Trick or Treat!! Happy Halloween!!

Halloween may possibly be my favorite Holiday.  For me, it’s always the been the night where anything can happen, where the lines of reality and make believe blur for the span of 24 hours–you can be anything, anyone you want–you can be dark and dangerous, sexy and coy, sweet and adorable, silly and absurd.  The possibilities of who you can be are limited only by your own creativity.  What a glorious thing!

As an adult, I adore carved pumpkins that cast shadows with tea-lights.  I love handing out candy to children dressed adorably in costumes who remember to say thank you as you drop handfuls of sugary treats in their plastic orange pumpkins.  I crave spiced cider and a warm fire-pit that is all embers and woodsmoke.  Ahhhh…Heaven!

When I was a teenager, I used to trick-or-treat with my neighborhood friends…we’d go for miles, stopping back by the houses for grilled cheese and tomato soup, pizza and desserts.  We’d dump our pillowcases on the floor once they were too heavy for our little arms and plot our next attack.  Halloween night seemed to go on forever back then, and we’d stay out until the houses shut off their lights and closed their doors and no more candy was to be had.

As a child, my Dad always took me treat-or-treating.  We’d go with other families, the kids running full steam ahead while the parents leisured behind with beers and thermoses of something a bit stronger.  I’d dress as a ballerina or princess…but my favorite costume of all time was Dorothy, complete with a wicker basket (which I gleefully filled with sugary offerings) and my very own ruby slippers that my Mom had made–dozens of crystals, glued on by hand over the kitchen table.  My Dad likes to tell the story of how those shoes pinched my toes so badly that 10 houses into the event, he had to carry me.

Halloween was always the moment when you got to pluck your alter-ego from the shelf and decide for yourself who you wanted to be–and be rewarded for it.  The magic has never died, it’s only managed to change.  I no longer dress up–but applaud the adults who do.  I am now the holder of the “treat”…and I get more joy from dropping candy bars into the waiting bags than I ever got from being the one doing the collecting.  I buy the biggest pumpkin at the farm, and decorate the house to thrill the little ones.  I love Halloween–and always have.

Naturally, I’m very much looking forward to tonight and I just wanted to wish you all a fun, safe (!!!!), and happy Halloween!

 

Do you have any special Halloween plans?  Memories?  Are you dressing up or dressing it down?  Feel free to share!!

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Are You Really REALLY Ready For NaNoWriMo?

It just dawned on me this morning…NaNo starts in two days!  TWO DAYS PEOPLE!  Are you excited?

I’ve been planning since–oh–mid October.  I think I’m ready, but since this is my first time–who really knows?

I’ve done my outline on Storyist which was amazing.  I was able to decide all the brass tacks of the characters down on paper and finesse the finer points–like the layout of their homes and jobs.  I’ve given my mind a few days off…and I started my Christmas shopping–just so that it won’t be a distraction.  My office is blessedly finished, so I will have a quite place to write long into the evening.

How are you all doing?  Getting ready??

And Off To The Editor We Go

Today was the day I’ve been waiting for.  The first step towards changing my book for the better.  It feels huge, like the writer in me’s day of comeuppance, I’m almost giddy with it.

I can tell you this … finding an editor is a really laborious process.  There are so many talented freelancers out there.  It makes finding the right one who will capture the essence of your voice and do the job in your likeness really hard.  But, it’s worth it.  And when you know, you know.

Prices vary greatly between editors.  I remember the first time I reached out to an editor, and she came back at me with a $3,000 bid.  I almost died.  I cried; sitting at my kitchen table, I hung my head and felt like I’d never be able to afford that, that’d I be forced to pause my project and play the waiting/saving game.  I could no more afford $3,000 that day than I could afford to fly to the moon.  I hadn’t saved for that, I had a small sum–but it was nothing that even came close to that.  Mark, as always, encouraged me to keep looking and as I did, the bids slowly started a downward trickle–and once we dropped below four-figures I could breathe again.

Then, I found Lauren Dee of Daisy Cakes Creative.  Don’t you just love her businesses name?

Lauren is a selective editor, the sort that doesn’t take every project passed to her…you have to query for her attention.  And once you have it, there is a waiting list.  I was on-hold for almost two months, but I didn’t mind because I liked her.  I wanted her to be the one to take this project on.

