Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A bit more pontification...be forewarned...

I had to write this letter today to one of my favorite restaurants...

"Dear sir or madam,
Not sure who in your organization gets this, but I am launching a campaign against the Good 'n' Plenty after the horrendous display of animal cruelty that my family and I were subjected to last night.  One of your employees, a dishwasher from the uniform, I think, removed one of his dogs from the premises.  He carried the large Doberman with two hands by the back skin.  Not the nape of the neck, as most mammals carry their litter, but by the back.  The dog was obviously in pain, yelping and trying to bite the owner.  Once the man put the dog behind the fence (in the house located to your restaurant's right), he kicked the dog.  An eyewitness confronted your employee and was rudely berated by your employee who claimed the dog was fine and had not been abused at all.  My three children witnessed the whole exchange, including the cruelty to the dog, and were in tears.  I went in to complain to the host, who actually defended the employee by saying he babies that dog and that carrying the dog by the back is not cruel.  I had to explain to your host why it was.

The fact that no one inside your restaurant cares demonstrates a tolerance level for animal cruelty that I will not abide by.  The fact that your employees are so rude as to confront patrons demonstrates your lack of commitment to a family environment - a necessity for a "family" restaurant.  And finally the fact that my children were scarred by witnessing this event means that I can no longer return without the horrid memories of that abused Doberman coming back to them.

I hope in the future that employee is swiftly terminated, and that the Good 'n' Plenty goes out of its way to reassure its patrons that the restaurant only hires employees who adhere to the family-friendly culture."

I'm writing this in the blog for one reason:  the time for idle complacency is over in the internet age.  Twenty years ago a person or two might've complained, or written a letter as I have.  But today there's no excuse to take it further.  Those of you who live in the Delaware, PA, MD region may have heard of this restaurant - The Good 'n' Plenty, and trust me, it always seemed to be a fine restaurant with great food.  But like many things that seem great on the surface there are flaws hidden beneath.  I don't know what action the restaurant will take, but I'm told Lancaster County in general is very tolerant to animal cruelty.  In fact, when the patron mentioned above threatened to call the police, the employee replied "Go ahead and call them.  This is Lancaster County."  I'm not making that up.

So maybe this can serve as a wakeup call.  I will be notifying the Humane League of Lancaster County as well, but if this is rampant so close to my home, I feel I have to do something.  

As I said, this is no longer an age where one person writes an innocuous letter and the matter disappears. This is the age of the masses, when one incident can explode into revealing the truth about an organization and be heard about the world in a matter of days.  So please, pass this on to people in the area that may know of this restaurant.  Get our voices heard that we will not tolerate this, and let's make a change quickly before that dog and others like him are seriously wounded or killed.

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Meet the New Critique Group!

Wanted to introduce my new critique group members, all of whom are VERY cool, very open, and excellent critiquers.  Don't know the value of a good critique group?  Check out Mary Kaley's blog on Critiquing.  I posted a guest blog there a while ago and am now even more convinced that a critique group is ESSENTIAL to quality writing.

Anyway, here's my group, and a lovely bunch of ladies they are:

Ilene Wong - writing one of the most unique YA novels I've read (follow her at @IleneYWong).  She's repped by Andrea Brown, an agency I hope to get into (query letter went out last night!)

Helen Kitrosser - a very insightful and witty non-fiction writer, great critiquer.  Soon to be featured in COBBLESTONE magazine!  (Ok, so she queried, but hey, this is OPTIMISM ABOUNDS, right?)

K.M. Walston (Kate) - the PUBLISHED author in our group, unfortunately was unable to make our first meeting, but her critique of my YA book floored me and honored me like no other.  Check out her blog here and definitely check out her new book CRACKED, due out in 2012... Follow her at @KMWalton1

Kelly Lyman & Christine Danek - I introduce them together cuz they're a pair.  They actually do seem like sisters from another...uh, mutha, I guess (doesn't rhyme...)  But they also are YA writers with some VERY unique ideas and stories.  Just gotta get them to write together... ;)  Follow them at 
@kellylyman and @mywritingjourne respectively.

Suzanne Gaadt - another non-fiction writer of little known women lost in the annals of a male-dominated history.  Great stuff, and soon to be mandatory reading for my 2 daughters.  

Leigh Ann Tyson - the mystery woman.  Haven't met her yet, but is working with Random House on her latest historical fiction picture book about a mule learning he WAS Big Enough.  Optimism.  She'll fit in perfectly here.  Can't wait to meet her.

And finally, Aimee Rodriguez - writer of middle grade fantasy, terrific ideas and middle grade voice.  Will be fun following her story through.

So those are the women I'll be spending one Sunday with every month, hoping to refine my new project "SOLARIS" into a huge hit and helping each of them on their way to published glory.

Meanwhile, we're all back to pounding the pavement for agents and publishers, but focused on getting our words down.

Next on the blog - what the heck SOLARIS is all about!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The future starts now!

Got a request from someone who labelled themselves a "future illustrator of children's books".  I quickly and gently corrected her that she IS an illustrator of children's books, just not a published one yet.  Mentality has everything to do with it, and the words you put out there go a long way towards convincing yourself that it's real.  And let's face it, if you don't believe it, no one else will.

I used to think that a writer was someone who was published and has his work read by strangers throughout the world.  Then a realized a writer is someone who writes.  That's it.  Whether or not anyone ever reads what they write, they're still a writer.  Being paid or not paid to do it doesn't diminish it.

So if you're just starting out and you're thinking "Someday I'm gonna be a writer" or worse, "someday I'm gonna be a REAL writer", stop right there.  Change the words.  "I AM a writer.  A REAL writer."  Then, all you have to do is get someone to read it and buy it to be a published writer.

Oh, and by the way, being a writer is hard work.  Never forget that.  Writing is re-writing, as someone once said.  So don't go thinking that because you're calling yourself a writer or an illustrator that you're set and the magic will start happening.  The "secret" to success is perseverance, meaning making mistakes and learning from them, growing in your style, and not just writing and thinking good thoughts.   But that's what being a writer means.

So WRITE ON!  And don't forget to check out The Varcolac - my on-line ever growing blovel (blog novel)!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The New Blovel Starts!

As promised, here is my first chapter for my new blovel (blogging novel) The Varcolac.  Take a look!

I'm tired of waiting around for agents and publishers and I don't have the money to self publish.  So here's a way to combine critique groups (feel free to leave critiquing comments) while having my work read by a larger audience than four or five (like maybe ten people!)

The story is about teens who suffer from Clinical Lycanthropy, convinced they turn into animals when the moon rises full, and the leader of a Lyncanthropy Fighting racket, The Varcolac, who captures them and fights them for sport.  The hero, Dominic, must make his escape and get the help he needs to lead a normal life, before the Varcolac has him kill again.  Unfortunately for him, Dominic is the Varcolac's best fighter, and is making him millions.

Let me know what you think.  Cool stuff abounds!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I've been dumped!

Sent to the minors!  Excused!

Ok, it wasn't that bad.  My agent, Caitlin, whom I still love dearly, and I have split up.  Personally I think she found another writer but just doesn't want to tell me.  Her excuse is the old "I need to spend more time with my family so I'm reducing my client list" thing.  If only I had a dime for every time I heard that.  I'd have...um...a dime.

Anyway, I am now a free agent, looking for an agent.  As it were.  And am I crying, drowning my sorrows is large quantities of alcohol and narcotics?  YES!  But that was yesterday.  Today I'm back to business, finding my old agents lists and publishers, and getting busy.  This book WILL BE SOLD DAMMIT!

Sorry.  Didn't mean to cuss.  This is a kid friendly blog.  As in "hey kid, want some candy?"

NONONONO.  I did NOT just say that on my blog.  I meant no cussing.

