Heaven’s Not A Colon

Hi all, I’ve been hunched (and I do mean hunched) over a computer for 12+ hours a day, for a week, between clinic (day job) and last minute edits to my novel, The Angry Woman Suite, sent over from the editor at TP. 

And what I have to show for all this hunching and sitting? A spasm-y shoulder, red eyes, and a butt that’s spread another six inches.

Is it worth it?

Would you think me too weird if I were to say my idea of heaven is replacing colons with semi-colons and dashes with ellipses points? That I’m totally in my element hunting down slippery paragraph and page breaks?   

I’ll be wrapping up this proof in a couple of days, then the manuscript will be formatted again by Telemachus and downloaded to my Kindle, where I get to read the whole bleeping thing yet one more time, rechecking formatting for Kindle readers.  

Then The Angry Woman Suite goes to Smashwords for setup for the ipad, Nook, Sony e-reader, and all the rest (more on the print version next post). 

 

E-book trivia:

The Amazon Kindle, when first released in 2007, retailed for $400.00.

And, oh, the cacophony over paper books versus e-books! Of course, now we know it’s not a contest, but a done deal: it’s a co-existence between print and electronic, for now. We’ve all pretty much slipped over to the “dark side,” to electronic, even those who prefer paper (I will always have a love affair with paper, but who can argue with convenience and less money per book, going the e-way?). 

Blogger Nathan Bransford annually asks his readers if they will buy mostly e-books, and the results for this year, as well as every year since 2007, since the Kindle debut, are:

2007 . . . only 7% said they’d pick an e-book over a paper book

2008 . . . hanging in there at 11% (who said they’d pick “e” over paper)

2009 . . . picking up momentum at 19% (who’d choose e-book)

2010 . . . 32% say electronic is the way to go  

2011 . . . 47% say yes they do and will buy mostly e-books      

What a trend. Hope you’re enjoying the season! I’ll check back in a week or so. Oh! oh! oh! wait till you see The Angry Woman Suite cover–it’s coming along, and I love it. Can’t wait to show you!

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It’s Fiction, Not Memoir

New business: This photograph is under consideration for the cover of The Angry Woman Suite. Like it/don’t like it? Don’t be shy . . . first thing off the top of your head—good? bad? Do you feel the “wistfulness”? Feedback appreciated!   

Penquin’s online community Book Country has launched a plethora of tools for authors to digitally publish, with distribution to all major outlets that Penquin distributes to. . . .

Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet is making its appearance sooner than initially announced (sharing the love with Amazon’s new Fire).

Old business: Some time back, a non-writer friend, an avid reader, was looking over a very rough first draft of The Angry Woman Suite for me, a story with a double murder at its core (emphasis here for a reason), told by three narrators in different time zones.

One of these narrators is Elyse Grayson, a young girl at the start of The Angry Woman Suite, and eighteen at its conclusion. The other two narrators are males. Now, as I’ve written before, Elyse Grayson had me from the beginning of the story. She is the glue of this book, and the character I relate to. I didn’t want to leave her when the novel ended.    

Is that because Elyse is female and has understandable issues? (rhetorical question)    

Francis Grayson, on the other hand, her stepfather, was the most difficult character to move forward from a first-person point of view. First off, it was über difficult being male when I’m not, and, second, having to stay in Francis’ head for any length of time made me a little nutty—is that because he’s male (redundant) and has issues?

So this friend (the one who’d read the first draft of The Angry Woman Suite) and I were at lunch one day, menus still in hand, when she leaned over and asked almost conspiratorially, “Lee, did all those things really happen to you when you were a child?”

I was speechless—seriously speechless. “But this isn’t a memoir—”

“But what about Francis? Isn’t he—?”   

Since then, as The Angry Woman Suite has grown, and been read by more people and critiqued and commented on, I’ve heard again and again, “How much of this story is you; is any part of it true?”

Okay, so here’s the deal: other than writing these blog posts, I write fiction. Stories. I make things up. 

There is no double murder in my background.

Are you kidding? If there were, I would write a memoir—and a sequel.

As for creating characters with foibles and neuroses, well, ever since I can remember, I have watched and listened to people and wondered, “Really, is what you just said truth or bullshit? And if it’s bullshit—and you are looking like you’re believing your own shit —then which hat did you just pull that one out of?

And this, seriously, is the genesis of my storytelling. I make up stories to explain the otherwise (to me) unexplainable.

So, yes, there are people in my stories who are reminiscent of many real-life people I’ve either appreciated or puzzled over. We all work with the tools we have, what we can lay our hands on, what is familiar; what we know. And, like everyone else, I’ve had good and bad influences in my life—those influences are my tools.  

But, again, excepting the historical references to the American Revolution, The Angry Woman Suite is fiction.

And fiction is an art form I’ve loved from the very first Louisa Mae Alcott “big girl” novel (Rose in Bloom) my mother gave me when I was eight, to the novel we talked of as she lay dying (The Last of the Mohicans).        

