4. Reviewers of his new book,The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, have written that he’s far grumpier than he use to be. He used this as a segway into reading a passage from the book, a cautionary tale regarding the horrors of ordering for a large family at McDonald’s with grossly incompetent staff.

5. He profoundly curious and always does his own research. Writing is a difficult art, but through research, one gets to enjoy the joy of discovery. You never know what you’ll find.

6. On embellishment in his writing: it depends on which of the two types of books he’s writing. Ernest books of information have no embellishment. They’re meant to be reliable sources of information. However, when writing of his personal adventures, he freely expands and uses hyperbole or it wouldn’t be funny. He suspects his readers are intelligent enough to tell the difference.

7. He had nothing to do with making the movie version of A Walk in the Woods, having sold the rights to Robert Redford over a decade ago. The movie was supposed to reunite Paul Newman and Robert Redford for the first time since The Sting, but Paul got sick, and the movie was put on the back burner. When Redford decided to go forward with the production, Bryson wasn’t involved with the script writing. Bryson watched the movie for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival. He sat between his wife and Redford, and found it insane because there was Redford on the screen answering to his name.

8. Bryson thought the film somewhat accurately reflected his book until one particularly awkward scene. “Bryson” on film began flirting with a hotel-keeper (portrayed by Mary Steenburgen) and there’s obvious chemistry. He felt the strong need to lean over to his wife and swear this scene was not in the book and it never happened.

9. He sent his friend Katz (not his real name) the manuscript for A Walk in the Woods because he felt a bit bad that he’d portrayed him as such a buffoon (even though he was a total buffoon). Katz read the manuscript and said it was funny, but all fiction. Bryson walked him through each scene, and Katz fessed up to each antidote. Then how was it fiction? According to his Appalachian Trail companion, the stories were all true, but it was just fiction in the way Bryson told them.

10. Bryson’s greatest regret in life is not completing the (somewhere around) 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail hike. He never hiked or even saw Mount Katahdin, regarded to be the most difficult climb in the entirety of the A.T. Someday. Maybe.

Bonus: When asked what inspires him to write: bills.

Bill Bryson signed copy a short history of everything

My son’s first signed book!

And that, my friends, is the witty and wonderful Bill Bryson. If you haven’t read his books, you absolutely must. I highly recommend the audiobooks.

Some of my favorites:

And next in my queue:

Howdy, Campers!

Since it’s July 1st, and I’m heading off to camp!

Camp-Participant-2015-Web-Banner

Actually, I’m retreating into my home office (a.k.a. writing cave) to bravely attempt to make some damn progress on book #2.   ::GULP::

For those of you who think Camp NanNoWriMo still sounds like a quaint summer camp in the Adirondacks (they all have Native American sounding names, don’t they?) here’s the official rundown:

“National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. Participants work toward the goal of writing a 50,000-word draft during the month of November. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

Camp NaNoWriMo is a more open-ended version of our original November event. We have Camp sessions in both April and July, and we welcome word-count goals between 10,000 and 1,000,000. In addition, writers may attempt non-novel projects. Camp is a creative retreat for whatever you’re working on!”

So yay! I have my cabin assignment, and I’m “bunking” with ten other enthusiastic writers.

camp na

Did I mention I’m terrified? Yeah, I may not have to worry about scorpions in my sleeping bag or being carried off by a swarm of mosquitoes, but I have to write. Real words that flow—576 of them per day to meet my goal. That might not seem like many, but my muse has been quite bitchy lately, and she might also be suffering from a slight case of bi-polar disorder.

And I can’t get homesick. I don’t have the luxury of hiding away in the woods from real life. So what if summer is the busiest time of year in my real job? Yesterday, I ran a library program for 84 people (including 69 antsy KIDS) all by myself. Can you say managed chaos? It went very well, thank you, but work is keeping me on my toes—quite literally.

