Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Day... Just Shoot Me Now!!

Today, in my ten-plus hour work day, I had nine meetings.  I'm ready to kill myself.  As Daffy Duck says, "Just shoot me now!"  Patti and I went to dinner at 6pm, and of course, we talked about work.  I don't know if we know anything else anymore.  We both almost fell asleep at the table. 

I never said I wanted to be this important.  (Or is that I never wanted to be this stupid, ridiculous, incompetent, dreary, pushy, bitchy... tired.)  I'm too old for this sh*t. 

In a previous life time, ten or so years ago, or more, I could put in ten-plus hours a day, and not really feel it because I was active, doing stuff. Real stuff.  Productive stuff. What is it about meetings that drains the life out of a person?

Sad thing is that it's interfering with my editing.  But the good thing is that it has spun up my imagination.  After saying and doing the same thing over and over again, for hours and days on end, I get scary thoughts.  Images of mass destruction.  Of pinching people's heads off.  Of coming to work with a shotgun.  Or even better a machete.  I never really was a gun person.  Baseball bats are more my style.

And those things feed my writing.  If you've read some of my short stories, you'd understand.  I can get Stephen-King-scary when I write. [Trust me, it's just an outlet... so that I don't do those thing.]  In my short stories, someone always dies, in a bizarre way.  Fortunately, I can't sustain it.  So no Stephen King novels.  [I never want the inside of my head to be that scary of a place.]  But maybe I'll post a couple of my short stuff here. 

With that said, I just checked my work mail (at 9pm), and I have two more meetings added to my schedule for this week, added since I checked at 8pm.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Agent Confusion

Dear Self,
Last night, besides a weird dream about traveling to Santa Fe with Andrea and Heinz and my Granny, I had a dream that an agent responded to one of my email queries.  Unfortunately, the dream email was very confusing, neither a rejection nor a yes, I want to be your agent response.  I’m starting to feel very bewildered with the whole process.  I know agents are busy people, and a “new” author isn’t likely to get any attention, but I’m different. No, really, I am. 
I know. I know. All authors believe they just wrote the Next Great American Novel (or whatever country they live in), but I read a lot, and I think my work is, at minimum, worth publishing.  I also know that I’m being impatient. It hasn’t even been a month since I sent my first email query, but patience is not one of my virtues.
I’ve sent out ten queries and have received two rejections.  I wonder whether I should just put it away, just forget about it.  The reason I say this is that my dream seems so ambivalent.  Shouldn’t I be dreaming about agents throwing huge deals at me?  Ann-Marie dreamt that she attended one of my book signings (Granted there were some bizarre factors in her dream, but aren’t there always in dreams?).  So, why am I not dreaming about book signings and success? 
Signed Confused

Saturday, February 18, 2012

More Agent Queries Sent

After talking with my brother about scheduling our trip to Scotland, and then talking to Patti about work, I've spent the rest of the afternoon looking up agents and sending out email queries.  AgentQuery.com is a great resource, although you should follow the agency links provided to make sure that the agent is still at that agency or in business.  I found two that I did not send queries to, one was no longer at that agency and the other agents weren't interested in Women's Fiction and another that turned out to be more of a talent agency.

By early-afternoon, I had already sent out several email queries, based on agents looking for Women's Fiction, but as a lark, I decided to put in "southern" as the keyword (along with Women's Fiction as a genre) just to see if there was anything out there. 

I won't list the agent's name, but here's what I found, and yes, I immediately sent her a query email.

This is straight from the Special Interests area:

  • She loves voice and story-driven fiction.
  • She is interested in women’s fiction that hits that sweet spot between literary and mainstream and has a passion for Southern voices, historical dramas, suspense with a well-developed protagonist, and writing that illuminates the multicultural experience.
  • She has a weakness for family secrets and mother-daughter relationships and love stories that make her cry.

    With that said, I don't know what this agent is like to work with, but I would love to find out. 

