Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lightning Round - the quick and the good

Eldest's birthday week continues with a sleep over birthday weekend starting tomorrow. There will be pizza, cake and scientific experiments that involve BOTH lip gloss and explosions (though, I don't think, at the same time.) So forgive the brevity of the post.

Do you know Sharon Bayliss? She's a very talented writer, she's a great beta reader and she's a quarter-finalist for Amazon's BreakThrough Novel award (!!!!!!)  I've read the whole novel and already know it's awesome. You can take my word for it or you can read an excerpt here and vote for her in the process.

In my last post I wrote about getting an email from Barbara Poelle that she's about to start reading my full request. (thank you, all for the hand holding and virtual hugs) Trawling through Query Tracker as I do, I found Kerri Maniscalco. She's represented by BP and details her journey to agentness here. I take solace in the fact that the first time around, she got a rejection. But she kept going, wrote another novel and that's what got her representation. Talk about not giving up. I reserve the right to look at Kerri's story and keep hope alive - should things go pear shaped with this full request. Isn't the intermanet a wonderful thing? I'd be a lonely little satellite bleeping in a vacuum if not for the virtual community.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cupcakes, Empanadas and the Last Full Request

Yesterday I made 26 strawberry cupcakes.
Today I am making 26 mini-empanadas. Do you see a trend? It's Eldest's eight birthday today and I brought in pink-confetti icing sugar bombs for the kiddies to enjoy. I hope their parents forgive me for the extra dose of red dye #40 I've injected into their diets. As for my kid, she comes by her wonderful kookiness naturally, no red dye required.

The empanadas are for tomorrow, International Snack day at school. Because public schools don't have enough things to do, they have to celebrate foreign snacks. I get it, I really do, it's part of cultural awareness. But I don't think a mini empanada is going to make a second grader belt out a rendition of Depeche Mode's People Are People, do you?

I'm griping. I'm kvetching. Because I'm nervous. Today I got an email from agent Barbara Poelle - a short note to say that my full ms is next in her queue and thanks for my patience. She's the nicest frigging agent on the planet, to let me know that the wait is almost over. But, of course, it means that I need to gird my loins. This is the last full request I have out on BookEnd.

Do I think I'm going to get rejected? Yes. I do, actually. Not because I don't believe in my work, not because I don't believe in myself. I think I'm a really good writer. My writerly ego has a tendency to look like a puffer fish. But still, I think I'm getting rejected, and I'm trying to get ready for that feeling.

Someone (sorry I can't remember who) commented a while back on a post of mine which was similarly not so positive that I should believe in the good outcome - even against the odds - believe in the positive as a way of projecting out positive vibes and then having them rebound back at you, like some gigantic cosmic, fuzzy-warm boomerang.

I am seriously in AWE of the person who can do that. HOW DO YOU DO IT? I can do it for other people. I can absolutely 100% believe positive things (or 6 impossible things) on behalf of someone else, but I can't do it for myself.

It feels like the worst kind of hubris to think positively of myself. It feels like I'm pinning a KICK ME sign on my own back and daring the writerly fates to have a go. Besides, if I'm wrong it's not like that will make me sad - I'll be psyched to be wrong, thank you very much. But if I'm right, I'm hoping that I'm prepared. That I've had time to get used to the idea and (when it happens) ameliorate some of the damage.

Am I wrong? Am I actually making things worse by being negative? What do you think?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Lucky Seven Meme

Sheila Calderon Blankemeier of Writing, Workouts and Werejaguars threw a meme at me. Before I could duck, I got hit with the Lucky 7. See below for what it's about, and be sure to check out Sheila's fun blog. below. Thanks, Sheila!

Here are the rules for Lucky 7:
  1. Go to page 77 of your current MS
  2. Go to line 7
  3. Copy down the next 7 lines or paragraphs as they're written-- no cheating!
  4. Tag 7 other writers
  5. Let them know!

