Fiction Friday – What Am I Writing Now?

Happy (fiction) Friday, everyone!

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what I’m working on now, so I thought a Fiction Friday post would be the perfect way to let you know. 

When I’m in the drafting stage of a new book I don’t usually talk about it that much. It’s not that I’m trying to be secretive, it’s just that for me, the drafting stage is a very solitary endeavor. I might bounce things off members of my writing group, like POV questions or other technical things, but for the most part I spend a lot of time in my own head, just thinking. What I’ve found is that if I try to tell someone what my book is about before I’ve finished writing it, it will sound kind of stupid. I have a tendency to leave out key things when I’m describing it and there will inevitably be a lot of, “Wait. There’s something else that happens before the part I just told you about.” The end result is that the premise will sound like it’s all over the place.

Then, the person I’m telling it to will look at me like this:
 
 
And then I’ll want to do this:
 
 
 
 
 
 
So that’s why I don’t usually share much about the manuscript until it’s done. Not even my husband really knows what this next book is about. I mean, he knows the high-level plot points, but that’s about it.
 
But here’s what I can tell you: My new book is a contemporary romance (it could also be described as commercial fiction or possibly even romantic suspense). There is a mystery element with this book because the inciting incident (the event that sets the plot in motion) involves a crime being committed. The victim of the crime is the female protagonist’s grandmother (who has raised her). The male protagonist is a crime reporter. So these two characters will be spending quite a bit of time together, and the way their relationship will develop reminds me a bit of T.J. and Anna. By that I mean that their relationship develops alongside other things that are also happening. But unlike T.J. and Anna, these characters are fairly close in age (he’s thirty-five and she’s thirty). The female protagonist also has a three-year-old son from a previous marriage, which gives the story a bit of a Jerry McGuire feel that I especially love. I still don’t have a title, and I don’t have a publication date or any publication details. I will share all of these things when I know them. For now, I’m just focusing on writing the book.
 
The book I’m going to write after the one I’m writing now will probably be categorized as women’s fiction (like Covet is). I love the song “Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg. Here’s part of it:
 
Met my old lover in the
grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the
frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve
She didn’t recognize the
face at first
But then her eyes flew
open wide
She went to hug me and she
spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried.
We took her groceries to the
checkout stand
The food was totalled up and
bagged
We stood there lost in our
embarrassment
As the conversation dragged.
We went to have ourselves
a drink or two
But couldn’t find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at
the liquor store
And we drank it in her car.
We drank a toast to
innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond
the emptiness
But neither one knew how.
 
That, in a nutshell, is the premise of the book I’m going to write. I don’t have a title for this one either, but I have a loose outline and a document full of notes.
 
So there you have it! I’m very excited to share these upcoming books with you. Please remember that things can and do change, but this is where I’m at today.
 
Have a great weekend, everyone!
 
xoxo,
 
Tracey
 
 
 


Fiction Friday – What Have I Been Reading Lately?

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is, “Now that you’re writing full-time, do you ever get the chance to read?”

The answer is, “Yes and no.” When I was writing On the Island, I wasn’t able to read at all. I was so new to the process of writing a novel that I couldn’t crowd my brain with anything that might take me away from creating the story that was in my head but still needed to be transferred to the page. I was also nervous about inadvertently picking up another author’s voice. I was still trying to find my own, so I didn’t want to do anything that might interfere with that.

But now it’s getting easier for me. There are still times during the drafting process where I intentionally don’t read any fiction, because I just can’t, but I’ve discovered that I can read non-fiction and memoirs with no problem. It’s not quite the same as reading a novel, but it satisfies my need to read, and that’s a good compromise.

When I turn in a manuscript and I’m waiting for my editorial notes, I go on a fast and furious reading rampage, because I know as soon as I receive my edits, it’s back to work. And I’m not talking about the manuscripts I beta-read or the ARCs I read so I can provide a blurb (I have read eleven of those in the last six months or so). While I love being able to read a book before it’s published, that type of reading still falls under my “writer” job description, and as awesome and cool as it is, it’s still “work”. When I read for pleasure, it’s a book I’ve chosen based solely on my own subjective preferences as a “reader.” Sometimes it’s a book I’ve wanted to read for a while, and sometimes it’s a book I buy on a whim.

