Pets, Publishing, Writing

Week 14 2016 – Frankie’s Spring Break

IMG_0433This was a splendid week devoted to nothing but writing and editing, and then more editing. A wonderful respite from the drudgery that comes with a day job, but now it is over. Tomorrow I return to the real world. My pug will be most sad. She has been terribly spoiled this week, getting to spend practically every moment within my reach. Still, it’s good to have the day job as I like being able to support myself, but still, what a thing it would be if my writing alone could pay my bills.

This week was the first full week of the A to Z blog challenge. My theme is beer, sort of – I wanted to see if I know enough beers for each letter. Also, there were lots of previews of my book because I am editing. I combined proofreading my book revisions with my blog challenge.  I must cross Query Lake, turn in my full requests and my partial requests so that one of these weeks, I can write my “How I Got My Agent” post.

IMG_0496The best part of this week is that I got to spend the whole week with my dog at my feet. Frankie is the perfect research partner for finding all these beers. There are a couple of pubs close by that allow me to take Frankie with me. I love that.

I do not actually drink alcohol at all when I am writing. It may have worked for Hemingway, but my poison is coffee and tea for the early and late hours when I am chewing over my latest manuscript. Beer is a social thing for reconnecting with people, getting caught up with my now grown daughter, a way to draw stories out of friends and strangers, a way to leave the real world behind, and travel deep into my imagination.

Publishing, Writing

Week 13 2016 – Renewal from the Reef

PyraThis week has been one of recovery and renewal. I am at last back to writing steadily. My aunt’s death knocked me off my virtual horse. I can hear her pushing me right back onto my horse just as she did when I was a child learning to ride. I am going to cut this short as I am participating in the A to Z challenge. People will tire of my blog in short order as it is.

I am working on the last edits for my R&R today and would like to be back in the query trenches by this time next week. Tomorrow, I must write a blog inspired by the letter “C”. I did not pick a theme for my challenge although I suppose “beer” could be construed at such. Anyhow, thanks to all in The Reef (Agent, Janet Reid’s wonderful blog) for all their support over the last couple of weeks, and for all they do. What a great bunch of writers. Drinks on me this week.

Books, Cafe, Literature, Pets, Publishing, Reading, Writing

Week 7 2016 – The Slush Pile Cafe

SlushPileSo I am opening a café. It’s virtual because my funding for it at this time is virtual (non-existent). It is a café for writers at all stages of their career, and those who help us, delight us, improve us all the while tormenting us (beta-readers, editors, agents, cover artists, marketers, publicists, book critics, and fans.).

After a writer completes a book, most of us would like there to be readers. Lots of them.  This involves a great deal of waiting, and usually that waiting is done at the bottom of a slush pile. This idea came to me when reading this post by Janet Reid about an agented author waiting to hear about her second novel placed with that agent. I just want to hear about my first novel,and realized I am way on the bottom of several slush piles. Hence, I give you the Slush Pile Café.

The Slush Pile Café

SlushCafeFloorPlanImagine a 4-story circular building that opens into a lovely outdoor café and garden at its center. Think miniature pentagon. There is free WiFi (naturally), and it is pet friendly. Writers get awfully attached to their animals.

IMG_0299Note: If you have a horse or a dragon, please call ahead. We can only stable so many horses, and we can only provide so many treasure hordes for dragons. And some people become unglued when they see a dragon outside the pages of books.  Most writers are totally fine with them. The café is divided into several distinct areas to accommodate the entire writing process (from start to fans).

The Query Trenches

SlushMenuThis part of the Slush Pile Café is for writer’s who are deep in the Query trenches or trying to finish their book. The Query Trenches is located next to the coffee and bakery station. If you wish, there is an app available inside the trenches that will hit refresh on your email every two seconds and alert you when an agent or editor has made some reply to your query or request. After 90 days, it will send a gentle follow-up to non-responding agents. If the agent is one of those Normans (No Response Means No), it will pipe sappy love songs from the 70’s elevator music into their office.

The Plot Thickens Craft Bar

IMG_0152In the basement of the café is a craft beer and whiskey bar. This is primarily for writer’s with works in progress. This area seeks to satisfy the writer’s needs so they can keep editing and writing. The beer, various bar classics, and generous offering of typical pub fare should keep them calm or at least inspired until they pass out and dream up that next plot twist. *NOTE: Magic mushrooms are available at additional cost.

The Critique Corner

Both the café and the bar cater to this little corner where beta readers and critique groups gather, discuss, and offer feedback to all those works in progress. Agents and editors are welcome here as well.

The Slush Pile Itself

IMG_0160This room is covered with unread pages and manuscripts waiting for review. There are printers and e-readers, and of course, ample numbers of cushy chairs to allow agents and editors to work their way through their individual slush pile. 

A relaxing atmosphere is provided to keep those gatekeepers at peace as they read their way through. For each manuscript reviewed, the café offers one free beverage of the reader’s choice. Each week, The Slush Pile Café will sponsor one agent or editor to answer writer questions for two hours.

