Draft 53 #amwriting Still

I look at Publisher’s Weekly every freaking week because you know, I got a dream. It’s fun seeing the latest twenty-something year-old signing their first six figure deal. Boy, kids today.

I try to imagine my name in Publisher’s Weekly in some six-figure deal with super cool agent and big publishing company. Only I won’t be twenty-something. That boat sailed by like a rainy spring day followed by heavy hail and damaging winds. Yeah, it shows. It’s been that kind of life.

I am writing the book and not so much this blog. I’m neglecting everything but this damn book. My Keurig gets lots of attention. Black coffee at 5:00 PM after work. Super stupid idea because then I can’t get to sleep. And by the time I get to work at 7 too freaking early in the morning, it’s more caffeine and dragging myself home at 4:00 PM in a daze. I am like some blood-crazed creature only writing is the blood I crave and must have. I’ll die without it. No, seriously.

I’m so close I can taste it. This is the book, finally. After so many half-finished, badly finished, and not-quite what I was going for books, this is the one. Probably.

At draft 53, well doubts begin to settle in. Also, a beta-reader damned me to Hell so that’s fantastic. So, my super-agent and big publisher will have to be cool with a book with the power of damnation. I shudder to think what that beta-reader would make of Cormac McCarthy. I am pretty sure my stuff is not that kind of disturbing. It’ll be fine. So back at it. I will try to do better with the blog, but I doubt my half-dozen blog readers miss me much. Draft 53. Here we go.

 

Discovering New York

I am not a New Yorker. I have visited many times. When I was very young, my grandmother nurtured in me a great love for theater which she encouraged by bringing me to New York when I was in my early teenage years to see various shows on and off Broadway. In the end, my love of theater took me to London. I fell in love with the entire UK in my college years. New York was simply too close, and I wanted to run very far away from my life. That, however, is no longer important.  For my daughter, the experience was something different. She loved New York from her earliest visits and so when she grew up, that is where she moved. Five months ago.

I could not imagine living there- the noise, the fast-pace, the crowding, a jungle of concrete and glass – no it was not for me. I changed my mind when I visited my daughter in Brooklyn. I left my hotel in the upper East side and traveled by subway to Brooklyn. It took a really long time. The F train was not running. Fine, fine. I took the D train. It was crowded, missed my stop. Fine. Back one stop. Back to D train to the C train. Got on C train going the wrong way towards Queens, not Brooklyn. Great. I stink at this.

I never had this trouble with the tubes in London. Finally, with the help of some of the natives, found the C train going the right way. Boarded a car with no air conditioning. It was hot that day. Ugh, and the C train was running local. No idea what that meant. Only it took longer to get to my stop in Brooklyn. I did, after three stops, garner the courage to exit the hot car and change into another car. Much cooler. At long last I arrived in Brooklyn.

What a lovely place. My daughter greeted me with a phalanx of her friends. The girls suggested Kate take me to Brooklyn Heights for dinner and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The afternoon had turned breezy, perfect summer day, not too hot, not too cold. I agreed. I am glad I did.

My first thought of the Brooklyn Bridge came of watching the television on 9/11 – sixteen years ago, and the people watching the towers fall, then the crowds marching across the bridge as it was the only way for them to get home that day.  Sixteen years and that day still seems a moment ago. There are no words for the grief of that terrible day. All alone in our castle burning to death.

Something inside of me healed just a bit when I made the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with my daughter that August evening at sunset. New York survived. Yes, the world is a mess. It always is. Still, despite the horrors of the world, there is still beauty and some of it is created by the hand of man. How easily I fall in awe of the mountains and sea, but I looked at Manhattan with new eyes that evening. How extraordinary.

New York really is a pentacle of human achievement, people from every possible spot on the planet, gathered in one place where buildings reach up and try to touch the heavens and little parks and ponds are dotted between them. Impossible dreams realized by the hands of thousands upon thousands of squishy, short-lived, sometimes mean and greedy, often cruel, but still amazing and full of hope, people.

