Monday, April 27, 2009

Author Day At My School

Today was the big day that has been in the works for two months! Three authors came to visit my school and talk to my students about writing and publishing. We had Linnea Sinclair, Stacey Kade (Klemstein), and author/agent Lucienne Diver.

I will say that the kids were very well-behaved. They paid close attention and asked good, thoughtful questions. I think after five classes, though, we were all pretty worn out. Parents provided a nice lunch for us all, and there's lots of leftover food. The principal, assistant principal, and head librarian stopped in to observe. I'm hopeful the authors will be willing to return and do it again next year.

Now I'm going to go collapse somewhere.

Another Author Dinner

Dinner last night was with author Ann Aguirre and her lovely assistant, Yvette. We went to the Polynesian Resort at DisneyWorld and ate in 'Ohana's which is one of my favorite restaurants. Lots of good food (all you can eat), coconut races for the kids, and live Hawaiian music. I think everyone had a good time, and I got to hear some great stories from Ann's writing career. I hope she'll be able to visit again in the future and perhaps bring her family. The hubby and I would love to show her around Disney as she hasn't been in many years.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dinner With Authors, and The Waiting Game

I suck at waiting.

I am the kind of person that needs to be doing something constructive at all times, especially if there is a task left half done, or a problem that needs fixing.

The process of trying to get a novel published is a difficult one for me.

Now, don't misunderstand. I like most aspects of the process, even rejections if they are constructive because those give me something I can DO. But once it's all done, and agents and editors have your full manuscript, and there are no more changes to make, and you're waiting for that email or phone call, that is the definition of torture.

That's where I am. I'm sure all writers can relate. But I think some are better at this waiting thing than I am.

And yes, I've begun my next project. It doesn't keep the heart from pounding every time the phone rings.

The hubby and I had dinner with my mentor and another lovely author last night. We ate at Citricos at DisneyWorld in the Grand Floridian hotel. We even got to see the fireworks from our table during dessert. We chose the restaurant. I think everyone enjoyed the meal. Certainly mine was delicious. I was a little nervous because my mentor is a connoisseur of fine food. But Disney is known for dining.

We had lots of fun conversation. I got to hear all about the convention they are attending this week, and agents, and publishing, and everything else I soak in like rain water.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Different Side of the Writer's Life

I spent the day as my mentor's assistant, yesterday. She's attending a major romance writers convention here in town, and my husband and I went over to the convention to sit in on one of her panel discussions and see if we could assist her in any way.

The panel went well. It was a discussion with seven different authors on science fiction, fantasy, and the paranormal in romance. Even the news media showed up, and they caught my mentor on screen.

After that was my mentor's yearly party. Games, drinks, freebies, prizes, and a lot of very rapid set-up. That's where my husband and I came in, passing out goodie bags and promotional materials, carrying items from the car, moving chairs and tables. It was loads of fun, but I never imagined attending a convention could be so exhausting from the author's perspective. They seem to be having a great time, but after the first day, they were worn and losing their voices. Still smiling, but very tired.

Learning lots.

Monday, April 20, 2009

One Thing Sparks Another

So, I emailed the three agents currently looking at my partials and fulls about the contest win. One has already gotten back to me saying that this was exactly the kind of thing their agency wants to hear when considering offering representation. She said she would be contacting me "shortly." Biting my nails now.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More Exciting News

The hubby and I attended the Pasco County Do It Write Literary Conference today. If you have been reading this blog, that is the same group that ranked me second in the preliminary round of their writing contest about a month ago. The top three winners in each category had their first thirty pages sent to editors at major publishing houses. My thirty pages went to a Senior Editor at Tor Publishing.

The editors did not know the order of the winners, only that they were reading the top three. Then, they were to re-rank them as they saw fit, and provide feedback. Well, the results from the editors were announced at the conference. The Tor editor ranked mine first!

And that's not the best part. She also asked to see the complete manuscript! I was, apparently, the only one in the contest who received a request for the full manuscript. I'm very excited.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Book Review of the Day - Ann Aguirre

Not totally out there for me, but certainly a stretch, I finished Blue Diablo today, by Ann Aguirre. Admittedly, I read it out of desperation for anything to read (since I've had a heck of a time finding things in "my" genre that interest me, these days), and because I am friends with the author. Those things aside, I thoroughly enjoyed it, which is saying a lot, considering it's not my usual thing.

Blue Diablo is what I would classify as an "urban paranormal fantasy" though I'm not sure that's how Ann would describe it. The settings are rich, tinged with Mexican flair to add a very "different" feel to the characters and their surrounding cultures. Of course, living in Mexico, Ann has ample knowledge to draw from in this area, and the realism shines through in the novel.

The characters are also delightful. Corine is strong, yet feminine - a combination I appreciate. And we have two delicious males to consider as potential love interests. The balancing act between the two is well-handled. Other characters are unique and entertaining, with surprises built in. She does tread the line of deus ex machina, but since the character is, quite literally, the "Hand of God," Ann gets away with it cleanly. And there's a wonderful, adorable, intelligent dog. With one of those, you're already halfway to winning me over. I'm a sucker for cute dogs.

There are also plenty of unanswered questions left at the end of the novel, though enough are tied up to allow it to stand on its own. We're ripe for a sequel, and I will certainly be reading it, when it is released.

