Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mood

In order to write effectively, one must be in the proper mood. Today (and yesterday, for that matter), I wasn't in the mood--so I declared them "holidays." I'm sure I'll get to chapter 12 soon enough, but for now I'm just going to ruminate upon it, and rest.

This is the current query I use... If you see an issue, let me know! (It's also the one I just sent to the Shark...)

Locarno's death delays Armageddon.

Born long ago, raised by a cabal of sorcerers, Locarno quickly becomes embroiled in a plot overseen by a rogue element of the church--Dies Irae--against which he must not fail, for he is mankind's only hope; and at stake is the loss of civilization itself. Revealed are the events leading to the possible "Day of Wrath" that Dies Irae wishes to bring forth--forcing God to disown humanity and wipe clean the slate of creation.

But Locarno is just a boy, not yet a man; and while he studies his secret sorcery, he soon gains the affections of Juliana, the daughter of one of his grandfather's inner circle, and love blooms. With their passion rising, so too does the danger. Compounding the threat that Dies Irae represents is the doubly troubling sudden appearance of feral vampires.

Captured, failed, and finally slain, Locarno rises as a Lord of Death, and his vengeance is truly profound; but for all his possessed prowess he may have only forestalled the inevitable.

MEMORIES OF THE DEAD, my first novel, a first-person narrative, is complete at 72,000 words and is aimed at the young-adult market.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

Query Shark, Ahoy!

Ok, being saddened that I've had so little success to date, I sent of my newest query to be eaten alive (I'm sure) by the one-and-only Query Shark. The odds are extraordinarily low that she'll even decide to rip it to pieces, but we'll see. I've sent 60 queries and have had precious little success, and at this point anything--even if it means facing my fears--is worth a try.

I just hope Janet doesn't flip about having actually received that query professionally prior to getting it "sharkified."

The fun...it never ends!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More queries the merrier!

I just went plum loco and queried more agents/agencies... total is now at 60.

God, I hope one of them "bites."

Just for giggles

Last night, just for giggles, I formatted my book in a 6x9 template, just to see what it might look like and how many pages--all that crap. (Hey, I had some free time, ok?) Anyway, it ended up being 344 pages in that form, which is far larger than I figured it would be. A nice surprise.

I know, this information is useless, but it's all valuable to me...somehow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Inspirational

And just when you need it, something like this comes along and makes you want to just keep trying. Thanks to Janet Reid for this link. Good stuff here.

The current stats

Here's the current stats:

55 queries sent.
43.6% sent a rejection note
The rest...no show, no call.

Depressing? Maybe.

I can't drive 55

The total number of queries is now 55.

Too many, too few? Who knows. Time will tell. Staying positive here...because the alternative is sad.

Does the end come nigh?

I've queried about 50 agents/agencies thus far, and that process has run darn near out. There's just so many I can send to--correct genre, correct feel and match, etc.--before you turn to the last page of agent listings and find that you've hit them all. That time, apparently, is coming closer by the moment. Near as I can tell, there might be--at a maximum--10 more agents/agencies to hit up, then that's the end.

When the end comes, my book will be made available as a PDF on Kindle and Nook. The question is: what's a good price to point it at? My math works like this... there are 288 pages in the manuscript, and I figure if my book is worth once cent per page, that's $2.88. Which I see as fair. It's cheap enough that people shouldn't have an issue with a little expenditure of that level. But of course, that's in "manuscript format," which is different than normal printing. I'd have to reformat it a little, but still, a sub-three dollar price isn't all that bad.

I don't know. The whole process is swiftly closing on Memories of the Dead, and MINIMAL is in development currently, and I have to focus on the new when the old has shown its lack of "legs." We'll see what develops.

The fun never ends.

Monday, March 28, 2011

ok, so I lied...

Since I was about where I wanted to be, I decided to query a next group of agents anyway. One agent, who shall remain nameless, had an AUTORESPONDER set up with a rejection letter.

What kind of person rejects just out of hand? WTF?

Weird.

Anyway, the number of agents I've queried now sits at 49.

