Periodically #5 – Hunkering Down for NaNoWriMo

cropped-periodically3.jpgSeptember/October was one of those months where it just seemed I couldn’t complete any of my writing goals. It could be because 1. my adult son was seriously ill and 2. my elderly father was seriously ill. In the span of the last four weeks, I also was a juror on a murder trial for seven days (gruesome is the only adjective to describe the crime), I flew to San Francisco to attend to my son, rented a Budget moving van (16′ – approximately 10′ too much truck), cleaned out my daughter’s storage space, drove the van to Colorado, where I saw my father, and then the rest of the way to Michigan.

So my experiences of the last few weeks are enough fodder for a couple of novels. I just need to find the time to write this stuff down before I forget!

I’ve tried to edit Virtually Yours Forever, which is in sore need of the Paperclip Method, a supply of colored index cards and/or Post-It notes and my favorite mechanical pencils, and a prescription for Valium. It’s like diving into a deep pool full of shards of floating glass. So far, all I’ve been able to attain is a splitting headache.

Write News:

The print version of Virtually Yours is out! Click to purchase on Amazon, or if you would like an autographed copy, send me an email and we’ll work it out.

On October 25, I participated in Leon and Lulu’s Books and Artists event. The store is great, the people are great! While I didn’t sell enough books to quit my day job, I met a lot of nice people, many writers, and lots of local authors. If you’re in southeastern Michigan next October, make sure you stop in. The talent is astounding, and the store is fabulous.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is coming up. Why not spend your November with me and millions of other writers in our attempt to pound out 50K words in 30 days. You might not complete a novel, but if you make the minimum goal, you’ll be well on your way. (This was how Virtually Yours and Virtually Yours Forever were born.)

Interesting Articles:

Here’s one on good writing. Might sound basic, but hey… sometimes you need to be reminded of basic. I know that I get so wound up in turning a witty phrase, I lose track of the building blocks of a good story.

Sydney Scrogham gives some good advice on those of us (all of us?) with day jobs who are trying to write. (Again, seems like simple, common sense, but sometimes we need sense pounded into us.)

Some thoughts on the indie-traditional publishing models. I’m a gal who thinks you have to do what is right for you.

Read this Month:

I finished Elmore Leonard’s The Big Bounce. All I can say is, “wow!” I wasn’t in Michigan in the 1960’s, but this book captures the gritty feel of Detroit. I’m going to have to invest in more Elmore Leonard books. However, my To-Read pile is a mountain range.

Musical Notes:

My son accompanied me from the great move from San Francisco, which was nice. He kept me from falling asleep. Once at home, he began to bang out the Chopin Preludes. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have the house filled with classical music. (My husband plays piano, but his current music of choice is Burt Bacharach and tunes from the 1960s.)

If you’d like to hear all 24 preludes, check out this YouTube video. Amazing.

Quote of the Month:

Don’t worry about what people are going to think about you. Just write what you want to write. ~Jackie Collins

 


 

Here’s the real action: check it out.

Find me on Facebook! I’ll friend anyone. Ask anyone. I even approve the weird guys from another country who IM me to ask about my life but clearly have never read my profile.

I’m a Goodreads author! Honest to God. Ask me a question, I’ll be happy to answer. Even if it’s a *stupid* question. (Or a questionable question. Those are the best kind.)

Follow me on Twitter! I’m not sure I have anything wonderful to say. I will say that I follow some interesting people. I can’t believe I can say this, but a few interesting people follow me, too. Twitter: the cyber cocktail party – alcohol not necessary.

I’m also on Pinterest! Rarely, but I do hit up the boards every now and again.


Periodically!, PO Box 207, Royal Oak, Michigan 48068

The Indie-Trad Argument, From My Perspective, or Yes, I’m Self-Publishing

cadence coverThe cover for my new book.

