IWW: In the spotlight

If you had told me I’d be speaking in front of people about my book years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you…and I might have thrown up a little.

And if I had committed to speak then, they would have had to drag me in like this:

No

Even though I did theater in high school, I’ll always had a hard time with crowds. It’s more than being an introvert, it’s an aversion about talking about myself, especially my work.

I’ve met a lot of women who resist talking themselves up, even when it’s appropriate. It’s a pretty hard skill to acquire, and I’m still flabbergasted when people ask me about my work. I still think someone has paid them to be interested.

I pictured my first Q&A would go like this:

questions 1

I have one

nervous

outta here

crap 1

Fortunately, my first talk went worlds better than that. WORLDS. However, if you do meet me and ask me about my work or compliment me, please forgive me if I stammer a bit. After years of practice, I can handle that hair question easier, at least. From airports to restaurants, all over the world, people have always wanted to know if this is my real hair.

Do you have to jump start your brain when someone asks about your work? How about if they ask you about your hair?

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Yeah, yeah, rejection, blah blah

Favorite quote of the day:

“Rejection always stings. It stings me, you, everybody. Nobody likes to be rejected. A writer who likes being rejected is a writer who is secretly a robot and must be smelted down into slag before he tries to kill us all because he hates our meat. Pain is instructive. And it’s not permanent. Not if you don’t let it be. Some writers savor misery like a hard candy endlessly sucked in the pocket of one’s cheek, but fuck that.”

Taken blithely from Chuck Wendig’s blog.

I read that earlier today and it brought up so many memories. I’m not currently submitting anything, but I distinctly recall most of the rejections I’ve gotten. Many have been the puzzling form rejections. Some of have been handwritten little gems. Only one suggested I try something different with the work. The rest were veiled ways of saying, “I don’t think I can sell this.”

My favorite rejection was from an assistant who said she tried really hard to convince her boss to take me on. It was handwritten on the first page of my manuscript, wrapped around the form rejection as if she couldn’t leave a paper trail. Utterly heartwarming. I hope she some day gets her own agency. ^_^

I think I’m going to have a thoughtful day. How about you?

Prologues must die

I’ve joined several different writers groups recently, trying to find one or two that are a good fit for me. I think I’ve found one, but I’m having several issues with the others. They’ve proven one thing to me, though:

For many authors, the prologue is alive and well.

Also, I see now reasons why it should die.

I never really had a problem with prologues, but I’m thinking that was because of the kind of books I read—Fantasy adventure books—often had prologues. They were usually little teasers about either the villain or a magical artifact (that might also be the villain) that would be a driving force for the plot. I liked seeing the demon rising out of the volcano or the unaware explorers unearthing the Widget of DOOM. I usually forgot about the prologue halfway through the book until the heroes discovered either demon or widget (sometimes both!) and I got to have a little ah ha moment.

These are not those kinds of books. I’m coming to understand that many writers use prologues as a history lesson, an enormous info dump for backstory that should be threaded through the narrative. I understand why editors might cringe when they just see the word PROLOGUE, especially if it has dates just below it. Do readers really want to begin a novel with a history lesson? Can they even remember it as the novel goes on?

How do you feel about prologues? Do you avoid them mercilessly? Cut them whenever you critique? And if you feel like telling me, how would you suggest I phrase my suggestion that authors cut their prologues entirely and weave the information into the narrative? Maybe I’m just too obsessed with not hurting feelings, but I remember my first novel. It was bad, and I ultimately appreciated all the tactful suggestions I got on how to change it. Any and all advice appreciated.

More like a big sinkhole

So, the conference didn’t go quite the way I hoped. However, I did make a lot of new friends, and I got one of the things I came for: feedback.

Now, back to the drawing board. ^_^

New York, the city, was as cool as I remembered. Saw some old favs like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. Also was able to take a walk through Central Park, something I’ve wanted to do but never got around to. And man was it hot, hotter than I expected. Luckily, I ate some very good food that wasn’t good for me at all. I had no choice, really. My ego demanded I eat to help it heal, really. That’s totally what happened.