On agent querying

Ok, so I'm in a pause here for agents to query. This is intentional as I want to get a little further on my current writing before hitting up my next list of agents. It's cool, trust me. It's all good.

Besides, I have "Plan Z" in the wings, I can afford to be a little bit like this. It's not like my life depends on it. :)

Daily writing

For me, I try each weekday to write at least one thousand words. What I come up with is, inevitably, just a rough draft, and sometimes is very far from the final. What's interesting is the minutia that my brain plods out. There are things I didn't know or consciously realize about my characters until I write them. The process of discovery is always fascinating.

Well, for me, at least. I can only hope what a reader thinks.

Why do agents...

Why do agents take up to 5 months to reply to a query? If they're that swamped, they should (a) get an assistant, and (b) close their queue for a temporary period until they catch up. Seems simple to me. Ah, well, such mysteries are beyond my comprehension...I am but a mere caveman who is unfamiliar with your technology or advanced ways.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A new chapter

Having just finished chapter 9 of my latest tale, which is subtitled "Incubus," I wondered to myself...how many chapters is this book going to be? Page count, immaterial; word count not withstanding.

The best I can come up with right now, is about 30. Thirty is a pretty nice number. :) We'll see what happens.

It's all an adventure, folks! Just like Indiana Jones, sometimes you gotta make it up as you go.

Amanda Hocking signs a big, fat book deal.

Amanda Hocking signs book deal.
Impressive! Good going! :)

That pesky next novel idea

Since I'm knee-deep in the waiting game--and I am sure that eventually I will (a) be picked up by an agent, (b) receive nothing but rejections and become a depressed wino, or (c) decide "Plan Z" was the right way to go from the get-go--I have to move on to the next book idea to keep myself writing; and that is the whole point: to keep writing.

Going on to the next book is a tried-and true tactic for keeping yourself busy while waiting for the next (hopefully not) rejection slip. So I thought I'd drop a little info your way on what it is that I'm working on.

My current writing project is called MINIMAL (and yes, the title in all caps is intentional). It's a modern-day cop story. Though I know where the story is going (it's in my head), I haven't put down on paper (or in any format, including electronic) the synopsis or even told anyone what's going on with it. The intrepid few who choose to read it are, in fact, learning the depths of my insanity one page at a time as I write it.

The story is pretty basic, really. Two lonely cops investigate a series of homicides unlike anything they've encountered before. The victims are dismembered surgically, and the bodies are left in various places around the city. Each victim is numbered...one...two...four...six...

Where the hell is "three?" Nobody knows. The police don't know about "five" yet; and "six" was just abducted.

The "bad guy" is, unknown to the authorities, a medical student at the university; and just like all serial killers, he has been given a nice nick-name by the news media: "The Count."

Yes, The Count, just like the muppet. But he's not purplish or funny. But he does have some crazy plan; it's just that nobody but him knows what that is. Yet.

I just two days ago finished chapter 8 of the tale, and hope to write chapter 9 today. As is my method, I tend to write about 1000 words or so--but lately, these chapters have been longer by a wee bit--and I see no need to change up my way of working. Plus, I like small chapters. You can pick 'em up and leave 'em quick. Not everyone has the time to spend in the middle of a thirty thousand word chapter. Screw that! Get in. Get going. Get out. Get on with life. That's how I write.

Call me crazy, but it works for me.

Right now, the book is about nineteen thousand words. I have no idea how long a story it is. I think it will be about 77,000 words--but don't quote me. I'll not have a true knowledge of it until it's actually "in the bag," as they say, and that is many chapters from now.

But I digress. There is a theme running through the chapters, music. Each chapter has a song, mentioned usually by name, and the tune is something, although not critically important to the plot, that is just a bit of ambiance I use to set the mood. I've got some pop-crap, metal, and progressive rock mentioned. I hope the songs I mention are popular enough that they will do the job for me without me having to explain too much.

It's weird, but somehow the writing always lines up just the way I want. I know what you're thinking, "Gee, mister author-wannabe, isn't that the point? It's your story, of course it should all line up properly! Duh!"