Anyway, at first the news that Caitlin kindly delivered to me on the phone (as opposed to email) was devastating.  I mean, it's been 20+ years since I've been dumped.  I know Caitlin and I can still be friends, and like, she can see other writers and I can see other agents, but still, you wonder:  am I that much of a screw up?  Or worse, am I just that mediocre?

No!  Caitlin's reasons were sound, her criticisms of me were well founded, and I know she had to make the call to several other clients so I knew I didn't screw any one particular thing up.  She just didn't think it was fair to keep me waiting months on end for some feedback (not like I really, ya know, paid attention or anything).  So it was all cool.

Thus ends the cycle with my first agent, Caitlin.  Ah well.

So what do I do now?  Well, fortunately (take notes here) I kept EVERY emailed query letter I got back, and found three people who were interested in reading the manuscript after I had already hooked on with Caitlin.  Wanna know how fast the industry changes?  Not ONE of them was still in the same location.  One got automatically forwarded to the replacement agent, another gave his new email address, so I forwarded the query back to him, and the third went to a publishing house of scholarly books - which mine is not.

I kept my original query letter AND their response and sent them both back saying that my agent and I had parted ways and would they still be interested in looking at it.  Notice I did NOT send them any attachment like, a year later.  "Ok, here it is!"  Gotta give them a chance to remember who the heck you are, and what your selling.

But the biggest thing to do is to GET OVER IT QUICKLY.  I am NOT a failure, my book does NOT suck, and I am NOT going to wallow in freakish misery while every woman screams "Dear God what is that thing?".  Sorry - channeling Princess Bride there for a minute.

Yes, Optimism STILL ABOUNDS!  I will get smacked in the face, beaten to a pulp, dragged through the mud, stapled in the forehead and laughed at by the ghosts of my ancestors.  But I will not, ever, give up.

Jeff and Ben (my characters) deserve better.

I have taken the fall so that any of you who might later can learn from my mistakes.  Never take anything for granted, for you never know when things will crap out on you.

But most importantly,


Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'm a loser...

Seriously - not shaving until the book sells?  That's stupid.  It's gone.  This weekend.  Along with a new haircut.

I don't know what I was thinking.  I mean, could not shaving really alter the course of the universe and have the great guiding spirits look down upon me and say "LO!  HE HATH NOT SHAVED!  THUS WE MUST GET HIS BOOK PUBLISHED!"

Haven't even heard from Caitlin in a month, so it's not like things are getting better.  Plus it itches.  And it's hot.  And I keep twirling it to see if I could make it into long braids like Captain Jack Sparrow.

But, alas, I'll never look like Johnny Depp, despite what my wife thinks.

See, I realized this morning as I was sitting in my car with absolutely no noise around me meditating, that far too much of my time is spent worrying about the future.  When I sat there with complete silence, just the thoughts of my inner voice catching my attention, time damn near literally stood still.  I would close my eyes, think, talk to myself in my head, play catch with the mental fairies buzzing around my subconscious, and when I opened my eyes?  One minute had gone by.

I'm trying too hard - that's what I came to realize.  I'm pushing.  Trying to be funny.  Trying to be wise.  Trying to be a thoughtful and literary genius.

And time is flying away from me like a bullet train while I'm on the station.  So I'm gonna chill.  I won't stop writing, because the new story I'm working on is REALLY cool, but I won't sweat publishing.  I'm writing for myself, for my characters, and maybe for my family.  I'm writing these words now for you guys, whomever you are, in the hopes that one or two of you may find them insightful.

But in the words of Smashmouth, *%!@ it Let's Rock!

Write on my people!  WRITE ON!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Until my book sells!  And my house.  Beginning about three weeks ago, I've stopped shaving until the book sells.  Ok, I do trim the beard and shave the neck and try to look presentable - I do have a day job after all, but other than that - NO SHAVING.

In the summer.

In the heat.

It kinda sucks.  So Caitlin - if you're out there reading this, PLEASE SELL MY BOOK SOON!  I'M DYIN' HERE!

And if anyone knows of a need for a house in Connecticut, we've got a lovely four bedroom beauty for cheap.

Don't forget, too, that if you're in the southeastern PA area and want to find a kid's book critique group, check out www.scbwiepa.org and their AMAZING AND INCREDIBLE CRITIQUE GROUP FINDER!

Ok.  Enough yelling for the day.

Signing off,
Grizzly Adams

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Calling All YA Authors!!!

Today the Wall Street Journal, that bastion of morality and parental guidance, published an article on the dangers of the current slate of YA books available to our teens.  Click here to read it, but let me sum it up:  YA books are hurting our teens, destroying the fabric of American society, and potentially ending the NFL as we know it.  Ok, I made that last one up, but I figured, hey, since we're laying blame here...

There's a very simple explanation to rebut Mrs. Gurdon (a not-too-popular smug and judgemental writer of all things evil and liberal), and it demonstrates why today's young whipper-snappers aren't at all like the happy, life-loving, "suicide never crossed our mind" teenagers of the 70's and 80's.

The simple explanation is this, Mrs. Gurdon.  Every day, each and every single human being awakes and is immediately faced with choices:  what to wear, where to go, who to interact with, whether or not to brush their teeth, and so on.  Whether we acknowledge it or not, whether it even comes to us consciously or not, EVERY ONE of those decisions is made based on input we've collected our entire lives.

In terms of teens, those lives are relatively short.

Younger children usually make those decisions on instinct:  they cry, scream, flop on the floor, or throw that cute little firetruck right into your forehead.  Adults are supposed to be more controlled - we don't throw firetrucks at each other because we've been around longer and can make decisions based on more data and input.  We're the "more mature" crowd (some more mature than others).

Teens are stuck right smack dab in the middle.  Too old to show all the emotions they want to, too young to know what is really the right choice to make.

Back in the 70's and 80's a teen's input was from the dreaded Rock & Roll.  Maybe some movies, maybe even the horrific and super-double-naughty Judy Blume books.  Video games were magic squares with arrows stabbing duck-like creatures posing as dragons.

Today?  Well, consider what Henry David Thoreau said:

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand, instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.”

Well guess what, the modes of input for teens today are in the hundred or thousands.  It's not that they can see the same stuff on the internet...well, ok, it's PRECISELY because they can see the same stuff on the internet, and that the world in terms of communications has shrunk a thousand-fold.  Before, to get advice on a girlfriend situation, I would ask my best friend.  Now I can ask my FIVE-HUNDRED Facebook friends.  And guess what?  I can see how they respond to THEIR girlfriend situation.  Bottom-line?  It all adds up to exponentially increased input.  Knocking out one of them (YA books) wouldn't solve the problem.  You could write all the Princess and the Frog books for teens you want, eliminate vampires altogether (ok, actually, that'd be ok), and you wouldn't have a single teen reading them, unless their parents made them.  These books are on the bookshelves for one reason and one reason only:  they sell.  And why do they sell?  Because they're real.  And also because people like Mrs. Gurdon tell teens not to read them.  "Don't look in that closet Mr. Fifteen Year-old!"  Turn your back, count to three, and listen for the creak of the closet door opening.

I have three teens myself.  I know this world intimately because my kids and I have an extremely open and honest relationship.  I let them cuss.  We discuss the sexual exploits of their classmates.  They tell me about calls from drunken friends at two o'clock in the morning.  This is standard fair for teens:  making choices based on the input they have, while still wanting to react based on instinct.

So when my daughter grew up watching Disney TV and seeing Little Ms. Perfect try to figure out why the star quarterback doesn't want to be her boyfriend, only to have them land together in PerfectHarmony City, my daughter's response was loud and clear:  "BUT THAT NEVER HAPPENS IN REAL LIFE!"

People like Mrs. Gurdon don't want to face what really happens in real life.  And I would argue that people like Mrs. Gurdon are the dangerous ones, NOT the YA novels.  The YA novels may "help normalize [pathologies] and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures," but people like Mrs. Gurdon, are forgetting that there is one source of input that absolutely trumps all others.  One source that can provide the better, more responsible choice for a teen to make.  One source that should never EVER go away and should ALWAYS be there for a teen.

