Sweet Success

A quick review of my checkoff list from June:

Point 2: It happened. I had a whole week on my own…where I did everything but sit down and write. Go figure.

Point 3: June 30th was my deadline for finishing Dragonfly Prince. Well, I edited like a madwoman, chopping out chunks and chunks. I had to keep a document open to paste what I cut out because I knew I was going crazy, but it was the good sort of crazy. The ending became more succinct and action-packed because of it.

But did I finish it? I did. I did it! No lie: it was down to the wire, though. On Saturday, June 29th, I completed the last ten pages, cleaned up the paragraphs and phrases trailing at the end, and printed it all out…452 pages.

Now I’m reading the physical copy and making touch-ups. As I’m reading it, I keep thinking, How cool is this story? Then I question, Why I’m being so conceited? Is it really that good? And then I giggle to myself, answering, Yeah! It is! And the fact that I’m answering my own questions makes my opinion altogether suspect. 😛

My next goal? (So glad you asked.) Finish the touch-ups and hunt for a beta/critique partner. Any takers?

TARDIS Mk VII
TARDIS Mk VII (Photo credit: Rooners Toy Photography)

Point 4: My baby sister is married. I’m still reeling over that statement. It was a wonderful, wonderful ceremony and reception. The highlight of the wedding was an awesome TARDIS groom’s cake made by Kristen of Home Slice Cakes. It was other-worldly. I’m serious. The cake part was melt-in-your-mouth fudge-y chocolate with thick layers of rich fudge frosting. And there was no fondant involved in its creation. All buttercream artistry. Talk about true cake decorating genius. I was enraptured. I ate five pieces in the week I was home. (That’s ‘pieces’ and not servings.) So…one of my goals for July is to do more cardio and cut out the sweets. Otherwise, I’m going to be exploring more dimensions than Doctor Who.

Point 5: Did you enjoy going with me on my research trip for Book 2 last month? I hope it was a pleasant experience. I’ve noticed a good amount of blog friends are taking a break from posting over the summer. I completely understand. I’ve thought about doing it myself, but I think I need the accountability right now. Since I plan to place my book on many agents’ virtual desks this fall, I’m intent on keeping to my posting schedule each month—to the best of my ability. So, expect updates on Wednesdays. I’m still here…writing, reading, and commenting.

(Point 6 is missing. 😦 Hopefully, I’ll be able to tell you more about it later.)

P.S. The newlyweds actually called home during their honeymoon to request someone freeze some TARDIS cake for them—you know, like that top layer of the wedding cake? Request denied. The TARDIS will have no foreseeable future visits.

Monday, Monday

Do you think-write out your disappointments? I do. Here’s a therapeutic piece I wrote to get over something I experienced about a year ago. I wasn’t ready to admit to it at the time. I’m over it now, so it’s time to share. It’s entitled, Monday, Monday because that was the day I received the call.

"Restart Button" offered by U.S. Sec...
“Restart Button” offered by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Switzerland March 6, 2009. Department photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Sometimes I need a restart button. Not like the one Hillary Clinton gave to the Russian Foreign Minister in 2009–preferably something less “nuke the world”-ish. Just let me crawl under my desk and sob. I feel really worthless. I know I’m not, but rational thought isn’t prevailing at the moment.

“I received a call from a representative who wanted me to consider his publishing company for my book. Consider? Uh, yeah, I’ll consider! The question I asked was: “Well, what does that mean?” (Yeah, great question, amateur.)

“Let me backtrack just a tad. I did submit my book to this publisher, but not really of my own volition. It is, in fact, the only publishing company I’ve submitted anything to. You see, I was told I was being too much of a perfectionist in crafting my queries to specific agents I’d researched. But then I kind of sent my manuscript to show I was not being picky (which means, yes, I’m OCD and I just went the other extreme on a dare). I didn’t really expect anything to come of it. I am so, so naive.

“After the call from the publishing company, I phoned one of my best friends and had a meltdown over the phone. On the surface, I was so elated that it was positive feedback! Beneath that, I knew it was just an offer to vanity publish. (I’d read the fine print of this company’s procedures.) Then I messaged a self-pubbed writer. His was historical fiction, so I didn’t think his experience would really be the same as mine. He replied, “I was ‘taken by them too’.” *Cue the shoulder slump*

“I’m supposed to put this under my belt and continue on, right? I’m supposed to view this as a profitable learning experience. I just need a blanket I can hide under for a few decades. I think I’ll be okay by then.

“I know I’m overreacting. And I keep asking myself, Why am I letting this affect me? It’s not like a doled out the cash (which isn’t really a testament to my business savvy as much as the realization that I don’t have it to dole out). It’s not like I got burned. But it hurts, and I just need to acknowledge that.

“After collecting my shattered ego, I emailed the company, stating I wanted to look into other options. I’ve become calm about it, though I’m not over crying about it inside. And it’s a good thing that this happened. This is a clear indication I’m not ready on so many levels. I have a lot to learn.”

Have you ever had something like this happen to you–something that wasn’t bad, exactly, but disappointing all the same?

