Monday, November 30, 2009

No News on the Writing Front, Well, Maybe a Little

I always type my title first for my blog posts, and it was going to be titled No News on the Writing Front, but then I remembered something that was slightly newsworthy, so I tacked on a few more words.

It's funny, all my work starts with a title, EXCEPT for the novel I am shopping around right now. I never had a title for that one, until my best friend suggested it after being my first beta reader.

And that leads me to my tiny little item of note. I now have a THIRD work in progress. I came up with the title out of the blue a while ago, and now I can't stop building the story in my mind. So there you go. Two YA novels in progress, one very edgy, one edgy-ish, but not nearly as much as the first, and a middle grade novel. And all have titles, but very little else. The very edgy one is a title and a brief synopsis. The less edgy one has a title and 8,000 words. The middle grade novel has a title and 1,200 words. Can one actually write three different works at once without ending up with three crappy pieces of know? What do you think?

On the home front, I came home from work last night to find that my husband had decorated the house for the holidays. The bannisters had green ribbon and white lights wrapped around them all the way down, and red velvet bows here and there. Our living room has a nine foot tree all decked out in lights. It was absolutely beautiful. I was so pleased with my husband. He hit it out of the park again. He's really a lovely person. If it were all up to me, nothing would ever get decorated and we would live in a pit, I kid you not. But he's really motivated about most things, and I can always count on him to do things right. I'm really happy.

The girls were beside themselves when they saw the decorations. I told them we'd have to take them down after New Year's, but that we got to enjoy them for a month, and to thank Daddy when he gets home.

Something creepy: Four police officers were shot dead, ambush style, yesterday in a town south of Tacoma. The suspect was supposedly holed up in the Leschi neighborhood (a neighborhood I find myself in at least twice a week) but after an hours long standoff the cops found that he had escaped. When I got off work last night I was inordinately freaked out walking to my car. I felt like I was being watched the whole time, but there were other people walking to their cars so I just basically sprinted to mine and took off. Then I read about this story, and an update says the dude was spotted AT MY WORK this morning at 7:00 AM, and he GOT AWAY AGAIN. Apparently he was shot during his ambush of the cops and they think he's trying to get medical care. Here's what I would do if I was him: wait for someone in scrubs to come out to the parking garage alone, then snatch them and make them fix up my wounds, and then, you know, who knows what after that. I wonder if he was lurking around all night last night, waiting for an opportunity. So freaky. I bet I could write a book about that. But I won't. It's SO not my genre.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Making Progress on my WIP (Is that redundant?)

OK. First the big news. I have an ear infection. And the secret's out. Yes, I am four years old.

No, not really. But seriously! Since when do adults get ear infections? I just got a note on facebook from a friend who had one on July, and she's a little older than me, so I guess I don't feel so weird, but it's still odd. I've never had an ear infection in my life. Hurts like a son of a bitch. Now I feel extra sorry for little kids who get them. I guess they're not just a bunch of whiners. (Now that I'm one of them, we're not whiners, we're people in pain who need and deserve your sympathy, dontcha know.)

Now, on to my other news. I have finally begun making new progress on my Work In (supposedly) Progress, TRP. TRP stands for The Reluctant Prophet, but I call it TRP to be both mysterious and lazy.

I came to a standstill right around the beginning of November. I guess to protest NaNoWriMo. No, not really, but it did seem to coincide.

I had an epiphany. I didn't stop writing because I was so busy. I was busy, but that's never stopped me before. No, I came to a standstill because I didn't like my characters. The parents are total assholes (that hasn't changed) but the MC (a seventeen year old girl) had a serious chip on her shoulder about everyone else in the world except for her best friend, a girl who has up and run away. The only person in the book who had any redeeming qualities was the runaway girl, who we aren't *really* going to meet until midway through the book. Everyone that my MC (Becca) came in contact with was someone who desperatly needed to be punched. No one had anything nice to say. I was sick of them all.

Even though I knew that I was going to go back and edit the hell out of my first few chapters after I had completed my text, I had to do it now. I had to make major revisions just to get myself to like these people well enough to want to write more about them to see what happened to them. (I mean, I know in general what happens to them, but they were so repellant as people that I really didn't CARE to ever put it down on paper.)