A parent.

You could present all the input in the world to a child about cutting, suicide, drinking, drugs, sex, depression, what have you.  But if a parent's reaction is strong, and open, and BI-DIRECTIONAL (that is, they actually friggin' LISTEN to their kids and occasionally acknowledge them as rational beings instead of items to be seen and not heard), their kids will react in accordance to their parent's reason and logic, and most importantly, their love.  

Doesn't matter if it's one parent, two parents, or two parents of the same sex.  We are brought into the world by these people, and we will listen first and foremost to what they say.  We will also immediately recognize and react to what they DON'T say.

So there you have it, Mrs. Gurdon.  Your argument becomes moot the minute you take your 46 year-old out of Barnes and Noble and put her into the home where she cares enough about her children to know what they are going through in school, and helps them deal with it a rational, thoughtful way of dealing with it.  Put her into the home where she can stop judging her children and her children's friends, and realize they're just making choices based on what they know.  But most importantly, put her into the home so she can show her children that she loves them no matter what they do or what mistakes they make, and that she's there to help them make the choices that will hurt the least. 

Oh, and if she's looking into the YA aisle for a book for a 13 year-old, take her out of there and put her in the EARLY READERS SECTION!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The New Critique Finder's Here!

Check it out here:  http://www.scbwiepa.org/critique_group_finder.html

If you're in this area (or actually anywhere in the world) and want to be in the database, let me know.  I'm very excited and proud of this feature that can hopefully bring writers together - who knows, you may have the next J.K Rowling just down the street!  (Oh wait, that's right - we're optimistic here.  You may BE the next J.K. Rowling!)

Next on my project list?  A private group of blogs that can act as an on-line critique group.  Simply post your novel one chapter at a time and your critique group can post comments.  Or throw it open to the world and let everyone post comments (only for the bravest of souls!)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Spiritual Break From The Writing Posts

So...what have we learned from the much-hyped End of the World That Didn't Happen yesterday?  That people are gullible and willing to believe anyone with the cash to convince them?  That religions are evil and useless?


My sincere hope for the world is that we all learned one major, Earth-shattering revelation that has nothing to do with seven seals or four horsemen.  My hope is that we as a world learned only this:

Only mankind will ever bring about the end of the world.

God will never, EVER end the world, and I say the Bible, The Torah, the Koran, and every single religious writing in the world Guarantees It, for one reason and one reason only.

Every book of Judeo-Christian origin is based the writings of the Old Testament, and in it, in Exodus 3:14, Moses asks God who he is.  God replies I Am Who Am, or Ehyeh asher Ehyeh if Wikipedia is correct.  It means God is everything.  Ask any Judeo-Christian follower, no matter where they live, how long they've practiced, or what they believe, they'll say God is Everything.  It's what we're first taught about God.  God is Everything.  The Infinite.  All-inclusive.  I could go on with Biblical references but frankly I don't want to take the time to look 'em up.

God is Infinite.  The end-all be-all.  Guess what?  That means there is nothing UNGodly.  God is the good AND the bad.  The sinners AND the saints.  God is Everything.  Everything includes Every One of Us, therefore, God is Every One of Us.

Hopefully you've got that by now.

How does that guarantee that God would never end the world?  Because God can't end something infinite.  God is eternal.  God goes on forever.  You can't cut out half of eternity any more than you can divide God in half.  You can't remove the "UnGod" like parts of God, because there are none.  God is Everything.  God is Every One of Us.

Please pass this on to everyone you know.  Please.  This is the most important message the human race can ever hear.  The Mayans can't predict the end of the world.  God won't come again to judge the living and the dead, because that would mean God would come to judge God.  It just can't happen.  The only thing that can destroy the world is our own lack of recognition that we are all a part of an infinite, universal, eternal connection.  Yes our bodies die, and yes we don't know for sure what happens after we die, but we do know that for every death there is a birth.  Trees regrow their leaves every year.  Seeds fall and become plants.  Life goes on eternally, as it always has, and as it always will.  Even as the universe expands to its breaking point, we know it will collapse and begin again.

We go on.  Unless we, as a collective connection of human beings, decide not to.  Unless we decide to ignore messages from our own bodies, our own planet, our children, our conscience, or our friends.  We can chose to destroy the planet, or at least alter it so dramatically as to make it unrecognizable.  Or we can chose to evolve this planet, beyond the beauty it holds today into something even more spectacular.

But we need to get beyond the idea of separation.  It's all around us - it's how we judge ourselves against others, and it's literally killing us.  Republican or Democrat.  American or European.  Man or woman.  White or Black.  Muslim or Jew.  Us or God.

It's got to end.  There is only life.  There is only us.  There is only God.  We can see this - I know we can.  It's there, right in front of us.  We CAN heal the world, solve world hunger and bring world peace.

We have that power.  But only if we recognize God is Everyone of Us.  Every One of Us is God.

We are eternal.

P.S.  For those atheists out there who dismiss the notion of God at all, I understand completely.  Simply reread the post again, and substitute LIFE for the word GOD.  It still makes sense.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday Morning Writing Prompt!

I'm working on a new invention that will revolutionize the way we read novels...a BLOVEL!  A novel written in blog form one chapter at a time.  After all, what is a blog but a place for people to read?  Why not combine the serial cliffhangers of old ("tune in next week for chapter 3!") with the quick and easy reads of a blog?

It's brilliant!  I'm working on trademarking that term....

Anyway, more to come on that.  Meantime, here's writing prompt for you...science fiction oriented since that's the subject of my first BLOVEL...


We had ninety seconds.  The altimeter spun backwards as the Earth closed in on us.  I looked over at Amy, and nodded.  "It's time," I said.  She knew as well, and pressed the button...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tell, Don't Show!

Damn the advice! Go for broke! Do what everyone says not to do!

Ok, I'm just kidding. Oh did I mention I now have sponsors? Oh sure. They're lining up. Today's blog post is brought to you by Crust Toothpaste! The toothpaste that leaves just a little something extra on your teeth!

Seriously, down to business. Saw a great post by one of my favorite blogger agents, Mary Kole (check out her blog here).  She's with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, which must be a very respectable agency because they turned me down twice.

Anyway, she has a great blog post about when to show and not tell, and so on.  Good reading.

But I'm here to blow that up.

Well, maybe not blow it up, but in addition to her words of wisdom (and she is right on - VERY insightful.  if you don't RSS her blog or follow her...go do it.  Now.  I'll wait.)

Sorry - in addition to her words of wisdom I wanted to pass on a couple of things I've learned that may help.

First of all, if you want to tell if you're telling and not showing, search your manuscript for BE verbs.  That's it.  That's all there is to it.  See, a 'be' verb by its very nature is a non-action verb.  Most every time you use it you're telling us about something rather than showing it.  "It was a dark and stormy night".  It was a long haul.  I was so nervous.  What's the common denominator?  Was, was, was.

Now, this isn't foolproof.  Read Mary's post for more insight.  But is a good way to quickly browse through forty or fifty thousand words to see where you might have a problem.

Point number 2?  DON'T SWEAT IT ON THE FIRST DRAFT!  I can't stress this enough.  When you write the first draft - WRITE.  Break all the rules!  Screw the 'no adverbs' and 'be verbs' rules.  Just write!  Otherwise, your killer novel will be a killer pile of paper in your top right drawer.  The first draft will never get to be a second draft UNTIL it's finished.

Remember, always remember, that writing is re-writing.  Give yourself that freedom to spew out words, and don't be surprised by the number of be verbs.  Don't even try to tame it.   It's in our nature.  We "tell" stories, we don't "show" stories.  We didn't go to bed as little kids begging mom to "show" us a story.