Lately I’ve received several requests for book recommendations, so here are some of the books I’ve read in the last nine months:

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – I can’t recommend this book enough. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it because I had a feeling I knew where it was going, and that it would make me cry. I was right on both counts, but it didn’t matter because it was so, so good. I’ve also got Jojo’s The Last Letter From Your Lover on my towering TBR pile. I love the title and I’m intrigued by the premise, to say the least.

Home Front by Kristin Hannah – This book was fantastic. I love Kristin Hannah and I connected with this story on a personal level because my friend Angie (we’ve known each other since Kindergarten) is in the military and was deployed to Iraq. Thankfully, Angie made it back home safe and sound, but this book really drove home the fact that many men and women who are deployed do not. Have your Kleenex box handy.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Just read this book. Okay? Okay.

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers – My first zombie read. It was awesome. And kind of scary. I loved it and made Sarah Hansen read it and then we sort of bombarded Courtney on Facebook with our rambling praise. You should read it because ZOMBIES, people.

Breaking Night by Liz Murray – This is a memoir about a girl who graduated from not only high school, but Harvard, despite the fact that she was homeless the whole time. I finished reading this one in bed. I was afraid my crying would wake up (and freak out) my husband, but thankfully he slept right through my little meltdown. This book will make you think long and hard about just how lucky you are to have a roof over your head.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – I loved this one. The writing is simply beautiful. I felt smarter while I was reading this book. It’s literary fiction, which is not usually my thing (I’m a straight-up genre girl, and proud of it) but wow. There was just something about The Interestings that I found very refreshing.

The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen – This novel is set primarily in Jamaica, which is where my husband and I went on our honeymoon. It’s about a group of college friends who reunite for a birthday celebration. I love ensemble books like these, and Sarah Pekkanen is one of my favorite women’s fiction authors.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (memoir) – I’ve been reading Jenny’s blog The Bloggess for years. Her posts are pee-your-pants funny and so is this book. Seriously. You will LOL.

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey (memoir) – I’m such a fan of Tina Fey and this book only makes me like her more, not only as an entertainer, but as a person. Super enjoyable read.

Market Street and Monarch Beach by Anita Hughes – I loved both of these books. Not only do I connect strongly with Anita’s writing style, but I love how she weaves the descriptions of fancy clothes, beautiful shoes, gorgeous locations, and gourmet food throughout her stories. It makes a yoga-pants-wearing girl like me want to class up her game a little bit.

Family Pictures by Jane Green – Upmarket women’s fiction at its finest. I just love Jane Green.

What She Left Us by Stephanie Elliot – This book kept me turning pages because the author does a great job of raising questions I wanted the answer to. It also highlights – beautifully – the relationship between two sisters, and how much they rely on and support each other.

Composing Myself by Elena Aitken – This is a contemporary novel that focuses on family relationships and personal growth. I love that the backstory of one of the characters was something I hadn’t read before, making this book feel original and fresh. I predict this will be Elena’s breakout book.

So, there you have it! And now that I’ve met all my deadlines I’m very eager to go on another short reading binge. But right after Memorial Day I’ll be setting down my Kindle and picking up my laptop because my next book is just begging to be written and I’m very excited to get started. I’m currently in the research and outline stage but looking forward to starting the drafting process.

Happy Friday, everyone!!

Tracey

Fiction Friday – Some More Really Big News

It has always been a dream of mine to walk into a bookstore, or Target, or Costco and see a book I’d written sitting there on the shelf. I’d probably walk up to it and stare at the pretty cover with my mouth hanging open. Maybe I’d linger in the vicinity and see if anyone else checked it out. If they did, I certainly wouldn’t swoop in and shout, “Hey I wrote that! That’s MY book! Are you going to buy that?” while jumping up and down like a crazy person.

I mean, I probably wouldn’t.

Ahem.