That's not what I mean. Let me try to explain: my mind works on stories at an unconscious level. (That's a good thing, because I doubt I could think consciously about dismemberment for long without the need of a psych doctor to straighten me out.) Usually, when I sit down to write, I have a complete scene in my head and all I have to do is just type it out. I can whip out the whole segment in less than an hour most days. Sure, sometimes the word choice needs revision--I'm a stickler for the cadence of the way words flow, don't ask me why--but otherwise, the whole thing is there, in my head, at the moment I sit and begin.

I've heard some authors just pound out page after page, sometimes rewriting the same paragraph many times until they get it right. To me, that sounds really ineffectual, like they are doing more of a stream of conscious thought rather than just working with narrative plot. I can't deride their chosen method, as it works fine for them; but I wonder in my caveman brain how that all works out. It clearly does, but to me that seems alien.

What drives me a little crazy is that while I'm working on something currently, the next story is already bouncing around in my head. It even has a title! If only I could write as fast as I think...

Pretty good information here. Pay attention.

How to make your editor love you. Good stuff here. Pay attention (didn't I just say that?)

Along those same lines, here's a video interview with her (Allison), talking about what it is she does, what she loves about the job...you know...a "get to know me" segment--always popular.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

PDF or not to PDF...

Why is it the Adobe PDF format support on ebook readers is so abysmal? It's not like PDFs are some new-fangled thing, they've been around a while and are considered the de-facto inter-system document format of choice. So you'd think the devices (Kindle, Nook, Sony's ereader thingy) would all work flawlessly...but they don't. Very odd.

Gretchen's book. I am going to read it. So should you.

Synopsis

After you have your wonderful new great novel written, and you have a query that looks pretty good, the next thing you need is a synopsis.

A synopsis is a breakdown of the plot. That much you probably know from school. And there are a LOT of sources out there that will tell you how much to write, how long, etc.

Whatever.

Look, the single most important thing is this: know the requirements of the agent to whom you are querying. It's just that simple. If they say "include a query with synopsis that does not exceed two pages," then that's what you give them. Two pages. Get it?

Cool. But how do you take a story, say 72,000 words in length, and break it down into roughly two pages?

Pruning out the non-essentials, naturally. Below is my current synopsis. It gets to the point, goes over the plot, the highs, the lows, and the conflict. Yes, a conflict. Each story has to have a conflict or it's just a drab narrative. And nobody wants to read that.


LOCARNO was envious of vampires, they were elusive, immortal, strong, and powerful. But that was when he was foolish and young; and now, knowing what he knows, they are nothing to him but a plague upon humanity—a disease that needs to be removed. He hates them because of the things they did, and continue to do; and this, his private journal—his memories—left for those who may find and read it, is a living record of the time when his destiny was first intertwined with evil.

Locarno is a Lich, a form of powerful undead—but unlike vampires, for he does not feed upon the living, rather he is mankind's protector; but he was not always so. There was a time when he was but a boy, learning sorcery at the feet of his GRANDFATHER, a man of potent magic, who is the closest thing to a father-figure in Locarno’s life.

Prior to his becoming a Lich, Locarno becomes embroiled in a plot of a rogue offshoot of the church, DIES IRAE, who exist to reduce humanity to barbarism by the destruction of civilization, which is believed by them to force God to destroy the world. This plot unfolds before Locarno, ominously, as people who are part of Grandfather's inner circle start dying—one by one.

Matters are complicated by Locarno's budding, young romance with JULIANA, the only daughter of a wealthy merchant; and the sudden appearance of vampires. It is from this that all things begin to unravel in Locarno's world. SIMM, Juliana’s elder brother, whom always acted oddly, is dramatically abducted by the blood-suckers, and is feared dead—but the truth is far worse.

Convinced by Juliana, and his desire to protect her from the ravages of the evil that is being perpetrated, to undertake a questionable ritual which would provide everlasting life, Locarno initially has no outward change—it is only when he is later killed that the magic truly takes hold. Rising as a Lich in that moment, he becomes the scourge of the undead, and begins undoing the plot Dies Irae wished to unfurl.

