Archive for category Publishing
When I left work on Friday, I had hopes of spending my weekend in a sort of lazy, bachelor-style fugue. That kind of shiftless, laying-about that would, of course, include hours and hours on a couch with a movie marathon or a baseball spree, the consumption of a whole host of terrible, processed, microwaveable meals, and the accumulation of so much sloth that my story would become a cautionary tale to frighten children lacking the appropriate industry.
But then I remembered I’m an adult with children of my own and responsibilities. So instead of spending the weekend in holey sweats adding some buffer to my BMI, I did yard work, got my season’s first pinkish hue watching the Puddinpop at baseball practice, and spent a good deal of time thinking about my next writing task.
I suppose it turned out better this way. After all, you know, high BMI is apparently bad or whatever. Plus, I don’t really care for processed, nuked food. Kinda makes me think of soylent green.
Also, and more seriously, I’ve got a good chunk of work to do this year. It’s time to get to it.
According to the internet (and really, if we can’t trust the interwebs, who can we trust!?), Chinese philospher Lao-tzu wrote, “A journey of a thousand leagues begins beneath one’s feet.” The common paraphrase for that, of course, is, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.”
A journey of my own, one I’d been simultaneously preparing for and putting off my entire life, started more than three years ago with the single, not-terribly-kind sentence, “I have come to the conclusion that I am not a very good writer.”
With that sentence, I set about proving to myself that either I could be a writer or, well, just couldn’t. One way or another, though, I was bound and determined to find out.
In the course of the year that followed, I did, much to my delight, in fact, demonstrate to myself that I could write regularly if I put my mind to it. Even more importantly, what I wrote entertained my wife—sometimes to the point of laughing through tears—and that meant everything to me. Better still, not only did I write blog posts for Puddintopia that served as much-needed exercise for my atrophied writing muscles, but I also ended up with a complete novel, too. Oh, sure, I always hoped I’d end up with a novel, at some point, but I had no idea if it might take me half a decade to get there.
Turns out it didn’t.
I know I’ve been kind of worthless when it comes to making any kind of sense or producing even a mildly entertaining narrative here this week. Really, though, I swear, that’s over now and I’m going to be good and clean and room and eat all my vegetables and any and all the other kid-who-wants-a-puppy-style promises.
This probably goes without saying, but the thing keeping me pre-occupied all week was Brenda Drake’s Pitch Madness novel pitching contest hosted by her and several of her blogging friends. The long and short of it is that it’s intended to get pitches in front of agents specifically interested in them. The point of course being that if they’re specifically interested, the odds of making a match jump up like the striker toward the bell on one of those “Test Your Strength” carnival games.
Not that I know what it looks like when that striker jumps up because, well, I’m not exactly Popeye, but that’s a story for another day.
But this isn’t one of those. I mean, it is. A post, that is. But interesting? Well, in the immortal (nearly immortal? somebody check into that for me) words of Bob Barker, “Survey says?! Oh, I’m so sorry, you’re answer is just not on the board.”
Well, that might be more of a paraphrase.
Anyway, unfortunately, I can’t give you the post you deserve today because I have other pressing tasks to accomplish with the word-making skills. I’ve got a brand spanking new query letter to polish until it gleams light the sun I saw shining earlier today (pictured above). And if that isn’t enough, before I get any sleep tonight I have to produce a (blessedly) short synopsis for my new novel, Longshots. Yes, the one currently being considered in The Contest. Which, not coincidentally, ends tomorrow.
It’s possible these two things are related. I’ll never tell. (Pssst…here’s my entry).
At any rate, the query letter isn’t too scary, although I’ll probably end up rewriting it 3 or 4 times between now and then end of the month. The synopsis, on the other hand, is nothing to be sneezed at. The dreaded Novel Synopsis has been known to even bring the most seasoned of A-list authors to their knees, all weepy and beaten.
Now, I see you there, looking all smug and thinking, “Oh, sure, a synopsis. Whatever, loser. I wrote, like, three of those back in grade school for Mrs. Droopynecklace. And I got at least a ‘C’ on all of them. We called them ‘book reports, remember, Whiny McWhinerson?”
Yeah, look: writing a novel synopsis is not exactly that same thing as slapping together that report on “Flowers for Algernon” in 4th grade. For one thing, your novel synopsis has to sell your story to someone thinking about representing or publishing it. And let me tell you, the report you wrote when you were 10 years old couldn’t convince Inuit Native Americans to buy space heaters. For another thing, a ‘C’? Really? Below average? Go look at the nearest book store or open up the Books heading on Amazon.com and start browsing. Last time I checked, there were roughly eleventy quatrillion galactic crap-tons of books available for purchase in the world. If you want yours to be one of those, you’re damn sure going to do better than writing a C-average synopsis.