And honestly, I’m eternally grateful for the dream I’m already living. I’ve been incredibly blessed because readers from all over the world are reaching out to me to tell me how they’ve connected with On the Island.  They tell me they’re still thinking about Anna and T.J. days after finishing the book. They say that they’ve recommended the book to their sister or their mother or their friends. I smile every day because I believe I have the best readers an author could ever hope for, and I’m truly humbled by my good fortune.

But sometimes, things get even better. Mind-blowingly, life-changingly better. To the point where you’re not sure what you did to deserve it, but you’re beyond ecstatic and thankful that it’s happening.

Because that long-ago dream is coming true. I am beyond thrilled to announce that On the Island is being published by Plume, an imprint of the Penguin Group. The e-book is available TODAY. You can buy it on Amazon here and Barnes and Noble here. It is also available in the Apple store. The new version contains a letter I wrote to the readers and a wonderful readers guide.

And on July 17th I’ll be able to walk into a bookstore, or Target, or Costco, or anywhere books are sold and see my book on the shelf. I’ll walk up to it and stare at the pretty cover

This pretty cover.  

I’m also incredibly excited to announce that Covet will be released by Dutton – an imprint of the Penguin Group – in hardcover next spring. 

My self-publishing journey has come to an end. It’s been a wild ride and many of you have been with me from the beginning. Your kind words and your support have meant more to me than you’ll ever know, and I can’t stress enough how instrumental you all were in making this happen.
Thank you.
xoxo,
Tracey

Fiction Friday And Some Big News

Happy Friday, everyone!

I know I’ve been missing in action lately, and I haven’t given this blog much attention over the last couple of months. I’m doing my best to respond to all the well-wishes I’ve been receiving via Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail, and I’m hard at work on my next book, Covet. I appreciate all the comments you’ve left here at funny in the ‘hood, and I’m so thankful that you’re still dropping by.

I’ve received a large number of inquiries from readers asking if On the Island will ever be turned into a movie. Many of you have cast your vote for who should play T.J. and Anna, and I always smile when I think of seeing my characters on the big screen.

Especially him. Hello, Taylor Kitsch. You’d make a fantastic T.J.
Could Anne Hathaway be any lovelier as Anna? I don’t think so.
I love you, John Goodman. You’d be wonderful as seaplane pilot Mick. Sorry about killing you in the first chapter. 

All kidding aside, I received some fantastic news yesterday and I’m beyond thrilled to announce that On the Island has been optioned for a feature film by MGM. I never thought I’d ever type those words.

I want to give my heartfelt thanks to my agent, Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management, and her co-agent in Hollywood, Steve Fisher, of the Agency for the Performing Arts, for making this happen. I couldn’t be in better hands.

I want to thank all of you, especially those of you who have been with me since I started blogging almost four years ago. You were there when I announced I was going to spend my blogging time attempting to write a novel so I could cross it off my bucket list. The result of that endeavor has been a dream come true, and my gratitude is endless.

I also want to thank the readers who have written to me to say that On the Island made them laugh and cry. Your wonderful feedback has made me laugh and cry, too, and none of this would have been possible without you.

Thank you.

xoxo,

Tracey

P.S. Some of you may have noticed that all the pictures have disappeared from my blog. If you’re ever on Google+ and you want to delete a photo album and you get a warning that says, “If you delete this album all pictures contained within will disappear from the Internet completely – do you still want to delete?” Don’t be a ding-dong and think, “Eh, that probably won’t happen, click!” Because, yeah, it will.

On the Island – Now Available in Paperback!

Happy Friday everyone!

On the Island is now available in trade paperback.

See the little box above? If you pull up the Amazon listing for On the Island, scroll down a bit and you’ll see that underneath the Kindle edition it says paperback. Click on it and it will take you to the listing for the book. Want to head over to Amazon now? Click here.

If you’d prefer to read the book electronically, you can choose the Kindle option. If you don’t have a Kindle you can still read the ebook by downloading one of these free reading apps.

If you’re a NOOK user, you can by the NOOK book here.