The culmination of the scheme against humanity is revealed when the apparent happenstance appearance of the two simultaneous plagues—Dies Irae and the vampires—are found to be one and the same threat.

In the end, Locarno is triumphant; but his actions, for all their power, may have only forestalled the inevitable return of Dies Irae and the apocalypse, as Simm, now fully a member of their hideous clan, travels to their stronghold, ostensibly as a form of punishment for his failure to eliminate his assigned target—his family. Simm, finally and symbolically, turns his back on his former life and his sister, whom he had previously protected.

Steeled to live out his existence with Juliana, Locarno waits, but knows this brief glimpse of heaven will be short-lived, as his daughter—destined to become a dark mistress full of power—is born, bringing the promise of future woe.

There it is, the whole story, 46 chapters, broken down into that simple set of paragraphs. But for all the good it may be, it too is limited by the "gotcha!" power of the query. I think the query needs more work, but alas don't know where to begin.

The query

The query, as I have said, and as other people will no doubt attest, is your primary sales-pitch to an agent. Basically, they all follow the same form and function: introduction, "what's going on," brief information about style, genre, word count, etc., and closing salutation.

Here's mine (current version)--I say "current version" because like all good things, it is constantly improving and chaotic.


LOCARNO's death delays Armageddon.

Born long ago, raised by a cabal of sorcerers, Locarno quickly becomes embroiled in a plot overseen by a rogue element of the church--Dies Irae--against which he must not fail, for he is mankind's only hope; and at stake is the loss of civilization itself. Revealed within are the events leading to the possible "Day of Wrath" that Dies Irae wishes to bring forth--forcing God to disown humanity and wipe clean the slate of creation.

But Locarno is just a boy, not yet a man; and while he studies his secret sorcery, he soon gains the affections of JULIANA, the daughter of one of his GRANDFATHER'S inner circle, and love blooms. With their passion rising, so too does the danger. Compounding the threat that Dies Irae represents is the doubly troubling sudden appearance of feral vampires.

Captured, failed, and slain, Locarno rises as a Lord of Death, and his vengeance is truly profound; but for all his possessed prowess he may have only forestalled the inevitable.

MEMORIES OF THE DEAD, my first novel, is complete at 72,000 words and is aimed at the young-adult market. Although not intended to be such, it could be expanded into a series.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

Not really bad, but to date, this query has gotten me a handful of "no thanks" replies. Perhaps I should submit this to Query Shark? Kind of afraid to do so... They can be vicious fish over there (even though I love them), and besides...this very same query I submitted to Janet already. It would be "awkward" to submit it to her sharky goodness after the fact, yes?

Queryshark

I want all of you aspiring novelists to get your clicking fingers ready and follow Query Shark, this is an invaluable, amazing, nifty, cool, and awesome resource for you. Do it. Thank me later. :)

Great advice

Flogging the Quill has some really good information. Read it.

Never tell me the odds!

Not long ago, I watched The Empire Strikes Back for the gazillionth time, and in that famous movie we learn what the odds are to successfully navigate through an asteroid field.

This lead me to think: what are the odds that a first time novelist will get published? So I went looking. Google is my friend, and I was not disappointed to learn that others asked this very question long before me.

What did disappoint was the answer.

The odds are about 1000 to 1.

I was a bit sad at that. But, hey, my book is different, right? I'll be an exception, right? Right?

Hell if I know. Still working, still writing, still hoping that 1000:1 is not a barrier. Ugh. Could be worse, though, the lottery odds are over 180 million to one, so by comparison this is a walk in the park.

Yeah, sure it is. I keep trying to remind myself of that. Perspective, my dear, it's all a matter of perspective and I am trying to remain positive.

Which leads me to my next thought: how many agent failures should I accept before I say "well, screw it," and go with "Plan Z"?

Don't have an answer for that one. I know that Chicken Soup for the Soul,  by Jack Canfeld and Mark Victor Hansen, had 140 rejection letters before it hit home.