If you want to be thoroughly entertained and crave a shower of fireworks on the Internet, one might be better served to stay away from the political realm and follow authors and agents embroiled in the brouhaha over self vs. traditional publishing (or as Barry Eisler would say, as he did during the 2014 San Francisco Writers Conference, the indies vs. legacy options). It’s a virtual shit show of information and misinformation, competing opinions, mud slinging, happy and less-than-happy endings, spreadsheets produced with dreamy algorithms, and nightmarish anecdotes. Both factions are passionate. Both have valid points. Both are loud and proud.

Beats TV. With. A. Stick. Yes, even House of Cards.

Even with the path fraught with pitfalls of evil operators (including some small presses) who want to drain the unsuspecting writer of every dime they can scrape together, indie publishing is an option that the modern writer can’t take off the table.  “Eyes wide open,” I always say. It is why I have decided to self-publish my next book, Finding Cadence.

It’s not just the successfully indie-published authors like Eisler and Konrath or the Create Spaces and Author Houses who think this way. I’ve spoken to plenty of literary agents, some of whom encourage self-publishing, for various reasons.

My PRO reasons are many, including this brief Cliff Notes version:

1. I have a story to tell. In recent days, I’ve picked the brain of many an artist, including visual artists and musicians. My informal poll shows most artists want their work OUT THERE. Sure, they want gallery time and recording contracts, but reaching that level does not confirm (in their minds anyway) the fact that they are artists. Example: If you create a painting and it sits in your closet, or if you write a song and you never play it in public, is it art? Probably. But art is meant to be enjoyed. If it’s not being enjoyed by a wider public, is it worth the effort?

2. I have limited time with which to get my story out. I’ve read some very depressing stories of late of writers working for twenty years or more before they received a traditional book deal. Twenty years? In twenty years, I’ll be dead, no probablies about it. I’d just as soon begin the next WIP and worry about my next story than to spend that time wishing and hoping and praying for lightning to strike me.

3. The technology is there, why not use it? Back in the day, hell, only ten years ago, e-pubbing and self-publishing books weren’t even options, or they were limited in scope. Aspiring authors had to send out queries, and wait, and wait. And go to church and make offerings to the literary gods. It’s different now. Most people (even dinosaurs like me) are Internet savvy, and if they’re not, there are other people in the world who are. Even after paying for help, in the form of editing services, book cover design, and file conversions, you realize it’s not going to drain the bank.

4. The process is quick. Instead of taking two years from agent deal to finished product on the bookshelves, the indie author can complete the job in two months.

The CONS? There are a few:

1. The stigma of “vanity.” Yes, we’ve all heard the term. Self-publishing equals “vanity” publishing. Vanity publishing calls to mind anyone with a pen (or word processing program) who hastily writes a book and puts it out there for the world to see. Vanity publishing was often full of grammatical errors and/or sported horrific covers. However, the new breed of indie author is different. They’re excellent writers with great stories, and they realize that the finished product reflects on them and the sales of now and future work.

2. It’s nice to have an agent on your side. Yes, having an agent working for you is great validation, and I hope to be on the agented bus soon. Scoring a literary agent is just the first step; next comes selling to a major house. And even though you might have landed an agent, that doesn’t leave you, the writer, to sip scotch while you’re pounding out the next novel. You’re expected to market your work as well. (And remember, days of BIG advances are long gone.)

3. The expenditures of time and money, or “you should get paid for your work, not the other way around.” Yes, it costs a little to self publish. Yes, you’ll be pulling the hair out of your head trying to imagine marketing ploys that won’t leave you looking like a common shill. Yes, writing checks or begging people to buy your book is less than pleasant. I know agented authors who sell 100 books and think this is a good thing. (Yes, it is.) They don’t make enough from writing to quit their day jobs.

4. If you self-publish, you’re just adding your drop to an ocean filled with books, and no one will see your work. Yes, and if you don’t self-publish, no one will have a chance to see your work, EVER. (BTW, the traditionally published authors suffer that same predicament now, competing with a tsunami of books, some of which are interesting and just as entertaining as those traditionally published.)

