Bad Query Day

on September 22, 2014 in Misc | 4 Comments »

Well, that was embarrassing.

I pay my bills.  I pay all of them on time or early.  Really I do.  But my pal Alfonso who maintains the tech part of my blog was out of town and didn’t see the notice that the payment for keeping my blog up was due and you saw the result.  But he’s back home now and I’m back.

So now I can go ahead and tell you that last week was pretty rotten for me because…

That agent turned down my book.

reject letter

What a blow.  And after several months of waiting and that mix-up.  I mean, she read Charity MacCay and so did a second reader at her agency.  And then in a sweet email she praised my book and especially the lead character—and I mean she gushed about Charity’s story.  But in the end she felt sure that I would find another agent who could better represent it.

Crap. Crap crap crap.

I mean, I do realize that my novel blurs a couple genre borders, which can make some people in the business nervous.  And I don’t think that particular agent deals with humorous books or knows editors who do.  Charity is definitely a funny, irreverent book about America circa the Gilded Age.

newspaper

Sigh.  And crap.

But on the bright side, for once I didn’t wallow in self-pity or grief.  Instead I turned off my emotions and got business-like and spent my lunch hour sending out four more queries.

And that’s when an agent emailed me back and asked to see my complete manuscript for Charity!

That was the fastest request from an agent ever for me, and oh, how it made me feel better!  Then in the next couple days I got out still a couple more queries.  And this week I’ll get out more.

I hope all of you had a better week than I did, complete with books sales and agents and editors clamoring for your stories.  Got some good personal news for me?  I’d love to hear it.

Secrets of Honor

on September 14, 2014 in Misc | 6 Comments »

First, I’ve got a small dash of news about me.  Then I’m giving you great news about Carol Kilgore and her exciting new novel.

My news: The agent who had agreed to look at my book, Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar, has finished reading it and asked a second reader at her agency to give it a look.

Is this good news?  I DON’T KNOW!!!  Certainly it’s better than the dreaded, “Thank you for sending us your manuscript.  Unfortunately…” (fill in the rest of the dreaded rejection).  I googled the matter and it seems that agents and editors often ask for a second in-house read when they’re not sure how to market a manuscript or they need another perspective on its potential.

I’ve decided to be positive and upbeat.  Then maybe my good vibes will travel to New York City and sprinkle fairy dust on the second reader who then declares, “WE MUST SIGN THIS  WRITER IMMEDIATELY!”

Secrets of Honor

And now onward to the mistress of Crime Fiction with a Kiss.

Carol Kilgore is one of those funny, friendly, and extremely supportive fellow writers you wished you lived next door to.  As her bio states: Carol sees mystery and subterfuge everywhere.  And she’s a sucker for a good love story—especially ones with humor and mystery.  Crime Fiction with a Kiss gives her the latitude to mix and match throughout the broad mystery and romance genres.  Having flexibility makes her heart happy.

Her new book is out today and it’s called…

SECRETS OF HONOR

By the end of a long evening working as a special set of eyes for the presidential security detail, all Kat Marengo wants is to kick off her shoes and stash two not-really-stolen rings in a secure spot. Plus, maybe sleep with Dave Krizak. No, make that definitely sleep with Dave Krizak. The next morning, she wishes her new top priorities were so simple.

As an operative for a covert agency buried in the depths of the Department of Homeland Security, Kat is asked to participate in a matter of life or death–locate a kidnapped girl believed to be held in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Since the person doing the asking is the wife of the president and the girl is the daughter of the first lady’s dearest friend, it’s hard to say no.

Kat and Dave quickly learn the real stakes are higher than they or the first lady believed and will require more than any of them bargained for.

The kicker? They have twenty-four hours to find the girl—or the matter of life or death will become more than a possibility.

Carol_Kilgore_Author_Photo

If you want to purchase SECRETS OF HONOR, and of course you do, here are the links:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Honor-Carol-Kilgore-ebook/dp/B00NH0QTO6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410561862&sr=8-1&keywords=secrets+of+honor

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Honor-Carol-Kilgore/dp/1500522031/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1410561862&sr=8-1

And if you want to connect with Carol and her books, here are links to her blog and more.

Under the Tiki Hut blog: http://www.underthetikihut.blogspot.com

Website with Monthly Contest: http://www.carolkilgore.net

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/carol.kilgore1

 

Have a wonderful week, y’all.

The Worth of Books

on September 8, 2014 in Misc | 14 Comments »

bargain

So here’s the thing: I think a lot of books have gotten too cheap.

Sure, I’m biased ’cause I’m a writer.  And arguably the massive number of new books now available, thanks to indie publishing and e-books technology, will drive down sticker prices.

On the bright side:  Readers have more literary choices than ever at almost no cost, and writers have more opportunities to get their stories in front of readers.