Oddly enough, though, no one buys a story and READS a story that's "told".  So, after you get through the first draft, the exquisite freedom of bad writing flowing from your fingers to your computers, it's time to get serious.  Revise, revise, revise.  Share with your critique group.  Use the MS Word SEARCH feature for 'ly', 'was', 'is', etc.  Take your time and revise.  But get it done.  Completing the novel is the hard part.  Revising is the hard work.  But both have to happen.

Until next time - WRITE ON!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

When Characters Talk to You

Don't you just love when one of your characters talks to you as your writing your first draft? My lead character in my new YA book suddenly revealed to me that his brother was killed in Iraq. Really? Never knew that! Store that away for future reference.

That's why I generally don't start a book with an outline. To me, the essential parts to know before you start a book is the beginning, middle and end. Where does your hero start, what causes him or her to go on a journey, and where do they end up. The rest is just discovery.

Stephen King wrote once that writing is like archeology. You uncover the story. If you spend too much time trying to plot it out and outline it, you might as well as the verbs and adjectives and write the dang thing.

Now that's just me. Others need a complete roadmap before they set out, and that's fine. It's a lot less daunting - you know exactly what follows what and when. But it's not as filled with discovery, to me. In fact, when I did try it I found myself forcing A before B when it didn't really feel good. But the outline said it was so.

Regardless, take your journey however you are most comfortable. Just keep an open ear out for hints and tips from your characters. After all, it IS their story.


Speaking of which - today's writing prompt:

I met a woman today in a bar and struck up a conversation. I told her I was a writer and wanted to practice listening to someone's story. Her name was Jillian. She said "My story would take too long and would bore you to death. Let me just tell you how it ends." She rolled up her sleeve and said "I'm..."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

its away!! ......again!!

Ok, the manuscript is once again in Caitlin's hands, off for another tour of the Mannhatten literary publishing world. I'm typing tonights blog entry on my droid...and it sucks! Yrs, definitely not the most efficient way to do a blog entry.

So what did I change? Well, mostly the voice. Its amazing how different it is now than the conversational voice I had before. Before the two main characters would go back and forth, but eery editor rejected that idea as too disruptive. So now each of the two boys have longer sections that make more sense for their characters and don't interrupt the action.

Basic rule I broke: story is King. Even though it seems clever to throw some kind of gimmick in there, never, EVER take your reader out of the story.

Well, live and learn, right? Hopefully I've done better this time. I shall remain optimistic that it will be so.

Meanwhile, I'm still working on my sooN-to-be-WORKING AWESOME CRITIQUE GROUP FINDER (patent pending) for scbwi. Here's to it finally doing what it's supposed to!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dropping a new writing prompt on ya

K, gotta get this manuscript done so I can get it back to Caitlin. And I'm miffed because it's still not there - there's a lot I didn't catch before that I should've.

Bad me! BAD!

Ok, so while I send myself into the writing time-out chair, here's something for you to ponder and write about:

It's six am. Downtown city streets are coming alive but still groggy. A man stands on the corner with unusually dark shades one, staring at an intersection.

He smiles, reaches into his pocket, and pulls out...


Saturday, April 23, 2011

And how would you describe the pain?

Woke up this morning and the muscles in my back had suddenly solidified like concrete. Every move I make tightens the vice grip around my spine, to the point where even breathing requires deep breathing.

But enough about me.

Describing pain is a key component to getting a reader absorbed into your story. Too much detail and you could gross them out entirely. Too little and they'll liable to think your hero's a wimp.

How do you describe the pain your characters going through? I don't mean emotional pain, I mean real, honest-to-goodness HOLY %*#@! THAT HURTS kind of pain.

This is also an area that's easy to fall back on cliche's for. "A knife in my side" for cramps. Your newly shot leg is "on fire". My head "was pounding like a bass drum". Like any good metaphore, the better ones are the surprises, appropriate but not like anything anyone's thought of before.

Like acid indigestion where it feels like you swallowed a nuclear reactor plant. Or how you'd like to run but it felt like ravenous dogs were using your ankle as a chew toy.

It's also a great way to make the situation lighter, or darker, depending on your writing.

Think about it - and while you're reading, pay attention to the words used to describe what the characters are feeling. It's pretty eye opening.

Just don't focus too hard, or you'll feel like your brain is a balloon that someone just stuck a pin in and popped.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Writing Prompts

I love 'em. Absolutely love 'em. I work best when someone drops an idea, a photo, anything. Just gets the creative juices flowing.


While I'm working on the book, and the Awesome, Amazing Super-Stupendous, SCBWI Eastern PA Critique Group Finder,

I'm gonna drop some writing prompts. Feel free to add comments or just take 'em and run, but I'd love to hear what you all come up with!

Today's prompt:

A man sits on the bus, reading a magazine called Hydrocarbon Processing. He's disheveled, nerdy, and also has a copy of Networking World. What secret is he hiding?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's been a whole week?

Ok, I'm slacking. Mailing it in. Coppin' out.

Well, I'm trying to get the revised version of The Timepiece Chronicles out to Caitlin again so we can press it on, AND I'm trying to code a Critique Group finder for the SCBWI Eastern PA website using Google Maps. Not as easy as I thought!

So my time has been pretty swamped, but I'm working hard, and that's all you can ask!

But I've been so busy I haven't been social networky (my new word) for a while. And really, part of me is thinking, "so what?" Well, it's a big deal if you want to be an author to reach as many people as you can, but really, to be an author you have to WRITE. And then, (as I've found out numerous times) RE-WRITE. That should always be your first focus.

Often times I'll be ready to tweet something or write something profound on Facebook, but I blank out. I have social network writer's block. Scary. I think it's just too much.

And thus I ask you to forgive me if I've been lax. I'll try to get better, but for now, I have to focus my optimism on my book and my critique finder for SCBWI - commitments and dreams that I have to be obsessive about, or else they'll never get done.

Peace out everyone, and WRITE ON!

Monday, April 11, 2011

What a weekend!

First off - SUCCESS!! The editor agreed to re-read the manuscript after I made the changes to clear up the narrative. Also, she (as well as others) agreed that the dual first narrative shouldn't be a problem, as long as the transition made sense and didn't interrupt a scene. So I have to do that. Plus I learned so much that I'm able to add to the story (more on that later this week).

I had a blast telling my story over and over again, getting people as excited about it as I was. Two more editors are willing to take a look so I'm asking Caitlin to submit to them too, I just sent her a note. I'll let you know what she says.

These conferences are a blast. If you're not a member of your local SCWBI chapter, join up! It's a great way to network and learn from published authors who have a ton of experience.

I'll go over a full run-down throughout the week. To all my new friends from SCWBI, great seeing you again and hope we stay in touch!

Write on baby!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Being Rejected - And Meeting the Culprit

When one gets a rejection letter, one can handle the rejection many different ways. I prefer to handle it this way:

Now. What do you do if you're going to a conference and the editor who rejected you is going to be there?

Be classy!

Yes, this Friday I'll be at the SCWBI conference in the Poconos, and so will one of the editors who rejected me. Here's what the editor said:

"...I think the idea and story and voice are all fun here, but to be honest, the back and forth of the two characters with one intruding on the other was jarring for me, personally. I had trouble getting fully immersed in the story when there was that ongoing voice shift.

I’m sure that’s a really subjective concern and some people might actually love it! But I’m afraid it means I’m not the right editor here."

So. Do I go and scream at her? No. Pout? No. I thank her! Heartfully! For the great feedback. And then, I pitch her the changes I'm making based on her recommendation. Hopefully she'll want to see the revision! Or maybe not. Regardless, it's a great opportunity to follow up in person with a professional who's read my manuscript.

I'm optimistic though. She sounds great, and excited about the story - so who knows?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Inner and Outer Conflicts

Leave it to my 13 year-old to critique my middle grade fiction book better than any of my adult friends.  We were comparing The Timepiece Chronicles with the Percy Jackson series, and he pointed out that Percy Jackson had two conflicts:  his drive to find his mother, and the need to save the world.  This is the core of an inner/outer conflict.