And then this month is full of holidays, birthdays, and much-needed family days at the beach or springs. Because, well, I have a real life. And a family I enjoy spending time with (although the kiddo starts middle school in August, so I don’t how how much longer he’ll tolerate spending time with me).

I know...yadda, yadda, yadda… Time to get over the lame excuses and park my butt in the chair. I must focus like a yoga guru. Or Yoda.

Time to allow myself to write a shitty first draft. No more going back over and over the same chapter because it’s just not right. Save the edits for later. Get the story down.

Time to follow the words of Nora Roberts, who just may know what the hell she’s talking about:

Nora Roberts top writing advice

Here we go, campers…now I wonder if I can count this as 455 words towards today’s goal?

 

Love Between the Covers (& some contest love!)

First, a bit of braggy news: my women’s fiction (with elements of romance) manuscript, THE LAST RESORT, is a finalist in the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America’s FAB FIVE contest! The Silver Quill Award winner will be announced in June.

Fab Five Finalist

::fingers crossed::

Speaking of romance, have you heard about LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS? This feature-length indie documentary film explores the little-known, surprisingly powerful world of women who write and read romance. The film covers the story of five very different authors (whose day jobs include surgeon and Shakespeare professor) as they invite us inside the vast romance community that runs a powerhouse industry on the cusp of an irreversible power shift.

During the three years the filmmakers shot the documentary, they witnessed the largest power shift in the publishing industry in the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines, pioneering new ways to survive and thrive in the rapidly shifting environment.

I don’t know about you, but I need to figure out how to see this film.


I’m also going to check out PopularRomanceProject.org. The site showcases romance novels in a broad context across time and place—with a huge archive of Love Between the Covers interview excerpts, teaching resources, and blogs by romance authors, scholars and industry insiders.

And for those of you who still live under the delusion that romances are just trashy, cheap paperbacks written for those who “can’t read a real book”, a few stats:

Total Romance Novel Sales in 2013: $1.1 billion
That’s roughly one-fifth of all adult-fiction sales.

Voracious Readers
46% of romance consumers read at least one book per week.
In comparison, the typical American reads five books a year.
Romance Readers At A Glance
Age: 30-54
Education: College-educated
Average Income: $55K
Relationship Status: 59% are coupled, 84% are women, 16% are men
*Romance readers are more likely than the general population to be currently married or living with a partner

Top 10 Fiction Genres
1. $1.09 billion, Thrillers
2.$1.08 billion, Romance
3. $811 million, General
4.$548 million, Literary
5.$442 million, Mystery & Detective
6.$377 million, Fantasy
7.$185 million, Comics & Graphic Novels
8.$156 million, Historical
9.$143 million, Contemporary Women
10.$113 million,Action & Adventure

Reading Behavior
29% of romance readers usually carry a romance novel with them.
Romance readers typically begin and finish a romance novel within 7 days.
On average romance readers read more than one book:
A Week—25.5%
Every Week—20.9%
Every 2-3 Weeks—17.8%
A Month—16.1%
Sources: Love Between the Sheets Publicity, Nielsen, Bookstats, PEW Research Center, RWA,Entertainment Weekly, Author Earnings’ July 2014 Author Earnings Report, Harlequin

 

All I want for Christmas…

merry everything card

I’ve been told I can be *challenging* to buy for. Ahem. Friends, family, and Secret Santa coworkers  keep asking me what tangible, miscellaneous stuff I want for Christmas, but honestly, I have everything I need. I’m saving for a new camera and a vacation or two, and I have more than enough stuff. And my pat reply of “world peace and a winning lottery ticket” seems to drift further from the realm of possibility each passing day.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few real Christmas wishes…

Wish #1:  I want my son to get into the Engineering/Tech Magnet School of his dreams. The school is beyond amazing, and my bright yet easily bored son could take classes that make him salivate—coding, web & game design, Lego robotics, and so many more. The kid was so awe-struck when we toured the school I thought he’d blow like one of those baking soda and vinegar volcanoes. (They don’t do cheesy science projects like that at this school. Think rockets, forensics, and green architecture.) The place even has an official Minecraft club. Middle school is hard enough, and this school could give him what he needs to survive thrive.