Lauren is one of the more a reasonably priced editors I approached, bringing to the table ten years of editorial experience working with NYT best-selling authors, smaller Indies and publishing houses alike.  She’s sweet and approachable, the naturally friendly sort–and she will go the extra mile to highlight her service, bringing it down to an understandable level for a newbie like myself. Her style of editing is classic, and her e-mails read just that way.

I told her, in plain text, that I was giving her my trust.  That I wanted her to be honest with me…if I need more than a copy/line edit–say so!  This book, it’s sort of everything to me, and if I need a bit more on the heavy side of make it publish-worthy, so be it.  Hold me accountable.

I’ll continue to post about this editing process as milestones or things arise.  It’s all part of the journey and I just took the first step…

 

 

Telling The Truth–What I’ve Learned To Be True

So, as I mentioned in my blog below, I received a request for a partial read.  The only catch is–my book is going to the editor tomorrow.

I was put in a place of having to tell the truth.  I had to write this agent and say–listen, this book isn’t perfect, I know that, so be prepared and I’m sorry in advance.  But, believe me, I’m also working on it.  In one month, the story will be better.  My voice will be clearer.  So what you’re going to read–while a solid effort on my part–isn’t perfect, not by a million and one mistakes.  (Okay, I didn’t phrase it like that…but I did say “this is going to a freelance editor”)

So…here is my truth…

If I could go back in time and do anything differently–the one thing I wished I known then–is that, what I sent out should have been edited by a professional.  I should have hired a professional editor prior to doing the querying thing.  I should have had an editor lined up, ready to go, chomping at the bit for my manuscript and cash.  That is what I should have done–it’s exactly what I didn’t do.

This is something I never thought of before.  The thing I didn’t consider.  The thing publishing books won’t tell you.  No where, not in all of my reading did I ever come across phrase hire someone before you query.  It was a regrettable oversight–one I’m openly talking about in hopes to save others from my undoing.

When I was walking blissfully into this whole publishing thing, I really thought: hey, I wrote the book, that’s my job–I did it.  It can be a “come as you are” manuscript because if I sell the book to a publisher they have an editor.  I’ll do content editing.  I’ll rewrite and rehash and edit for clarity…but my sloppy mistakes–someone bigger than me will read through them and find the nugget of potential…right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!

The truth is…as a new writer…my first footfall needed to be perfection. If I was brazen enough to ask someone to take a chance on me–a first timer from the Midwest who has never published anything before–it needed to be amazing.

I sloughed the responsibility off on other people, when the whole time, the onus was always on me.  I failed to see that.  I made a big critical mistake–and sitting here right now, sure as God made little green apples–I believe that hurt my chances.   And as much I wouldn’t mind being an Indie…that doesn’t mean it’s an excuse for a lackluster performance.

The agents who have taken the time to entertain my query…they were patient, kind folk.  And I’m truly sorry I didn’t take that opportunity and shine.  I’m sorry I bothered them with novice mistakes–honest though they may be.

When I finished THE MILESTONE TAPES, I could not wait to query.  I wanted to be swooped up and adored…and, yes, I was really silly enough to believe that.  I didn’t think about my first impression as much as I thought about the light at the end of the tunnel.  Remember–in my first post–when I said I was new, green and fumbling?  This moment, right here, is exactly what I meant by that.

Ten years from now, when I kind of/sort of have this whole thing figured out, I’ll look back and laugh, probably blush a little, and shake my head in stunned disbelief.  This was a one time mistake.  Next time around, before the book is even finished, I’ll have an editor ready to go, I’ll sit on my freaking hands if need to be to stop myself from querying before I’m really ready.  I’ll take the paces and give the book the space and time it needs to be amazing.

The truth is…you get one shot.  That’s it.  One time, one moment, one read.  If you blow it–it’s blown.  And, if you’re going blow it…being unedited is really, really, really not worth it.  Blow it because your book is a crazy, genre-challange machine of epic proportions that some people don’t get.  Blow it because your better off Indie and that’s who you want to be, because you can’t see yourself handing off your book and crossing your fingers that the finished product will look like what you first wrote.  Blow it because you’re a risk–a beautiful risk.  Anything less, you’re just selling yourself short.

