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.

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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