On the dark side:  We writers will soon starve to death.

Seriously, the really dark side of super cheap and even free e-books is that many readers seem to be devaluing our work.  They have come to expect a fantastic bargain.  After all, why buy a $4.99 e-book by an unknown writer when a 99 cent one sounds pretty good? For that matter, why spend 99 cents when there are so many free books? Marketplace forces are grinding away.

dirt cheap

But is a cheap price always the right tactic for a writer to take?

Here’s an old marketing example.  In the Depression, Curtis nail polish cost 30 cents.  Then Max Factor came along with its spanking new nail polish and charged a dollar.  Business experts warned that Max Factor would fail.  Instead, Max’s polish sold like crazy because women assumed that at more than three times the cost their product was superior to Curtis’s.  The cosmetics and fashion industry took note and has used the more-expensive-is-better ploy ever since.

Yet those same women customers would baulk at spending $5 on an ebook by the likes of us.  Never mind that our books only exist because of months and even years of our work, creativity, passion, intelligence, and other good stuff.

In book publishing, the equivalent of designer fashion prices is a limited edition book.

beatles book

Currently, Amazon doesn’t even carry Harry Benson’s The Beatles (Art Edition).  One of its independent sellers offers the lone copy for $14,100.  The book’s publisher Taschen has on its website a mere 20 signed editions available at $1,000 each, and no doubt they’ll eventually sell out.  Meanwhile, much cheaper editions of Benson’s photo books of the Beatles are much more available.

Sure, it’s a fantasy that any of us pleb writers will one day produce an in-demand costly limited edition book.  But is it too much to ask for a mere couple bucks a book?  Aren’t our stories worth even that much?

In the end, I have no solutions or even suggestions, but I’d love to hear yours.

Logline Hell

on September 1, 2014 in Misc | 13 Comments »

If you think writing a blurb for you novel is tough–and for me they’re a nightmare–try summing up your magnum opus in a mere log line.

scripts

A log line is your first and most important pitch for a screenplay or a TV script.  Think blurbs for people with severe ADD.   When industry folk want to know about your story, you’ve got to pitch it in a mere ONE SENTENCE!  Or if you’re the garrulous type, TWO SENTENCES!

That means you’ve got to cover your story’s crucial elements of the protagonist, antagonist and the goal, and throw in some “sizzle and pop” and “titillation and intrigue” in a few measly words.

back to future

Here’s an example:

An alcoholic ex-superhero searches for his daughter after she is kidnapped by his demented, jealous former sidekick.

Here’s the log line for Back to the Future:

A young man is transported to the past where he must reunite his parents before he and his future are no more.”

Here’s a verbose two  sentence log line:

An expert on cults is hired by a mother and father to kidnap and deprogram their brainwashed daughter.  He soon begins to suspect the parents may be more destructive than the cult he’s been hired to save her from.

By now you may be wondering what my screenplay’s log line is.

I don’t have one yet.

What I do have is 16 pages of a screenplay, which means only about 103 pages to go.  But it’s going kinda fast because I’m having fun telling my story in a format that so different from novel writing.

Still, I’ve got the feeling that by writing my log line now, I’ll be forced to think with crystal clarity about my story, hence the log line will help me write it.

Have you ever done something similar with your own stories, whatever the format?  Like writing a rough blurb early on, or composing a query letter? Could you sum up your novel in one sentence?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reasons why I still haven’t heard from the agent who’s looking at my novel, Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar.

waiting

  1. It’s August and sweltering and most of the population of New York City has skipped town for the month.

  2. The agent is still in her office but her assistant is on vacation and left her email account in lockdown.

  3. A virus created by evil Russian hackers has destroyed the agent’s computer system and all contact information for me.

  4. The NSA intercepted my email because its attached pdf manuscript revealed too many national security secrets.

  5. The agent loved my novel and is about to send me a contract in the mail.

  6. The contract was already mailed but a mugger stole the postman’s mail bag.

  1. The IT person at my job decided I shouldn’t be sending personal emails from work so he’s been intercepting and deleting them.

  2. My manuscript is so brilliant that the agent is reading it very, very slowly so that she can savor every word.

  3. My manuscript stinks and the agent doesn’t have the heart to tell me she can’t reject it fast enough.

  4. I am suffering from hallucinations because in reality no one anywhere is looking at my manuscript.

Personally, I think the answer is #10.  Do you have any additions to the list?

Today I finished polishing my second Charity book, Charity MacCay and the Saintly Wives. It feels so good! Sure, I still have a few sentences to add in a couple places, but that’s it. I’m DONE!

What struck me about the final chapters was how I make Charity suffer through some pretty rotten luck.  I don’t feel bad about it because she’s had a comfortable life.  She was born into an upper class family, she’s never known hunger, she’s beautiful and buxom and so very smart, and underneath her impulsiveness and selfishness beats a generous heart.   So I figure readers won’t mind if I inflict her with some bad karma, especially since it adds to the plot twists and humor.

