Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Intarweb Tuesday: You're Mocking Me, Aren't You?

funny pictures of cats with captions
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Intarweb Tuesday: The Future of Publishing



This was going around Twitter yesterday. It's interesting to me as someone involved in publishing as a fiction writer and as an academic editor (don't ask).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Intarweb Tuesday: Listen all y'all this is Sabotage



I've only seen the first two seasons of BSG, so this was a little "wait, what just happened?" in a spoilery way for me, but still enjoyable. I need to borrow the rest from someone so I can finish the series. As a Rock Band aside, "Sabotage" is damn hard to sing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chapter 12: The Call, or OMG SQUEE!

As I've mentioned before, I've been to a few book signings for other authors, and at each one they inevitably were asked the questions, "How many rejections did you get before your first sale?" and "What was it like when you got the call?" It gives aspiring authors comfort to know that their favorite author was once rejected too, and hearing their success stories fuels our own daydreams. I used to dream about getting the call, and imagine how I would react to it. Would I jump up and down? Would I be all cool as a cucumber and then jump up and down after I hung up? I still dream about what I'll say when I get to have my very own book signing (which I know will probably be me and my mom standing behind a table, trying to beg people to buy my book much like we begged them to buy Girl Scout cookies during my Brownie days, but it's nice to dream that one day there'll be over a hundred people crammed into a bookstore just to see me).

So there I was, I'd just completed my synopsis and my query letter, and I started submitting. On one hand, I feel like I shouldn't admit to how many more rejections I received after my very nice first rejection letter (discussed in Chapter 9: In Which I am Rejected!). Not because it's a huge number, but because it's a small one...one, in fact. With my shiny new synopsis and query, I submitted to two places. One was an agent who almost immediately sent a lame form letter rejection. The other was Samhain. I'd first heard of Samhain through the Smart Bitches when I started following their site a few years ago (I should probably add them to the list of thank you emails), and I was instantly interested. I did research and read blogs and articles about Samhain, and I knew I wanted to work with these people, so they were the first publisher I submitted to.

I sent my novel off into the ether, and waited. And waited... On their site it says it takes 12-16 weeks for a response, and I counted every week. I'd sent it the week before I sent to the agent who almost insta-rejected me, and I was living in fear of another insta-rejection. I knew I wouldn't get the call, because this is the Intarweb age, and instead it would be the email. Every time a new email showed up in my inbox my heart skipped a beat. Then I hit week 12, and I started to stare at my inbox like my cat staring at an unopened can of tuna (in other words, "OMG WANT NAO!"). Week 12, nothin'. Week 13, more nothin'. Week 14...

So I'm sitting at my desk in my cube and there are 5 minutes left in my workday, and I'm writing my daily report and updating my time card and getting ready to leave, when I see a new message pop up in my inbox. I open up my email, and I see the subject "Blood, Smoke and Mirrors; Samhain Publishing." At this point, my heart doesn't skip a beat, but freezes entirely and falls somewhere into my stomach region, where it sat like a chunk of lead. My hands started shaking, and I somehow managed to mouse over and open it. Up pops the email, and it says, "After reviewing your submission, Blood, Smoke, and Mirrors, I'm excited to offer you a contract. CONGRATULATIONS!"

Not just serious, all caps serious. Dude.

My heart starts beating again, racing really, but one of the quirks of my office is that silence is required at all times (no, seriously, not kidding), so I can't jump up and yell "w00t!" like I really want to. Instead, I jump up and hurry over to my BFF's cube and stand next to her chair, and she looks up at me like "you're early, 5 more minutes still." And I throw my arms out and whisper "Give me a hug, they want my book!" At which point we very quietly hug and jump up and down and freak out as silently as possible. Then I ran back to my cube and shut everything down for the day, got my coat and such, and headed back to her cube. Now, oddly enough, we'd already made plans that day to go out for dinner with my husband, so I didn't call him, because I knew I'd be picking him up in a few minutes. Instead, I called my mother and told her the news, and she starts crying on the phone she's so happy. (And then she calls everyone in the Chicagoland area. I know this, because they all called me later to congratulate me. My poor cell phone nearly had a seizure.)

I leave work and head to my apartment, and my husband's waiting outside for me to pick him up for dinner. He walks over to the car and I motion for him to stop, leap out of the car (which was parked, don't panic), and throw my arms around him and start babbling about how they want my book. Now, at that time I was an editor as my day job, so he thought I meant something work-related and had no idea why I was so excited. It finally clicked that I meant my book, and I got a big congratulatory kiss.

And I've been happy dancing ever since.

Next time, I start on the "and then what happened?" of it all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Intarweb Tuesday: Never Underestimate the Power of YouTube



8 million views. I love this video, I even bought the song from iTunes. And it gets stuck in my head like you wouldn't believe. Now it can be stuck in yours. Please to enjoy.

Monday, March 8, 2010

This One Goes to 11: Queries are Hard

As we learned earlier, authors are scared of writing synopses. They're even more frightened of writing query letters, for many of the same reasons. In the synopsis you're trying to boil your novel down into a few pages (or, God forbid, a single page), and they have to be interesting pages. Your query is a paragraph or two that is weighed down with the pressure that it has to be the most interesting thing in the history of mankind in order for the agent or editor to even consider reading the rest of the stuff you sent. Think I'm joking? Sadly, no. For discouraging numbers, read this article. The hard truth is that agents and editors read hundreds, sometimes thousands, maybe even millions of submissions, and then choose only a handful per year. And if you want to be considered, you gotta be good.

