Saturday, February 28, 2009

Good News About Death and Destruction and Mayhem

It's weird how this writing gig works. If you're into instant gratification, you might as well forget it. Pick up your TV remote, play a videogame, go to a movie, do whatever, but definitely don't write fiction. Especially short fiction.

You write something and submit it to a publication, then you wait. And you wait. And then you wait some more. Most of the time, you WILL eventually get feedback regarding your work, although that's not always the case, and it's not always the kind of feedback you want to hear. But either way it usually takes a while.

All of which makes this past week so unusual. In the span of two days, I received good news on two separate fronts:

1) The flash piece I wrote and submitted to the dark fiction Ezine Black Hound for their 'Be My Valentine' contest, titled "Devotion," took second place and is featured at their website!

This news thrilled me, especially considering some of the authors whose work I admire and was competing against - heavy hitters and up-and-comers like Andrew Wolter, Dave Rex, Sarah Basore, Seb Naylor, and Justin Holley, among others. If you're interested, check out my entry, plus the winner and the third place finisher as well, at the Black Hound website. Simply follow the link and then click on the "Competitions" button from ther main page at the Hound.

2) My short story dealing with death and justice and retribution, "Due Consideration," is being featured in the March/April issue of Crime and Suspense! If you have a couple of extra minutes, you can check out that story here, or click on this link to go to the main Crime and Suspense page for March/April and read all of the featured stories.

As if that wasn't enough, I finally finished editing and revising my full-length novel, Final Vector, and am knee-deep in the synopsis I must complete before taking my hat in my hand and beginning the process of searching out agents and publishers, so the end (Or the beginning, I suppose, depending on how you look at it) is in sight there as well.

After that, it's on to my next novel, the idea for which I blogged about a week or so ago and for which I'm completely stoked, while I furiously email agents and publishers regarding Final Vector. Oh yeah, and I want to work on some more short fiction, too. And update my website. And go to work at the Evil Day Job. And spend time with my family.

Man, I love to write!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Yin and The Yang

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I finally get it. I understand what that means!

I finished editing and revising my third manuscript yesterday, meaning that unless and until I find and agent and/or publisher looking for specific changes, this bad boy is done. That's a good thing, right? The best of times? How can you not be excited about completing the 90,000 word air traffic control thriller that you have been laboring over for months?

So, to say I'm happy would be an understatement, particularly since I really believe this thing is good. It's definitely the best of times.

Of course, on the other hand, finishing this novel means that I now have to roll up my sleeves (figuratively speaking, that is, since I'm actually wearing a t-shirt right now, but you get the point) and dig into the dirty work, which in this case means baring my soul to agents and preparing to get slapped upside the head by the vast majority of them.

That's right, it's query letter time!

If you've never written a novel, you might think that sitting down and pounding out 350 or more pages of coherent story would be the hardest part about writing a book. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's not even close, at least not for me.

Nope, the hard part begins now. I have to:

1) Begin querying agents, most of whom are probably taking on few, if any, new clients, especially in this economy. I must, in the space of one short, snappy letter or email, convince these literary professionals that I have written a book that is worthy of their time; a book that they can convince a publisher will sell enough copies to make everybody some cash. In most cases, I must do this without the benefit of even including a large sample of the manuscript, at least at the beginning.

2) Craft a long and a short synopsis, since some agents want a one-pager and others want a more-detailed version, say, around fifteen pages. Some don't want any synopsis. Have you ever tried to condense a 350 or more page novel down to fifteen pages while still hitting all the important points in the book and maintaining the flavor of the thing; still giving the reader some sense of your writing style? I have, and it ain't easy.

Once I have begun sending these queries out, it's a virtual certainty that the majority of them will come back, "Sorry, not interested." Picture a door slamming in your face and you get the idea. Fortunately, as I may have mentioned a few months ago in a post, my high school dating experiences gave me plenty of practice at dealing with rejection.

At least with query letters, the rejecting isn't done face-to-face, although I met with close to twenty agents up close and personal last summer, and getting shut down by someone looking me right in the eyes hasn't gotten any easier the last three decades, either.

So, here we are: The best of times and the worst of times. But here's the thing - This novel is good! I have every confidence that if I can convince one or two or ten agents to spend their valuable time reading this thing, one or two or ten agents will want to represent it, because they know they will be able to sell it.

So here goes nothing. Or maybe something. Time will tell.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Now You See It, Now You Don't

Wanna hear a strange story? What am I asking, of course you do. Everyone likes to hear weird stuff.

Now this story isn't strange in a creepy, eerie or even freaky way. Rather, it's just odd; strange in a head-scratching, WTF kind of way.

Back in December I submitted a short story to an online venue and was pleased when, a few weeks later, the editor contacted me to say that my submission was being accepted for publication! Not only that, but I was given a specific date when this story would be featured in their pages.

Awesome, right? Now, this wasn't a paying market but that was cool; it was only a short story, after all, and I am happy to take any exposure I can get while I wait for my novel-writing career to take off, which I fully expect to happen any minute now...I say, any minute now...Oh well, I'm sure it will be soon.

Anyway, the date of publication for this story was coming up soon, so last week I checked in at the site for no particular reason other than to see my name listed on the calendar next to the date of publication. What can I say, I'm funny that way.

Want to know what I saw?

Absolutely nothing! Well, that's not entirely true. I saw someone else's name and story listed on the date specified by the editor as the date my story would be featured. Scanning quickly down the list, I discovered my story wasn't listed anywhere. It was gone. Disappeared. Vanished, like Jimmy Hoffa or the U.S. economy.