This is my take: I’ve been writing online for nearly ten years. I’ve gotten paid for some of it, and I’ve not been paid for the rest. If you look at PRO reason #1 above, you’ll see that I’m not writing because I’m thinking I’ll make a windfall from my words. I write because it’s my art of choice.

Does this mean I’m going to stay an indie publisher?

Hell, the no! I’m going to always write, and I’m still going to query what I’ve finished writing. In fact, my dream agent would be Donald Maass and my dream publishing house would be Simon and Schuster. In the meantime, I’ll choose a parallel path and keep to my goal. As long as there are viable options, I might as well explore all of them.

Book Baby-ing It – Part One

Over the weekend, I decided to take the plunge. After months (years) of writing, re-writing, editing, thirteen beta readers, online classes, queries galore, a cover design, and critiques up the wazoo, I have decided to finally *sigh* give birth to one of my written creations.

That’s right, Virtually Yours is virtually going live. I’m going to e-pub it as soon as I can.

As we all know, I am not a computer-internet geek-head, much as you might want to think so considering the setting in Virtually Yours (the internet). I only recently learned I was setting up my Word documents incorrectly for publishing. When did the world decide two spaces between sentences was one too many? Or that you should never, ever tab to indent?

I have suffered headaches just casually glancing at Smashwords’ user guide. To be quite fair to Smashwords, perhaps the guide is easy for those whose right brains are near normal. My brain, left or right, is not anywhere close to that level. Even with this online guru’s massive blog about self-e-pubbing printed and by my side, I still couldn’t figure out the conversion.

I don’t have a lot of time. If I did, I wouldn’t play on the internet more. I’d write more.

So…I have decided to enlist the services of Book Baby. For a nominal fee, they will convert your text, assign your book an ISBN, and release it into markets including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Possible headache averted.

I decided to go for the premium service, which is $100 more. For that fee, a proof will be provided. I’ve proofed my novel at least ten times in the last month; I still miss the typos.

The site is easy to use. You upload your book and your cover, and voila! You’re on your way. While the process is relatively painless, there are a few quirks that caused me to pause before the final click.

One is that you’re warned about not being able to proof or that changes will cost more money. Wait a minute, I thought. I thought I paid for premium? Don’t I get a proof? I then used the “Contact Us” info to contact them. I wanted to be sure before I plunked down my cash for this service. Contact is made by email. There are phone numbers, but I was working on a weekend. I figured email would be faster.

If you’re wondering if it was faster, all I can say is that my email was sent Friday night. I’m still waiting for a reply.

After two days of waiting, I decided to forge ahead and worry about my dissatisfaction later. At the point of payment, the reassuring mention of proof was included. Ah… And then the standard blah-blah-blah about how long it might take (two weeks) but it also might take less than that.

I have no idea what is going on.

As soon as I find out what happens next, I’ll let you know. Also when the book is truly launched. And then my friends who have pledged to buy a copy (leaving me with enough for a Starbucks, I hope) will hopefully whip out their credit cards and PayPal accounts and get busy.

🙂

How an Editor for Life Made Me a Writer for Life

I’ve been dying to (and trying to) write this post for a month. You know how it is. December = holidays + end-of-year-tax-queasiness + noticeable lack of sunlight. End result, many trips to CVS for stomach relief medicine. One of my resolutions – besides the standard lose ten pounds, exercise more, and WRITE – is to contribute to the blog more than once in a blue moon. More like once a week. Here goes:

When a person decides to write something more substantial than a blog post or article, something epic, like an actual novel (many thousands of words, many hundreds of pages, many characters and plot twists), it’s like a journey to another land.

Transcontinental. By covered wagon. Through a summer Death Valley and a winter in the Sierras. Alone. (Well, except for the one horse.)

Despite the fact that there are educational institutions, libraries full of reference books, conferences and seminars galore, critique groups, writing friends, and of course, the vast Internet, the writer is flying solo. Or in my case, walking alongside the covered wagon solo.