Thanks for coming by—oh, and one other thing, and yes, it is about me *smile*: I met my Telemachus editor today. Her name is Karen, and she’s brilliant. She turned 40 pages back around to me thisfast—so there’s much to do (but it’s fun). Except I haven’t quite figured out the sleeping thing, as in where it fits in. I’ll be back on Monday—comments appreciated!

“Legacy’s Excruciating Embrace”

So picking up from where I left off (which was my post of Oct. 24th), what does a girl (that would be me) with a historical/commercial novel titled The Angry Woman Suite, a brilliant Kirkus review re same, and a missing literary agent do next?

Note: Not that my agent making a career switch was a bad thing—for her. It actually made perfect sense, considering the sucky precariousness of traditional publishing these days. The better question might’ve been, “What? Are you still here?”

Um, before she wasn’t, that is.

To keep the record straight, my agent was a nice person who totally went to bat for The Angry Woman Suite—and I wish her every success in her new career choice.

Okay, now back to me. *smile*

I left off (my last post) talking about “Josh,” the potty-mouthed non-fiction writer who told me in so many unprintable words to get my butt in gear and go digital and promote my novel via social media (at which point I went cold with fear; it’s that word promote). 

But I’d bought myself some time, I thought (so I wouldn’t have to make decisions/take a plunge/move ahead/whatever; all that hard stuff), by taking The Angry Woman Suite to Kirkus Reviews. I told Josh that if my review came in even halfway positive, I’d proudly go digital and start a blog and buy our next lunch together.  

Seemed a safe enough thing to say.

Oh, but there’s this thing about “safe” I’m not too crazy about. 

Safe is boring. 

More than that, safe is probably not what life’s supposed to be about (and I’m not talking the kind of safe from something truly dangerous). I’m talking the comfort zone kind of “safe,” where we hide, get lazy, or give up. Where we don’t apply ourselves, or test ourselves, and we make excuses for why we didn’t follow through on something we’ve told ourselves and the world we really want. “No time” is the #1 excuse, followed by “I don’t know where to start.”

I often wonder: Is that what we want to be thinking at the end of life; that we had no time? Serious? Or that we didn’t know where to start living? Really?

But if we’re still here, we have time. 

So, it’s not about “no time.” It’s about choices–about choosing priorities. 

Enough said. I’m nobody’s life coach. Are you kidding? A shy girl?  

But I do know I feel pretty ick about myself when I don’t do something just because I’ve doubted my ability. Which is when I make myself so busy that I get to tell myself I don’t have time to do the thing I’m afraid I might fail at, or that I might look foolish doing. And, no, of course I don’t know I’m rationalizing at the time. I’m very good at justifying myself—until I’m not.

And then it’s a clear call to arms.

So, looking back and moving on: 

Step #1 of The Plan: I’d sent The Angry Woman Suite to Kirkus—and then happily compartmentalized that move, because it was a 4-6 week turnaround. There was nothing more to add to Step #1: it was out of my hands. Next.     

(For those who don’t know, Kirkus Reviews has been around since the 1930’s. As a big-time reader, I’ve always looked for books with a good Kirkus one-liner across the top of a cover, assured I’d get an excellent read—they’ve never let me down.)

Step #2 of The Plan: I started a blog while “forgetting” about the Kirkus review outcome. 

Yep—because of the call to arms thing.

I’d been a blog reader for some time, of writers mostly, and agents, and anything to do with publishing—so blogs weren’t unknown to me. Making one was.  

I met a man I’ll call Tim, who came up with a design for the multi-contributor format I had in mind, for a blog to be titled Rooms of Our Own (inspired by the famous Virginia Woolf quote). The “rooms”—actually, the way Tim put the site together, they are separate blogs within a “web,” so to speak—are occupied by photographer Geri Wilson, and writer Shelley Marquez, and me.        

And what I’d been afraid might be a drag or a flop or a timewaste . . .

. . . has morphed into amazing fun. Yes, it does take time to write blog posts, and sometimes I wonder where I’ll find the time to write anything, in-between a fulltime job and taking care of a very ill husband and a house and writing another book—but when something is challenging in a fun way, how hard is it, really, to make it (instead of, say, dusting) a priority?

Plus, how cool is it to disregard a million and one excuses?  

Very cool (and I hired someone for the dusting, because it’s not fulfilling to me—this is only about me—best money spent, ever) . . . now the surprise:

I’d had a horrible day. (A horrible day for me is when my sick husband has not had a good day.) It was a Sunday, 9 pm, and I was almost too tired to check my email (that’s tired).

But the next day was a work day—I work in the medical field—and I wanted to make sure there were no weekend emergencies to follow up on first thing Monday morning.

There weren’t—but there was an email from Kirkus, with attachment. Oh, crap. No, double crap. I was so not ready; it could wait till tomorrow–it didn’t feel safe.    

That word again. (I’ve come to realize that “not safe” means anything out of my control.)       

Kirkus reviews are always structured the same way: three paragraphs, and the last paragraph is the zinger: the one that says it all. The “summer-upper.” The maker or the breaker.