Yes, all of our favorite sins twist and interlock in equal measure to the grandeur of the architecture and technology in an endless macabre dance that gives New York its personality, like some fallen god that still holds great power and sway.  Words fail me, but I now understand why my daughter has fallen so in love with New York. For all mankind’s failings, for all the tragedy and noise and dirt and pollution, for all our petty wars and disputes, the world is full of so much wonder limited only by our imaginations. And New York offers its share of all of that.

A Yokel in QOTKU’s Court #WD17

So day 2 in New York is day 1 of the Writer’s Digest Conference 2017. The thing I am most looking forward to at the crack of dawn, after bidding my daughter a good day on set, is meeting my queen, Janet Reid.

I make my entrance to the first real day of the conference with an over-priced cup of coffee. Turns out I could have gotten it for free but who knew? The first session I attended was “Pitch Perfect” because as I mentioned in the last post, even though pitching is a tool of the devil, I was doing it.

I had no idea how to pitch my weird-ass fantasy novel. The best I had that morning was Paradise Lost meets Robin Hobb. I would figure it out later, maybe five minutes before walking in the pitch room. I still have beta readers to meander through so I wasn’t worried. I wanted mostly to avoid any terrible pit falls like “don’t stab agents with sharp objects.” I am a writer and ever so slightly psychotic.  I need to be told this.

Then there was the first page seminar. Great openings are a good way to get agents and editors reading. I knew about 90% of the examples given as great openings to several masterpieces. I felt so well read, but again, I have no idea if my weird book has a fantastic opening. Someone gets punched in the face. That is more or less a stock opening, wouldn’t you say? Maybe, I should change it.

Finally, it is time for “Ask the Agents” panel and my queen approaches. Janet Reid is a force of nature as you would expect a shark to be. She, Abby Zidle, and Barbara Poelle should go on the road as a comedy act. They were hysterical and super informative all at once. What a perfect combo, two agents and one editor.

Yes, Janet Reid is a shark. She is probably a very tough negotiator. Also, she is quite direct. She tells it like it is. She is also the most generous person in publishing. The word has gotten out despite all her bluster.

After the session, a huge gaggle of writers flock around her with their questions. I hang back until I can say hello. I agree to try and see her after her last session. She changed my writing life. I want as many other writers as possible to experience that whatever it is that keeps them writing. Already, the conference feels complete.

There is one more panel I am really looking forward to, the fantasy world-building seminar. Will Jeff Somers wear pants? At this point, we don’t know but Janet assures me that there is bail money in case the pants and Jeff are not properly joined.

Turns out fantasy writers simply don’t wear pants once they are all published and stuff. The conference cleverly put a skirt on the table they sat at, and all was well. What a great panel! I even said hi to Jeff and he bore my nervous chattering surprisingly well. He’s nothing like scary as one might expect.

I felt accomplished and now it was time for drink. It’s a writer’s conference, right? My daughter arrives earlier than expected this evening so we can visit somewhat properly. We try leaving the hotel in search of food close by hotel. We are both tired, her even more so than me, and it starts pouring rain. Of course it does. So back to the hotel for bar food and more drinks. The kid is on the verge of a breakdown, and this is when we spot my queen at one of the two bars in the hotel.

I suppose it was a little crazy what I did next considering my daughter and I both looked rather like drowned rats.  I introduce the kid to my queen. She is, of course, gracious and we bow and take our leave across the lobby to the bar with the food. I am happy. I would call that a successful day.

The next morning, I do the pitch slam thing, 3 minutes per agent to get their interest in my book. Yes, food of the devil. Whatever. I pitch to 4 agents, one who I would love to have represent me (based on his client list and the possibility of getting signed books from those authors) I get 4 requests. Excellent. I know, it doesn’t mean anything. I still must prove I can write.

I leave early. I need to go to Brooklyn to spend the rest of the day with the kid. I feel like I have a very marketable concept based on agent reaction so all is right the world, and it is a perfect sunny Saturday in New York.

I have an email from my queen instructing me on the best way to get to Brooklyn via train from Manhattan. I step out of the hotel. A street market has broken out. I take a right turn toward the train station. What could go wrong? Funny you should ask…

To be continued

Life is All a Prologue #WD17

Where does this story begin? For the second time, I decided to go to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. The first time changed my life forever so why not give it a second go?