So, I'm re-reading the Hunger Games Trilogy - I'm on Catching Fire. I thought it might be fun (and when I say fun, I really mean 'likely to be humiliating to my self") to compare the 7 sentences on page 77 of Catching Fire to my own 77+7+7. First, Suzanne Collins:

"Everything you can think of, and things you have never dreamed of, lie in wait. Whole roasted cows and pigs and goats still turning on spits. Huge platters of fowl stuffed with savory fruits and nuts. Ocean creatures drizzled in sauces or begging to be dipped in spicy concoctions. Countless cheeses, breads, vegetables, sweets, waterfalls of wine, and streams of spirits that flicker with flames.
     My appetite has returned with my desire to fight back. After weeks of feeling too worried to eat, I'm famished."

Okay, now this is from my last completed novel (which I'm quasi-querying) BookEnd:

"I wake up in a sweat, not remembering even having fallen asleep.
     There's a knock at my door but when I open the door there's no one there. Instead, there's a stack of books. I look down the hallway and catch sight of crying-girl looking back at me. She quickly turns away and escapes up the girl's stairway. Crying-girl's name is Rose. Since the night we both arrived, I've never seen her do anything but cower and cry." 
                                                                                                                              That was strangely not as painful as I thought!
There are lulls in every book, pauses before the next thing. I'm not as ashamed as I thought I would be. Yay! Now to swat this meme at other unsuspecting writers:

Laura Campbell at Writing Unleashed
Joseph Finley at Fresh Scraped Vellum
Daisy Carter at Fresh as a Daisy
Callie Leuck at Write On
MJ Fifield at My Pet Blog

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why Twilight is Great, and so is Saturday Night Fever

I'm going to share a childhood memory and date myself at the same time. Brace yourself.
My sister and I fought, seemingly non stop, for about a decade. We used to beat the stuffing out of each other regularly. She had the natural advantage of being 5 years older than me, but I was small, agile and had long finger nails. We hated each other throughout the long years of childhood until, at 16, she lent me her passport so we could go out clubbing together. After that, we've been what sisters should be to each other - like a portable piece of home.

But there is one really good memory I have of those fighting years. Anamari would dress me up in one of my mom's lilac or baby blue silky nightgowns (using belts and safety pins to keep it on) and we'd do exhibition dance shows for our parents. We'd do the hustle. She would lead (of course) and get to flip me up in the air, throw me down between her legs and spin me around. I'd circle her while she did this pointing thing (see picture) moving my shoulders up and down in what I was sure was devastatingly alluring. I think I was six.
That would have been me in the red.
My sister and I had never seen Grease or Saturday Night Fever. We heard the music and saw the pictures in magazines. At Halloween there'd be girls dressed as Sandy, like the sock hop had never ended. We didn't know about the origins of the pop culture memes of the day, but it didn't matter. We took it and created something of our own out of it.

You may love Twilight, the Hunger Games, Harry Potter. You might hate (some or all of) them and think they are over blown. You may be scratching your head wondering what I'm talking about (if you are, may I suggest you go back to the hermitage and contemplating the sound of one hand clapping?) But whatever you think of the original material, you can't deny that they are sparks. They have seeped into the cultural fabric with a vengeance and spawned movies, parody, music, art, fashion and tchotchkes you can buy at Hot Topic. Then there's the fan fiction, which 50+ shades of gray I will post about on Thursday.

So ultimately, though I don't think it's the best book in the world,  I do think Twilight is great. I've got my Hunger Games tickets for Friday. I've ridden the Dragon Challenge at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. These books make people want to be creative. How can that be a bad thing?

Wait, that wasn't rhetorical, I'm asking; Am I wrong? Can it be a bad thing? Do Twilight or the Hunger Games, irrespective of their intrinsic value, make junk? Does anyone need a tin mockingjay pin or Bella's cubic zirconia engagement ring?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Magpie Under the Microscope

(sound of biting of nails) So.... Media maven and marketing genius Laura Barnes has graciously agreed to  critique this blog. TODAY. I'm not really biting my nails (seriously, there's chocolate for that) because every other crit I've read from Laura is not only kind but savvy. I'm looking forward to hearing her feedback and putting it into practice. I'm also hoping there isn't a bit FAIL stamp all over my crit. Did I ever mention I have a writerly self-esteem issue? No? You look shocked. OK, let's hop over and see the damage...