Sending Out An S.O.S

Just when I thought I was out of things to talk about…

I received an e-mail from an agent who would like to read my first 3 chapters…excellent, no problem.  AND…he’d like to read my synopsis.

My what?  Huh?  Come again?  I didn’t know I needed one of those–now I have to hack one together in the span of hours…(although, that’s for your eyes only…I’m really trying not to come off as a total incompetent moron to the professionals)

Just when I thought I’d figured out this whole “application for representation” process, a curve ball flies in from the left and gladly knocks me on my ass.  Amazing.

I have to do it.  I have no choice in the matter, I have to write a synopsis.  As of now I can look back at everything–all my misadventures and false starts and novelly green ideals–and say, at least I tried.  I’ve not let one opportunity slip through my fingers, and I’ve learned from everything.  I put in the time, energy and heart.  I made the most of it, albeit clumsy at best.

And now, I’m staring down something I literally have NO idea how to do.  I’ve written my fair share of synopsis’ in my day (but when I say “my day” I mean school…a place I have attended in over ten years!).  And this one isn’t for a grade…it’s for something way more sacred.  No pressure, though.

So…author friends…how do I do this?  I wrote the book, I know it–pretty gosh darn well–but to sum it up in 3-5 pages?  I’m lost.  Help a girl out.  Please & thank you!

Update:

I figured it out.  I locked myself in my home office for an hour and got down to the brass tacks of the story.  Whether it works or not, I certainly hope so, but only time will tell.

I Have Bloggers Block…

Doesn’t that sound like a disease?  It certainly feels like one–and I’m sorry.  I can’t think of a single thing to talk about…I’ve got nothing…nada…zilch.  Tomorrow will be better, promise!

But for today, I’m going to share a post from another blog I read this morning.  It’s funny–dripping with sarcasm–but, it all depends on how you read it.

Andy Straka Gives It To You Straight

 

The Sort Of Rejection I Can Get Behind….

And no, this has nothing to do with yours truly…

Casey Anthony consumed my summer.  I watched very moment of the trial, and I followed the case for much longer than that.  Adorably sweet Caylee Anthony went missing on the coattails of Stacey Peterson–who lived the next town over from where I reside.  Naturally, I followed the coverage of one case into the next.  Praying the little girl would be found and harboring such disgust for the ‘mother’ who couldn’t be bothered to report her daughter missing for 30 days because her supposed La Bella Vita was just too precious.  I was touched and bothered on all levels.

Casey Anthony, while found not-guilty in a court of law, will always be guilty in the eyes and minds of the public opinion.  She’s a monster, a cold hearted, manipulative monster–the stuff nightmares are made of.  And man, how I wished things had worked out differently…

Casey Anthony, aside from being a real life villain, also is in critical debt.  She needs money and with no formal eduction to fall back on, she has decided to write a book.  Only, here’s the catch, like so many authors, she can’t seem to place it with a publisher.

Sucks to be her.

Here’s the story:

Casey has interest from NBC for an interview, which I’m sure would give her access to copious amounts of cash (shame on you, NBC).  Only, her demands aren’t Twizzlers or only blue M&M’s in the greenroom and a particular brand of bottle water served at room temp.  She wants something a bit more substantial … Casey wants the producer to find a home for her book.

Normally, that sort of clout (I can only imagine) would have serious weight when it comes to closing deals.  But, Casey is persona non grata…and the big 6 won’t touch her or her book with a 10 foot pole.

Hurray big 6, you’ve all earned my gold-star-sticker of the day!

The quotes only add to the simple pleasure of knowing she won’t be able to profit from the death of her child:

Simon and Schuster:  “We are 100% not interested.  We are NOT NOT NOT  interested. Simon & Schuster is not publishing, and has never intended to publish, any book by Casey Anthony, her family, or any member of her team.

Harper Collins: “We are planning on publishing the Prosecutor’s book who was involved in the Casey Anthony case, so we have no plans in releasing a Casey Anthony book.  We’re sticking with the prosecutor.”

Penguin Group:  “We have no plans on doing a book deal with Casey Anthony.”

Another publisher went so far as to say, “Hell no … it’s blood money.”

My thoughts:

Normally, rejections cause me moments of sadness…not this time!  I have to say…if anyone was ever deserving of being turned away from the gates based on the morality and vitriol of the book they’re peddling…it’s all Casey Anthony, for sure.