I didn't mean for my MC to be so unsympathetic, but she just ended up that way after a few days of frantic keyboard pounding. I went back through, took the chip off her shoulder, gave her a couple of different people to talk to that gave her nice things to say - not just opportunities to fling barbs at people like a monkey with extra poo on his hands. I don't know if any of this will make the final edit either, but damn, I sure do like Becca a lot better now that she's not being all cunty. So now I do care what happens to her, so I guess I will write it.

I'm at about 8900 words. Far from where I wanted to be at this time, but further than I would be if I told The Reluctant Prophet to just go to hell.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Breathing and Apparently Stalking

So I got myself so worked up over whether the agent who requested materials from me on November 2nd was not interested because she hadn't replied back yet or not. Then I read somewhere else that she was an agent at the Backspace conference on November 5th and 6th.

Oh good! That's at least 2 days where she simply would not have had any time to read my partial.

So this is where I get all stalker-y. I start looking up other conferences that have occurred since I submitted my partial. Crimebake? Yep, she was there. OK. That knocks out November 13th, 14th, and 15th, and probably a day or so for travel and/or recuperation. So she's had my partial since I sent it on the 2nd - at 9 PM-ish my time, so she wouldn't have actually received it until the 3rd. So she maybe could have looked at it on the 3rd or 4th, but probably not.

If we're not including weekends, that means she has had 9 days that she could have possibly looked at my material. That's nothing. You would think that I would be satisfied. But no. Does anyone know of any other conferences that went on between Backspace and Crimebake? Can I check the agent list to see if my person was at any other conferences, giving her even less time to peruse my work and more reason for me to remain hopeful at this point? Ay yi yi I need a life.

Three agents have my partial. One of them is in this area and he only reps romance, so he is the last on my "excite-o-meter." In second place is a New Jersey agent. She would be tied for first place, but she has an old version of my first 3 chapters that includes way too much backstory, so I'm sure she's going to reject me anyway. It's simply not good enough. The agent in first position is in New York, and from everything I can find about her, she's absolutely fabulous. And she has the most up to date copy of my work, with all the lame old backstory trimmed from the text. So she gets first place. Not just because she is an awesome agent, but because she has the right version of my story as well. So she is my #1 most stalk-worthy.

Now. About those November conferences.....anyone? Anyone?

Where was I in June?

Still working on my MS, that's where. But that's when the agent that I'm currently most excited about apparently went on a signing FRENZY. I scrolled through Absolute Write (if you haven't heard of that website, go check them out RIGHT NOW) and she apparently signed at least 2 people and offered incredibly detailed feedback on countless other author's works during the months of May and June.

I queried her on Friday October 30th and got a request for a 30 page partial on November 2nd. I haven't heard anything since. Now, if this were June, I would have had my full requested on November 3rd and been signed on the 5th, with my manuscript sold at auction by the end of the month. (Not kidding, that happened to one person.) Or she would have rejected me, but speedily, and with great handwritten feedback.

But she seems to have slowed her pace. I can't say I blame her, that's freaky fast, and it looks like at least one of her clients is generating a lot of buzz - and therefore probably a lot of work - so I'm sure she's not got the kind of time that she used to have.

But, and I say this in my whiniest of voices - where was I???? Still writing the damn thing, that's where. I didn't finish it until the very end of July. Stupid work, keeping me so busy that I couldn't finish 2 months earlier. No, wait. I didn't find her until the end of October. Which means I found her name 3 months after I finished getting my text down. So I would have had to have finished in March. I probably coulda done that. Stupid work, keeping me so busy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm Not Sure if I'm Insane or Not

There is an agent who has had a partial - my first 3 chapters - for a little over a month. I've made a lot of changes since then, and it's a much better book now. I honestly believe that the agent would reject me based on the 3 chapters I sent her, and she's a really good agent and someone I would love to have represent me.

So after trolling around on the internet for a while, reading other people posting similar tales of woe, and the advice they received, I decided to email the agent with what was basically a mea culpa: the first 3 chapters I sent you sucked, but they're really good now. REALLY. THEY ARE. Can I resubmit?