Aaaand. I'm back. That wasn't too bad! Actually smart, smart feedback. But she does leave me with a question I have to noodle over - where do I want this blog to go? What is the 'next level'? Spending the rest of my Monday pondering that.

What about you? Are you happy with where your blog is? Do you find it useful or sometimes a chore or both? What do you want your blog to say about you? Who is it for? What is the meaning of life? Scratch that last question, I already know the answer to that one. 42.

Friday, March 9, 2012

WIP The Movie Bloghop

Kyra Lennon and Rachel Schieffelbein are hosting a cool blogfest today.

This blogfest seems custom made for me since I'm having some trouble concentrating on my wip. The idea is to cast at least one character from your work in progress, post a picture of him or her on your blog and post at least one song that would be on the soundtrack. Kyra says that, if you've never imagined your book being made into a movie, your pants are probably on fire. I've checked my pants and there's not so much as a suggestion of smoke.

Before Interview With A Vampire became a movie, someone asked Anne Rice what actor she thought should play Lestat. Not only was Tom Cruise NOT even her last choice, she always thought of Lestat as a young Rutger Hauer.

Rutger Hauer
Huh? Him? WHY? I thought. He's so not Lestat (though I liked him in Blade Runner.) That's when I realized that authors should not cast their own characters. But I'm going to anyway.

That said, I have trouble picturing my protagonist. I know what she's like. I know how she feels and how she thinks. I know what would make her laugh and cry. But I only have a rough sketch of what she looks like. She's sixteen. She's tall for a girl. She's on the lanky side. She doesn't think much of her looks, so she doesn't think about her looks much. She's got short dark hair with long, in her face bangs. She's got a shock of white hair (natural) in her bangs. She wears dickies and t-shirts and bites her nails. She's actually quite beautiful - or she will be. She's a cygnet waiting to be a swan. She's also isolated by her ability to find things, especially things that want to stay hidden. It makes her lonely and awkward.

She actually looks a lot like my best friend Joyce did in high school. But if I post a picture of Joyce from high school here, she will probably never speak to me again.

So here's a bunch of pictures that give a rough approximate of what Mop (Margaret) from my wip Find Me looks like:
From Let the Right One In- Lina Leandersson

And what Lina looks like when she's not a vampire

Errata Stigmata from Love & Rockets

Gorgeous drawing of Hopey by Jaime Hernandez

And though I've been writing to the Downton Abbey soundtrack (which is totally inappropriate for the Find Me soundtrack!) I think one song that's got to be on is The Thin Man by Kristen Hersh. It's just so atmospheric and it matches the bittersweet ending I'm planning for Mop!

I'm actually SO GLAD I did this. I was apprehensive at first, about pinning the character down (which is why I did the bloghop, if it makes me nervous, I tend to want to do it!) But I actually am amped to get writing. This is a great exercise to add to the writer's arsenal of motivating tools. Thanks Kyra and Rachel!

So, how would you cast your wip? Also, go check out other's in the bloghop.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

IWSG - When To Stop*

Insecure Writers Support Group is a monthly bloghop - check out the other participants here.

*Which is not the same thing as Giving Up.

So, on my birthday I got a rejection from an agent I really respect. Not the first, or the last time that will happen, I know. Then the next day, I got a rejection on my full. An AWESOME agent who I 'met' at a conference and who has had my full for months. It was a form rejection, though a kind one.

Unlike the 13 rejections that came before it, this one took the wind out of my sails (and the air from my lungs, the sparkle from my eyes - you get the drift.)

While struggling to recover, I tried to parse why this one affected me differently. Here's what I came up with:

1) Rejections hit in weird ways. It has to do with where you are in your day, what you've accomplished or not accomplished, if your kid drew on the wall with a black sharpie, it all has an affect.