He has the grades, test scores, aptitude, and desire to excel there—but none of that matters. It’s a lottery to get in. Pure. Damned. Luck. Letters will be mailed January 6th—please, oh please Santa, let us receive a “congratulations!” note.

Wish #2:  An agent would be lovely, Santa dear. I’ve been a very good girl this year. But, see, I don’t want just an agent, I want the right agent. When I first began this quest, I assumed I’d be thrilled with any NY agent who showed an interest. But now I’ve come to realize the agent hunt is a lot like online dating. I need to examine out each perspective agent’s profile, and dig deep into what she loves/loathes/makes her tick. We’re talking long-term relationship, here. We need to mesh in just the right way, to appreciate the other’s sense of humor, work ethic, and values. We need to feel comfortable communicating the good and the bad, to not be quick to judge, and to listen with an open mind. Oh yeah, and she has to get my stuff.

I found my true love years ago. I believe my agent match is out there somewhere.
::waving hand:: Here I am!

Wish #3:  Time. (Cue Culture Club or Bangles ear worm…now.) This is a gift I can partially grant myself. Wake an hour earlier each morning. Step away from the internet. I’m lucky enough to have an office with a door. I need to go in there and shut that door more often and not let myself feel guilty about the laundry or the cat puke or what’s for dinner hours from now. I must stop worrying and planning so much about WHAT IF’S and just DO IT. I can’t make time, but if I search hard enough, I can find that elusive little bugger.

Best writer's gift ever--the Gift of TIme. Thanks to the always clever Debbie Ridpath OhiThanks to the always clever Debbie Ridpath Ohi for this *perfect* gift idea. If you visit her inkygirl.com site you can download a high-resolution version to print out and give to the writer in your life. Or just forward this idea to a loved one for a subtle hint at what you really want for Christmas and beyond.

 

How about you? Have any holiday wishes grand or small?

Presenting Three Minus One: Parents’ Stories of Love and Loss

I’m published. No, it’s not my women’s fiction novel…yet... I’m honored to have When Grace is Gone included in the anthology Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss.

The loss of a child is unlike any other—a devastating blow that sends out a shockwave of pain and guilt that begins with the parents and reverberates through their entire community. Yet the majority of those who suffer such a loss, especially mothers, often do so in silence, convinced that their grief is theirs to bear alone. Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss , edited by Sean Hanish and Brooke Warner, changes all that by allowing parents who have lost their children to stillbirth, miscarriage, and neonatal death speak out through raw essays, exquisite poems, beautiful paintings, and stunning photography—and break this poisonous silence one and for all.

Inspired by the film RETURN TO ZERO—the first Hollywood film to tackle the taboo subject of stillbirth—Three Minus One is a poignant, inspiring anthology that offers much-needed insight into the unique, shattering, and life-changing experience of losing a child.

In her poem “Executioner,” Heather Bell relates the difficulty of performing even the most mundane of tasks—a trip to the grocery store—after losing her baby: “And the baby is dead but / we need lettuce in the house, maybe some bread / for morning toast so I am at the store touching the potatoes at the spine, / the slim wrist of carrot,” the poem begins. In her essay “The Almost-Fives,” Abbie L. Smith tells of the nauseating envy she feels at seeing an acquaintance’s daughter—a child who was born just weeks before Smith’s son was stillborn. “They don’t know what that child does to me . . . and let’s not forget the effect of her mother, who has, for nearly five years, gone on to enjoy what I have lost,” she writes.

In his own story, meanwhile, co-editor Hanish describes how he’s tried to recall what he did in the moments after his wife called to tell him that his unborn son was gone—has tried to piece it into a coherent narrative—but hasn’t been able to. “You can’t glue the broken glass back together as it’s breaking,” he explains.