V fair cover

Anyway, it’s ironic that over breakfast I read an article about a woman who in most ways had the opposite early life of Charity, but now Karma seems to loves her to pieces.

She’s on the cover of Vanity Fair this month, her name is Natalia, and she’s a supermodel (those rare one-name creatures I haven’t paid heed to in years).  She looks like she’s eighteen but is 32.  And she has three beautiful children.  And a doting, gorgeous, wealthy husband.  And two homes in France.  And she was in a bikini on the swimsuit cover of Sports Illustrated, never mind that she’s had three kids so she should have stretch marks and blobs of fat on her hips.

You know why I forgive her even though she make me want to slit my wrists?

Turns out she had a grim childhood in her native Russia.  Badass dads who came and went.  A severely handicapped sister.  A mother who struggled to sell fruit on the streets while paying off the local Mob to let her work.  Soon Natalia was also on the street selling fruit.  What a tough childhood compared to my Charity character.

Flash forward to Natalia at 22:  She’s a supermodel, has bought her mother a house, and has founded a major charity foundation that has built over a hundred playgrounds for children in Russia.

You know, if any of us wrote a novel about someone with such a fantastical life, we’d be laughed out of the business.  But here’s what a friend said about Natalia, and you tell me if it doesn’t sound like a solid background for an exciting lead character:

Earl karma

She is a fighter.  In Russia… she had to survive.  The qualities she needed—the constant awareness, the readiness to fight, the sixth sense about danger—these things are in her blood…  She is like a combination of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.”

This kind of reminds me of the old TV series My Name is Earl.  I liked its humor and how Earl was trying to atone for his past bad actions so that he could straighten out his Karma.  Do good stuff and Karma will do right by you, Earl preached.  That rule never seems to work for Charity MacCay, however, because for her no good deed she does goes unpunished.  But then, that’s why my book is fiction and funny.

How about you? Any wild Karma stories you’ve written or lived through? Known people who seem to  experience extremes of good or bad luck?

Have you ever dug up a novel or short story you wrote a long time ago, a piece of writing you eventually gave up on, and thought—can I do something with this?  Maybe rewrite or edit it.

Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis star in Moonlighting.A lot of writers have lingering hopes for their old, abandoned stories.  But me?  Never.  Once I give up on a story, it’s dead and buried.   Oh, I’ll keep a copy somewhere, but that’s just for sentimental reasons.

So guess who dug up an old manuscript and now wants to do something with it.

And I mean, I had to dig.  It was in my storage unit in the basement and I had to go through several musty boxes until I found those 95 pages titled….

My Favorite Zombie.

Don’t laugh.

See, the title is supposed to be funny because it was a spec script for the late 1980′s TV show Moonlighting.  The one that made Bruce Willis a star.

That right, the late 80′s, which tells you how old I am.  And how old the script is because I had to type it out on a Selectric II typewriter.  Remember typewriters?  They’re what I worked with just before I finally got a personal computer.  Which had DOS programming because Windows hadn’t been invented yet.

Damn, I’m old.

typewriter

This script reminds me that I almost got my foot in the proverbial Hollywood door.  You see, after writing it I contacted about two million agents in the general Los Angeles area, and at long last one of them said he’d take a look at it.  Well, he read it, loved it, told me flat out it was “excellent!” and tried to get in through the door at the production offices of Moonlighting.  But no one at the show would look at it, never mind if they publicly stated that they accepted spec scripts.  By the end of that show’s run, the producers had in fact never bought ANY spec scripts.

I really was kind of brokenhearted.  

Anyway, flash forward many years, and I find myself wanting to write a screenplay much like the screwball comedies of the 1930′s, which I adore.  (Yes I know, I’m supposed to be working on my ghost screenplay, and I am.  But I get easily distracted.)

So I read through my old script and thought… This isn’t half bad.  I’m even getting good ideas on how to change it into a full length screenplay.

Will anything come of my effort?  I doubt it.  I’ll probably just spend a few weekends seeing how fast I can whip it out before getting distracted yet again.  But it’ll also be fun.

And what about you, my darling fellow writers?  If you’ve got any rewriting-old-manuscript experiences, I’d love to hear about them.

Take care, and have a great week.

So the weekend is over and this is what I did:

1)   Got in a couple very good workouts.

2)  Went swimming.

swimming

3)  Ran several errands.

4)  Went grocery shopping.

5)  Fell asleep on the sofa in the middle of the afternoon.

6)  Got my hair done.

7)  Trimmed the vines away from my dining room windows.

8)  Was tortured by Nikolai in yet another painful sports massage/therapy session.