Happy Copyrighting!

I looked up January holidays and wacky observances—‘cause I like that kind of stuff—and I learned that today is Copyright Law Day. I had no idea we celebrated this. Did you? And, hey, Copyright Law is definitely something I appreciate! So, yay for copyrighting! And yay for everybody who remembers how to spell ‘copyright’ correctly. I don’t always. It’s like ‘sleight,’ as in ‘sleight of hand.’ I want to pronounce it “slayt.” I can’t help it. Or ‘bear’ in ‘bear with me.’ Isn’t that a grumpy animal that can kill you with one powerful swipe of his claw? Please don’t bear with me that way.

U.S. Copyright Law states that your work is your intellectual property. The law discourages the copying of your work, but it doesn’t enforce anything if it’s stolen. For this reason writers take the precautionary step of formally registering their manuscripts with the U.S. Copyright Office before they begin the query process. I’m not going to pretend to know what’s the best practice, but it seems to me that expenses could pile up if the writer decides to change the manuscript, say, 4,000 times. (I’m on my 1,346th draft—just thinking out loud here.) So, how does that work exactly? Do you just register manuscript amendments? [Amendment 53,602: Cedric is not the bad guy anymore. He was framed by Phyllis, who is now mentally unstable (see Amendment 49,979) due to the demise of her brother, Mark (see Amendment 49,733) when the Ferris Wheel exploded (see Amendment 12,022).]

It’s a risky business writing amazing things down that people can steal. *Sigh* It’s a risk I face daily. That brings me to a quote for the day: “With great imagination comes great delusion.” I hope nobody else said that. I’m thinking of copyrighting it.

In other news, Earth’s perihelion occurs at 11:00 p.m. tonight where I am! I’m going to celebrate it by sleeping.

Whoo Hoo! Go, Failure!

You won’t ever succeed until you have continually failed.

This was the advice I was given about sending out my queries for Dragonfly Prince. Isn’t it encouraging? It’s no wonder I’ve been hitting disillusionment hard. I think it’s also because I’ve been reading fine print. Stuff like,

“In publishing your book, it is necessary, to the extent that any rights apply, that you waive any and all foreseeable inconveniences to Filmore Paukits Publishing, Inc., including but not limited to digital rights, moral rights, your right to any specific point of view, your right to any values you might hold dear, your right to think, your right to breathe, etc., where at all advantageous to the marketing philosophies of our company.”

I realize that the point of a Grant of Rights has to do with advertising. Specifically, it allows marketing to present my book in a way that’s considered the most appealing. Still, it has me thinking about the rights I might be asked to give up. I want to have a say in what the cover illustrates. I want to know my work retains the spirit I wrote it in. I want to have the ability to keep someone from editing out an aspect that, to me, is crucial to the story, replacing analytical content with sensational nihility that I’ll regret until my dying day. I’m not talking about editing; I am concerned about bias and censoring. It’s wrong to take an artist’s work and conform it to current views – which change – and stymie the author’s true views – which should remain the author’s prerogative to change.

I think publishers nowadays are squeamish. And they should be. It’s a tough market. No book company wants to make decisions right now that might negatively impact its reputation. That’s why a good literary agent is important. If I’m going to make the effort of catching a publishing company’s attention, I want to do it well and efficiently, while being aware of what I’m getting into.

I’ve sent out four queries. Yes, four. When I find an agent that piques my interest, I read everything I can find about her. (Yes, four ‘hers.’) I make a list of her literary interests, quirks and good qualities. I read over her book deals. I weigh in the things I don’t care for. I ask myself, “Do I think I could work with this agent? Is she too (I go through many adjectives here)?” I’m basically investing in a relationship before I’ve composed the letter! I have to stop kidding myself. This is called finding any excuse to drag my feet. I can’t become callous to rejection if I don’t make the effort to be rejected!

I think the beauty of this whole endeavor is: I’m living in a time when there isn’t any avenue of book publishing that I can’t explore on my own. I need to give this agent search my best effort and be patient. At this point the only thing that’s holding me back is me.

The One Where My Heart Bleeds When It’s Broken

I truly thought it was the real thing… not like last time. My heart went pitter-patter. I daydreamed of the conversations about the future we would have, the promises we would make once things progressed. I felt prepared this time. I felt like I’d really straightened up a lot of issues beforehand. I approached with confidence, but with a clear sense that I should be completely open to what might happen. I allowed myself to be vulnerable… and I was rejected.

I invested a chunk of time into that query letter!

(Sigh.)

Okay so, looking back, I made some mistakes.

It was a big mistake not to write my letter in the same style as my story. The query was proper and respectful… and rather infested with that childlike transparency that screams, “I’m an amateur!”

I had also decided not to rely on great hooks, which are part of my style, as well. Somewhere I got the impression agents and publishers want the black and white of the story, not the hype and talk up. It was painful, and my sentences came out haltingly. I smoothed them over to the best of my ability. Still, it wasn’t me. Why did I send the query out knowing that? I really thought that’s why query letters were so difficult to write.

“There’s vulnerability in sending a query letter.”