This week’s special: Zombie Killer Ale

The Dream Shelf

UnattendedChildrenCurious as to where your book will live on bookstore shelf?  This is the place where anyone can go and do some reading while sipping on Fantasy Mochacinno or Mystery Espresso. There will be displays devoted to writers who have successfully navigated the query trenches and found their way to print. Three times a week, authors will be invited to do book signings and readings of their work. A Slush Pile Café app will be available to mock up a cover for an aspiring author and put it around a standard size debut novel. The author can then put the book where it will one day live on the real world bookshelves just to see what it will look like.

The Board Game Loft

IMG_0452A second bar area will be located upstairs in a two story loft area where writers and readers, agents and editors can unwind with some friendly board game competition. All those hostilities that build up in the glacial process that takes a writer from idea to print, an agent from newly discovered talent to six figure book deal, the editor from the slush pile to the best-seller and movie deal, the reader to the discovery of a new magic in the universe in book form can be distilled in friendly and often humorous competition. Once a year, I will capture (invite) two to three established authors to join us at the Loft for a game of Cards Against Humanity. That will be lots of fun, and we can all learn something from those who have already survived the query trenches and found writer nirvana.

 

I hope to see lots of you at the Slush Pile Café.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film, Pets, Publishing, Writing

Week 6 2016 – The Divinity of Ants

 

IMG_0433There’s an old saying here in the south, “if you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans.” I make God laugh all the damn time. It’s not a divine giggle, not a holy snort, but deep, side-splitting laughter that has been known to disrupt the space-time continuum. .

I made God laugh so hard once that the Dark Ages kissed this millennia, dropping off a few of its barbarians, a couple of tyrants, and diseases. I am telling you, Einstein’s theory of relativity is nothing but the scientific explanation for what happens when the mighty universal creative force laughs at us insignificant ants.

 

gravitationalwavesBe happy I don’t tend to plan a whole lot or the momentary tear in the space-time continuum would pull velociraptors out of the Jurassic period. They would end up running about eating politicians and energy efficient cars. Not that this would be an entirely bad thing. Just saying.

velociraptor

In order to have a more coherent blog, I jot down possible themes for each week. So far, not one of those ideas have become an actual blog. Which is why so much of this is gibberish. I should stop making plans before someone really gets hurt or disco makes a come back. I’d much rather deal with the velociraptors than go another round with Saturday Night Fever.

 

The plan this weekend was to have the blog done by 3:00 PM Sunday. That didn’t happen. I meant to revise my query and synopsis and organize my next round of queries in case my other requests and this R&R go belly up. That’s not what happened.

 

I ended going to see Deadpool with my brother and nephew. The best things in life are always unplanned. They just are. My daughter, my pug, and going to see this movie today. All happy accidents. A movie hasn’t made me laugh this hard in well, never. Funniest movie ever. If you have a strong stomach and are not easily offended, screw your plans and go see this film. You could use the laugh.

That is not to say, nothing should be planned.  A strategy is necessary to accomplish anything. I am on course to become a fully functioning, successful writer, but it’s not the course I originally set out on. Don’t be too upset when life blows your plans up. Yes, we are all ants in the eyes of Eternity, but each of us, in those unplanned little moments, where we are forced to abandon a plan and react, when we just let go, there’s a bit of something divine in each of us. And it’s that little bit of divine spontaneity in us that makes us create, change, learn, evolve. So let God laugh. Velociraptors and disco are small enough prices to pay.

 

 

Pets, Publishing, Writing

Pug in a Pub

PugInPubTwo great things happened for me in 2015. I rescued a pug that my daughter and I named Frankie. And really there’s nothing better than a pug at a pub. And I discovered Janet Reid’s Blog. This is a life line for writers anywhere in their career. If you don’t know about this blog, go there now. The regular blog readers (Reiders) and commentators are a friendly enough bunch and we hardly ever bite.

However, I am dissatisfied by my general life progress. Most of this is due to my own weird inclination to be mostly a hermit. I need to stop spiraling in this endless nothing ever changes rut I am in.

I never do resolutions. The most useless pile of manure to ever infest the planet. Life is too damn unpredictable, and I end up ranting at myself like this at the end of each year. Instead I have goals. Some of them lofty, some of them not so much. You will hear the sagely advice, break your goals down into realistic, achievable small bits. That works great. If you’re dieting. Less so if you’re dying.  And we are all plummeting towards that inevitable eternal dirt nap. Regardless of angels singing (they do have lovely voices, even some of the fallen ones) or pitch fork yielding hell beasts, nobody has any idea what you are doing once you leave this world. Here, time works against you.