9)  Took my cat to the vet to get her nails trimmed because she won’t let me trim them even though it’s summer and I’m wearing shorts and she likes to jump up into my lap by using her nails ’cause she’s an old cat and needs all the climbing help she can get.

cat claws

10) Four loads of laundry.

11) An hour of ironing while watching TV.

SO NO I DIDN’T GET ANY WRITING/ EDITING DONE!

Sigh.

But I’ll be taking a couple days off this week and hope to finishing editing my second Charity book, Charity MacCay and the Saintly Wives.  No, not hope; I PLAN to finish editing it.

BTW, I also finished reading James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, which as you may know won the National Book Award.  It deserved the award and more.  The story is set in the same period as my Charity books, so besides enjoying the read it counts as research for me.  Here are a few sentences in which McBride is describing the great Harriet Tubman.  They took my breath away.

She moved toward the front of the room like the wind, quick, silent, smooth, taut as rope, and them fellers parted and slid their benches out the way to let her pass.  There was something fearful ’bout that woman, silent, terrible, and strong…

Them eyes was staring down at me.  I can’t say they were kind eyes.  Rather they was tight as balled fists.  Full.  Firm.  Stirred.  The wind seemed to live in that woman’s face.  Looking at her was like staring at a hurricane.

I hope you had a more productive literary weekend than I did.  Got any literary ambitions for the weeks to come?

 

 

 

 

This last week I learned how absolutely VITAL it can be to FOLLOW UP ON SUBMISSIONS!

agents listr

As you know, gentle reader, in April I was jumping for joy when an agent emailed that she wanted to take a look at my manuscript, Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar.  I anxiously gave it one final look through, fixed the pagination, did my umpteenth spell check, and only a few hours after receiving the agent’s request, I sent off a pdf of my manuscript to her.  Of course I also checked the email address  and subject line a dozen times and made sure everything was just plain perfect.

And then I waited. And waited.

I waited for over 100 days.

Yes I know, the world of traditional publishing can move at a glacial pace.  But seriously, 100 days after this wonderful agent sounded enthusiastic about my novel?  Finally I sent a brief, polite follow-up query, as in, Have you had a chance to look at my manuscript yet?

Only minutes later her assistant emailed me back with profuse apologies.  She and the agent had been unhappy when they requested my manuscript and it never came.  But my follow-up query had prompted the assistant to check her deleted messages and spam folder and… THERE WAS MY EMAIL WITH THE ATTACHED MANUSCRIPT IN THE *#!&! WRONG FOLDER!

She was SO sweet and SO apologetic and yes, they would now look at Charity MacCay tout suite.  And of course I emailed back that I too have experienced similar strange acts of hostility by emails services and servers (this is very true, especially when using Outlook at my job), and that yes, I’d still love for the agent to have a look at my manuscript.

Internetg

This assistant also thanked me for FOLLOWING UP!  And I’m so glad I FOLLOWED UP!  Because if I hadn’t, they would still be wrongly assuming I’d snubbed them and I would be drowning my rejection sorrows in a bottle of very strong wine.

I only wish I had emailed this assistant the day after sending my manuscript just to confirm way back then that she had received it.  Live and learn.

So let this be a lesson to you, my fellow writers.  Even when you do everything correctly, or an agent or editor does everything just right, the malicious, petty, unpredictable minor Greek god of the internet can still technologically mess with you.  It can mess with your head, it can mess with your emails, and worst of all it can mess with your manuscripts.

Have you ever had this kind of experience too?  If so, you have my sympathies.

Brainiac

on July 21, 2014 in Misc | 8 Comments »

People’s attention spans have shrunk.

Which is a big reason why I’m keeping today’s post short.

Seriously. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span of the U.S. citizen has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013.

The attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds.

lucy movie

Meanwhile, over at the Pentagon, one of its agencies that invests in cutting-edge technology is working on brain enhancement implants for soldiers.  I am not making this up.

It seems the generals want to create super soldiers with hyper-concentration, a perfect memory for maps, and no need to sleep for days on end.  Which to me sounds like a cross between Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory and a meth addict.

Isn’t it fascinating how fiction writers predicted both these extremes?  From the dumbed-down people in Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451, to the super smart super folks in more books and movies than I can count.

bradley limitlessThe newest movie on the topic is Lucy. I want to see it because I’m fascinated by ideas of enhanced brain power.  Guys I know will see it because Scarlet Johansson plays Lucy.  But to be fair, I pretty much saw Limitless, which had a similar brainy, because Bradley Cooper was the lead.

BTW, up until a few years ago I used to meditate a lot.   And as flaky as it may sound, a couple of times I used intense meditation, concentration, and deep relaxation to heal muscle injuries, one of them being a painfully stiff neck.  I swear that after twenty minutes my neck was about 80% healed.

How about you—any fantasies or real tales of brain power you may have? Did it inspire you to write a brainy story?