You'll see it all around, in every story:  In Star Wars, Luke's inner conflict is to prove himself more than a farm boy, more than a nobody.  He wants to be a Jedi, like his father.  His outer conflict, the one that drives the entire story and everyone else in it, is, of course, the empire against the rebels.

I think my main character's inner conflict is too buried.  We know the outer conflict because the world is going to end thanks to Professor Ferguson changing history, but the inner conflict (Jeff trying to go on without his dad) is a little ambiguous and unreachable.  So I gotta work on that.

The example above is what makes the ending of Star Wars one of the best endings in film history:  it ties BOTH inner and outer conflicts together and brings them to resolution (albeit temporary).  Luke saves the day as a REAL Jedi, and the Empire is stopped.

I have to look at mine again and see how I beef up the inner conflict.

But I'm optimistic I can do it!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Big Shout out to my friend Mary Kaley - Critiquing is Critiqual

It's always fun to give an interview, so a big thanks to Mary for giving me the opportunity to answer some questions on critiquing. Oddly enough, the SCWBI Southeastern PA chapter has asked me to coordinate their critique groups and help our chapter get set up with one another for critique groups.

It's an honor and I'm really excited about the possibilities. Critique groups are essential, and a great way to network. But most importantly? They get you with fellow writers who are in the same boat as you.

There's not a whole lot I can add to Mary's already awesome blog, so all I'm gonna do it post a link.


wait.  Not big enough.


better.  Check it out - critiquing is fun, valuable, and time DEFINITELY well spent.  Stop by, say Hi to Mary for me, and get your critique on!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Don't Edit Where You Write

My opinion, but for what it's worth - I don't like editing where I write. They're two different mindsets, and for that I like to have two different locations.

See, I'm getting ready to edit my manuscript some more, and thus I'm ok laying back on the couch with my Irish Setter's nose in my face. I'm fine with that, because I already know the story and I'm looking for nit-picky things. Even content and all I can focus on while there are distractions around me.

But writing and original manuscript? Forget it. My favorite location would be an isolation chamber like in Altered States. I want headphones on, music blasting, and the entire world shut off.

Stephen King wrote that he thought he would write best with an inspirational window in front of his desk overlooking the serene forest and the beautiful landscape.

He scrapped it and moved his desk to a dark corner of the house underneath the stairs.

When I'm writing the original manuscript, I'm taking notes on a movie that's playing in my head, transcribing what I see at a breakneck pace (I type around 74 words per minute, so I'm lucky). I don't have time to stop and answer questions from kids, shoo the cat away, or wipe off the dog slobber on my keyboard. Having to deal with all that can only lead to frustration and anger. So I write when the kids are in bed, in my office with the doors closed, and headphones on playing anything by James Horner, John Williams, or Thomas Newman. Soundtracks provide the soundtrack to my story.

However, that's what works for me. What works for you is up to you. But I'd love to hear about other writing caves!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Take 3...First Person Solo Attempt

Ok, why not? I'm starting re-writing the book AGAIN but with Jeff being the only hero and Ben's voice taken out completely, other than what he actually says.

This presents some challenges. One of the best things about dual first person narrative is you can get two different perspectives as stories diverge. So when Ben is rushed to the hospital we still are able to keep up with him while Jeff is somewhere else fighting off the evil that is Professor Ferguson.

A single first-person narrative takes that away. Now all the reader knows is what Jeff knows.

I did write to a friend of mine at Random House asking his professional opinion on the subject - can a dual first-person narrative work for middle grade boys? His answer didn't really surprise me, nor did it disappoint me.

He said: "I'll get back to you."

So more waiting. Meanwhile, I'm going to go through the manuscript for first person and then again with the dual first-person but with a very honed attention to detail. I don't think I've been obsessive enough about the quality. I've been sloppy.

Never be sloppy in the writing business. You have to tend to your art like you're manicuring a bonsai tree - careful, precise and every word intentional.

So, I'm off to clip some more.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A lesson for me...

First of all, congrats to Amanda Hocking - a self-made self-published author whose bidding war with publishers just pushed her past the $2M mark. Amazing!

Now. For all of you struggling to get your FIRST book published, breath in and out with me.



I don't know about you, but my first reaction to such news is "WHAT?!?! That's SO UNFAIR!"

Well, actually, it is, and it in NO WAY means we won't get our chance. See, here's what's happening:

The mind, having read or heard such news, immediately rifles through it's past experiences (usually in the form of rejection letters) and interprets the event we've just read/heard into something that we can now prepare ourselves for: More rejection.

The mind is in survival mode most of the time. When it's not working out math equations and the like. And as such, the first thing the mind does it put a break on any optimistic thoughts when such an event occurs. "WHOA THERE big fella! Don't be thinkin' that'll happen to you. Because it hasn't yet, and all you've gotten is rejection. So let's just presume that it ain't gonna happen. If it does, fine, but if it doesn't, than at least we won't be all disappointed."

That's the way the mind works. And that thought about your work, your chances, etc. etc. manifests itself into an emotion (let's call it jealousy). And all of this happens in a blink. If you control your thoughts, you control your emotions. Trust me.

Now, if you're AWARE that this is happening, it becomes easier and easier to smack your mind shut. "There's NOTHING in the world right now to indicate that that can't happen to me. Not even the millions of rejection letters I got." Or, if it has been a MILLION rejection letters, you could think "That could happen to me, but I've been rejected a million times. I need to approach this differently. That'll help!"

Neither of which cries defeat or hopelessness. They cry out perseverance, and tenaciousness. They cry out strength.

And we ALL have strength.

For more, check out my page on Facebook - HERE. From there I'll hook you up with the group The Strength to Stand Up - Memoirs of the Unemployed. It's a spot for us to vent our frustrations, and to become aware not only of what our mind is doing, but of what possibilities exist for us as human beings, if we only let them.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Remember, be aware of your inner thoughts, and you'll find that they can definitely respond to you instead of the other way around.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quick update - I have a Facebook Page!

Yaaaay! You can like me now! Just click on this link, and then like me. The "love me" button is hidden. You need special permission for that...

Click Here!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Optimism struggles...gasping...falling...

CPR! Quick!

Ok, two more strike outs, and I'm too friggin' tired to go through the lineup again. Bottom line, we're down to two publishers left after missing on all the others. Here's the response from Caitlin:

"No good news I'm afraid. First, I've heard back from two more editors who are passing--Ari Lewin at Putnam/Penguin and Wendy Loggia at Delacorte/Random. Both sent relatively generic letters without any useful feedback.

I'll nudge the two editors who still have the manuscript--at Greenwillow and Dial/Penguin--but it's hard to be hopeful at this stage..."

Gaack. Air...need....air...

Also, Caitlin mentioned that the third person re-write wasn't working, and even if I did take out all the time/point of view errors it still would be weaker than the two voices that I have.

So I called her, and we're going to retry the pitch, and I'm going to look at the dual-first person to see if I can make it cleaner.

But it's something no one's ever done before. There's not a single Middle Grade fiction instance of a dual first person narrative. Something conversational, casual, as if two best friends were relating their experiences with you.

Wait...no one's ever done it before? It's hopeless? Forget it?

"The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad."
The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903.

"Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical (sic) and insignificant, if not utterly impossible." - Simon Newcomb; The Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk 18 months later. Newcomb was not impressed.

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
A memo at Western Union, 1878 (or 1876).

(hat tip to 2spare.com! http://www.2spare.com/item_50221.aspx)

Bottom line? In a few years, someday, you will read about a popular new writing style for middle grade boys - a style in which TWO main characters relay the story in a conversational mode, like they are in the room with your reader. They banter back and forth, while still conveying the basics of the story, enthralling young readers and bringing them into the very world of the heroes.

Mark my word.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nothing more...yet

This is driving me crazy! A flurry of activity and then....NOTHING.