In fact, if there was any way you could make your synopsis, like, readable crack or something, that’d probably be a good start.
So, as you can see, producing a quality synopsis is tricky. Like, giving birth an entire living room of fully-assembled IKEA furniture by putting it together via the birth canal without using your hands, tricky.
Which is why I need to get started on that, and stop rambling here about this.
Instead of an interesting post, though, I did think to take a picture of the first sunlight since spring theoretically arrived last week requiring me to don my sunglasses. Yes, that’s the same picture above. Isn’t it pretty? I hope the suns sticks around for a while this time.
Now, if I can just write a synopsis that pretty, everyone will be happy.
This is pretty unusual for a Monday, but I’ve got a bunch of things occupying my grey matter at the moment, meaning I’m limited on the creative juice needed to put into writing a Snazzy Blog Post ™. Admittedly, it doesn’t help that my brain normally operates about as well as that 1958 For-dge-olet jalopy your grandfather refused to give up on when you were a kid. Never-you-mind about the thick black smoke it belched out worse than Uncle Hal after two helpings of sauerkraut, and if those damn hoodlums in the neighborhood were too dumb to know the difference between a backfire and gunfire, well, that was their problem. He’d decided when that car had seen better days, thank-you-very-much, and everyone else just could keep their damned opinions to themselves.
Anyway, the point is that even when my thinker is firing on all cylinders, it’s not firing on all cylinders, if you know what I mean. And now it’s preoccupied to boot, which never helps.
I did briefly consider posting a haiku or a limerick today, but nothing interesting came to mind as far as topics go.
It’s suddenly come to my attention that I’ve somehow recently shared next to nothing about the current state of my author-ly pursuits. I mean, I did little but badger you poor readers about writing back in November (well, when I wasn’t trying to ignore everything blog-related competely) as I worked feverishly* on my NaNoWriMo novel. And ever since then, it’s been the Pope this, a hiaku that, or 100-words about some movie the other.
It’s almost as if I’ve been trying to make you think I finally gave up on the whole business.
Fear not! You’ll (hopefully) be glad to hear that nothing could be further from the truth. In point of fact, I’ve been quite busy lately.
My four year-old son, The Attitude, apparently just started a new stage in life. For the last few nights, he’s been slow to get to sleep and has been waking up tearfully in the middle of the night.
Kind of reminds me of my twenties, but let’s not go there.
In my son’s case, I’m afraid it’s worse than a few questionable late night decisions. The poor kid is seeing bugs all around him.
I mean, he’s not really seeing bugs, thank goodness. But unfortunately, there’s just no convincing him that his room is clean and bug free. Even when we turn the lights on and show him it’s just a trick of his eyes in the dark, his 4 year-old brain will not be assuaged.
There are bugs. In his room. At night. Flying around. He is certain.
It’s early afternoon on January 1, 2013. After another raucous celebration to usher in the next 365 days, people everywhere are a slowly, determinedly getting themselves into motion, while trying very hard to ignore that splitting headache and the fact that vampires have, in fact, been correct about that annoying daylight all this time.
Luckily, I managed to avoid the dreaded New Year’s Hangover myself. I didn’t it the sauce too hard with the kids last night, but maintained myself in a mature, dignified manner. Well, or as mature and dignified as one can be wearing his pjs and a bluish, sparkly hat.
Since we’re all slowly getting started along the path of a whole new calendar, in keeping with tradition, I figured today for a good time to take a quick look back and a somewhat more detailed look ahead. To sort of get our bearings before we stomp off into the uncharted wilds of 2013 like a drunken mountain dwarf with a bad eye.
I probably don’t need to say to much in the way for review, though, of course. Since this is a blog and all, the point of which being to chronicle my daily adventures (or lack thereof), the archives can provide plenty of review of 2012 without much intervention from yours truly. Last year, I learned a pretty important lesson S.C.U.B.A diving for the first time, starting sending out queries for my first novel, Famine, did a piss-poor job of getting started on the next Big Project: a non-fiction book, reconsidered (and revised and revised and revised) my query letter, turned 40-1 years old, learned quite a few things from little league baseball, started the ridiculous Weekend Debate feature around here (which I’ve grown to love), also started the equally ridiculous practice of writing movie reviews in 100 words or less, took a vacation to the beach, had a bad day, decided it was time to start running, learned quite a lot about querying over the course of a few months, decided I want an agent who really does love my work, and spent November writing a second novel as part of NaNoWriMo, and (finally), paid good money to see a Bengals’ game, because I’m a parent, which apparently is equivalent to “sucker”.
Whew, what a year!
Oh, and what was the most visited post of the year? You’ll never guess. Hands down, it was this one, a REPOST of the Green, Tasteless Beer poem I originally wrote and posted in 2011. Since St. Patrick’s Day, it’s gotten more than 10% of this blog’s total number of hits in 2012. Which just goes to show you, you never know what the Hell the internet is going to do.