My only complaint, if I had to have one, is the short lengths of the chapters. This is purely personal, mind you, and not a reflection on the author, though I would be curious as to her reasoning in making them all about six to eight pages in length. For me, it has to do with my reading schedule. I allow myself to read a chapter as a reward for completing various tasks on my to-do list. The shorter the chapters, the more of the list I must complete at a faster pace. Again, this is my issue, not Ann's, and I will admit, I have gotten a lot of chores completed while reading this book. :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Legitimizing Writing

All my life, well, since I began writing stories intelligibly, I have had to deal with individuals who don't grasp the concept of the creative writing process.

When I was a child, I wrote stories for fun - mostly fan fiction. My parents and teachers would become frustrated with me for writing all the time. At first they were encouraging, but when I filled notebook after notebook and used up dozens of typewriter ribbons, they didn't praise as much. I'd get caught writing in class and be scolded for it, even though I never made less than a "B" until I reached college. Friends helped here. They read and enjoyed my stories, and pushed me to write more of them, and of course, my inner muse wouldn't shut up.

In college, my parents would ask what I planned to DO with all these stories. I told them, "Nothing. It's for fun." Fan fiction, after all, is not something one can usually sell. I kicked around the idea of submitting some of my Ninja Turtles stories (yes, I WAS unusual in college) to the comic book which was very hot at the time, but I never did. And then I got the idea for a series of novels of my own creation, fleshed out the ideas and added characters conceived by a close friend, and started writing them. She even wrote with me for a time, though her calling was in veterinary medicine, and she eventually didn't have the time for it. (This would become the Agency Files series.) My parents were not particularly pleased when I chose Creative Writing as a college major. They couldn't believe I could make a living at it. And they were right, at least at that time. I got my teaching certification as a fallback.

Now that I am an adult, I get the impression that my "hobby" confuses some of my peers. Fortunately, I am in education, and a lot of teachers seem to have the "writing bug." They "get it." But there are always a few who want to know why I don't just self-publish. I could be published tomorrow, they tell me. Yes, that's true. But what's the point?

Now, don't misunderstand me. Self-publishing is perfect for a lot of writers who simply want to see their work bound in a nice, presentable cover that they can give to friends and family. And there are certainly those success stories about a self-published book rocketing to the top of the Bestseller List. But those are much, much rarer than many new writers know. And unless you have the funding to self-promote your self-published book, it becomes virtually impossible to do anything with it. AND, once it's self-published, almost no legitimate agent or publisher will touch it.

But for me, it's also about what others think. (Yes, I know. Writing is an art. We should do it because we love it, not because we are trying to please other people. And we should believe it's good because we created it.) Right. Sure. All that aside, I want someone else, someone well-respected in this crazy business, to tell me it's good. This has already happened to me several times with contest judges, author friends, agents, and agents' assistants. Those people have kept me going. I appreciate my husband's and friends' praise, too, but it's not quite the same as having a professional tell you you can write. Now, if I can only convince an agent to like it enough to take it on, and a publisher . . .

Ironically, now, my parents are behind me again. They've bought into my dream and ask me every time we talk how the writing is going. I think they needed to see the professionals praising it as well. They still don't quite grasp that the house doesn't get cleaned on "writing days," though. Ah well.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


When I first tried to publish a novel, about eight years ago, I knew nothing. I bought the Guide to Literary Agents, learned how to write a query letter (albeit a boring one), and spent a lot on postage. Remarkably, I got a lot of partial requests and at least one full request despite my ignorance. Of course, I had no idea what those things meant. I had no idea how close I'd actually come. I did not know how rare a request for the full manuscript of a new writer could actually be. I was horribly disappointed by the eventual rejections and put away writing for three years.

Inevitably, the bug bit again. A writer can't simply stop writing. A writer is driven to write. Even though I was determined not to, I caught myself doing it rather often, and sure enough, when I decided to get serious again, I already had seventy-five percent of my next novel written in journals and notebooks. That became Assassin's Nightmare. But, what could I do differently this time that I didn't do the first time around?

The answer came through a series of coincidences and fortunate events, beginning with a fan letter I wrote to an author I greatly admired. (Hey Linnea!) We went back and forth with emails, met in person at several conferences, and she offered extremely valuable advice. Once she'd heard my tale of the first manuscript, she explained how close I'd actually come and said one very important word -- Networking. I don't remember exactly how she put it, but the gist of it was, if you want to be a published author, you need to run with the "big guys and gals." You need to attend conferences, pitch agents in person, get over your innate shyness (yep, I used to be really shy in new groups of people). You need to follow the blogs of agents, editors, and authors. Learn from them.

I owe a tremendous amount to her, and all those I've connected with since. No, I am not yet published. But I'm closer than ever before. I can feel it. I know it. And I've had the most amazing experiences in the past year. I've traveled to conventions in distant states. I've attended (and voted in) the Hugo awards. I've sat down for coffee, lunch, dinner with some of the authors I only dreamed of meeting a year ago - people whom I've admired my entire adult life. Some even treated us! (Thanks Ann!) And I've learned so much about writing.

I've gained tremendous confidence in social situations. That's so crucial to this networking. I can pitch an agent without trembling. (At least not in front of the agent.) I can walk up to an author or agent and introduce myself and carry on an intelligent conversation without babbling or fawning all over them. Granted, I wasn't really given to that behavior before, but I would simply hold back and observe/listen, rather than having my opinion heard or contributing to the conversation. I would wait for people to introduce themselves to me instead of taking the initiative. In this world, one must take that initiative.

And last, I've made friends. I've found kindred spirits in all this (Linnea, Stacey, Ann, Jodi, and many more). We chat online, we trade tales of woe, we play Scrabble, and when we're in the same town, we get together. If nothing else comes of this, I've met some incredible people.