So, Authors…any thoughts on the matter?

 

 

 

 

…On A Spooky Note….

I recently did a guest appearance on Spirited Worlds … during the month of October Ruth, the blog owner, has been kind enough to the host ghost stories of other authors to put us all in the Halloween spirit.

Swing by, get scared and say hello!

About the Blogger:

Ruth Barrett is the author of the book BASE SPIRITS, a gothic horror story set both in the shadowy past of the 1600’s and present day. BASE SPIRITS is available for purchase on Amazon.

Then There’s The Matter Of a Broken Heart

Life is full of rejection.  Big ones and little ones a like.  The type that stay, linger forever in the back of your mind.  The sort that are fleeting, in and out so quickly it hardly resonates.  I never thought a book could break my heart.  But, like with everything about this trek through the publishing web, I should really stop being surprised when it goes to a whole new level.

One of my readers, Deshipley, gave me sound advice a few days ago.  She said, when the rejection comes–based on your book, after a professional has read it–it hurts.  She was right, totally correct…it does hurt.  It’s pounds of hurt and disappointment and self doubt and fear and so many other emotions I can’t pinpoint them.

I’ve taken a lot of no’s with this story.  I’m so tired of that word.  I can sit here and say it’s a matter of taste, I can reason that it’s not my fault or the book’s fault per say.  I can say all of that and sometimes I can even believe it, but other times, I’m sorry, but I simply can’t buy it.  Today…I’m having a pity party for one.

I submitted my book to a small publishing house.  Don’t ask me why, I don’t really know.  The sample contract was extremely limiting–no print books, little control over my edited manuscript, 50% profit after the royalties of eBook sales–which we know is already a lowly sum to begin with. The gains were little, all things considered and weighed evenly. But still, I queried.  And with that single try, I managed to get a full read.

The publishing house I went after was tiny, a start up only a few months old.  Maybe I did it simply because there is an innate desire in me to have the backing of a real publisher, no matter the size of their muscle. Maybe that desire is something I cannot quash, no matter how promising Indieland is, and maybe that’s what it’s always been about.   You always want most what you can’t have.

The editor got back to me so quickly initially, and she had such nice things to say out of the gate after reading the first 30 pages.  I actually had the gull to be hopeful despite logically knowing better.  I apologize for not posting about this full read on the blog–but I wasn’t sure what to say…

This morning I received the following rejection:

Dear Ashley,

Thank you for your submission to <name removed>.  Unfortunately, this story does not meet our publication needs at this time. The beginning of the story felt a little awkward, and as I moved further into the manuscript, the story didn’t really catch and keep my interest.  
That’s a really sad way to start the day.  It broke my heart just a little bit, just like Deshiply promised it would.  All with all rejections, rebound is inevitable, I’m certain, but still…it stings.
I think the hurt mostly pours from the very personal message in the body of the e-mail. And this is why…
I tried, of that I’m positive, to write a book that was gripping.  But, it never to be your stock women’s fiction novel– not in the way commercial fiction grips you, not in your expectations of speed.  It’s unconventional, I know that, but to tell the Chamberland’s story, there was simply no other way.  It had to have the pace of real life, it was why I didn’t write “chapters” but rather “months”.  I designed the book to feel that way…a slow build to a moment of utter grief, and the length and effort it takes to heal from that–it all happens by inches, across measures of time and life, not chapters.  It was never supposed to be a fast burn.  I wanted the readers to meet Jenna, to love her and understand her so completely that come what may, they’d have a richer, more profound, understanding of who she was.
If that doesn’t resonate from the pages of the story…then I’m simply lost. I thank God that I have an editor on board who will help me refine what I’ve written.  But, I understand today that I’m at a huge crossroads with everything….and I’m not really sure what happens next…

The Author’s Guild…The Gatekeepers Gatekeeper

If you’re a writer, you fall into the niche of being the “talent”…you join the ranks along with actors or singers, comedians and musicians and now even reality television stars.  You use your gift to entertain the public.  You’re not in the background–although writing is more solitary work than performance art– you’re in the forefront.

In most talent driven industries, there is such a thing know as a guild.  A guild is basically an association that offers benefits to those who do what they do in the name of entertainment, it’s similar to a union for carpenters or ironworks.  Believe me when I say…guilds are everywhere and the perks are as deep as they wide.  The word itself evokes connection to the well know “screen actors guild”–which is one of the big award shows.