I have a long way to go before I get to that level of rejection. So, in comparison, I'm a head of the curve!

Yay for being positive!

The list of queried agents

To date, here is the list of fine agents I've queried, in order:

Ginger Clark
Sarah LaPolla
Anna Webman
Kristin Nelson
Jenny Bent
Jessica Faust
Melissa Jeglinski
Jennifer Carlson
Shana Cohen
Andrea Somberg
Jennifer Cayea
Farley Chase
Adam Chromy
Michelle Grajkowski
Rachel Dowen
Josh Getzler
Samantha Shea
Ethan Ellenberg
Dorian Karchmar
Jennifer Jackson
Lucinda Blumenfeld
Kim Lionetti
Barbara Lowenstein
Daniel Lazar
Brian DeFiore
Matthew Bialer
John Silbersack
Faye Bender
Sara Crowe
Elyse Cheney
Tracey Adams
Michael Bourret
Joy Harris
Holly Root
Laura Dail
Nancy Coffey
Diana Finch
Russell Galen
Ellen C. Geiger
Barry Goldblatt
Janet Reid
Suzie Townsend
Peter Rubie

A sizable list, ain't it? And of this group, how many replied in any manner at all? Just about 46%. Let that sink in a wee bit. Less than half have replied. Now, to be fair, the last (Peter Rubie) was just queried, so it's a little early to say he's a "no show," but the rest...their excuse is, what exactly? Who knows. Looks to me that in order to get a reply you have to shotgun method them--send tons out and hope one hits. Hardly efficient.

The steps of book writing/publication

Here's the process, and it's really simple:

  • Step 1: Have an idea. Simple, come up with an idea for your book. Understand it fully and completely.
  • Step 2: Write. This is the long part where you actually, you know, sit in front of a keyboard and write your great American novel.
  • Step 3: Revise. Once you're done, you're actually NOT done. Go back, read your work. Fix the errors, no matter how small. Typos happen, and they suck. Fix them all. Get someone you know and trust to give you feedback on things like plot holes, grammar FUBARisms, and the like. At this point, you have a rough draft.
  • Step 4: Find an agent. This part sucks. But there's help around. Personally, I use Agent Query (Google it for better info than I could share). Each agent has their own entry, you can search by genre, location, name...basically anything. Make sure that you read the detailed profile of each because some aren't taking in queries at the moment--and you don't want to waste their time...or yours. I suggest you get a list going of who you want to query. Keep the list small and simple at first, say around 20.
  • Step 5: Compose a query letter. This is your sales pitch, it's basically a 3 to 4 paragraph letter that tells about your story, why it's interesting, a very brief breakdown of the plot, an indication of thanks to the agent, and a closing salutation.
  • Step 6: Send those queries out. Pretty easy once you have the query written.
  • Step 7: Wait. While you're waiting, go back to step 3 and revise your work more. Perfection is the goal. Alternatively, begin working on your next great American novel. Find a way to bide your time because agents are swamped and often cannot reply quickly.
Now, a brief interlude to talk about agents. Some of them will state straight-up that if you do not hear back from them within a specified period of time, this means they chose to pass on your submission. This is called a "no response means no" policy, and to be blunt--I believe it to be a bit rude. Agents should spend the two seconds to fire off an email saying "Gee, dude, your story was interesting/compelling/amazing...but it's not for me, you should keep querying other agents. Good luck in finding representation!"

Yes, I know they don't want to get into a flame-war with some aspiring writer who just cannot fathom that someone would not want their manuscript; but you know what, common decency has to win out. You cannot cure stupid, but you can out class them. So, agents, send a reply--even if it's a negative one--it makes people stop worrying if you didn't get it (mail server hiccup or whatever) and it continues to promote professionalism.

Where am I on this list? Why I am at step 7! I have a completed book, and I am working on a new story. But even so, and even after having multiple eyes on my work, and having passed numerous passes by people with better grammatical skill than I, there remains the thought that there is a hideous error lying within its pages that I had missed entirely. Paranoia about my work runs deep.