No pressure, right?

Thing I have learned #1: Comparing your writing to someone else's is dangerous. It can be rewarding if you're all, "My story is what would happen if Oprah and Marilyn Manson had a baby," because that's a ballsy statement and it might intrigue your reader. But what if your reader really hates Oprah? Then she's instantly turned off. Oops. Besides, even if your reader does heart Oprah, how does that represent your work? Your writing is special, highlight how it's special.

Thing #2: Nobody cares that you won a contest 'cept you. This nearly made me cry when I won my contest, because I was all happy dancing at the conference about being a finalist until this question came up several times, and each speaker shot it down. Even winning a Golden Heart does not an instant publishing contract make. Should you mention your wins? Sure. It proves that someone not related to you through blood or marriage liked your stuff. Can you expect it to be the thing that gets you published? Not a snowball's chance in Hell.

Thing #3: For the love of all that is holy, list your word count! As a NaNoer, I'm word count obsessed, so this was not a problem for me. However, I follow several agents on Twitter (aside: Twitter is invaluable for connecting with other authors, editors, agents, readers, and pretty much anything publishing related) and they hate it when someone doesn't mention the word count. Hate. Flames, on the side of my face... heaving breaths...

Thing #4: Get the name right. Sounds simple, right? Not so much. Are you targeting one person, or the whole agency/publisher? Do you know if that person's a man or a woman? Are you sure? No, seriously, are you? Example: I have the dubious honor of being blessed (or cursed) with a first name that can be either for a man or a woman. I've received lots of junk mail--even work mail--addressed to Mr. Robyn Bachar. And it makes me crazy. Would I buy something from a telemarketer who calls asking for Mr. Robyn? Hell no. Is the person you queried going to seriously consider your book if you didn't even do enough research about them to know their gender? Nope. They're already on to the next email.

Thing #5: Letter writing is a dying art. If you don't already know how to construct a business letter, learn it. After you're accepted and signed and familiar with your agent/editor, then you can throw in smilies and OMGs if you think it's appropriate. This is a pet peeve of mine because I do a lot of online gaming and facebooking and other time wasters, and this exposes me to people who can't form a complete sentence. Now, I'm not perfect by any means, but trying to communicate with someone who speaks netspeak/textspeak/leetspeak makes my eyes bleed. I'm afraid for the future of our nation...

Anyway, those are my thoughts on writing queries. Which I need to go do myself now, so that I can send the next book in the series to my editor. Next time, I'll talk about getting the call (or rather, the email).

Friday, March 5, 2010

I Just Can't Quit Adverbs

I'm taking a break from the continuing saga to bring you this writing update. About adverbs. Because they're evil. Evil.

In general, I own my addictions. Junk food? Yes. Video games? I <3 them. Clove cigarettes? Well, I used to love them, now they're illegal. (I also haven't had a smoke since December, by the way.) But I didn't know I was addicted to adverbs until my editor staged an intervention, and then I realized they were everywhere. My novel was hip-deep in them. Cat sighs wearily or softly or tiredly. She reacts instantly to just about everything. And there were other -ly offenders as well. She thinks that something that usually happens will probably happen exactly the way it really should.

Wow. I had no idea. And it's just so easy to give in to the adverb temptation, especially when you're working under the OMG MUST GET WORDCOUNT mentality of NaNoWriMo, which I was with Blood, Smoke and Mirrors and also did with other books in the series (fingers crossed that someday they see the light of publishing day). After all, why say someone growled when you can say growled threateningly? That's 2 words closer to 50k, right? But it's silly. Unnecessary. If the hero's about to throw down with someone, the reader knows that he's growling in a rawr kinda way. If the hero's a weretiger about the tear off the heroine's clothes and have kinky shapeshifter sex, then the reader knows that's a "I'm happy to see you" growl. It doesn't need a modifier because growl is strong enough to stand on its own, and that's my first step toward breaking my adverb addiction: choosing strong verbs. Tough verbs. Verbs with hair on their chests...okay maybe that's a bit extreme.

The second step is asking myself if having that adverb slows down the action. Though I hate writing them, I have lots of fight scenes. I love big, epic battles with explosions and good versus evil--very cinematic. If you're watching an action movie, there's no pause for whether or not the hero lunges angrily or righteously or desperately at the villain. He's going to lunge, the bad guy is going to dodge, and on to the next swing. In writing, it may make sense to the author to add that sort of detail, but that's just the adverbs using their evil Jedi mind tricks on you. Don't give in to the Dark Side!

I am determined to overcome this addiction. One sentence at a time. I mean, it can't be any harder than dieting or quitting smoking, right? Right?

Aw, hell.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Intarweb Tuesday: The Same Old Song



The EtS blog posted this video today as part of a post on not worrying about being the next big thing. I think every writer has struggled with the fear that the story they want to tell isn't original. That someone else got there first and now you can't use your brilliant idea without being accused of copycatting. But really, there are a million ways to retell boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. What matters is telling it your way.