Now. I wait. I hope that she doesn't hate me, or think I'm unprofessional, or whatever. But honestly, I think I had to do it. Otherwise what was I to do? Wait for the rejection that was sure to come and then tell her "oh, by the by, I changed a whole shitload of stuff a few months ago, want to read it again?"

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Here's a Recycled Post

I've been really sick for days, so I'm pretty lethargic and have nothing interesting or exciting to talk about. But my blog is getting stale. So here is a repost, from a note I filled out on Facebook a few months ago.

25 Random things about me

1. It took me 10 years to finish my first 2 years of college and 2 years to finish the last 2.

2. When I was a kid my mom would sometimes pay me 5 cents an hour to stay completely quiet.

3. When I lived in Florida I had a wild lizard that lived in my room. Sometimes he would scamper across my legs when I would lay face down on my bed and totally freak me out. He/she ate any palmetto bugs (giant flying cockroaches) that dared to venture into my room. I found him dead one day while I was cleaning my room, his little claws curled around some empty squares in the latch hook kit I was working on at the time. Apparently he did his job too well. I screamed and screamed, and ran to sob to my mom. After she calmed me down, I asked if I could still have the 5 cents she was paying me to be quiet for that hour. She agreed.

4. When I was 12, my dad agreed to pay me 10 cents for every dandilion weed I pulled out of the yard. The first day, he owed me 60 bucks. By the time I finally got the yard weed free, he had reduced my wages to one cent for every ten weeds pulled, and I had still practically bankrupted him.

5. My hair color has been blonde, brown, black, yellow, green, red, blue, and purple.

6. I pierced my own belly button with a safety pin in 1990, way before piercing was available on every corner. My mom's comment to me was "Where is your brain? Is that in your navel too?"

7. When I was in second grade, I told my mom I wanted a mohawk for Halloween. She didn't know how to do one, so she tried to do it with Vaseline. It took weeks for the greasy stuff to completely wash out of my hair.

8. I'm not sure how old I was when I found out about Chapstick. It's entirely possible that it wasn't until I was an adult. As a kid, my mom sent me to school with a spoonful of Vaseline wrapped in a sandwich baggie. I was so embarrassed that I would hide it in my coat back in the little coat closet cubbie and only sneak back there to dip my finger into my spoon when the pain from my dry, cracked lips became unbearable.

9. My parents used to take long walks around the neighborhood and bring back all sorts of stuff they found. I still have Reeses Peanut Butter Cup t-shirts that they got with all the candy wrappers they found and redeemed. Almost all their spoons are mismatched, because at least once a week they would find an abandoned spoon that they would bring home and add to the silverware mix. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized that those spoons were probably discarded drug paraphenelia. I wonder if my parents ever figured that out, or if they thought people were just walking around, eating lots of yogurt or something.

10. Most of my old friends are on Myspace, while my new friends are on Facebook. Some are both places. The ones that are on both I am sure are going to be my friends forever.

11. When I die, I want my last words to be "You girls were the best thing that ever happened to me." Unfortunately, that would kind of imply that my daughters would watch me die, which I don't want them to have to do if they don't want to.

12. I only recently discovered that I like the band Journey, and have always liked them. It really made me reevaluate who I am, as a person.

13. I'm not a bad cook, and if I have a recipe, I'm actually quite good at it. I just hate doing it. Before my kids were born, I had made dinner for my husband less than 10 times...and we had been married more than 9 years. Now I cook all the time. My oldest daughter almost always says "Thank you Mommy making yummy dinner." That totally makes it worthwhile.

14. I'm terrified of bees, but not because I'm afraid of being stung. I have been stung, and it really doesn't hurt that bad. It's because they're so unpredictable. There's just no way to know what a bee is going to do. They can turn on a dime!

15. When I was 9 or so, I became deathly afraid of food, and refused to eat for several months. It got to the point where I became afraid of ingesting anything, including my own saliva, and I would spit constantly.

16. Sometimes I wrack my brain, trying to figure out if I have any other personalities living inside my head, that are doing things that I'm unaware of.