Groundbreaking and revelatory, Three Minus One is a soul-baring journey through love and loss—and a ray of hope for the many parents out there in search of answers, understanding, and healing.

***********

While most of you may be more familiar with my wittier attempts at fiction, this is my heart laid bare…and barren.

My book arrived Thursday afternoon, minutes before I had to leave for work. I had just enough time to rip open the manilla envelope, trace my fingers across the cover, and flip to find my pages inside. I hadn’t let myself believe story had actually been selected, that I was to be included in such a powerful collection, until I actually saw my words in print.

They were there—just below my name.  Each and every raw word.

grace is gone snap

Years after my last miscarriage, the things I’d never been able to say to others, to communicate properly—the devastation, the anger, and the guilt—had poured out of me in a torrent for no particular reason that I could discern except that it was a beautiful Sunday morning and I was finally okay with my life and it was time to let it all go.

Once the words had been freed, my soul felt pounds lighter, as if the story formed a paper lantern encouraging the spirits to drift towards the heavens—gone but never forgotten.

I posted the first version of When Grace is Gone on my blog back in 2011, and later on Blog Her.  I was overwhelmed—no stunned—by the touching comments left and connection so many readers felt. I wasn’t alone. Others had been through this. Some were still mired in heartbreak. Some, like me,  had waded through the devastation and made it to shore.

***********

I can’t “review” this book.  Ithree minus one quotet’s haunting and heartbreakingly beautiful. The amazing pieces I’ve read so far made me set down the book and dig out the tissues. But if you’ve been through loss or miscarriage, this book may be for you. If someone you know is piecing themselves back together after shattering, this book may be for them. If you want to know what your friends or loved ones endured but just couldn’t express, this may be for you.

I know how much this mean to the writers. These aren’t just stories, they are slivers of broken hearts, and the struggles to mend them.

I’d like to thank each and every contributor for allowing us a window into their soul.

May peace be with you all.

Now, buy the book, y’all.

 

Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss

About the movie RETURN TO ZERO:

Based on the true story from writer, director and producer Sean Hanish’s own personal experiences, Return to Zero follows the story of Maggie (Minne Driver) and Aaron (Paul Adelstein) who are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first child. Just a few weeks before their son’s due date, Maggie and Aaron receive devastating news a heartbeat is no longer detectable in the womb.
As the couple attempt to go on with their lives, they quickly discover they cannot escape their grief and their relationship is forever changed by their loss. With infidelity and separation at their heels, Maggie discovers she is pregnant again, and the two must reunite to face another turbulent and terrifying pregnancy that tests their strength and love. The film, starring Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Minnie Driver, Paul Adelstein, Alfred Molina,  and Connie Nielsen, debuts on Lifetime Saturday, May 17, at 8pm ET/PT.

 

 

Three Minus One

I’ve Entered the Fight—errr—SUBMISSION Club

A few readers have noticed that I haven’t been writing about . . . well, writing lately. Yes, life is busy (you know how long it took to make all that Minecraft Halloween/birthday stuff?) but trust me, I’ve been 95% in writing mode.

Technically, in submission mode.

Yup, I’ve tossed my baby out there. I’ve entered the Fight Club.

Errr— I mean—The SUBMISSION CLUB.

Wait, that still sounds like something from Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s not. I swear.

For those not in the business, once a writer has slaved over every single comma, dash, and precious word in their manuscript, they submit it to agents, who then submit it to publishers. Someday. Maybe.