Ok, so to kill the time I'm going to do some internet magic. Starting with juggling five knives.



...ok, internet magic kinda loses it's thrill...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Transformation Is Complete

It's now in third person, completely. Not an easy task. Had to go through it with a fine tooth comb to make sure every Our became Their, every He became the person and (the one I missed the most) every MY became HIS. It's actually pretty funny reading "Jeff put his hand in my pocket", but I don't think it'd sell.

One other thing I noticed a lot and gained an appreciation for was the use of pronouns. "He" especially - if used too often it becomes really ambiguous as to who you're talking about. Used too infrequently and you get really sick of the name of the person. Takes a lot of balance.

Anyway, I wrote to Caitlin to ask her the next steps, so we'll see. Hopefully I'll hear back from her on Monday, and I'm going to remain optimistic that the news will be good.

Until then, time to start something new!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

From First to Third

No, not another baseball analogy. Although if I were to give one it would be "WHY IS CAITLIN AT THE FRIGGIN' MOUND FOR SO LONG! LET'S GO! GET THE GAME GOING!"

Still no word. But hey, in the meantime I've managed to revise the entire book from first to third person. It's a trick, but it's not as hard as it seems. The key difference is losing the internal dialogue and thoughts of the characters. That's the real insight that you can't get too easily in third person. Take this passage for example:

"Only boys? Dude, I would seriously kick your butt across the attic if I had to. Fortunately for him I didn’t. He leaned in close to us, so close that I could smell his breath, which, by the way, totally grossed me out.
“I don’t know who you are,” he said, “or what year this is, but listen to me carefully. Whatever you do, do not go looking for it. Leave it be.”
I told myself “Don’t say anything. Don’t say anything. Don’t say anything.” This guy made NO sense and I didn’t want to upset the crazy person."

Very personal and up front. You not only know what the character's thinking, but the multiple thoughts he's having and the conflicting emotions - bravado versus fear. It's more intimate: we're in their mind.

When I changed it, it came out like this:

Ben was actually offended by that. Only boys? He thought. Dude, I would seriously kick your butt across the attic if I had to. At least, that’s what Ben’s mind said. His body told his mind to stick it - no one was moving anywhere. Pinchbeck leaned in close to them, so close that he could smell his nasty stale breath.

A third person narrative can still have the perspective of the character, but it's not as intimate. The conflict is still there - the bravado of the mind against the immobilizing fear of his body. But you can't have too much inner dialogue in a third person narrative or else you come across as a first person narrative wanna-be. So I kept the one piece in about kicking his butt, but had to put the rest in the third person. I also took out the crazy person reference because that was another internal thought, and in the third person it became kind of unnecessary.

What do you think? I like the first person better, obviously, but the third person narrative might be more sellable. At least to the editors. The kids I had read it loved the first person.

Well, at least now I'll be prepared for both...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Slow Going

No word from Caitlin after the barrage of rejections - but that's ok, I'm still working on revising the whole story to be third person.  It's not really as hard as you may think.  Most of the narrative translates pretty easily, just changing "I thought" to "he thought".  Some of the inner dialogue has to go, or I had to make it be outer dialogue.  But the action, plot, etc. is still pretty much the same.

One of the questions I asked Caitlin was along the lines of "boy, I hope I'm not damaging your reputation by having you send out this crap", but she laughed it off.  Here's what she said:

"...don't worry about my reputation!  Editors pass constantly on things from every agent.  Even when I have big money auctions for books there are still tons of editors who have passed for one reason or another."

Of course - I just saw the "BIG MONEY AUCTIONS" part.  


Monday, February 21, 2011

A Second Chance?

My friend Mary posted a question on the last blog - will these publishers consider a re-read if I re-write?  The answer is dependent on the publisher, and the editor.  Most publishers that we're targeting have multiple middle grade editors, so we'll try those again.  But in terms of the same editors, that depends on how the agent handles the rejection, what the rejection is about, and the relationship the agent has with the editor.

Take Scholastic for example:  after the initial rejection, which I shared the other day, Caitlin wrote this back to her:

"To be honest, I'm hearing the same thing from other editors about the dual first person narrators.  If Kevin were able to rewrite the book in a more traditional style--maybe close third person narration--would you be interested in seeing it again?

If not, please don't hesitate to tell me.  I know you must have a desk (or e-reader these days) full of manuscripts."

Now, I'm not entirely sure of the relationship between Caitlin and this editor, so I don't know if they're best buds, or just barely know each other, but here's what the editor responded back:

"If the author revises, I’d be happy to have a quick look, though we’re not really looking to publish a series (so I might not be the right editor)."

Note the caveat:  they're not really looking to publish a series.  That tells me that the initial read didn't grab her to the extent that she's willing to really consider it, she's just being polite.  Otherwise, the publishing a series would've come out in the first rejection.  Also notice that she said that they're not looking to publish a series, so she's not sure she's the right editor, as opposed to the right publisher.  Lots of nuances that make me think, "ok, probably not gonna happen there."  Nevertheless, she gave Caitlin the opportunity, so we'll probably try her again once I've rewritten it.

Now when Egmont rejected, I asked the same question:  would she resubmit, and here's her response:

"...In Egmont's case I think I would go to a different editor there who hadn't seen the book before."

No reason why, but probably because she knows the editor too well and doesn't want to pester her.  I'll post the letter about Egmont later.  It could also be that she wanted someone who hadn't been tainted from the first reading trying to get past that with a re-read.  Someone fresh off the dock will have an unbiased view.

In any case, you can see that it's very hit or miss, and a very fine line to walk - which is why it's so important to get an agent.  Going direct is black or white - they either like you or they don't.  An agent has a relationship that can be utilized to allow re-submissions, or to get more info regarding their reasons for passing, etc.  Very helpful.

More to come.  Halfway through the revision now, but still haven't heard from Caitlin after I sent her the first three chapters.  Was I on the mark?  Was the new third person narrative working?  Inquiring minds wanna know!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Scholastic Letter

By the way, I share these with you not to solicite pity or encouragement; I know rejections are part of the game.  I share them so you can see what they look like, and how it all works.

First - here's how Caitlin broke the news to me.  As I said - an awesome agent!

"Regarding the narrator issue--you remember we talked about this right when I signed you up.  My personal feeling is that kids would not have a problem with the dual narrators.  With computer and video games and graphic novels these days they are way more sophisticated than editors give them credit for being.  But, it may be a case of not being able to get to the kids because of the editorial/publisher screen.  Sometimes you can't fight city hall.  (And, it's very unfair, because, let's face it, if Rick Riordan or Stephanie Meyers wrote a book with dual first person narrators it would be hailed as editorial genius.)

So I don't want to give up--the manuscript is still out with 6 editors--but I do think you should spend some time thinking about if/how you could tell the story in a more traditional format.  The most commercial way to go would be a close third person--i.e., using he/she but keeping the viewpoint and voice very close to the character.  

Mull it over and let me know what you're thinking okay?"

See, she believes in the narrative as well, but also is a realist in that the kids aren't the ones doing the editing and story selection - the editors are.  Right, wrong or indifferent, they're the ones you have to please.  And the dual first person narrative (so far) isn't grabbing them.  Who knows, maybe one of the other five remaining will jump on it.

Here's SCHOLASTIC's point of view:

"Hi Caitlin,

I’ve now had a chance to read Kevin Sheridan’s THE TIMEPIECE CHRONICLES. There’s so much to like here—and I’m always looking for literary, commercial middle grade fiction—but I’m afraid this is a pass for me. I simply couldn’t get past the narration style, and I thought it would be a problem for middle grade readers.

I’m sorry I don’t have better news. Thank you for thinking of me. I hope we’ll be able to connect on a project in the near future!"