So, what on tap for 2013? Well, more writing and more querying. In the next month or two I’m going finally start revising my NaNo novel in hopes of having it ready to query come spring. Also, remember that non-fiction book? Yeah, it’s still not done, and it’s blocking me up worse than a four-person dinner at The Melting Pot. That’s got to be finished soon, because I’ve got ideas for two more adult novels that I’d like to write, this year if possible.
I’m also going to extend my experience running in the coming year. On November 2, 2012, I ran 5 kilometers, on purpose, at all once, without stopping to die or suck oxygen like a lineman after running back a fumble. Running has been difficult to get in consistently since NaNo, then the holidays, and now winter arrived in devious succession, but one way or the other, I intend to run a 10k in the spring. And then it’ll be time to seriously start work on the that half marathon.
My feet are going to take quite a betting this year.
My liver, however, is going to get a bit of a reprieve. Now, don’t get silly, I’m not planning to give up the sauce altogether. Where’s the fun in that? I am, however, going to change how I consume it a little bit. See, over the past few years, I’ve been drinking out of these quite a bit:
In case you don’t immediately recognized that, it’s a 22-oz beer glass. I use them frequently because, well, I often find myself cracking open a bottle like this:
No, I don’t mean a Bastard, necessarily, but a 22-oz bomber full of beer. The thing is, though, I really don’t need to be drinking 22 oz of beer at a time. Kind of the same way no one really needs to eat at the Chinese Buffet, and doing so will inevitably lead to shame and self-loathing. Luckily, though, through a happy accident, I just happened to receive a box of brand new glasses for Christmas. To be more specific, 17-oz pilsners. If you ask me, a 16- or 17-oz glass is just about perfect for filling with 12-oz of beer and leaving just the proper space for an inch or two of frothy head. See? So for 2013, I’m going to be drinking from the somewhat more reserved smaller glasses.
And that means no more 22-oz bombers for me, at least not on a regular basis. Bottles of that size should be shared, so unless I plan on sharing, I’m going to leave them right where they are on the shelf.
I fully expect my liver, by midsection, and my head to thank me come Jan 1, 2014.
That’s my look ahead. What are you looking forward to in 2013? You know I’d love to hear it. Oh, and if you happen to be a writer trying to find your way into an agent’s good graces, drop me a line and say, ‘Hello!’ We’re all in this together, I’d like to get to know as many of you as I can.
Happy New Year, my fine readerly folk! Now, get out there, kick some ass and take some names.
As I said on twitter last night, I plan to kill it for the next 365 days. So let’s all crush it, together!
[Not sure what I'm talking about with this whole NaNoWriMo thing? That's National Novel Writing Month, a fun nerve-wracking game delusional writers (including me, apparently) like to play in November. You can get more information here, and hey, why not check out my first post on the subject?]
Dear Your Name Goes Here,
You have to believe me, though. It’s not you…it’s…it’s…
I assume the signs are all but apparent now, and that they undoubtedly revolt you.
Believe me, were I capable of seeing them myself, I’d likely be filled with revulsion as well.
I can only imagine what you see and how it must horrify: eyes that constantly stare at some unseen, confounding demon, a perpetually unwashed face, ashen cheeks covered in patchy, unshaven whiskers, a head of hair with both matted clumps and stock-straight stalagmites standing up like Alfalfa’s cowlick, an odor that reeks of festering onions, Cool Ranch Doritos, burnt coffee, flop sweat, and desperation, and a haunted expression that simultaneously speaks of righteous white-hot fury yet somehow also, a child’s lost innocence.
I know I mutter to myself as if wandering a fever dream, and I spend every moment hunched over a grit-filled keyboard in the dark, ignorant of the Cheez-It crumbs wedged between so many of the keys. In fact, the ‘Q’ ceased working altogether last night, and I hardly even noticed. Somehow my crazed mind has been compensating automatically, ensuring nothing in my fledgling manuscript will ever be described by the words “quiet”, “quaint” or “querulous”.
I guess I’ll have to get that fixed before revisions start next month. But I can’t think about that now.
For now there’s only the NaNo.
I am sorry that when you speak to me, I only shake my head in agreement and mumble, “Hmm-mmmm,” regardless of whether you’ve asked me if we should have pizza for dinner or if I’d like to have my testicles removed via Alpha-Centauri Gamma Laser as a sacrifice to the Galactic Sun People. For the record, I probably don’t really want that laser thing, but we both know I’m only hearing the cacophony of voices I’ve unleashed in my head. So, you know, whatever it is you wanted to ask me about, you should probably just take care of it yourself. Unless it can wait until next month.