I remember reading something to that effect; and I certainly felt vulnerable, sending letters that seemed to be dressed in a dull brown interview suit with the lapels severely pressed just so.

In the midst of my morose state, I happened upon an article where an expressive agent included her description of a good query. And I realized… *gasp* Agents are people, too!

I know, I was shocked. You mean, when an agent is perusing a list of books and summaries, he/she wants the info to persuade him/her that the rest of the story is just as appealing? Wait; I do that, too!

You know that request some agents make to include, “where you are going with your story”? I think this is misleading. Think of the boy in Princess Bride, who stops the grandpa to ask, “Is this a kissing book?” Notice, the grandpa never answers. The boy doesn’t really want an answer. He’s just skeptical. He’s afraid he’ll be pulled in; he might actually like the story, kissing and all. We’re all cynics, callous to the age-old archetypes. With the myriad, dry bones queries an agent digs through, it has to be desensitizing. Poor things, those agents. It must be a merciless existence, day in and day out, looking for that one… or two… or two hundred. Now I will take a moment to sympathize. (Cue violin music.)

As you can tell, I’m working through the phases swiftly. The shock was short-lived. I’ve had a visit with denial and moved on to anger. You can see the “clouds in my coffee” dispersing as I make pathetic jabs at agent-kind with my quill.

Now what?

Well, I’ve scrapped my dull brown suit approach and written what I’ve wanted to say all along. It took a couple of minutes, as apposed* to the two months it took me to write that second query. It’s direct. It’s appealing. It’s alot like my story.

I also went back to my novel and scrutinized the beginning again. One thing that has haunted me is the pace of the prologue. It’s a brief series of journal entries. I wanted it to be meandering, like a journal usually is. Meandering is not the way to begin a story in the present fast-food fiction climate. I had a genius moment and chopped up the beginning to follow a new angle that is more concise and spirited. (Click here if you’d like to see the old version. I haven’t updated it to the new, improved version yet, so feel free to ‘tsk-tsk’ over it.)

Voila.

I think my heart has healed enough to search for my shining agent again.

 

*Btw, why is WP telling me this word is spelled incorrectly? The two months are not ‘opposing’ the couple of minutes, right?

This *is* the Manuscript You Were Looking For

After looking over client lists of agents to get a taste of what literary agencies are endorsing, I’m thinking it’s time I learned the Jedi mind trick. Have you read some authors’ bios lately?

Initial. Initial. Smarmy was terminally ill from the age of two, which explains much of the philosophical trauma he endured as a child. In his teens, he established his own business, ‘Nightshade Window Treatments,’ from which a friendly cult began, dedicated to educating others about the advantages of poisonous vegetation. A part-time volunteer for the Association for the Beautification of Carnivorous Reptiles, he paints abstract portraits on crocodile teeth to help raise funds and awareness. He has a pet platypus that travels with him to book signings because ‘Curby’ won’t sleep unless he’s wrapped in Smarmy’s silk scarf. Smarmy always wears this scarf; it marks his triumph over his 14-year addiction to Ace of Base.

Okay, I would love to read this in a real bio. My own will include my short stint as a bad fortune-teller and my award for being the worst slob at camp. But I can’t compete. Padawan training, you are my only hope.

The Query Beast & the Pitiless Synopsis

I grabbed a copy of Writer’s Market in diligent anticipation of something wonderful happening to my manuscript. I had the impression WM was more of an instruction manual for building a catapult that would launch my book into some bookmaker’s factory, where it would serendipitously deposit it for cloning, duplicating hardbound editions of my lovely child of script to reach millions of consumers, one delicious copy at a time. But no, Writer’s Market had the audacity to be realistic and list all these weird, freakish tasks for me to do. I feel like I’m applying for knighthood here or embarking, like Jason, on the maiden voyage to return with the Golden Contract, taking on the Query, the Summary and the formidable Synopsis in just the first leg of the quest.

Ship Garthsnaid, ca 1920s

Before now I’d only heard about the Synopsis, the Greek monster found near the churning Charybdis of Literary Works that Failed. Her ghastly, steely teeth take your beautiful creation and smash it down to 5-ish pages; her razor-sharp scales torture and twist it into 3 helpless sheets to the wind; and her five hundred lashing tails chop and mutilate it into 1 to 1 ½ pages of ground up chicken feed. She knows no mercy. She returns to finish the job, leaving you with a huddled, whimpering paragraph. That’s the Synopsis. Don’t be confused by her sister, Summary, who lures you in with her wily vices, telling you, “This is just a teaser.”

Yeah, I’m still trying to write a one-paragraph synopsis of my story. I return again and again and can’t seem to conquer it. Of course, I will be diplomatic when sending it to the literary agent. My query letter will say something like, “Oh, that was so much fun! You’re fabulous for wanting me to send you this synopsis! Can I grovel at your feet to read my manuscript? Thanks!”

And yes, you read correctly; the singular of ‘agents’ is ‘agent.’ I have only mustered the courage to send a query to one agent. I might as well drown in the aftermath of the Synopsis.