Now to their credit, these are professionals, so they are paid to make these types of decisions, and something new and radical like this isn't an easy decision to make, or a risk they may want to take.  But I focus in on the words "THERE'S SO MUCH TO LIKE HERE"!  That's what gives me hope.  And as a wise man once said, there's always hope.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Scoreless after two...

The lineup just ain't getting it done.  Either that or the dual first person narrative is really an issue for these people.  Which is interesting because it hasn't been an issue for anyone READING the dang thing!

Especially the target audience!

Anyway, here's where we stand:

  1. Simon and Schuster - ground out to second.  A good hard liner, but couldn't find the hole.
  2. Harper - struck out looking.  Form letter rejection back to Caitlin.  Nice.  Shoulda kept them on the bench
  3. Hyperion - weak grounder to the pitcher.  Shoulda kept them at the 9 spot.  Rejected for various reasons (I'll post their rejection letter tomorrow)
  4. Scholastic - A strong out to left field.  Well hit ("so much to like here") and is considering a re-read if I re-write it with a new narrative.
  5. Grosset and Dunlap/Penguin - Struck out looking.  Another form letter rejection
  6. Egmont - didn't even run out the grounder to first.  Likely to pass because of the voice issue.
  7. Henry Holt/Macmillan - APinch Hitter!  The editor we sent it to is leaving Holt, giving me a chance to revise and resubmit.  Sweet!
  8. Delacorte/Random House 
  9. Putnam/Penguin

Still on the bench (unless they leap off and force me to play them):

I'll post the first of the rejection notices from Caitlin tomorrow.  She's been awesome in her optimism and encouragement.  I've already started the re-write changing from first to third person, and it's not as bad as I thought it'd be.  But it will slow things down.  We've got six more editors to hear back from by March 7, so hopefully the re-write will be for naught, but if it's required...well, consider it my closer warming up in the bullpen.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Don't these people recognize GENIUS?!?

Ok, well, I'm not THAT conceited.  But yet again, another editor has passed, and yet again, it's for largely the same reason - the dual first-person narrative.  So here's a lesson for all my future novelists/mega-millionaires, and it's called PLEASING THE GATEKEEPERS!

See, my book has alternative first person narrative.  First Jeff talks a while, then Ben comes in and perhaps interrupts him - it's all in good fun and from the kid's perspective (those few that have read it), they really enjoyed the banter.  Each boy has a distinct personality, as Caitlin and I worked hard to make sure, and two first person narratives allows me to split up the main characters and still show what's going on with the intimacy of the first person narrative.

But apparently no one else is buying it.

The Scholastic people just passed as well, and I'll post their letter tomorrow, but bottom line it comes down to the narrative - they think it's too disruptive.

So - that's four out of four who passed due to that reason.  Once or twice is a personal thing - more than that, you may be looking at a trend.  Six letters are still out, so there's still hope, but juuuuuuust in case, Caitlin has recommended I look at what it would take to make it third person.

Is this selling out?  Would I be compromising my artistic ideals just to sell a book?

You bet your bottom bucko I would.  

See, my goal is to be a writer - a full time, no B.S. writer.  To quit my day job.  To lavish in the luxury of knowing that royalty checks will continue to roll in well into my 80's.  To watch my story come to life on the big screen, to sit next to Angelina Jolie as she discusses the role of Jeff's mom and what I intended when I wrote that character.

I dream big.

BUT - as unrealistic (or what I like to call OPTIMISTIC) as that all sounds, it doesn't get started at ALL unless I get my foot in the door.

So that's what I'm gonna do - WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET MY FOOT IN THE DOOR!

Sorry for the yelling.  But it's an important point.

You can be a struggling artist your whole life, and if you feel good about it that's great.  We each have a goal - a destination that we're striving for.  If you're serious, you do whatever it takes to get there.

And someday, hopefully, you'll all hear about that magnificent, brilliant dual first-person narrative technique that Kevin Sheridan made famous in his middle-grade novel series THE TIMEPIECE CHRONICLES.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Rejection Letter - Hyperion

Now as Caitlin said, Hyperion is a tough nut to crack.  They pay well, but that means they're also VERY choosy - so if one little thing doesn't make the grade, the whole thing doesn't.  So you can guess they were very nitpicky.  Here's what the editor said:

Hi Caitlin,

I hope you’re doing well and enjoying this sunshine. Thanks for sending me THE TIMEPIECE CHRONICLES, which I have now had the chance to review. As we discussed over lunch all those weeks ago, I think that there is a lot of promise in the premise and I enjoyed reading Kevin’s work. There are a lot of great hooks here and I particularly appreciate the educational aspect of the story—it’s always great to slip history lessons under the radar of reluctant middle grade readers. That being said, I’m concerned that there are some inconsistencies when it comes to the time travel aspect of the plot, (though I understand that closing time travel loopholes is no easy task!). Further, I feel that the constant change in perspective, while at times humorous, disrupts the pacing and doesn’t allow the reader to get to know each character on a deeper level or to fully immerse themselves in this exciting story. For these reasons and others, it is with regret that I’m unable to make a publishing offer.

I appreciate your thinking of me, in any case, and wish you every success in finding the right publishing home for THE TIMEPIECE CHRONICLES. Please do keep me in mind for future projects; I hope that we’ll have the chance to work together soon!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Three up, three down...

Ok, so I rearranged the order of the lineup a bit (actually, Harper jumped off the bench and said "PUT ME IN"), and after 1 inning, here's what's happened:

1) Simon and Schuster - ground out to second.  A good hard liner, but couldn't find the hole.
2) Harper - struck out looking.  Form letter rejection back to Caitlin.  Nice.  Shoulda kept them on the bench
3) Hyperion - weak grounder to the pitcher.  Shoulda kept them at the 9 spot.  Rejected for various reasons (I'll post their rejection letter tomorrow)
8) Egmont (From the UK!)

Still on the bench (unless they leap off and force me to play them):

I'm still optimistic - it's only the first inning and Caitlin requested a March 7 response, so there's still a lot of ballgame yet to play!    

Here's what Caitlin said about the rejections:
"Try not to get discouraged!  [Harper] has very high standards (she handles the Narnia books and Shel Silverstein's estate for example) and Hyperion doesn't buy many projects at all (although they pay very well when they do, so I always try.)"

So heck - they were big swingers for the fences, and like all home-run hitters, they're either hit or miss.  

Next inning!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Pass - Simon & Schuster

Here's the actual rejection letter from the editor at Simon & Schuster:

"Hi there!

So I took a dip into this (tried to get to it quickly, since I was so in love with that last manuscript you sent my way!).

I think the idea and story and voice are all fun here, but to be honest, the back and forth of the two characters with one intruding on the other was jarring for me, personally. I had trouble getting fully immersed in the story when there was that ongoing voice shift.

I’m sure that’s a really subjective concern and some people might actually love it! But I’m afraid it means I’m not the right editor here.

Thanks so much for sending my way, though, and I’m really hoping we can get one together sooner than later!"

A good rejection to be sure, because the only thing holding her back was the alternative narrative, which, as Caitlin pointed out, we kinda knew going in wouldn't be for everybody.  So, no getting down on this one.  Although, the writer in me wishes for the adjective "amazing" rather than "fun".  But I'll take it...

Also note what I pointed out earlier - that this editor loved Caitlin's last submission - a good rep and good history.  Excellent signs.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ground Ball to Second!

Ok, sports fans, to recap our current lineup:  The following editors agreed to review my manuscript after my agent Caitlin pitched it to them.  Here they are

1) Simon and Schuster
2) Scholastic 
6) Egmont (From the UK!)

And on the bench (for no particular reason)
Harper (Just plain Harper I guess)

So far, one strike out:  Simon & Schuster passed.  Now as I promised, I've included all rejection letters and have also posted Caitlin's pitch so everyone can see what the process is.  Take a look and let me know what you think.  I like the pitch, and I was very glad to see the editor at S&S's reaction to Caitlin's submission.  Obviously Caitlin has developed a good reputation for sending quality work along, which made me very happy.

