Publishing Updates And Other Insanity

Life has been crazy hectic this summer. I’ve been juggling monkeys and herding cats, and unfortunately, the time it takes to do this (trying to get a monkey to behave or a cat to stop ignoring you and obey are both very labor intensive chores) has greatly diminished my writing time.

And I’ll be honest here and confess that I get insanely cranky when I’m writing and get interrupted, and will usually just ignore whatever the interruption is until it goes away. But that wasn’t going to work this time. So, instead of creating new material with what scant time I’ve manage to squirrel away, I’ve spent those far and few between moments excavating old, forgotten about short stories from my file explorer, brushing them up, and submitting them for publication.

I’m thrilled to announce that my story, Here I Am, will appear in the fall 2021 issue of 34 Orchard, due out November 11th. Described as ‘a literary journal that takes you dark places,’ it was a perfect home for this piece, which, as the editor describes it, “is infused with a pervasive sense of sadness and regret that’s hard to escape; visceral work that illustrates the dark reality of our world; those internal things we cannot talk about, but we all know exist.”

I wrote Here I Am about 2 years ago. It’s definitely a departure from my normal mysteries, and I was reluctant to find out how it would be received. This acceptance was a lesson in ‘no risk, no reward’!

My story, Last Stop Of The Night, has been accepted for the next issue of Pulp Modern, themed 1981, which was, according to editor Alec Cizak, “a fantastic year for genre literature and cinema,” specifically in terms of horror. Which makes this piece . . . you guessed it! A horror story.

I wrote Last Stop Of The Night 6-8 years ago. Loosely based on a real life experience followed by a dream I had after, I felt this piece was a little too retro horror to appeal to a modern publisher. This acceptance proves that if you write it, there is a market and an audience who will appreciate it!

I’m also happy to share that my story, Money Talks, has been acquired by Murderous Ink Press for a new project they’re working on called It’s Always Raining in Noir City. A publisher of “crime fiction in most of its many and varied guises,” they’re an ideal publisher for this piece!

Money Talks, in it’s current form, was completed early last year. However, I’d been kicking around the core idea for this one for the better part of a decade, and had many false starts. I wanted to develop this idea into something serious and hard hitting. Once I let go of what I wanted to force it to be, the words flowed and I finally managed to complete the story. This acceptance proves that sometimes the story knows best – even better than the author!

I’m looking forward to life slowing down and more time opening up to write, but until then, I’ll keep making the most of it. I like reading through my old work (even when it makes me cringe) and applying what I’ve learned since into strengthening old pieces until they’re ready to see the light of day (or the page)!

For all you other writers out there, keep at it! Find a way to use what time you have wisely, and don’t be afraid to submit – there’s someone out there who wants to read it!

When #Writers meet #Authors ~ Lessons Learned

Writing Humour based on this tweet by Lauren DeStefano on Twitter: I’m a writer. My bliss in life is creating fictional worlds in which (mostly) fictional characters interact. My short fiction has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, but until that all elusive agent/publishing deal comes through for my novels, until you can find something I wrote at a book store near you, I feel like I’ll remain in limbo – a writer, but not yet an author.

Good things come to those that wait, and waiting isn’t simply down time. It’s a chance to learn, to grow, and to develop the skills you need to transform your goals into prolonged success. One of the best ways to learn how to do something right is by learning from what others do wrong. And I’m doing exactly that.

It’s probably no surprise that one of the things I enjoy doing is going to book signings. I love meeting authors. I love being in a room filled with other passionate readers. I love walking into a room full of strangers with the rare feeling of knowing that I’ll be okay – there’s comfort in knowing that the other people in the room are my kind of people. And maybe, one day, if I keeping working hard and developing my skill and talent, it might be me up there signing books. No one said it was going to be easy. You can’t expect the things you want in life to be handed to you – you have to work for them.

I try to keep this in mind while I stop myself from lying prostate at the authors’ feet, begging for the magical knowledge, the golden key, whatever secret it is that they know that I don’t that made an agent ask to rep them instead of saying, “I think it’s good, I really enjoyed it, but I’m not quite passionate enough about it.” I keep this in mind, and instead focus on what the authors are doing now that they’ve made it. How are they behaving? How are they interacting? How are they turning casual readers into die-hard fans – or not? Because that’s the real golden key. And it’s a big one.