A few years ago, I decided to enlist in professional help. I’d completed two novels. I have plenty of online writing friends, many published authors, who have cheered me on and slapped me silly. I joined a local critique group. But something was missing.

First of all, I can only bother my online writer friends just so much. They are busy writing. Some had paired up with others for mutual in-depth critiquing. This happens best if both writers produce in a similar genre. I will BETA read other genres, sometimes for pleasure, sometimes I’m asked, but I know from the get-go that my favorite reading material is women driven, contemporary, and literary. And it’s a lot to ask someone to be your crit bud for life.

Second, writing, like many artistic endeavors including music and the visual arts, can’t be self-taught, despite all of the reference books out there. My library is a testament to writing reference. If it was printed, I bought it, from Donald Maass to Stephen King to Noah Lukeman and beyond. Sure, the creative juices are yours and yours alone, and you’re the master of your creation, but without (superior, constant, personal) guidance, one might fall back on easy and bad habits.

I’ve been in a few critique groups, some temporarily. I’m fairly intelligent, have a decent grasp of grammar, punctuation, and of course, am a stellar speller. I don’t need a line editor or proofreader. What I’m looking for in a group critique situation is similar to what I expect from my online writer friends: brutal honesty on story development. If I wanted sycophantic praise, I’d have given my material to some sympathetic BETA readers I know. I knew my writing was lacking something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I could tell my writer friends were patiently annoyed by my requests. Books can only give so much information. The critique route wasn’t working. I had to do something else.

Going back to school was instantly nixed. I own a business (several) and I don’t have time to commit myself to college. Plus, I’m just too old. I can see myself in a class room with a bunch of teenagers…NOT!

For me, there was only one alternative, and that was to pay for professional help.

I know what you’re thinking. Pay? Money? For an editor? Was I out of my mind? Was what they say about teachers (those who can, do; those who can’t teach) directly applicable to editors?

Well, how was I to know? Unless I looked around.

I’d met several professional editors along my rutted wagon trail way, some online and some at the San Francisco Writers Conference. (Hey, there are worse things than talking to professional editors at a conference…for free.) I’d struck up a rapport with a couple. Some are outrageously expensive (albeit, these are the gurus, the top guns of the industry) and others seemed to be dirt cheap. Those on either side of the spectrum worried me. I’d used a few to help me with beginning chapters, and one to assist with all of VIRTUALLY YOURS. Some were easy to work with, some not so.

Mr. ED (of VY fame) approached me with a novel *punny* idea: That is, he suggested a tailor-made program for me. Editor for Life.

I’ll have to admit, the ED for Life thing sounded a bit off the chart. It was expensive. In case you didn’t know, I’m cheap. We all know I am a cynic. But I did enjoy working with him. He got my vision, yet wasn’t afraid to tell me when I wandered way off track. I returned his offer of lifelong help with many questions. Serious questions, including provisos in case either one of us died. (Honestly. Either one of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow and then where would we be?) I thought, and I thought some more, and I finally agreed. (In installments. I’m not fabulously wealthy.)

There is a moral to this long, twisted tale of me and my writing covered wagon, and I’m getting to it.

Once I made the commitment to ED for Life, my outlook on writing changed. I became a WRITER for Life.

That’s right. Since signing on the dotted line, I’ve been writing or editing nearly non-stop. Almost daily. No longer did I suffer writer’s block or depression over my work. I’ve been pumping out words like there’s no tomorrow. (That’s because theoretically, tomorrow might never come. Plus I want to get my money’s worth.)

The writing tables have turned. Now I have two horses hitched up to my covered wagon. The journey will be bumpy, but at least I have a navigator.

“I Suck!” and Other Naggy Negatives

Wow, what a busy last couple of weeks!