I’m running ragged right now trying to finish my current round of edits but also preparing for the fact that I’m moving to Austin soon, with the only question being exactly when. I will try try try to get some pics up later this week, not only of the city but also of the swag I picked up here and there, including a very sparkly scarf and a purse that my friend haggled for. (I’m not a natural haggler, me.)

*Sigh* How has your week been? Did I miss anything?

Longer than expected

I took sort of a blog vacation there, and it ended up being an internet vacation. I don’t think I’ve done much on the internet except check my email since I posted my London pics!

It was kind of relaxing, but today is a new year. ^_^ Resolution #1, work again to get published. I’ve tried what’s being called “traditional” publishing, querying agents to try and break into large publishing houses. Now, for my second trick: small presses.

First step, research. I have to compile a list of all the small sf/f presses I can find. Luckily, from my first few skimming attempts, I see that some sites already list a few, though the sites I’ve found so far seem woefully out of date. After I have my list, I have to whittle it down with concerns like which presses would be the best fit for my work, how large their internet presence is, etc.

I know there are several good small presses in California, but according to the websites I’ve found, they only distribute in California. As long as this only refers to what they ship to bookstores, though, it shouldn’t matter. They’ll ship books to individuals (and individual e-readers) all around the world.

So, as you can see, I’ve got a lot of research to do, but I will include you every bumbling step of the way. ^_^

I know everyone’s already asked you this, but what do you hope to accomplish in the new year? If you don’t have a list, that’s fine, too.

Tired of this ride

The publishing ride. I’m sick of it. It’s like a week-long line at an amusement park. In the sun. Where the chains that divide the line into a bullpen are too weak to sit on and too hot to lean on. You can see the people coming off the ride, and they look so happy. They’re so excited. So even though you’re tired and hot, you’re still happy just to be there.

And then you get to where the ride is supposed to be. And instead of going on the happy-fun-published ride, your ride is in pieces, smashed cars, torn up tracks, the works. The conductor waves your forward…and promptly kicks you hard in the crotch.

But before you go, he hands you a card for a free ride, and by the time you get back to where the line started, your crotch has stopped aching, and you can see the happy people for whom the ride has worked, and you think, “I’ll just try again!”

And again. And again. *sigh* I’m sick of this ride. I’ve written three books to what I’d happily call completion, and I really like them. I might tinker with them now and again, but I don’t think it’s making them “better.” My writing group has helped me with my query letters to the point where they’re made of awesome. I don’t see why agents aren’t willing to rep my work. Hell, some agents have even complimented my work. It’s just “not for them.”

Just to get one of them out there, I think I’ll put it up for free on my website. Free to download to computers, and I’ll try and figure out how to get it on e-readers without spending an arm and a leg. And if I do incur some little cost I need to make back, I’ll charge the minimum I have to for a Kindle or Nook edition, a dollar or something. I have to get my technically skilled husband to help me figure this out, but I think it sounds like a good start. I always say that the reason I write is to one day have someone who has no obligation to me pick my book up and like it. Maybe this way they will.

What do you think? Would you take a gander if it were free? And yes, I know, you might feel sort of obligated to do so since you follow my blog, but I’d be glad if even a few of you actually liked it and maybe told a friend. Does anyone know someone who went this route? Have you ever thought about it?

Query trials and tribulations

I’m querying again. And we all know what that means. I’m either chewing drywall in anger or consoling myself with brownies. Does eating brownies while walking on the treadmill do any good? That cancels out calories, right? I’m pretty sure that’s how that works.

I was going out of my mind the other night. I read one agent blog that said, “Never put your word count and genre at the top of the letter. That’s dull business info that should come at the end. Lead with a hook!” And then I read another agent blog that said, “Putting the genre and word count at the end of your query is highly unusual. Let the agent know right off if this query is right for her.”

0__0

Querying isn’t confusing! Nah, it’s easy peasy lemon squeezy. Mind you, this info wasn’t front and center on their agency submissions pages or agency bios. It was floating around in their blogs. I did find it, tho. And if I query either of these, I’ll make sure to follow instructions. It makes me wonder if those agents who never specify what they want in a query will take any damn thing, if they’re just more laid back and relaxed. “Baby, I’m so chill, I didn’t even MAKE a webpage. Send me any old damn thing.” You could mail them a query that says, “Dear Sweetie, here’s my query. Get in on the ground floor of this cornucopia of awesome, and we’ll make some serious cash. Righteously, Barbara Ann,” and they’d send for pages in the following seconds.