When I worked as a makeup artist I belonged to one, although it was called a “union” it essentially worked the same way.  The membership earned me lower insurance premiums, guaranteed wages for work and the chance to be part of “union only” jobs.  Naturally, I had to reach certain levels to meet the threshold of eligibility–to join in the fun…but, as a freelancer, I was able to earn my place in my past professions esteemed society.  I was able to write a small cheque annually and be ranked and counted.  Doors opened simply because I was a member.

Did you know there was an Author’s Guild?  An organization that allows it members–authors–free legal reviews of contracts, insurance discounts, website building, e-mail and domain name registration.  Oh, it also helps authors get on literary panels to discuss the inner working of publishing.

Yes, my friends, it’s all that…to the tune meager of $90.00 a year in dues.

But wait…before you rush off to sign up, there is something you should know….if you’re an Indie Author, you needn’t apply–they don’t want you there.  We, the unsigned masses, are outcasts of the inner circle.

The Author’s Guild is a subjective, members only club of traditionally published authors.  And, wait, it gets better– even if you’re traditionally published by a small house, there is a solid chance you’ll be turned away at the door.  Only small presses with national coverage are allowed into the inner sanctum of this guild.

NOT FAIR…you’re probably screaming at me through the computer.  I WROTE A BOOK–I AM AN AUTHOR!!!  Believe me folks, I’m right there with you, I know you’re an author, and I believe you’re entitled to same perks as anyone else in this profession.  But the fact is, in the eyes of some being an “author” means something totally different.  It’s not simply a matter of writing a book…you need far more than just that.

Writer and president of the Authors Guild, Scott Turow, recently did an interview with a local online periodical in Chicago, The Oak Park-River Forest IL Patch, that caught my attention.  It was toting the unfairness of Amazon, the way the business is “cheating” by becoming a publisher as well as a marketplace with it’s huge draw of readers.  Going so far as to likening the company we adore to villainous Darth Vader.

Scott did the interview at Brothers K Coffeehouse, a small indie joint (can you all but hear the sarcasm and irony dripping from my tone?) on the shores of Lake Michigan in my old stopping grounds, Evanston Illinois.  Yes, I lived there…and yes, I’d had my fair share of “The Count of Monte Crisco” lattes in my day.

Mr. Turow’s interview can be found here

But the cliff notes read like this:

Amazon is the equivalent of Darth Vader in the mind of Mr. Turow.  Amazon stands to break the hull of the ancient ship known as Traditional Publishing with its conglomerate publisher meets seller moniker.  Amazon is working with an unfair advantage, and is essentially on the cusp of becoming a full-blown monopoly, the likes of which are illegal.  With it’s vertical integration (described as management control) Amazon’s move of  becoming  not only the seller but also the publisher is an unwelcome, ill received, dirty move in the eyes of some.

To that…I laugh.

Nothing about Turow’s stance on Amazon makes sense to me–and I like to believe I’m a very sensible person.

Every book publisher, for as long as the internet has stood to host their individual sites, has had a shopping cart neatly posted in the corner of their respective page–encouraging visitors to browse and buy directly, essentially cutting out the middle man from the sale of their books.  Is that really, really, really all that different from the platform Amazon operates on?  I…don’t…think…so.

If you doubt me, I encourage you to visit Random House or Harper Collins or Hachette Book Group or MacMillan or Penguin Group or Simon and Schuster … they all offer a direct buy option for the book they publish.   Touche, Mr. Turow.

But, perhaps the greatest inconsistency I noted was one he never even mentioned.  One that probably wouldn’t have come up in an interview like the one he hosted.  One that is glaring and bright to my eyes…

If Mr. Turow truly stands on the side of lawful, righteous business practices…why is he the president of an organization that neglects to include thousands–if not multiple thousands–of authors?

An author is described as someone who writes books for a living.  Well, isn’t that what we do?  Maybe not full time–maybe we just wish it was full time–but if we write books, even in the wee hours of dawn or dusk–we are still authors.  And that little guild he presides over should be an inclusive place, no matter who does or does not publish our books.

P.S: You can buy Scott Turow’s books at Amazon.com …if you’re interested 🙂