I’ve got two signed copies of On the Island to give away and Matthew and Lauren are *dying* to draw more names out of a hat. Here’s how to enter: share this on Facebook by copying and pasting the link into your status update or by using the little share button thingie, mention it on your blog, tweet it, or e-mail the news to someone and copy me in (my e-mail address is traceygarvisgraves@yahoo.com). You’ll automatically be entered to win, but please leave me a comment here or on Facebook so that I don’t miss anyone. You have until midnight Saturday night, and winners will be announced by noon on Sunday. Copies will be hand-delivered if you’re local, or mailed as soon as the post office opens on Monday.

I also have a new author page on Facebook. If you get a chance, please stop by and “like” me. And if you’re on Goodreads click here to send me a friend request. Goodreads is a wonderful place to discover new books and new authors.

I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who has bought the ebook of On the Island. I truly appreciate the outpouring of support I’ve received since the book was released. I’ve made a lot of new friends and every time a reader sends me an e-mail to tell me how much they liked the book, I totally squee! I count my blessings. I want to give an extra-special thank you to those of you who have chosen On the Island for your book club selection. I am honored.

I’m grateful that so many of you have connected with T.J. and Anna. After spending 18 months with them I’m having a hard time letting them go, but it’s getting easier because I’ve got brand new characters to keep me busy.

Covet. Fall 2012.

What if the life you wanted, and the woman you fell in love with, belonged to someone else?

Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks for stopping by!

Tracey

Fiction Friday – Virtual Launch Party For On The Island!

***Edited to add that links are not all clicky. You’ll have to copy and paste. Blame Blogger. I have (it’s probably my fault, though).

Good morning and happy Friday everyone! My debut novel went live on Amazon and Barnes and Noble this week and I’d like to welcome you to the virtual launch party for On the Island.

Time: Now until 11:59 p.m. tonight.

Place: The Interwebz (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc…) If you’re reading this but we aren’t already Facebook friends, send me a friend request! You can never have too many friends (or too much wine, am I right?) Also, are you following me on Twitter? If you’d like to, my Twitter handle is @tgarvisgraves.

Dress code: Island wear, naturally. I know a few of you will probably arrive full of Captain Morgan rum but sans pants but that’s okay because it’s virtual.

So, how does a virtual launch party work?

Well, first of all, check out the book on Amazon. If you click on the book cover in my sidebar in the upper-left hand corner, it will take you right to it.

Or, if you’re a Nook user, here’s the link for the listing on Barnes and Noble (sorry, you’ll have to copy and paste. Blogger is not letting me insert the link. Or I’m too tired this morning and I’m doing something wrong).

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1105386598?ean=2940012993908&itm=1&usri=on%2bthe%2bisland%2btracey%2bgarvis%2bgraves

There will also be a paperback edition, but it has not been released yet.

So if the paperback isn’t out yet, and I don’t have an e-reader, how can I read On the Island?

There are several free Amazon apps you can use to read On the Island. This one is my favorite:

***You’ll have to copy and paste links. Thanks for nothing, Blogger.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/kindle/pc/ref=kcp_pc_lnd_dtl_3

It’s the Kindle app for PC. Before I got my Kindle, I downloaded this app to my laptop and read many, many books on it, sitting in my comfy reading chair. When I got my Kindle all my ebooks transferred to it which was super cool. But if you’ve been thinking about buying an e-reader now is the time (and not just because I wrote a book you can read on it). You can get a Kindle for as low as $114 and YOU WILL LOVE IT. Here are some links for other devices that you can download free Kindle apps to:

Copy and paste:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/kindle/iphone/ref=kcp_pc_ddp_dtl (iphone), http://www.amazon.com/kindlebb_lnd_dtl (BlackBerry), http://www.amazon.com/gp/kindle/ipad (ipad), and http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=kcp_red_ddp_dtl?ie=UTF8&docId=165849822 (Android). Personally, I’d rather stab myself in the eye than read a whole book on my smartphone, but that’s just me.

There are a whole bunch of free apps for Nook too. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/free-nook-apps/379002321/?cds2Pid=28709

Now, back to the virtual launch part of the party. I will be pasting this blog post into my Facebook status update and I’m asking anyone who’d like to participate in the launch to copy and paste my link into their status update, too. That way, all their Facebook friends can check out the book. If you’ve read On the Island, make sure and mention that, too.

