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Fiction Friday!

  • June 17, 2011

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 [email protected].

In the meantime, enjoy your summer!

I hope your weather is better than ours.

Fiction Friday – Shiny New Ideas

  • April 4, 2011

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.

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