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Annoyance and a Title

    So the next day after I was so happy to have finally decided on a title, I was humming a song at work, and realized that it was a refrain that goes "take these broken wings and learn to fly again, and learn to live so free", which works perfectly with the theme of my story, but which really removes the Beatles bluesy slant from it.  Sadly, most people will remember the Mr. Mister song instead of the Beatles Blackbird song.  And that might be okay except that the Mr. Mister song is really upbeat, and has that '80 vibe that I really did not enjoy (I pretty much moved from the '60-'70s music to the late '90s and the current scene.  I really love Linkin Park and Staind and DeathCab and Adele, and so on...).  Needless to say, Mr. Mister does not fit with my story, or my mindset, no not at all.

    But I crossed my fingers and thought, okay, let's see if anyone else notices. 

    Today, my friend Ann-Marie emailed me, and asked me if I realized that the lyric is also from the now --in my mind-- repugnant Mr. Mister song.  To Ann-Marie, I replied yes. I wish she could have seen the hangdog expression on my face.  Of course, I'd rather catch it now than have a whole Mr. Mister revival because of my book. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it could happen.

    Basically I have to change the title, again.

    I replied to Ann-Marie that I had thought about changing the title to On Broken Wings, which occurred to me as I was writing up a query letter. At the end of the synopsis section in the query, I wrote: Maggie learns to fly (metaphorically), even if it is on broken wings.  Ann-Marie liked the change.  She sent this response: 'Oooooh, "on broken wings" is good too.  I think I like it even better.'  (Love you AM, for that response!!)

    I don't know what I'm going to do, but at this moment, I'm seriously thinking of writing a hate letter to Mr. Mister (or whoever they are now, if they are) and saying thanks [I hope you can feel the sarcasm oozing from that word] for ruining my title.

    Dear Reader (I always wanted to say that), if you feel so inclined, let me know what you think of the new title: On Broken Wings.  Comments or emails.  Both work.

    Thursday, February 9, 2012

    e-Publishing Lecture

    Tonight, I logged on to a webinar presented by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA).  Gerri Russell, a well know romance writer, was the presenter, and the topic was e-publishing.  Ms. Russell took us through the reasons she chose to go down the e-publishing route which I won't share here (that's her story to tell), but it did make me think about whether I really want to deal with agents and publishers.

    I will share her troubles getting an agent, mostly because this is one of the things that sends new authors to e-publishing or defeats them completely.  She opened with (and I'm paraphrasing): "I've been writing for sixteen years, and I didn't get published for thirteen of those years, because the genre of Paranormal Romance wasn't of interest to publishers until just recently."  Of course, now she has six or seven books, written during those years, that are selling like crazy.

    I also want to share some of the information that I didn't know, like (and I updated my previous post) that CreateSpace is the division of Amazon that physically publishes e-books, not the facility that formats the e-books themselves.  Lightning Source is the Barnes and Noble equivalent, and also the service used by the library (at least in the Seattle area).

    So in no order other than what comes to my mind first, here are some of the things I learned from this lecture.

    (1) If you're going to e-publish, buy ISBNs.  Bowker.com is the place she purchased her ISBNs.  Another thing, about ISBNs, is that if you plan on writing more than one book, then you should buy multiple ISBNs up front.  One ISBN will cost you $125, ten will cost $250, and a hundred will cost $575.  Also, an e-book has a different ISBN than a physically published book.  So I'll probably go for at least ten, but my friends will tell you that I love a bargain.  Ten vs. a hundred.  I may have to go with a hundred, just in case I start cranking out the books.

    (2) Purchase professional services like cover illustrator and copy editor.  This will help promote and retain a professional reputation.

    (3) Use straight quotes instead of the MS Document style quotes.  The word style quotes will create an error for each quote mark in the e-pub document.  That's a lot of errors.  She suggested converting your whole manuscript to text format and start from there. 

    (4) Another formatting issue.  Ever since I've been taking classes, the standard when submitting anything to anyone is Times New Roman, 12pt, double spaced.  Not so with e-books.  She says she uses Calibri, 10 or 11pt.  And no double spacing.  Basically Ms. Russell suggested doing a preview, and during that preview, pick a font that is readable in different sizes, a font that isn't going to give the reader a headache. 