How much worse could my day get? I thought. Plus, if I opened the attachment, I wouldn’t feel like such a dipwad, being afraid to open my own mail—it would be over and done. I’d start the next day with a clean slate.   

I opened the attachment.

I went straight for the third paragraph.

It read:      

“A superb debut that exposes the consequences of the choices we make and legacy’s sometimes excruciating embrace.”

Yowsa—and, geez, How Very Ironically Appropriate.  

To be continued . . . .

Next up, Part 3 of The Plan: the search for a digital publisher, what all is entailed (a lot)—and a decision.

Thank you so much for coming by; please come back, and comments are very appreciated. I post on Mondays and Thursdays or thereabouts; and sometimes more, but sometimes less.

Query Hell

Neurotic.

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been asked to post a piece I actually wrote some time back, about querying literary agents, so here we go:

Welcome to Hell (and producing a drop-dead query truly is). . . .     

First, don’t go all neurotic over dropping into hell. It’s not uncharted territory. Second, get to work familiarizing yourself with AgentQuery and the AAR database—there’re a million other Internet resources, but AQ is my favorite (see link opposite column). It’s chock-full of info about the pub business, the agents, and it’s easy to navigate. Please follow the agents’ submission preferences! To think they’re irrevelant, or your work so dang brilliant you can enclose fifty pages when an agent clearly specifies five, is a little like flipping someone the bird on a LA freeway: it’s just not going to go well for you.

On the other hand, breathe deeply and believe. Living in hell is, well, hell, but some over-anxious mindsets make the stay harder than need be—and who’s looking for a harder way to do anything, unless of course you’re a committed neurotic? Remember you’ve already completed a whole manuscript of fiction, or, if non-fiction, manufactured an exciting, with-a-twist! proposal on the invention of the ball bearing—meaning you are already so not a slacker, my friend. So there.

That scary query . . .

A whole industry has been built on the back of the query letter (whole books! too numerous to count!!) about how to write one (and how scary the statistics are: only 1% of queries get a positive response). People have made a whole lot of money off this puppy. Now, though, all the how-to, plus examples of successful queries, can be found on the internet—again, check out AgentQuery.    

Simply put, the query letter is your calling card with a pitch. Its anatomy is one page, three basic paragraphs; four if you must. Don’t forget to include genre, word count, and title!—and if you’ve done your homework, you know a bit about the agent you’re querying, so tell her or him why s/he’s the the Chosen One (because s/he repped a book you love; because you love her/his blog, etc.).

Resist making your opening a rhetorical question, as in “Ever wonder why everyone’s so surprised when their obviously insane next door neighbor turns out to be a serial killer?” Consider a “When” opening instead. Maybe like, “When the charred bodies of America’s premier artist Matthew Waterston and his wife were recovered from their burned-out mill house, all eyes turned to the reclusive Stella Grayson, and for one shameful reason only: Stella Grayson was physically repellant.”   

Or, “I’ve read of your interest in representing fiction, especially commercial with a literary bent, and would like to introduce The Angry Woman Suite, a 105,000-word story about two unsolved celebrity murders in Pennsylvania, and the fallout from those murders on two generations.”

Yes, both mine–and I know, I’m shameless (but I did get an agent).

Paragraph #2 describes the basic plot, with resolution (though resolution can be “soft”). This is the hardest paragraph. Squeezing a whole book into one teensy, fascinating, lyrical, literate paragraph is the very definition of hell for writers (who, of course, love words). 

Paragraph #3 is all about you. Finally! BUT–if you actually think there’s nothing particularly worth the retelling; i.e., you’re not an Iowa Writers’ Workshop alum and you’re currently unpublished, then share what inspired you to write your masterpiece. In two very awesome sentences, period.  

Show your query drafts to friends and your critique group; ideally, until eyes glaze over and they plead for you to stop already.  

Now, when you’ve finally got IT—a polished, irresistible query—resist the temptation to blanket the country with your little beauty. Send to no more than eight agents at a time. This is all-important, because if you don’t get one positive response (the aforementioned 1%), or any comments, you’ll want to tweak the query and make it even more irresistible (you may have to do this several times). See what I mean? If you’ve already done a mass submission, you’ve somewhat kissed that strategy goodbye.

Now put on your suit of armor and get ready for the rejections. They come in all shapes and sizes: form letters, pre-printed postcards (so the entire world can know your business), or even just a scribble across the top of your returned query letter. 

On the other hand, a personal rejection letter, or phone call, is almost as feel-good as an acceptance (almost, and try explaining that to a non-writer). It means you at least made someone sit up and notice. But don’t take rejection (as opposed to constructive criticism) too seriously. Yeah, right. No, really. Agents don’t know you. Remember this. Make it your mantra. And not every agent will give a flying fig about the history of the ball bearing, no matter how brilliantly presented. So, after sending your first round of queries on their way, vow not to do the whole neurotic thing over the whole rejection thing. Instead. step out of hell and into your zen place. Go philosophical, not theatrical. 

So much better for the soul.