First a trip to Colorado for my brother-in-law’s memorial and interment at Ft. Logan National Cemetery in Denver. This might have been a quick trip back to see the old home town, except for one thing: a tornado hit Dallas last Tuesday which caused my plane to circle for what seemed like hours (turns out it had been) until we were forced to land in Austin, thankfully before we ran out jet fuel. There we parked on the tarmac for an hour – along with a dozen other diverted planes – before it was determined that we were going nowhere fast. After the deplaning of thousands of zombie travelers, the trip to a local Holiday Inn (loved that hour and a half of rest), and many phone calls to American Airlines, I surmised that I would not be flying out of Austin any time soon. In fact, not until SATURDAY of last week, meaning I would miss the services and get into Colorado Springs with just enough time to return to Detroit.

Thirteen hours and an immensely sore butt later, and after renting a car and driving through the panhandle of Texas (one big-ass state, to be sure), I arrived at my final destination only 24 hours late. Unfortunately, my bags were still in transit.

I have learned three things on this trip: 1. West Texas is beautiful – even with the preponderance of armadillo road kill, which is why I’m writing it into my next tome, 2. it’s good to be nice and keep your cool, and 3. I can finish reading a book and a half in six hours on a plane.

Usually, my trips out of town are a gold mine for writing, but this time, I could only jot down a few things in my trusty (manually operated) notebook. After the Trip from Hell, the final service at Ft. Logan (which I made by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin, and with my own clothes that arrived in CoS at 6 a.m.), and my sister’s sadness, I found I couldn’t write anything.

It’s not that I had a lack of information or inspiration. I was just plain B-E-A-T. I couldn’t even answer email. So I took a day to trim the bonsai tree located at my mother’s grave, which after 18 years of my neglect had morphed into the juniper who ate a headstone. It was relaxing to sit in the sun, listen to the traffic on I-25, to snip and trim, and now the Thing looks more like a bonsai.

But back to “I SUCK!” I found myself kicking and yelling (at myself) for my total lack of motivation. Yes, I have stories in my head yearning to be set free. Yes, I have something I’m shopping around and more than a few things I’m working on which languish in various states of disrepair. But to actually unpack my laptop and start moving in the right direction? I couldn’t. I was too exhausted/frustrated/sad.

But wait! There’s more! After the last email rejection letter (yesterday),

 

Although I thought your partial was well-written, it didn’t ring as perfectly right for our list as I’d hoped and for the moment we need fiction that sounds exactly right for us in order to be able to sell it as well as we all would like.

I was ready to throw in the the towel and hang out my “I SUCK” shingle. Life is hard enough without having rejection pummel your inbox every couple of weeks. I mean really…what am I doing? Wasting my time? Do you know how many talented writers there are out there? I am but a teeny-tiny wannabe with big honking flaws. I started late in life (for everything, job, marriage, kids, hobbies, you name it). When Real Writers talk about story arcs and character development, I rush to Barnes and Noble to find a reference book that can explain the concept, and even then I’m lost.

Well, after my pity party (yes, I know it was a pity party), I emailed (hurriedly) Mr. Ed for help. (He did. What a stellar guy!) This morning I read this, and began to feel better.

I even wrote over 500 words on my West Texas character.

I even finished this blog post!

The thing about “sucking” is that such a negative frame of mind lasts only a moment with most positive people, and I like to think of myself as being more positive than negative. This temporary self-doubt goes for people other than writers. I can remember my son thinking the same thing about himself, and he’s a very talented pianist. And while it would be ultra-fabuloso to be picked up by an agent, and maybe even have my work published (using the pulp material of your local forest), it’s more important to write because you have a passion to put your words together to make a story, and to make the story intriguing enough to read.

Perhaps I should seek to be read, not to be published.

At any case, I am back on the bus, and the wheels are going ’round and ’round.

🙂

There are Turnips, and There are Turnip Trucks

When last I wrote, I was on a query sending frenzy. Believe me, just one a week is a frenzy for me, seeing that I’m rather lackadaisical (lazy is probably not the correct adjective) about doing anything. Perhaps we can blame it on winter. The first few weeks of January were *excuse my French* awful damned cold, with lows in the single digits, highs in the teens and windchill in the nether regions. I don’t call this the Tundra for nothing.