Or maybe not.

How thorough is your agent research? A quick scan of Publisher’s Marketplace or Query Tracker? Or do you click on every Google reference AND shell out some serious dough for the Agent’s Market book? Or are you at the stage of your career where you’re done looking or don’t yet give a shit?

This is my war face!

Instead of having writers send queries, agents should round us up and hunt us for sport. Whoever can survive the night gets published. Whoever can steal a gun and wing an agent gets a six-figure advance. I like those odds a lot better.

Two more rejections today! Wheeee! I need that motivational blog-post I linked to yesterday. Luckily, I ordered the 2011 Writer’s Market, so maybe I’ll get some ideas and some more agents from that. I think I’m gonna move beyond only querying agents who take email queries next week. I wish they’d all go paperless. Save the trees, man.

On a totally unrelated note, I found an awesome coloring book while I was shopping for my 3-yr old niece the other day: Barbie and the Three Musketeers (warning: that site plays music). I haven’t seen the animated movie it’s based on, but the coloring book is totally something I would have invented as a child.

I loved Barbie, but I had about ten of the female dolls and one Ken. And since I had a huge imagination, Barbie and friends were always knights or sorceresses or space pirates who were on a mission to save…Ken. Because there’s only one of him, and he can’t very well save all of them, can he? He was usually kidnapped by my brother’s G.I. Joes when I could get my hands on them.

In this coloring book, the same sort thing happens. Four women take the place of the musketeers from the classic story. They work in the palace in France and uncover a plot to kill the handsome Prince. And they save him. With swords. While wearing pretty dresses. It’s my childhood dream come true! Pretty dresses AND swords! What could be better? Now the girls really can have everything.

Favorite childhood toys of yours? Did you play with them as “intended” or did you think outside the toy box? Any other Barbie fans out there?

Attack of the brain weasels!

And now you’re asking, what the hell is a brain weasel? Good question! At its nasty little coal-black heart, a brain weasel is self-doubt. It’s the little voice that takes rejection personally. It tells you you’ll never be published. It says that you’re not good enough. A brain weasel feeds upon your insecurities and grows. It pulls in things that aren’t writing-related (other things you’re insecure about) until you’re reduced to a quivering mound of pudding, cowering on your sofa watching reruns and eating an entire box of powdered doughnuts.

The second layer of the weasel is self-hatred, source of both the fear of success and the fear of failure. Fear of failure feeds the inner part. I’m not good enough, and I never will be, so I should stop trying before I really crash and burn. Fear of success says it’s all too hard, that even one small victory hides a mountain range of hardships to come, and you’re just not up to the challenge. Give up, give up, they chant together. And then, when you look down at the empty doughnut box, the brain weasels smirk and say: also, you’re fat. *Sigh* Now you have to feel bad about the doughnuts, too.

Now, before the brain weasel has time to grow a third layer, depression, you must fight. You must take up arms against your own brain weasels! You must write! I don’t care if your novel’s going nowhere. I don’t care that you’ve been rejected time and again. Because the brain weasel is you, my friend! It’s all you in your head, and you’re the only one who can fight it!

Novel long and rambly? Tighten your focus. Write a short story or a short scene about one character, one situation, something that will bring you some clarity. Story idea going nowhere? Shelve it! Those aren’t dirty words. If you’re stuck in a rut because your writing isn’t moving just now, move on to something else. Write something you’ve always wanted to write but have been afraid to. Write something that will never see the light of day! If it’s unpublishable, who cares! The point is to have a little fun.

Tell you what, write your little piece of fun, your little dab of silly heaven, and I’ll read it! And I’ll applaud! I’ll give you my email address in the comments if you so wish!

Hot damn! Nothing like making a Patton-like speech to make me excited. I’m off to write a fun little short story based in my (so far) unpublished worlds, that will be completely unsaleable, and I don’t care! Take that, brain weasels!

How will you banish yours? ^_^