I am always startled by New York. It reminds me of Mos Eisley space station in Star Wars – a meeting place for all the universe. All are welcome but you must adapt quickly or the city will eat you.

People from another galaxy seem as likely as the myriad of people from the other side of the planet. I think Men in Black was serious on that account. I do think I saw a Wookie at 6th and 53rd street where my Uber dropped me off at about 3 PM.  There I stood, just another alien on Broadway attending another writer’s conference with my pocket full of dreams.

My cell phone buzzes.

My daughter, who now lives in New York and is working in the film industry, texts me to say she thinks set will wrap by 6 PM, plenty of time for us to have dinner and a visit before the conference really gets started.

That is perfect. I check into the hotel, drop my bags in my room, and register for the conference. I got a ribbon for being a repeat offender, I mean attender.

I am happily playing with my ribbon when my phone buzzes again. Another text from the kid.

It’s looking like 7 PM for a wrap and she has to go out and buy swim suits for the shoot. Fine. Fine. It’s New York. I can find something to do.

I make like I’m brave and walk out of the hotel. No direction or anything. I find an Irish Pub around the corner and decide my mission has been accomplished. Kate and I love pubs. It’s close to the hotel. Even if she’s a bit late, we can make the walk, have a couple of pints, share a couple of nibbles and laughs, and there will still be time for me to prepare for the morning.

Cell phone again. It’s going to 8 PM on the wrap. Sorry mom.

Not a problem. I am tired anyhow. It has already been a long week. Back to the hotel room. Turn on my laptop and play with my WIP. I paid for a pitch session, and although my queen tells me pitches are the tool of the devil, I’m doing it.  I find I, myself, have always been one of the devil’s favorite tools, and I think a little face time with agents and editors can only help. I can tell if they are worthy if I get a good sniff.

Why did I write such a damn weird book? What was I thinking? I mean I love it, but are there millions of other people out there willing to go full weird? I worry. I order room service.

Cell phone once more. Another text. A long barrage of random curse words from my daughter followed by, maybe 9 PM. Maybe. She’s starving, she says.

I order salad and sweet things. We can crash in the room. She has to be back on set at the crack of dawn the next morning. Paying those dues sucks and honestly, it never ends.

I continue playing with my WIP – it really is just playing at this point. Parts of it are pretty damn good. Parts still need work. I should get it to my beta readers soon. Oh, perhaps I should formalize the whole beta reader thing soon? I make a note of it. Some of you may get pleading emails from me in the next few days. I’ve been at this writing thing for a bit so feel free to reject. I’m used to it.

Maybe the structure needs a tweak or small explosion here and there. Why did I write such an odd book? I must be as insane as my reputation claims. Ah well, what can you do?

Cell phone buzzes in another text a good bit after 9, another barrage of curse words and murderous thoughts. The kid no longer has an ETA.

I caution the kid that homicide of directors is not a career building activity despite the wisdom of that movie, Swimming With Sharks.  What a fantastic film.

The last moments of Thursday are almost gone when my daughter appears at my door. She woofs down the salad, strips off her clothes, gets in the shower (after rifling through my suitcase to borrow some clothes), and then collapses on spare bed. I was marginally prepared for this so she has a clean t-shirt to sleep in.

So I am at the gift shop at dawn, 6 Am on Friday, buying clean underwear and a toothbrush so the kid can be marginally less grimy when she returns to the set. And so this story begins.

To be continued…

Mind the Gap

London 057Last night I dreamed I returned to the United Kingdom. I always meant to go back there, to live there for a time once more as I did when I was at University.  The last time I visited, I took my then fourteen year old daughter. We enjoyed such an adventure. There was no plan. We traipsed around England, mostly staying in London, exploring freely. London had changed a bit since my school days, but not so much as to lose that ambience of long endurance and that incredible air of fable. Time still seemed in long supply, and I believed I would return again. I did not factor in the world going quite so utterly mad.