Many of you have already done this and I am so very appreciative. If you have, there is no need to do it again, but I do want you to know that your fabulous PR has already garnered me several sales. And some of the people that have purchased the book have finished it and sent me messages on Facebook about how much they enjoyed it. I don’t know if you understand exactly how it feels to get feedback like that. It’s surreal, actually, and it makes me so happy I want to cry. Reviews are starting to trickle in and that is the single most important thing you can do to help a debut author. For that I thank you.

And because you have all done so much for me, there will be prizes awarded when the virtual launch party is done.

If you copy and paste my status into your Facebook status, or you tweet about my book, or you link to it on your blog or just WHATEVER, please let me know about it. You can leave a comment on Facebook, include @tgarvisgraves on Twitter, or you can comment on this blog post. I will be putting the names of everyone who participated in a hat and will let the offspring draw two names on Saturday morning (this will include those of you who have already told your Facebook friends – I’ve been keeping track). There will have to be two winners because the offspring will have a knock-down, drag-out fight about who gets to draw the name because God forbid only one of them gets to do it.

So, what are the prizes? Well, don’t get too excited. Dave put the big kibosh on the prize I really wanted to give, so we’ll have to settle for two $50 gift cards (one per winner). I’ll have plenty of options to choose from and I’ll notify the winners on Facebook sometime Saturday (in between drinking beer and watching the Iowa game). So, maybe Saturday late afternoon.

I want to thank everyone again. On the Island has been 18 months in the making and it has been a wonderful experience. Many of you have been so supportive throughout the process and I’m lucky to have such great friends.

So, happy Friday everyone! Let’s launch this thing.

Tracey

P.S. Please don’t think I’m ignoring anyone today. I’ll be at work, so I won’t be able to interact on Facebook until I get home. I can use my BlackBerry at lunchtime to moderate blog comments or check tweets, but that’s about it. But I’ll be there in spirit, and I’ll lift my virtual wine glass to you. Cheers!

Fiction Friday – A Cover, Some Jacket Copy, and a Playlist

Happy fiction Friday (and Labor Day weekend) everyone!

I wanted to show you the awesome cover my blogging bestie Penne made for me (blogger wouldn’t let me upload the PDF, so I had to settle for the JPEG. It looks much clearer on my computer screen so I’m not sure why it doesn’t show up better here, but you get the general idea). You can also click on it a couple times to make it bigger.

Here’s the jacket copy/product description:

When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family – and a stack of overdue assignments – instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

Next up is the playlist I listened to while I was writing On the Island. I used to play “Roll With the Changes” on repeat, especially in my car, and I wanted to use the first verse as an epigraph at the beginning of a certain chapter but you can’t unless you pay for the right to do that and, even more daunting, get the members of REO Speedwagon (or whoever owns the rights) to say it’s okay (hello? *waves hand* Kevin Cronin? I have a question for you). That sounds like a lot of work and money. So no epigraph.

I wonder if those of you who have already read On the Island could guess where I would have put the epigraph. It might surprise you.

The rest of these songs all have meaning and it’s strange how much a playlist can influence the writing. For Covet, the book I’m writing now, I’ve been in an adult contemporary phase which is weird because you know I’m a 70’s girl.

“Long, Long Way From Home” – Foreigner
“Fins” – Jimmy Buffet
“Island Girl” – Elton John
“Sweet Child ‘O Mine” – Guns ‘N Roses
“Roll With The Changes” – REO Speedwagon
“Coconuts” – Widespread Panic
“Changes In Attitude, Changes In Latitude” – Jimmy Buffet
“Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd
“Don’t Drink The Water” – Dave Matthews Band
“Don’t Let Him Go” – REO Speedwagon
“Have You Ever Seen The Rain” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
“I’ll Be” – Edwin McCain
“Ridin’ The Storm Out” – REO Speedwagon

I received my ebooks from the book formatter last night and I’ll be able to upload to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords on Sunday when there will be a break in our weekend festivities. It will take anywhere from 6-48 hours to go live (although I heard it’s usually closer to 24). Next week’s focus will be sending everything to Amazon’s CreateSpace for the paperback version. I’ve heard that process can be…difficult. But ignorance is bliss so for now I’m assuming a couple mouse clicks and woo hoo, paperback!