Naturally, I assumed I must have made a mistake, so I checked back in my saved email, and sure enough, I was remembering the correct date, etc. etc. etc.

Weird, right? Now, I don't think I'm being overly sensitive when I wonder what the hell happened. It's not like I can't handle rejection; I've certainly had plenty of it, from agents, publishers, magazines, etc. in the three years I've been trying to bust the door down in the publishing world.

But doesn't it strike you as odd that I would get an acceptance, including a publication date, and then my stuff just disappears into some publishing black hole; into the world's biggest pothole on the information superhighway?

I sent a polite email to the editor at this website, asking if there had been a problem with my story that could be fixed with a rewrite (Although there certainly didn't seem to have been a problem when the story was accepted), and you'll be surprised - or maybe you won't be - to hear that the answer to my email was: nothing! I'm still waiting to hear back. I'm guessing it's not going to happen.

I'm discovering as I take this journey that you really do have to expect ANYTHING in this strange and alien world of writing and publishing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Think I'm Having Visions

Okay, there's this...I don't know...virus or something that has been working its way through my house. My wife and my son had it first, followed by my middle daughter and me, with my little granddaughter getting it next.

I'm not exactly sure what it is, other than nasty, but you get a fever of about 101 degrees, headache, sore throat, eyes hurt, all your bones hurt. Everything hurts. You know that old joke, "It only hurts when I breathe?" Plug it in here. I guess it's the flu, although most of the time when I get the flu it's the 24 hour variety, and this thing seems to last closer to two weeks.

Why do I mention this, you ask? Well, aside from my natural concern for my fellow man and the hope that you can avoid getting sick - think of it as a thank-you for reading my blog - I wanted to tell you about the strangest thing that happened to me as I was sleeping last night.

I got the idea for my next book, all gift-wrapped and tied up with a nice bow.

I, uh, got it in a dream. A feverish dream. Oh my God, I'm having visions.

I know how that sounds, and if you know me, you know that the last thing I am is some starry-eyed dreamer with my head in the clouds. I NEVER remember my dreams. They say people have like seven dreams a night, but I never wake up remembering any of them. Ever.

Except this morning, when I woke up with this cool idea for a book that as far as I know has not been done before. Now I know what you're thinking - Everything's been done before, dozens of times if not hundreds, and by writers so much better than me I'm not fit to wash their . . . um . . . keyboards. Or whatever.

I don't care!

This idea seems so awesome and, well, novel, that I can't wait to get started. It's like when you first start dating someone and all you see are their great traits and none of their bad ones. You're captivated by their perfect white teeth and overlook the fact that their breath would knock a buzzard off a shit-wagon, to quote the late, great George Carlin, may he rest in peace.

The timing was just about perfect, too. I'm almost ready to start querying agents regarding my ATC thriller, which means I'm almost ready to start something new. I had planned to take a couple of months off and just write some short stories, but it looks like it's going to be back to another novel.

What's it about, you ask?

Sorry, I can't let you in on that. But, trust me, it's going to be fun.

I hope. If I can pull it off.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Top Ten Advantages to Being an Unpublished Novelist

I think I may have mentioned one or two posts ago that my third novel, my Air Traffic Control thriller, is nearly polished to the point where I will be comfortable shopping it to agents/publishers. I have every confidence this manuscript will get snapped up and become wildly successful, thus proving two things:

1) Hope really does spring eternal, and
2) I need to enjoy what's left of my anonymity while I have it (See #1 above).

Anyway, here is my Top Ten List of things I'll miss when I'm no longer an unknown, unpublished novelist:

10) I still have plenty of time to select a cool pen name.

It's really important to project the proper image to the reading public, so the pseudonym becomes critical. My problem is I can't choose between my three favorites. Steffen King? Don Grisham? Harry Eisler? Tough call.

9) No annoying autograph hounds and paparazzi bothering you when you're trying to eat at a restaurant.

Drawback to this - People get really nervous and call the police when you approach them with a permanent marker and try to sign their shirt.
*Note to self: Don't do that anymore - can't afford the bail money!

8) No need to develop fascinating but self-indulgent theories about writing!

Nobody cares what I think about plot and structure, or about writing authentic-sounding dialogue. Or about much of anything, now that I think about it.

7) Don't have to worry about making the sequel live up to the first book.

'Nuff said.

6) No need to pay hefty income taxes to Uncle Sam on my royalty checks.

There aren't any!

5) Don't have to compose those pesky dedications that go in the front of each book.

Might not seem like a big deal, but those things are a potential minefield. Who do you include? Who do you leave out? Whew. I'm sweating bullets just thinking about it.

4) I don't have to wonder whether my friends are lying when they claim to have read my latest book.

Of course they are!

3) No need to worry about choosing between Cate Blanchett and Mila Kunis to play the female lead in the film adaptation of my book.

I think it goes without saying that this is a real time-saver.

2) Don't have to worry about fielding all those calls from Oprah begging me to be in her book club.

No more call-screening for me; I can answer my phone!

1) Don't have to practice an appropriately modest and self-effacing acceptance speech for those award dinners and banquets.

"I would like to thank my ninth-grade English teacher, Mr. Piccolomini, to whom splitting infinitives was a crime on a par with armed robbery..."

Bonus advantage: You don't have to eat all that rubber chicken they serve on the banquet circuit!