I dreamed of a withered and dying United Kingdom, a divided and broken land, its culture and people utterly vanquished.  South Kensington, the place I had lived as a student, was lined with crucified bodies, heads on spikes. Masked men wearing  black robes patrolled the streets, heavily armed. In my dream, they turned to carrion birds to feed on the ashes of the land they conquered. It was horrifying. Perhaps, a symptom of watching entirely too much Game of Thrones.

I woke up weeping for its demise more than I think I would for my own country. I rolled out of bed in the night’s darkest hours before dawn and immediately took to my computer to seek plane reservations that I might return there before my visions could come to fruition.  All of this, thinking I was awake as I woke to a bright morning to find my reservations well in place. I packed and gathered my passport and arrived in London. No, I had not awaken from my nightmare. The UK was still there, but it felt dead, like a movie set more than the real place.  I told myself it was the hour of the day, and entered the tube station at Piccadilly Circus.

People packed into the platform and that gave me comfort. Here they all were, citizens of London, waiting for their train. The train came and true to nature, the people queued up to enter as a mechanized and polite voice reminded them.

“Mind the gap.”

No one did. BY the time I boarded the train, all of those people disappeared into the gap which for me was a simple step and for them, an unscalable chasm. Then I awoke to my life once more, and I wrote this blog post. Let this only be a nightmare. Please, world, mind the gap.

Coffee, Tea, Revisions, and The Pug Method

Ah, revisions. Endless revisions and a long, hot holiday weekend with too much light and one pug. I am running out of clean coffee cups rapidly and actually losing my mind. 

It starts at 4 Am the first day off my day job.  I light candles, put myself under some headphones to block out the world with ambient music, and on comes the computer. I write and revise until the pug wakes up and demands her morning ritual – a walk, breakfast, and a cuddle. For me it’s more coffee and a protein shake. More revisions. 

Then there is passing out, perhaps lunch or something like it, more revisions until the pug needs another walk. Then outside I go for a swim, maybe to read a little (clears the creative palette), and then up for a shower and more revisions. I accidentally walked into the wrong apartment on my way up from the pool today. It’s day 3 of this routine. And my mind is beginning to blow apart from reality. 

There is no bedtime. I try to sleep the last few hours of daylight. Then as the sun is quitting for the day, the pug and I venture out for a final walk. Then it is more coffee and more revisions. An hour of sleep here and there in an attempt to revise 99,145 words in a long weekend. This is in hopes of having this book ready for beta readers in 5 weeks. 

I suspect The Pug Method is employed by precious few of my fellows.  I have tried the stay healthy and sane methods, a few hours here and a few hours there worked into the routine of a responsible adult.  It doesn’t work for me. A routine of that kind renders my writing dull and predictable.  Only when I deprive myself of sleep so I can write in the darkness am I able to call the magic.  It is not a fault I seem to be able to fix. 

How do other writers manage? Can a real writer work their craft like a 9-5 job? I can’t imagine that myself. If only I were not so rapidly running out of time. 

Hot Pug in the City

Frankie  is a bit unsure how she feels about this new fangled city living. She is learning about elevators and little parks with area designated for dogs. There are no little streams and woods, and she laments the turtles, foxes, snakes, and rabbits we no longer encounter on our walks. And it is hot and muggy with many hills and stairs to climb. 

Everything is changing, but Frankie has all of her beds and toys, and her odd writer human to walk her, feed her, and rub her tummy. She is content. 

Frankie worried for a day or two that the human who feeds her might be devoured by all those boxes. It was a close thing too, but they were unloaded and their contents put in order.  Why does one human need so many books?

Frankie is pleased at how excited her human is about the recent feedback she received on her WIP from an actual editor. As Frankie sees it, if her writer human can publish, then perhaps the frequency of her day job jaunts will be shorter, and there will be more tummy rubs for her. 

The office has 2 beds that suit Frankie. That will make enduring the writer human’s long hours of revisions easier.  

With each hour, Frankie is happier and really, it is almost like that other place with the foxes, turtles, rabbits, and snakes was a dream that evaporates in the morning late. Time for a new chapter.