A couple of years ago, I got the chance to meet one of my favorite authors. I was really excited. I’d read every book she’d ever written. She seemed to be the perfect balance of everything I was striving to be. I sat there in the audience among her other fans, the excitement in the room slowly dying, our collective hearts slowly breaking, while it became increasingly apparent what an inconvenience the event was to her. How annoying we, as fans simply wanting a smile and a signature, must be. It was a horrible feeling. And, although I’d been reading her series for over ten years, I haven’t read one of her books since. Not out of anger or spite – when I read the blurbs, they just don’t appeal to me. To be honest, the series had been stale for a while, and even though I felt this way, I remained reading because I had faith they’d pick up again. I was a loyal fan right up until the moment it became clear that she wasn’t a loyal author. She wasn’t trying. She felt no sense of obligation to provide her fans with her best work – or even her time. She was pumping out the same tired story line book after book because we continued to buy them.

Earlier this year, I met a new author shortly after the release of her first novel. The book was good. It showed promise. The characters were well developed, the plot was entertaining, but there were certain things – a little too much backstory dump in places that turned into rambling, erroneous writing that did nothing to move the story forward or invest the reader deeper into the work. Things that readers know will improve with experience and time, things that won’t necessarily stop a reader from picking up another book by the author. The author seemed comfortable with the audience. She talked about herself for over an hour. By the time she was done, I think we all felt like we knew her a bit. She’d certainly shared enough intimate details of her life with us. Yet as we stood in line, readers telling her how much they enjoyed the book, or how much they identified with a character, the author couldn’t have seemed less interested. She quickly scrawled her name in each book, taking neither the time nor the effort to personalize with a name or message, much more interested in her cell phone. I don’t think she actually made eye contact with a single person while signing their book for them. It was obvious that the author didn’t need anyone in that room to make the effort to look for her next book – she was already a rock star.

And then there’s the author who does it right. Who not only makes eye contact, but takes the time to ask questions of every reader. Who personalizes what they sign from the conversation they take the time to have with each person. Who thanks every reader for coming out, for their support, for reading the book. After all, what is an author, what is their book, without readers? When you write a book, you’re asking readers to let a piece of you inside them – into their heads, their hearts, their homes. You’re establishing a relationship, and relationships are built on mutual affection.

Image result for following atticusIf When I make the transition from writer to author, this is one of the biggest lessons I hope to bring with me. I am an introvert. Most writers probably are. But you’re going into the situation knowing that these are your people. Embrace them. Appreciate them. Thank them. Treasure them. Take the time to make them feel as special as they make you feel.

And while I won’t reveal the names of the authors who do it wrong, I will share the name of the author who, in my opinion, does it the best, and that’s Tom Ryan. If you’ve never read his creative nonfiction book, Following Atticus, you should. Check out his social media and his blog and you will see that this is an author who is doing things right. He’s created a family of his readers. His readers adore him, and he takes the time to make them feel appreciated in return. He has a line around the block waiting eagerly awaiting the release of his second book.

Jodi Picoult is another author who treats her fans with appreciation and sincerity. If you get the chance to attend one of her signings, you should definitely go. She’s a wonderful speaker, passionate about her causes, and also makes her readers feel like family. It’s no wonder that she’s achieve such success – Leaving Time had an initial hardcover printing of a million copies – in the literary world, she really is a rock star – and yet, she’s still humble enough to thank you for coming. Whether it’s the secret of success, or simply good manners, count me in.

 

The Agony of the Query Letter

Woman with thoughtful expression writing a letterThere is nothing quite like the agony of writing the query letter. Imagine – you pour your heart, soul and time into writing a novel. You’ve overcome hundreds of insecurities, millions of excuses, and managed to convince yourself that the 80,000 words that you’ve strung together amount to something that other people may actually want to read. Now you have to get the right person to do just that.

query1

Thus, the query letter. Writing a 200 word blurb that will seduce a literary agent into reading your manuscript. It doesn’t matter how good the novel is (or isn’t). If you can’t jump this first hurdle, getting your work into the hands of one of the major publishing houses is next to impossible. You have to make every word count. Every word.

queryIf that’s not enough, you have to research all the agents. Find out who is taking on new clients, and of those few, who reps books written in your genre. Personalize each letter. And try to ignore the odds. Because, odds are, you’re going to get rejected. Repeatedly. Odds are that your query letter will be a work in progress, undergoing constant rewrites in your quest for the golden query.  Odds are, the query might break you a little. Maybe even make you cry.

wpwrite4Maybe you’ll send it off to the query shark. Maybe you’ll pay another writer to review it. Maybe you’ll decide to self publish. Or, maybe, you’ll succeed. Maybe an agent will ask you for your entire manuscript. Maybe more than one agent. And maybe one of them will ask you for a synopsis. DOH >.<

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