I am happy to report that I’m on track with my goal of one query to one agent per week. It’s very hard to stay on the turnip truck, but I appear to be doing quite well, thank you.

In the meantime (yes! there is a meantime), I have submitted my work into a few contests (not hoping against hope that I might place, for I am a pragmatist). It’s jolly good fun. No, it’s not, but I thought I might as well get the taste of rejection out of the way. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. This way if someone throws me a bone, I will be delighted. I don’t just mean happy, I mean happy-dance happy. (You all saw how reacted when I only placed in a contest, right?) If and when the news is good, I’ll be spreading it around so quickly…I can’t even think of an appropriate metaphor, but it’ll be fast.

I have entered this contest; if you write and haven’t entered yet, I strongly urge you to do so. There are only spaces for 5,000 entries, and while that seems like a lot, in this world where everyone is a scribe, it’s just a drop in the bucket. Best of all, there’s no entry fee.

I’ve also decided to give the manuscript another edit. I know. I cannot leave it alone. I’m fleshing out what needs it and deleting what it doesn’t need. After this final (I hope) pass, I plan on putting it away for a while and continue my querying, maybe take up with the other pieces I’ve been diddling around with and get them query ready.

Not bad for a turnip, huh?

Birth of a Query Letter, With Explanations

Well, I finally took the plunge.

This morning I sent out my first bona fide query letter to a real-life literary agent, in NOO Yawk City, no less.

Why, you ask, would it take me so long?

Well, despite the fact that the book is complete and has even merited an Honorable Mention in a contest, I am not that self-assured. Unlike some writers who view their babies as monumental literary masterpieces, I know my novel is flawed.

After the initial hoo-ha and jumping up and down with the thrill of victory, I then realized I was asked to submit a partial. Hit the brakes. Is my story truly ready for inquiring minds? I wasn’t so sure, so I edited it again, then again and again before today.

It’s still not perfect, but oh, well. It’s time to dive in.

So, here is part of my query letter, with explanations:

Dear Ms. (Fill in the Blank) You know who you are. And yes, I know you are a woman. I checked the web site. I figured ‘Ms.’ is the preferred title. I know I am partial to it. By the way, you are a beautiful woman.)

Thank you for awarding my submission, VIRTUALLY YOURS, an Honorable Mention in the recent QueryTracker romance contest. (Oh my God! I was delirious with joy! I jumped up and down for three days straight!  I emailed everyone close to me, and everyone not close. I posted the results and the web page on Facebook and Twitter. It was my birthday weekend, too, happy birthday to me. One out of FIFTY! Fifty? Holy moley!) Per your request, I am submitting the first ten pages of VIRTUALLY YOURS for your review. (I’m ready. I’m not ready. I’m ready. I’m not ready…)

(Brief description on the characters, Internet based, making it relevant (I hope) to modern readers, with a unique plot twist… Blah, blah, blah. Don’t worry. It’s not over one page. Check it out under “Novels” if you are so inclined.)

VIRTUALLY YOURS is a 75,000 word chick-lit romp, light in heart but includes serious perspectives on the lives of modern moms. (So I’m old school. A story isn’t a story without a moral or two.)

I am a businesswoman by day and clandestinely rendezvous with my Muse to write by night. (I don’t know where the fine line is drawn between brilliance and hokey. This is my first query, remember?) My writing credits include frequent contributions to Blog Critics and Associated Content, and I am a member of both Romance Writers of America and the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America. (It’s all I have. I could have fluffed up, but why stretch the truth?)

Thank you again for your consideration. (Please, please, please give me more than a form letter rejection. I’m really looking for feedback. And oh, did I tell you I think you are a stunningly beautiful woman? Because you are.)

Oh, my. I’ve fallen off the deep end.

🙂