So first batter up, knocks a hard ground ball to second.  A good stroke, but not enough to get on base.  NEXT BATTER!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sacrifices for Your Dream

There's a fire sale going on at the Sheridans, and the keyboard I'm packing up to ship off has got me quite depressed.  I love music, I love making music, and I think I could've been good at it.  Even got into Duquesne University's Masters of Music Composition school.

But I think I could be a better storyteller.  So music will have to remain a hobby.

Here's the thing - I spent the better part of half my life trying to decide what I wanted to be, while still trying to please a ton of other people.  Then, in 2009, I got laid off, and decided what I wanted to be:  a writer.  In fact, one could say I decided that back in 2008 when we moved to Kennett Square to begin with.  It was time to get serious.

It was time to take a risk.  And boy what a risk it's been.

Sometimes you decide to go after a dream and the dream smacks you around a bit shouting "You want a piece of me?  You gotta EARN it baby!"

Sometimes earning it requires selling everything you have.  Moving.  Living out of your car.  You've heard all the cliches and stories.  Well, I'm living it now.

Not living out my car, thank God, but making sacrifices none the less.  Two years and we STILL haven't sold the house we left in Connecticut.  We moved primarily to be closer to family, but we chose THIS area because it was where my first book takes place.  I felt a connection - like I was a writer here.  And it's damn near broke me.

So we're selling off a lot of things, and I'm selling off a lot of my other hobbies and crafts.  Have to.  I've made my decision.

I'm gonna WRITE ON!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What Happens Now in Publishing?

Ok, so I mentioned Caitlin, my agent, was targeting about 12 editors to send my manuscript to.  Here's what that means.

When an agent "targets" and editor, typically someone they know in the business who they've either worked with before or know they're interested in your kind of book, they basically query them much like you did to get the agent.  Only now, hopefully, the query's more polished, and coming from a professional in the industry and most importantly, a trusted source.

That's why it's hard to get published without an agent.  They know people, and those people know them.  They've been networking with editors, mentioning your project even in its early stages, and setting the groundwork of excitement with the various editors to get them to want to see your book.

BUT - you're also your own agent as well.  When you go to conferences, if you meet up with editors AND you have an agent, they're more willing to listen to your pitch, even if it's while standing around the bar or the dinner table.  Why?  Because they know someone else has listened to your pitch and is excited about it.

So when I met several agents at my last SCWBI conference, I asked them if my agent could send them a copy when it's ready, and they all said yes.  That makes the agent's job easier, because they can say "my client met you at xyz conference".

End result?  Of the 9 editors Caitlin pitched the story to or talked to, 8 said they'd love to read it, and as of right now have it in their hot little hands.  One refused saying they already have a time travel piece in their arsenal, so they don't want to create competition within themselves.  That happens.

Caitlin also gave them a month to look at it - so I won't expect to hear anything until March.  Definitely don't want to rush editors, however if it catches on and one editor likes it, I can bet the other editors will hurry it up if it seems to be a hot property (which I'm OPTIMISTIC it will be!)

So now, as Caitlin suggested at the end of her note, I need to just "put it out my mind".  Forget about it for a while.

Easier said than done, that's for sure!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Book Review

Well, my daughter got me hooked on the series, so I had to read the first book by Jeff Lindsay.  This, my friends, is an excellent demonstration on voice.  The character narrates his own story, but the style is so twisted and demented, yet subtly human, that you really very easily connect with him.  You want Dexter to do well, but you can't believe you're rooting for a serial killer.

Here's the one thing, though, that I would warn about:  like a prepubescent boy, your voice must change.  One of the frustrating parts of the book was its finale, and it might've been intentionally frustrating if Lindsay purposefully left his characters voice as even keeled and flat as it was the rest of the book.  But at the end, when the actions are frantic and the tension is rising, I found that the same tone almost took me out of the story and nearly made me as apathetic to the situation as the character himself was.  I was looking for the character (and his voice) to change, to be more tense, or more frightened, or anything making him more HUMAN.  But there was no change.

Someone once said at a seminar that I attended that the whole purpose of story is to take the reader through the change the hero goes through.  Without that, you're just reporting events.  So if you're writing in the first person, or even writing thoughts in the third person, as the ending rises in tension, so too must the voice.  As the character changes, so must the words we read change.

But it's still a good book, and I do recommend it if you've got the time.  If not, watch the series.  I think the voice and the character there match much better.

Anyway - keep on writin'!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Moving On - Next Book!

I've been writing more infrequently, I apologize, but I've started my new YA Dystopian book called "A World Gone Dark".  It's really got me hooked, so I wrote to my agent and asked if it was ok to work on.  I mean, I could work on the second book in the series, but Caitlin's response was "One of the luxuries of being an unpublished writer is being able to write what you want--so go for it on the YA!"

See, when you're actually working as a writer, you have deadlines, and a genre to stick to, and a "brand" that you're creating.  Nora Roberts will never truly compete with Stephen King, and Stephen King will never write a Harlequin Romance.  That's why writers write under pseudonyms -  when they want to reach an entirely different audience.  If J.K. Rowling writes a crime thriller next it'll throw her whole fan base off.

BUT - when you're still establishing yourself, you can take the time to try new things and to see where your skills lie.  In this case, after writing a historical fiction, time-travel piece for middle grade, I want to try an end of the world YA book targeting boys.  Part of me wants to tackle the challenge of that age-group - the stereotypical "non-readers".  Part of me just wants to tell this story.

Here's the pitch:  The world doesn't end with a bang, or a whimper, but when God shuts off the lights.  Literally.  Dylan is seventeen, and looking at colleges, when a massive sunburst right at the summer equinox blows a hole in the earth's protective atmosphere.  The resulting EMP or electro-magnetic pulse, blows out all electronics.  Everything that ran with a battery, an outlet, or even a spark, is dead.  The world shuts down as it regresses two and a half centuries.  Dylan loses his brother when a plane drops from the sky on the bridge their on.  Determined not to lose the rest of his family, he seeks out his father, sister and mother, all scattered across the country.

It's kind of a "coming of age" story with the age being the end of the world.  It originated from my thought of "what would happen to the world if everyone was fine, healthy, no zombies or war, but all electronics failed and couldn't be restarted".  In other words, could we really survive without them?

Whadda ya think?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Revision Paralysis - The Wait is Over!

Two more signs of a good agent:

1.  Knowing when to say when.  I fretted a lot about this as Caitlin reviewed and revised the manuscript - three or four times over the past 9 months.  Boy it is like having a baby isn't it?  But now she has come to the conclusion that things look "fantastic" as she said, and it's ready to get shopped out.  But she also knows the publishing seasonality, and didn't even try to send it out in December when no one would be looking to add to their portfolio.  Now it's January, and it's time to get busy!

Our list of potential publishers include:
Grosset & Dunlop / Penguin
Henry Holt / MacMillan
Random House

Plus five or six others that she has in mind.

2.  Caitlin kept a log of all the publishers I pitched my book to at the SCWBI conferences I attended (Society of Children's Writers and Book Illustrators).  Each one had editors there and each time I made it a point to get myself in front of them and very professionally ask if they were interested in middle grade fiction for boys.  Specifically centered around time-travel.  If they said yes, I gave them a quick pitch and if they said no, so be it.  But every yes I reported back to Caitlin and she now has more names to submit to.

I'm so excited I feel like I could slam dunk a basketball!  Ok, well, I know I can't, but still...

Anyway, more updates as I hear back from Caitlin - I'm hoping she'll let me know who's she's sending the manuscript out to and what their response is going to be.  Some will want to read it, some will pass, some will take their sweet time reading it.

So I'm excited, but I also know it's hurry up and wait time.

Meanwhile - ON TO BOOK 2!  The Timepiece Chronicles Book II - Special Order 191.  (For non Civil War buffs - google it.  It's pretty fascinating)

Write on folks!

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