I’m also planning a virtual launch party on Facebook (date: TBD). I am hoping for sometime next week, maybe Friday? A virtual launch party is just a fancy way of asking my Facebook friends to copy the link for my blog post announcing the book’s release into their status update so that their friends can check out the listing on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you would like to participate in this launch, please let me know. I’d be honored and I would appreciate it so much. I will be holding a random drawing for some fabulous prizes for those who help me launch. If you’d like to be included, please let me know, either by commenting on this blog, or replying on Facebook.

It’s a good feeling having this preparation behind me. After 18 months, I’m ready to move on and immerse myself in the new book.

Thanks to all of you who have helped me along the way. Your kind words of encouragement mean a lot. More than you’ll ever know, actually.

Have a good weekend!

Tracey

Fiction Friday!

Happy Fiction Friday everyone! I hope you are all having a delightful day. I will be spending the afternoon preparing for Matthew’s family birthday party that we’re hosting tonight. My baby boy is turning twelve (sniff, sniff). Tomorrow he is having two of his buddies over to spend the night, eat junk food, and watch the movie Paranormal Activity (he has been begging me to let him watch it since last fall). “It’s your nightmare,” I told him. “Just don’t wake me up at 3 a.m. when you’re scared because I will boomerang your butt right back to bed.”

Why yes I am a stellar mom, thanks for asking.

Anyway, as most? some? all of you know, I have decided to self-publish my novel On the Island. I am hoping for a September 1st release and I’m hard at work preparing everything. I will be sending the manuscript to my freelance editor on August 1st, and then I’ll do a final line edit and make sure the formatting is correct. The novel will be available for Nook and Kindle users, plus some other e-reader formats, and in paperback as well.

I wanted to share the image I’ve chosen for my cover. This is an actual beach in the Maldives (which is where my story takes place), and I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. Plus my main character has long dark hair (and often wears blue) so it seemed like a no-brainer. I also love the colors.

Here’s a VERY ROUGH mock-up of what it might look like with the title (which needs to be centered properly, and much bigger) and my name. My very awesome friend Penne, who is a graphic designer, is going to help me make sure it looks professional (and not like something I might have, ahem, whipped up on MS Paint), and my super awesome critique partner (who is a traditionally published author) is going to write a blurb for the cover.

So, what do you think? Is it eye-catching? For those of you who have read the manuscript, does it capture the essence of the story? As my friend Elisa and I discussed, it’s not very “stranded on an island” but it does invoke (I hope) the romantic aspect of the story. I think it looks very women’s fiction-y which is super cool since that’s the genre of my book.

Let me know your thoughts if you have a free moment. I’d love to get your input.

Have a great Friday and a great weekend everyone!

Tracey

Fiction Friday!

Happy Friday everyone!

I hope you’re all enjoying the summer so far. Here in Iowa, we’re still waiting for it to arrive, but I’m confident it will make its appearance one of these days. Our 40-degree shifts in temperature, and the incessant rain is making everyone a bit cranky but the roller coaster weather doesn’t bother me too much because I am unemployed (by choice) and I’m loving being at home with the offspring for the summer (never mind that I promptly shipped my talkative eight-year-old daughter off to acting camp for the week). I do plan to return to my contract recruiting position in the fall, but in the meantime I’ve got 8 weeks left to catch up on sleep and work on my tan (and I’m grateful that I’m able to do that).

I have been (slowly) querying my manuscript. I have sent approximately 14 queries, which is a pretty low number, and have not received any nibbles. Basically, no agents have requested the manuscript yet so either my query letter isn’t working, or my premise is not something agents are interested in. I have a feeling it’s the latter. I did have one agent give me feedback on my first chapter/synopsis (this was via a contest win) and while it was very helpful, and she told me she didn’t necessarily feel this way, she said that editors would probably have a knee-jerk reaction to the premise (she didn’t say they would drop my query letter and run screaming from the room, but I can read between the lines).