Odds are good that even if I was listening I wouldn’t give you a coherent answer. A question like, “do you want your bagel buttered?” is likely to earn a response along the lines of “No! Don’t release the airlock hatch! They’ll all DIE!”
I’m sorry I can’t remember the simplest things you’ve said to me, even five minutes later. And no, I’ll never remember to stop and get that bread for dinner.
I am sorry I’m making less sense than an “artistic” indie film made by three pot heads with someone’s iPhone camera.
I am sorry that my children probably don’t recognize me any more and wonder why their mom let that hobo move into the basement and use dad’s computer all the time.
Most of all, though, I’m sorry that it’s only the first day of NaNoWriMo. Seriously, by the end of next week, I’m going to look Jabba the Hut and have all the interpersonal skills of a broken slow cooker.
But I’ve accepted the challenge, and it calls to me. The words will be my only, and often harsh, mistress and for the next 30 days. I have little choice now but to be their monkey boy.
Please forgive me, and remember to love me again in December.
Hopefully after I’ve bathed.
Oh, and if you could make some coffee, that’d be awesome.
May the words be with you!
In general, I try to avoid writing two consecutive posts about the same topic. I mean, I guess I got a little wound up when I first started talking about the whole running business and no one could get me to shut up about it for a days. But, hey, it’s my blog. And besides, it’s not like I went that crazy. I wasn’t flinging peanut butter across the kitchen because it wasn’t creamy enough, right?
Anyway, Tuesday’s post about what I’ve learned from querying so far actually got a little extra attention yesterday, mostly due to happy timing. I know, right? Me having good timing for once is like Wile. E. Coyote painting a tunnel on the side of rock wall and having the Road Running actually go “splat”. It. Just. Doesn’t. Happen.
Anyway, one of the agents I follow on twitter, the estimable literaticat, published a blog post elaborating on the idea that agents really do need to love your work. A bit of debate then cropped up over that contention when an author suggested that a good agent, largely being responsible for selling your work to a publisher, only need be good enough at sales to have eskimos lining up to purchase refrigerators.
I can only assume that means, yes, of course the kind with ice-makers.
Well, as an unpublished, currently unagented author, that idea makes about as much sense to me as saying a pig is only good for it’s bacon. I mean, come on, yes, of course we all love that crispy, smokey, bacony goodness – well, or at least you do as long as you’re not one o’ them dirty, ‘Merica-hatin’ communists. And yes, you can argue that bacon is the best part, but let’s not overlook tasty hams, luscious barbecued shoulder, not-quite fall-off-the-bone ribs…
Ahem. Sorry, I think I might have been drooling there. Anybody else hungry?
The point is, there’s a lot of goodness that comes with a porker, and along that same line, there’s a lot of benefit to having a great agent. Most of those benefits come well before and continue long after you’ve gotten a contract with a publisher. And, honestly, I think you’d be a fool to focus only on the contract.
Look, I certainly get that the paramount goal for most of us book-scribbling hacks is to get the thing published somewhere, somehow, even it if costs us a firstborn or two. Trust me, I want other people to read my book so badly I have dreams of breaking into people homes and stuffing stockings with hand-scribed copies of it this Christmas.
(Note to self: maybe ease off the late-night pizza and tequila?)
But as much as that’s the case, what I don’t want is someone working me like I’m a commodity. I don’t want an agent that sees every 100k words I’ve strung together as the newest, latest innovation in snake oil. I don’t want to be talked about in fast, non-committal, detail-free sentences like my work is a used car that may or may not fall apart in 200 miles…er…pages. I want an agent that knows my characters like friends, can breathe in the worlds constructed from my imagination, and loves it all so much that they can’t help themselves but want to share it with the whole world, like a fan-fold of baby pictures from an overly-enthusiastic new dad’s wallet.
Obviously, as writers, there’s a strong desire to make money from living in our imaginations and selling the products thereof. But if we’re reduced to selling our creations (and, to a point, ourselves) under the guidance of someone who only cares about making the sale and pushing the commodity, that doesn’t feel much different to me than working for a guy named “Boost” on a Hollywood Boulevard corner on a Friday night. And even if that worked out for Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t work out so well for me.
Trust me, I don’t look good in a sequined mini-skirt, wig or no wig.
As an author, do I want an agent? Yes, of course. So badly I’d be willing to give up beer lovin’ cartoons well, something important!
But wanting to be represented is very much not the same thing as just wanting to see my work peddled like the vague promises of a travelling tent-revival preacher.
That’s not say that most writers couldn’t probably do with having a few demons cast out, but that’s so another post.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep looking for love; hopefully avoiding all the wrong places.
And, hey, maybe I’m wrong. In which case, good luck with you and your snake oil guy. Luckily, I hear that back stock keeps pretty well in a dark, empty warehouse.
That’s my opinion, at least. Are you author, published or unagented? What do you think?