So this year, I will strive to kick my ass to do the following…

  1. Write every day. Even if it’s just 100 words to say I had a shitty day or that I am too tired write.
  2. Expand my body of work
  3. Finish the revision on my book and resubmit the damn thing
  4. Write a better query letter
  5. Write a better synopsis
  6. Write better. Keep writing.
  7. Get an agent
  8. Attend at least one writer’s conference (even if agent is attained)
  9. Read more. It helps with the writing.
  10. Query until the pain of it is unbearable. For every rejection, send out another query.
  11. Stop making excuses. Just write.

I am going to use this blog to be my monitor. If it goes silent for weeks at a time as it did at the end of 2015, something is wrong. I am making excuses, avoiding getting things done. Maybe I have a migraine or the flu (both those things happened after November 2015), but unless I am on my actual death bed or the internet collapses (both entirely possible), then I better be writing something and recording that I did so here.

Let’s see where this leads. Shall we?

Pets, Publishing, Writing

Introducing Frankie

IMG_0190Meet Frankie, the newest addition to my motley crew of a family.

Two years back, my little Japanese Chin, Seymour passed away. He was twelve and suffered from a heart condition. Since his death, for the first time in my life, I have been without a dog or cat or fish or goat or horse. My daughter went off to college and I was traveling a lot and grieving. I finished my book, took care of some long time goals in my life, but it all felt a bit empty. I can’t stand not having a dog. It had gone on long enough.

My daughter has been obsessed with pugs forever, but we agreed that we should rescue a dog. On an ordinary working Thursday, a bit of a miracle occurred. A pug came into rescue and appeared on my PAWS application (great little app for matching people with pets in need of rescue). And she was at a rescue that is run out of my neighborhood. It was meant to be. We adopted her on Saturday

IMG_0194Frankie was found a few weeks before wandering the streets. Animal control took her in, but failed to locate her owners. They handed her over to a rescue and immediately a couple adopted her. They brought her back two days later because she shed or something. That is when she was picked up by the rescue in my neighborhood and put into the PAWS app. I happened to be looking when she was uploaded. There was not a lot known about her. The vet estimated her to be between 2 and 4 years old, and she had no name.

IMG_0210We toyed with the name Trixie (Beatrix), a prominent character in my WIP. My daughter would not go for it. She worries that any day I will go all George R.R. Martin on my characters. After going through a slew of names, my daughter called her Frankie (I think from the pug in Men in Black).

Having a dog again is so wonderful and calming. Maybe I will rescue a greyhound next. And as a writer, I am told that it is good to have pictures of your pets on your blog.

Check out Janet Reid’s Blog if you don’t believe me. And if you are a writer and don’t read her blog, you are handicapping yourself. Just do it. And go rescue a dog or cat.

 

 

 

Publishing, Writing

A Writer In Instant Gratification World

IMG_0149 I am a writer. By day, I work as a software engineer to pay the bills. I am also a single parent. There is no other means of supporting myself.  As I am not published yet (and I am getting closer), when I tell someone that I am a writer, they give me this dismissive look. I will explain I am looking for an agent. This has been going on for a while now, but for years it was, I am still trying to finish the book.

Inevitably, the non-writer will then suggest I self-publish or insist I go around the agents and go to some small publisher. And there are plenty of writers who do this. Not my path. I want to go through the gatekeepers and get published with someone who will put me on the bookshelves in both small and giant bookstores. Then they look at me like I ought to settle for whatever I can get. I’m stubborn so that’s not happening.

I also write epic fantasy. It’s not something you chug out in a year. Some of the early drafts of many chapters in Shadowed Castles were written when I was a wee kid. I have over 100,000 pages of notebooks, early drafts, scribbled maps, index cards with characters, creatures, and world history that I have been collecting since 1981. These records take up most of my attic. This is not some tea cozy mystery (which I happen to love). This is my life’s work. Now granted, I have about twenty books worth of great stories of research and ideas.

Shadowed Castles took me years to put it in a publishable state. I put it through a workshop back in the late nineties. Then I abandoned it for a good while. I simply was not ready to write that story. I wrote screen plays, short stories, and even tried a couple of literary pieces before coming back to what  I truly wanted to write. Once more I went to the workshops. Those early drafts were seven years ago. Now, I have something that I feel really good about, but it took so much time to get there.

So I am a writer living in a world of instant gratification.  This is particularly difficult when I turn down invitations because I am busy writing or when I take a day off (I do this a lot) to polish my manuscript or to respond to a request for more pages or a full. I do not do vacation. I write.  Non-writers do not seem to realize the hours of work it takes to finish a book, to revise that book as you attend conferences, interact with agents and editors and other writers, meticulously pour over each detail.

The non-writer lives in the world where if you want something, there is a great shortcut to get there. Yes, this even exists for writers (self-publishing). It’s not for me. I know there are success stories in self-publishing, but for me, it’s more than being in print. I want to squeeze my book into the company of David Eddings, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan (may he rest in peace), Mercedes Lackey, Patrick Rothfuss, and the like. I hope to tell stories that do for my readers what those writers have done for me. So I will remain a writer looking for a home in a world with little patience for me.