I won’t lie; this makes me sad, especially because those who have read it (I think I’m up to 17 readers at this point) have been overwhelmingly positive with their feedback, and have told me how much they loved the story and that they were still thinking about the characters days later). However, my premise IS unique in that it doesn’t fall neatly into one genre. Those of you who have read it know what I mean. It’s part women’s fiction, part romance, and part adventure. I sat down and wrote the book I wanted to write, and I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out, but I do need to acknowledge that I have not written something that is in line with what’s selling right now. And probably won’t ever be.

Lest you think I’ve written some porn-y, shocking book, the title is On the Island and it’s a desert island book. Think Castaway with two people. Or Lord of the Flies without the killing and savage behavior. I love desert island books, and I’m a big fan of Lost and Survivor (not to mention The Blue Lagoon), so that’s what I wrote. I put my main characters in a lot of survival situations in On the Island and they were exciting to research and write. It’s set in the Maldives which was a place I knew nothing about. Looking back on it now, this book was so research-heavy that I’m not sure I ever want to do that again. I also know how to build a fire without matches so if you ever want to go extreme-camping, I’m your girl.

One of the hardest things has been receiving form rejections on the same day I receive feedback from someone who has actually read the manuscript. I was reading a rejection letter and at the same time I received a text from someone that said, “I loved your book, I couldn’t put it down, and it made me laugh and cry.” I texted back and said, “Well that’s wonderful because I just received a rejection letter in my inbox.” I’m not taking the rejections personally (okay maybe a little). I know that agents reject because they don’t think they can sell the manuscript or they don’t love the premise. But I won’t lie: form rejections will take the wind out of your sails and your confidence will plummet.

I’m at the point where I’m leaning toward self-publishing via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. I could also publish to Smashwords and my book would be available to Nook users as well. For those that don’t have e-readers, they can download the Kindle and Nook applications to their desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. My book will probably be priced at $2.99. I would rather go this route then let the manuscript languish on my hard drive forever. I have contracted with a free-lance editor, to make sure the book is as polished as it can be, and I’m also researching book covers because you do have to provide your own if you self-publish and it can’t look like something a demented six-year-old designed and then drew with crayons. I’m connecting with a lot of self-published authors right now, via Twitter and blogs, and their excitement is contagious. There are definite benefits to self-publishing such as complete control over content and distribution, and also the freedom to write what I want. The only deadlines I’ll have are the ones I self-impose.

I’m also really, really immersed in my second novel, Covet. I would love to have it polished and ready to publish by this time next year. Will I query it first? Probably. The premise is definitely more mainstream and this book is solidly in the women’s fiction genre so that may help. Or I may decide to self-publish that one too. I have no idea at this point, I just know that I’m falling in love with another story and the characters have taken up permanent residence in my head and that is why I write (incidentally, Covet is NOT the book I mentioned in my Shiny New Ideas post. It’s an idea that came to me shortly after and it knocked the other idea right out of the running). It explores a similar theme found in On the Island and that’s good for building a readership (which is totally putting the cart before the horse, I know, but I’m pretty sure I’ll continue writing books so I might as well work toward author branding while I’m at it).

One last thing, if you are one of my blog readers, and I know you via real life or Facebook, Twitter, etc., and you’d like to read the manuscript, I’d be happy to send it to you. I am hoping that those who have read it would be willing to post a link to the Amazon listing if/when I do self-publish (sort of like a virtual book launch) which probably won’t be until mid-August. If you are interested, please e-mail me at traceygarvisgraves@yahoo.com.

In the meantime, enjoy your summer!

I hope your weather is better than ours.

Fiction Friday – Shiny New Ideas

I’m feeling a bit out of sorts this week. Now that my manuscript is complete, and I’ve started dipping my toe in the query pool, I don’t know what to do with myself.

After getting up at 5:00 a.m. for the last year, not having to get up and write feels really weird. I’m still getting up early, but now I’m just dinking around on Twitter and reading blogs before I head off to work.