    (5) Images can be uploaded, fairly easily, for e-books.  But take into consideration that readers will be reading at different font sizes.  So wrapping text around an image, like in a word document, isn't something that can be done.

    (6) The big three e-publishers are Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and SmashWords (which issues multiple formats, including for palms and iPads, and just text.)  Ms. Russell recommended submitting to Amazon and Barnes and Noble first, to make sure that the format comes out right on their sites.  SmashWords will format for Kindle and Nook, but it may not be "perfect".  But definitely submit to all three.

    (7) DRM (digital rights management) is something I'll have to investigate more later.  She did say that originally she chose to have DRM, to help prevent piracy, but that her books ended up being pirated anyway, and she finally stopped choosing DRM.  She also said that DRM makes it more difficult for the reader.  I'm not sure how it makes things more difficult, but as I said, I'll have to investigate this more later.

    (8) Amazon now has a royalty "fund"because of all the bad-press about loaning books to Prime members without paying royalties to the authors.  Not sure how that works, but will investigate if I go the e-publishing route.

    (9) Finally, she used the term "the power of free".  She typically puts her books out there for free for a couple of days, to get her name on lists and her books in circulation.

    With all this said, e-publishing is looking better and better.

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Second Rejection and a Title

    Last night, after I turned out my bedside light (for the first time), an old Beatles tune drifted through my head.  It goes "Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly...", and I thought, there's the title.  I finally found the title for my novel.

    I've been trying to shove the word crow into the title, when the story isn't about crows. Yes, they're a device in the story, much like a Greek Chorus, but they're not the story.  Maggie letting go of the rigid construct that she's imposed on her own life, her allowing herself to take flight, even if she's doing so on broken wings, is the story.

    My friends will say, "Hhmm, that sounds familiar. Who else intimately involved in this novel has self-imposed, rigid constructs?"  What can I say?  She's not me.  But, she does have parts of me in her. As do all the other characters. Even Suzanne.

    So I'm going to use Take these Broken Wings as the title

    I ran the idea by Ann Hood, one of my writing teachers and a wonderful mentor, and she said there shouldn't be any legal repercussions, even though it is from a song, a well known song, and using song lyrics can cause legal, copyright complications.  I don't know the details, but there has to be some word limit before it's considered quoting a lyric.  Hopefully, it's five or more words.

    Good news, yes?  So on the day I finally chose the title for my novel, I got my second rejection, this time in the form of an email (in response to an email query).  It made me feel much better about the quality of my first rejection letter. This one started out "Dear Author".  I didn't expect a hand-written note, or even the body of the letter to be wholly unique, but I did expect my name to be on the response.  Rejection should be more personal than that.  It made me feel sad, not necessarily to be rejected -- I've gotten past that hurtle -- but to be just another number or another query of many.

    So tonight, I'm celebrating my title and the fact that I didn't end up with an agent who sends out form rejection letters.

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    Editing goes on, and on, and on....

    My friend Kim says that everyone needs a creative outlet, that we can become physically ill if we don't engage the creative part of our brain on a regular basis. Kim quilts. I write. Lately, I've been feeling the need to dust off that creative part of my brain -- because, lord knows, I don't do anything creative at work -- and do something creative for awhile.

    But the editing of Counting Crows never seems to end.  Shoot, I don't even have a real title yet, and I haven't gotten it down to 110K words (or less).  I'm close, but not there yet.  And of course, I still need an agent, all of which means working on this novel for awhile longer.

    Like a lot of new writers who get caught up in editing their first chapter, over and over again, I'm in the spot (with my whole novel) where if I just go over it one more time, then it'll be perfect.  Right.  At a certain point, I have to stop, and work on something else, and I'm ready, really ready to lay Maggie and JD, and all the residents of Jacob's Creek, to rest, and invent some other world, other people with different problems.

    So, I have a plan (one in a long line of plans) to be done with the editing and synopsis writing, with all the details that makes writing feel like work -- at least until an agent/publisher gives me direction on what they want edited -- by the end of this month (February 2012). 

    With that said, February is going to be a busy month. I'm finishing this baby whether it kills me or not.