A super-quick rundown of the submission process:

  1. Finish the damn book. Perfect the damn book. Love it as much as a child.
  2. Write a query letter—250 titillating words that must tempt an agent into requesting more of your work. This can take weeks months and dozens of revisions.
  3. Write the book synopsis. This means taking those 100,000 words (400 pages) you ever so carefully arranged and condense them down to 3-5 pages. You must include the entire plot, all major conflicts, characters, personality, oh, and if you can write it so it conveys the tone of your novel,  that would be great as well.   …weeks later…   Now, slash it down to a one page version, too.
  4. Carefully research literary agents. Scour writer’s forums. Winnow down the list of thousands of agents to a few hundred who actually seek your genre. Check agency websites, pour over agent blogs, Google interviews, follow twitter feeds. Make pretty, color-coded spreadsheets.
  5. Decide which agents you will query first. Decide how many you will query at a time. Study their individual submission guidelines. Yes, it’s different for every single one. Adjust your query letter, synopsis, bio, and sample chapters accordingly. Follow every single direction. If you don’t, you will be rejected. Immediately.
  6. Once you have that submission package PERFECT—you must hit SEND.  I tend to hover over the button for a half-hour, then go check everything for the tenth time. PRESS SEND. (My heart is racing just writing about this moment. For real.)
  7. Wait.
  8. Wait.
  9. Wait.
  10. Check email every 5 minutes.
  11. Wait.
  12. Wait.
  13. This waiting can go on forever. Okay, not forever, but most agents say they respond in between 4 – 12 weeks. Some respond only if interested.
  14. Wait.
  15. Deal with rejections. (Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller The Help—60 rejections. I know many writers who have kept going after hundreds. It happens to even the best of books and writers.)
  16. Wait.
  17. And then—open an email from an agent requesting more pages!!!!!  They might ask for a partial manuscript or a full (whoohoo!) or anywhere in between. Do a Snoopy Dance.
  18. Repeat steps 6 – 15.
  19. Keep going. Go back to step 5. Repeat.
  20. Achieve goal. *The goal is to acquire an agent, who will then sell your book to a publisher. This entire process can take years. That’s just how it goes. (So please stop asking me if my book will be in the bookstore by Christmas.) You have to want it. You have to be brave. You have to be slightly crazy.*

Okay, so that wasn’t so super-quick, but when you wonder if I chow on bon bons while watching HGTV all day, the answer is a resounding NO.  (::sigh:: Sometimes I DO watch HGTV. It keeps me company.)

That’s what’s going on in my world. But I can’t really blog about it.

the first rule of Submission Club

Agents are pretty smart and savvy cookies. Agents read blogs. Agents check out social media. They know their way around Google. One does not want to upset, confuse, or irritate said agents. That means querying writers must keep their mouths shut and fingers still—at least in reference to discussing/ranting about the trials and tribulations of the querying process.

In addition, other writer friends read blogs/follow us on social media, and no one likes a braggart. Or someone constantly whining about rejection.

A few stats for your reading pleasure~

Literary Agent Carly Watters kindly posted her 2012 query stats on her blog:

Queries received: Approximately 6,000

Partial manuscript requests: 189 (She looked at a lot of partials because she was building her list. Anything that she thought had potential to be a fit she requested.)

Full manuscript requests: 30

New clients from the slush pile: 7 (That’s a lot. She won’t be signing that many this coming year.)

Kristen Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency (and the fab Pub Rants Blog)  posted her astounding 2012 stats as well:

32,000+ or some big number…
estimated number of queries read and responded to. Down from last year as they closed queries in the month of December.

81
full manuscripts requested and read (up from 69 last year).

16
number of new clients

That’s 16 new people signed. Out of 32,000+. Yeah. I’m not even going to work those percentages.

Sooo, dear friends and family, there will be times when I feel like I’ve had the snot beat out me as the rejections roll in (if only it was by someone as hot as Brad Pitt), and there will be moments when I’m riding on an adrenalin high after a win (a.k.a. an agent request). I’m not showing signs of bipolar disorder. I don’t need prescription medication.

Let the nail biting begin. Wait. I don’t bite my nails. Maybe I should start. I don’t smoke. I don’t run. I eat chocolate. I do yoga sometimes. Send chocolate and yoga studio memberships, please. And wine! I’ll just be hanging out here nibbling dark chocolate and chugging sipping chardonnay while getting on my om.

yoga wine chocolate

And plotting my next book.