Before I continue...

Before I continue, I want to mention something worth while from one of my newest friends, Gretchen McNeil.

This is her blog: http://gretchenmcneil.blogspot.com/ and she is awesome. She has a post asking people to assist her friend, Tara, with Habitat for Humanity, which is--without a doubt--an amazing organization, and is clearly worth the donations. They actually HELP people. So, I'm asking you all to go visit Gretchen, follow her blog, buy her book, and help her friend by making a donation.

Thanks! Trust me, it's all worth it.

Why I started writing in the first place

Why? Well, that's easy, and the story is pretty normal, really.

One day, while I was at work, my wife (then girlfriend), Tammy, indicated that she was bored. There was nothing in the house to do, and she was out of books to read. (Tammy, if you didn't know, is a voracious reader, and can plow through a thick novel in very little time.)

So I thought up quick something for her to read and I posted it on my Facebook. This became chapter 1 of Memories of the Dead. Interesting side note: as soon as I finished chapter 1, I knew the entire story. It just all popped into my head. I knew the characters, the setting, the major events, and the ending. It all flooded into place. Weird. Don't know why or how that happened, but I'll take it.

I guess my crazy imagination all finally paid off?

So, there was chapter 1. The book (and I had no idea how long it would take to finish the tale) didn't even have a name, it was just called "Short Story" for the longest time. If you're on my friends list, go back in my Notes and see. As a matter of fact, even after I gave the story a name I still referred to it as "Short Story" up until the very end.

Each week, usually on a Tuesday or a Thursday, and don't ask me why that was the case--it just worked out that way--I would post a new part: a new chapter. Now, there were times there when I was busy with work, out of town or whatever, and I couldn't post anything. But on average once a week I posted about a thousand words.

Approximately thirteen months later, forty-six chapters/parts had been posted, and more than one person thought the story was pretty nifty. That's when one of them asked me "Are you going to get this published?"

I was sort of put off by that. I didn't initially know how to respond.

"I don't know. Is it worth it?" That's the kind of thing I said--honestly, I don't recall my exact reply--and the response was that I should try.

Ok, I thought. I'll try.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Everyone has a good idea for a book within them...

The question is this...is my idea any good, and if so, can it get published?

The answer is, as of yet, a very solid "maybe."

See, the book is done, it took just over thirteen months to get it to completion. The title is Memories of the Dead, or at least, that's what I want to call it...who knows what other people (like an agent, or a publisher--neither of which do I have) will think of that title. [There's lots of books that start out named one thing, then are renamed--sometimes at the very last moment. For instance, Twilight. She wanted to call it, "Forks," which I think is a horribly, dreadful name. But, hey, it's her fiction, she can do what she likes!]

So, yeah. I have a manuscript (72000 words, thank you very much), yet I have no agent. That is step two...get agent. And that's where this tale sort of really begins.

To get an agent one sends them what are called "query letters," which is really just a sales pitch to them in hopes they'll bite and represent your work--your blood--to a publisher. Who in turn it is hoped will buy the book and print it...all the while paying you for the right to do so.

But, like I said, I am not there. I am still on step 2: get an agent. Bleh.

I've queried over 40 as of this writing. Yay. How many have written back? about half. How many had a desire to see the full manuscript? None.

Not a single one.

Now, this does not mean the book sucks, no; what it means is that they (the agent) thought the idea of my book was not for them. Fair enough, I will query a different agent, works for me--after all, there are TONS of agents out there, right?

Well, not really. There are plenty if you look at the whole, but if you weed out the ones that are not in the proper genre for you...the numbers can get decidedly slim. Bummer.

But I have a plan. I call it "Plan Z," and it's really simple: if I fail to get an agent, I will just go the Kindle route. Ebooks, that's the future, right?

Who knows...just like a book, sometimes you just have to make it up as you go.

My name is Phil, and this is the tale of me and my book and our adventures together trying to get published. Lets hope "Plan Z" is not my only hope.