17. I wrote a full length novel when I was 15 but never attempted to get it published.

18. My favorite car I ever had was a 1990 Toyota Celica, but I got rid of it because it reminded me too much of somebody that I missed a lot.

19. I started smoking when I was 17 because my boyfriend at the time was going to break up with me because I was "too good." I didn't really feel like doing drugs, or becoming a big drinker, or stealing stuff, but I didn't want to break up with him, so I figured smoking would sully my image enough. We lasted 2 more months. My relationship with cigarettes lasted 10 years.

20. I violently hate commercials for mouthwash. I don't like people swishing their mouths at me and making googley eyes. Who does that when they're rinsing? Upon seeing a commercial like that, my gut clenches, and my instant reaction is go grip something tightly and rear back as though to throw it at the TV.

21. I graduated Summa Cum Laude from college. When I start my master's degree, I am tempted to intentionally do poorly in at least one early class, so that the pressure to achieve super duper grades is taken off the table right out of the gate. I like the idea, but I don't think I'm the type of person who can actually do that.

22. When I was in junior high, one of my teachers was too lazy to collect papers and grade them, so she had us exchange our papers and she'd call out the answers. We'd score each other's papers, then hand them back to the owner. Then she's call out our names and we'd say what our grade was (A, B, C, D, or F). If you announced you'd gotten an A, you were just *asking* to get beat up after school. I physically couldn't mark a wrong answer though, I just couldn't do it. I would get an A on the test, but when it came time to announce my grade, I would always say "C." My momma didn't raise no dummies.

23. Every activity I involve my daughters in has to pass one test: "Is this something I wish my parents had done for me?" If the answer is yes, I do it. I am 100% CERTAIN that when my daughters are adults, I will find out that there were all sorts of things they wanted to do that they felt deprived of.

24. I wish I had taken an interest in playing music the way my brother did when I was young. We were always entirely different people though (though we loved each other very much and got along great). When he was about 4 and I was 3, my mom asked us when we wanted to be when we grew up. My brother said he wanted to be a draw-er. I said I wanted to be a tracer. I think that says a lot about the people we were, and the people we are today. He's always been more of a creator, while I toe the line.

25. I felt really lucky that I didn't have to give birth the normal way. A lot of women feel that they're not complete without going through the act of childbirth. I think those women are crazy. I felt like I'd hit the jackpot when my babies both turned out to be breech. I had considered just asking my doctor if I could have a c-section with my first baby, but I really don't like requesting medical procedures. Turns out I didn't have to. I do wish we had known earlier about M though. I hate to think of her suffering in there.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Let's Get Interesting

There's something that I've come to realize recently. It's a bit embarrassing to admit. Every one of my chapters needs to be interesting in order for my book to be good.

Um, yeah. That sort of seems obvious, right? You would think.

But I guess its not. I had 2 chapters right at the very beginning of my book that weren't interesting at all. I should have figured this out when one of my first beta readers - an 18 year old girl - and a huge Twilight fan - put the book down after about 10 pages and said "I don't really like this style book." She couldn't put it into words any better than that. She shouldn't need to. I should have taken a good look at things then. Her mother (my best friend) had also read the book and said to her "No!! Keep reading! Once you get to chapter 3 you'll totally love it."

Once you get to chapter 3.

That should have been my second clue.

Something interesting needs to happen each and every chapter. Moving to a new town is not interesting enough. Moving to a new town, discovering that your new housemate is a drug dealer, and meeting a group of hot boys who speak a different language - that you just so happen to know...that's getting better. Also meeting your new best friend and finding out everyone in school thinks that you are someone you're not....perhaps we have a winner.

Your chapter cannot be "I went to school and I had a conversation with my mom and then I went to bed with my nerves on edge." It just can't. It will never be published. Now, if you went to school and your guidance counselor hit on you/told you you would never amount to anything/advised you to kill yourself before the zombies broke down the door and THEN you went home and had a conversation with your mother and she told you that she wasn't actually your mother, that you had been found in a grocery bag at Walmart and she had taken you in and your actual mother had been by that day looking for you and THEN you went to bed and you were really nervous because your window was standing wide open and there was a ladder pushed up against the outside of the house and hey...did the closet door just twitch? Now that's a chapter. Probably a pretty crappy one, unfortunately. You can't just throw everything and the kitchen sink in there. You've gotta make it believable too, and readable.