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If you’d like to see a humorous run-down, check this out on Writer’s Relief:

The Submission Process, In Reaction GIFs

Deciding your work is ready for the world to see:

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READ MORE HERE

 

 

Currently. The end-of-summer edition.

 florida keys, hammock, dolphins

Reading

I’m in a very rare and tough position—I’ve started two books, and I can’t seem to get into either of them. I’ve halfheartedly read the first chapters of AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED twice. Though Khaled Hosseini’s two previous novels left me breathless with their dangerous beauty, I just can’t make the leap into this one. I’ve also picked up one of my favorite women’s fiction author’s summer release, and I seem to be reading it in a daze. I feel horribly guilty. I want to shout to the books and their authors, “It’s not you, it’s ME!” 

I have a list waiting on my kindle, but nothing is grabbing me. Between books is a dangerous time for me. Need help.

Listening to

Ear worm time!

 

I’ve been singing this song from Grease 2 all morning, now you can, too.

Today is Kiddo’s first day of 4th grade. {gulp} How is this possible? Although he is always up by seven, this morning I had to drag him from between the sheets—literally. I’m not ready for the end of playtime, relaxing, and pressure-free afternoons. I’m not ready to face the homework melt-downs, the drama, the tween angst. Fingers crossed this year will start better than last year. {If you want a clue what I’m talking about, check out my post THE BIGGER HE GETS, THE HARDER I FALL, now up at Kludgy Mom’s Best of the Bonfire series. And vote for me. Please?}

Thinking about

My manuscript’s next step. I’d still love some more beta readers {hint, hint} but I’m not sure how much more I can do with it. Is it ready? Is it good enough? I’m somehow desperate to start the eternally painful querying process and prepping for the requisite months (or years) of nail-biting and rejection. But I don’t think my query letter is perfect. Yes, it must be perfect. Yes, this is an impossible feat. I’m trying to convince myself to cool my heels a bit longer so I can take a Submissions that Sell online class. Patience, right?

Watching

Game of Thrones (season 1). I cannot read epic fantasy, but the hubby is in love with acclaimed series. Since a fanatical fantasy lover and fellow book nerd assured me that this TV series is actually almost as good as the books, I’ve been watching, immersing myself in this mythical world. Season 1 has proved that there’s no way I could have read the immense tombs, but I still love a great fantasy movie or TV series. Season 2 DVDs are already waiting by the TV.

At least now I get all the GOT & George R.R. Martin memes going around.

Bummed out on

My eyes. To celebrate my latest birthday, I bought my first pair of reading glasses. Granted, they are weak ones from the dollar store, but I own my first pair of glasses. I feel old. My days are spent immersed in words—on paper, my kindle, or the computer screen—and when they are blurry, my life seems unclear. Night driving and overall brightness have also bothered me lately, and I know I must get my vision checked out. I’m not sure if I’m embarrassed or proud to admit I’ve never had my eyes examined as an adult. Probably the former. Promise not to laugh if I’m caught wearing big honking frames in a few days.

Loving

My end-of summer memories. We took our first vacation in AGES. Though hubby has lived in Florida since he was a toddler, he’d never made it down to the Keys. Thanks to some amazing friends (with a timeshare—the BEST kind of friends to have) we spent four nights in paradise. By day we explored pristine beaches, meandered through a sweltering Key West, and glided through turquoise waters. We rented a boat and everyone (even the five-year-old) snorkeled along a shallow coral reef. We surprised a sea turtle, watched a hammerhead chase a stingray in the shallows (I was in the water on the other side of a tiny shoal), and delighted as a pod of curious dolphins surrounded our boat.

Dreamy days followed by stunning tropical sunsets and wonderful company. Perfect.

marathon sunset boat

How’s your summer finishing up?