2) This was a rejection on the full ms. Which means that I can't fool myself into thinking that the query just wasn't strong enough. The query was fine - it got a full request. The problem is in the writing. (I can hear you saying, but it's just not right for that agent, doesn't mean it's not right for another agent - I know, I'm getting to that.)

3) This was an agent and an agency that I really wanted. I didn't realize how much until I got the rejection - how much hope I'd pinned on it. It's disheartening to find that an agent that you 'connected with' doesn't connect with your work.

Aside from all the usual disparaging thoughts - I suck as a writer, my book sucks, the agent sucks (strangely, I never really think that) - a new thought emerged, "Maybe it's time to stop."

Stop querying this book. Stop thinking that this book is the one that's going to be published. Is it time to let in the thought that this might be one of (many) books that I write that goes nowhere?

Well, duh, of course that's (very) possible. But while I was blood-sweating-and-tear-ing over it, it seemed like it was THE ONE. And I got so much positive feedback, much more than I expected, from other writers and editors. I believed in the book.

I still believe in it. I wrote the kind of book I want to read. And maybe that's where the problem lies. Maybe, at this time, it's not right for the market, and no agent is going to connect with it.

The other problem is how much of a time suck querying BookEnd has become. NOT because it takes so long to send out a query - but because of the time I spend obsessively checking out new agents, checking in to QT forums and other forums, following agents on twitter, checking agent blogs - looking for crumbs of information that may somehow give me a clue, some idea how to get in. This kind of behavior feels like work, feels like accomplishment, but it's just keeping me from writing.

So, I've decided to stop querying BookEnd. I still have one full out there, and some outstanding queries. But I'm putting the breaks on it, at least until I can pull my gnat-attention span away from it and solidly onto my wip. It's one of my March Madness goals, and one I intend to keep for a long time.

So, what do you think? When is it time to move on?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Birthday Cake and March Madness

So, I got a really huge rejection today. Will talk more about this tomorrow on my Insecure Writers' Support Group post (because that's where whinging and sobbing and beating of chest belongs) but for now I'll just say, I'm flattened. I have tackled my pancaked ego in the following ways:

Ate the rest of my birthday cake. For breakfast.

Joined March Madness. Denise Jaden and other awesome authors are hosting this month long blogfest/challenge. It's simple, as all good ideas are. You set your goals for the month. You check in EVERY DAY. You become accountable to a group of people and make friends in the process. Also, you get to support each other. It's a win win. And it's the kick in the pantalones I need. What will you do this month to stave off the darkness?

Here are my goals for March:

1) To stop obsessively querying/tweaking and basically wasting time worrying about my finished ms. I need to concentrate on the new project and stop procrastinating with the last project.

2) To write faithfully, every day, at least 500 words, on the new wip.

3) To not be completely flattened and derailed by no answers and rejections for finished ms. It's what's been keeping me from concentrating on the new wip and it must stop.

4) To read and comment on at least 3 blogs a day.

What will you do this month to stave off the darkness?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blog Award and the ABC of Me

Thanks Stephanie Knipper for giving me the ABC Award! If you don't already follow Stephanie, you should. Not only is she the soul of kindness and whip smart, she also posts about her writing journey now that she has an agent - and all the challenges and accomplishments that brings. It's fascinating to see what happens on the 'other' side of agentness (yes, just made up that word.)

So the award comes with a task -
Add the logo to your site (check)
Pass on to other bloggers (will do)
Use the alphabet to make a list of words describing you so readers will learn more about you (check - you poor unfortunate souls)

B-British (no, but I wish I was)
C-Cold (or cardigans, which are my best buds)
D-Downton Abbey (obsessed)
G-Goretex (just really like that word)
H-Hernia (have had three, want no more)
I-Introvert (no, really)
M-Manners are underrated
U-Uruguay (Montevideo, represent!)
V-Violet, my favorite flower
W-Wayward (and it's not a bad thing)
X-Xanadu (because both my husband and I cop to liking this song*)
Z-Zed (see 'B')

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