So I need to go through my manuscript once more, not just looking for the inevitable typo, or the loose plot thread that doesn't seem to go anywhere. No, this time, I need to make sure my chapters are interesting enough. In the big chapter towards the end, where Ryan tells Sydnee everything, is *everything* interesting enough? Because ultimately, it's just a conversation. A really, really long conversation that ends with them going to bed. And no, not together. So that's not the interesting part either. But I can't just have a crocodile poke his head in the door and snap off a character's leg or anything. I need to craft it. And maybe I don't need to do anything. His story's pretty intense. But......intense enough? I dunno. If something big HAPPENED, I would say so. But they talk. That's it. I think something needs to HAPPEN.

It's alarming how much of a revelation this is to me. Better now than never though.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Best Form Rejection I Ever Got

I've read so much bitching about form rejections - and I've done some of it myself. I thought I would post the best form rejection I ever received. It follows:

Dear Ms. X:
Thank you so much for sending this to me. I’m afraid it’s not right for me. I’m so sorry.
Best wishes,
Agent X

Seriously, it took me like, 3 seconds to read. So it's not right for her. *Not a problem.* Thank you Agent X for just letting me know. You let me know quickly, there was no sugar coating, and there was no false ass kissing to make me feel like a better person. I literally love this agent. I don't think she's right for me (and obviously she doesn't feel I'm right for her) but if I ever run into her in publishing circles, I'm going to have a wide smile on my face and a friendly wave for her.

Agents talk a lot about how busy they are, and how we need to make sure we don't waste their time. I once got a form rejection that was over 500 words long. It made me mad. Just say no. Two letters, problem solved. The agent who sent me the above email was about 1000 times classier than the gasbag with the over-inflated sense of her own importance in my life.

I guess that's the thing for me. Agents are busy, I get that. I'm busy too. I have two children. My oldest just turned 3. My youngest is 18 months. I'm married, and my husband likes my attention from time to time. I have two jobs. One is a flat 20 hours a week outside the home. The other is work from home, and it's supposed to be 20 hours a week, but it usually ends up being more like 30 or 35. I can't really complain. It's work from home, and it's legitimate. I have a 3000+ square foot house, which don't get me wrong, it's great, but it's a bitch to clean. I've always been the one who pays the bills, my husband, if left to his own devices, would forget all about it, so I have to keep track of that stuff. My youngest has weekly physical therapy for some developmental issues. I don't get to just play with my baby. Every opportunity for play is an opportunity for exercise and going through all the plans the physical therapist and I have devised for the week. My older daughter has to wear an eye patch for 2 hours a day, and believe me, that's not a fun task trying to keep that thing on. I have a critique group that I'm excited to be an active member of. They've helped me a lot. I hope I help them too. I have friends. I try to keep up with five of my best ones on a regular basis, but they forgive me when I can't. They're pretty damn great people. I also like to work on my own writing, and, when I have a chance, pursue agents.

I'm busy too. If you are not going to give me any valuable feedback, then form reject me. Form reject me in the classiest way possible, like the agent I quoted above. Don't waste my time either.

I didn't mean for this to sound as bitchy as it got towards the end. But that's what happened. I guess it's just my voice.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Query Seems to be in the Zone

I think I am done revising my query letter. I got another request for a partial tonight (he wants it mailed snail mail, so it will go out Monday). That's 3 partial requests and a "no response yet" from the last small batch of queries I sent out. I'm feeling pretty darn good about that. Either I've had a run of extraordinary good luck, or my query letter can't get any better. Probably both. Either way, I'm happy with where my query letter is at.

Now. The first 3 chapters. Are they perfect? Are they going to force the agent to sit up, take notice, and ask me for my full? Let's hope so. I have a great crit group and I've taken a lot of their advice. I love track changes, because I can accept the changes of the first person who edits my work, then copy and paste the changed chapter right into my full text of the manuscript. After that it gets tricky. When the second person edits I have to go through the edited version and my version and compare changes and make them by hand if I want to keep them. (If I accepted the changes and then copied and pasted into my document, I would lose all the changes the first person helped make.)