A couple months ago, when I was still polishing the manuscript, Dave said, “You’re not going to write another book are you?”

“Oh God no,” I said. “I want my life back. I need to catch up on sleep. Start exercising again. Read a million books on my Kindle.”

But here’s the thing. Now that I’m not writing, I don’t know what to do with myself. And I want to write another book. Just thinking about writing again makes some of these angsty feelings go away.

So many people don’t finish their first book. They get to the hard part, which – at least for me anyway – is the revision stage, and they get a Shiny New Idea, with Shiny New Characters. And pounding out a first draft with this new idea, and these new people sounds like a hell of a lot more fun than ripping apart the current manuscript and fixing everything that’s wrong with it. I never had the urge to abandon my manuscript, though, for two reasons: I was going to finish what I started, dammit, and I didn’t have any Shiny New Ideas. And that worried me for a while. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and you can’t copyright them, but I was sorta wondering why I wasn’t having any. It could have been that I was so immersed in my current manuscript that the part of my brain that would have handled those new ideas was blocked off. At least I think that’s what happened because the minute I started querying – you know, all of one week ago – those old characters left my mind and Shiny New Ones started flooding my head. I now have about 37 post-it notes stuck all over the place and I opened up a word doc that I titled New Book Notes.

So Dave? DAVE? Are you reading this blog post? I don’t think you are so I’m going to admit something.

I was fibbing.

I fibbed.

I’m a big giant fibber.

Common advice for writers is that the best way to get your mind off the agonizing query process is to start writing something else. Put your manuscript out there, and query widely, but start focusing on a new project and just write.

So I’m going to. My contract position ends at the end of next month, and I’ll be home with the offspring all summer. This will be a good time to start writing the first draft of my next book. I want to experiment with point of view and an expanded number of main characters. This book will require quite a bit of research and I’ve already started on that.

Regardless of what happens with book #1 (and sadly, as a debut author whose manuscript will languish in slush piles all summer long, the odds of getting an agent are pretty slim), it’s the writing that I really enjoy. Don’t get me wrong – rejections will hurt, but that’s all part of the path to publication and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Some of you may remember the psychic party I hosted a while back. Dixie is a psychic who has done several readings for me. It’s always been just for fun (I don’t have her on, like, speed dial or anything), but some of the things she’s told me over the years have been right on the money. Anyway, my friend Bobbi and I went to see Dixie for private readings about eleven years ago. As she was talking to me, she said she thought it would be a good idea if I wrote a book someday (and she didn’t know I liked to write so when she said it I sat up a little straighter). She didn’t say anything about what would happen if I did write a book (and I wouldn’t want to know anyway), but she did say, “I just think when the kids get a little older, you’ll want something just for you.” I thought what she told me was pretty cool and then I forgot all about it.

A few months ago, when I was really in the thick of revising and polishing, Dave and the offspring were giving me a hard time – no one likes it when mom is busy, at least in my house. Dave has always been supportive of my writing time, and I’ve always been careful to make sure it balances out with whatever he wants to do (and don’t forget Matthew and Lauren because Dave and I put them before any needs of our own, as we should). But I was having a bad day, and all I really wanted to do was open my laptop and get lost in some writing. I *might* also have had a bit of PMS. But anyway, I said something about being tired and then Dave said something about me not getting enough sleep, and then I said something about how important the book was to me, and he said some more things, and blah, blah, blah, and then I yelled, “I just want something for me!” And then I went, “OMG.” Because I had forgotten what Dixie had said until the words came flying out of my mouth.

Maybe I sound totally selfish, but now that the kids are older I don’t feel like I need to spoon-feed everything to everyone in this house (Dave included). And I get up at the ass-crack of dawn to write so that I can minimize (as much as I can) taking time away from my family. I think that it’s easy for moms to put things they want on the back-burner sometimes, and I’m definitely guilty of that. I’ve spent almost twelve years either as a SAHM, or working a contract/temporary job so that I can be home when the kids need me, and I’m eternally grateful that I can do that.

But Dixie was right.

I do want something for me.

P.S. I swear to God I still have a sense of humor.