Hmmm...Tina...any ideas???

If I DO get a request for a full, what will I do then? My crit group has found all the hads in my first few chapters...but I've got a total of 18 in my book!!! Maybe if any of us get a full request, we can make it top priority to get our lucky member's book critiqued asap??? Again, just thinking out loud. Maybe I should email these thoughts to my crit group rather than blog about them. But I have blogspot open, not yahoo groups, so there you go. Sorry folks!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Don't Dream It

I seem to be completely out of touch with reality these days. Not in a “tinfoil hat wearing” sense, just in the “unable to mentally connect with the rest of the world” kind of way.

Case in point: The girls and I sat in the car today because we got to Mandarin class early. We were there at 5:10, and class on Tuesday doesn't start until 5:30. So we dawdled, I didn't want to walk in during the middle of someone else's class. Finally at about 5:20 I decided that we could go on in, it wouldn't be too early. When we went in, our class was already in progress. Has anyone else figured out why? Because today is FRIDAY. FRIDAY. And class starts at 5:00 on Fridays. Sheesh.

Usually my problem is I don’t care what the date is, or what month it is. I care what day it is. Is it Wednesday? OK, then I’m working at 1:00... Is it Friday? OK, then we have Mandarin class at 5. Is it Sunday? Great. Work again. Is it Tuesday? Wonderful! Sydnee will be here soon. What month is it? What's the date? Bah! Who cares?

I’ve been working some on my next book. That’s coming along OK. I meant to do 1K words a night. Ha. I'm at about 8K right now, and have been for ages. I've been active with my crit group, which I think is more important right now. I sketched the sequel to Blink. I can’t help myself. Even if no one wants to publish book 1, I think I will write book 2 anyway, as the story is so stuck in my head. It simply has to come out, whether anyone prints it and binds it or not.

I’m just glad I tried. When I worked at K2 about a billion years ago, there was a guy that people talked about from time to time. He had worked at the factory and always said “you know, I’m going to write a book someday.” Well, he did. His name was Frank Peretti, and his first novel “This Present Darkness” became a phenomena, he’s still a popular author today. Not my style stuff, but whatever, doesn’t matter. The thing is, like everyone else in the factory, he said he was going to do something, something more than just make skis. Unlike almost everyone else, he actually did it. I want to be one of the ones that actually does it. Whatever “it” is. Frank became kind of a cult hero among the factory folk, not because he became rich and famous and all that, but because instead of just saying “someday I’m going to XXX” he said it AND did it. Good for you, Frank. I hope someday people will say the same thing about me. Good for you. Good for you for not dreaming it. Good for you for BEING IT.

You Had Me at Had

I love my crit group.

I am a "hadder." Had, had been, had said, had had had. I also overuse "really," "just," and "though." Along with others, I'm sure.

They are literally invisible to me. When I'm reading my own work, I don't even see them. But my crit group is finding them, and taking them out, and it sounds so much better when they're gone!!!

My beginning is also A LOT stronger now. I actually have hopes that I'm going to get requests for fulls based on my partial now.


Monday, November 2, 2009

One Step Forward, One Step Back

At least its not one step forward, two steps back. I got a request for a partial today and a rejection of a partial.

The rejection was the first partial I ever submitted. To be honest, my manuscript was kind of crappy back then (not that I knew that at the time) and I'm not surprised it was rejected. It took forever, but this agent is notoriously slow.

But the partial request cheered me up. She asked for 30 pages and a 2 page synopsis, so I'll be zapping that off shortly. As soon as I whittle my synopsis down from 3.5 pages to 2. Seriously, a 3.5 page synopsis is ridiculous, but I can't seem to control myself sometimes. Most people request the synop be pasted into an email so I haven't worried about how long it is, but this person wants it as an attached word document, so she'll know how many pages it is instantly. I'm trying to convince myself that I'm not allowed to go to .9 margins all the way around or times new roman 11 font. I'm such a cheater. I have to do this the right way.